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Thursday, April 11, 2013

To the motion be true

Thursday, that fake harbinger of weekend, the great pretender, almost Friday. When I first got up this morning it looked like the weather would be dry and mild. By the time I left the house, though, it was steady rain.

Wet or dry, this is a stunningly beautiful time of year here. Everywhere I look I see lush deep greens and bright new-growth spring greens. Trees are blossoming in soft pink and white, the early rhododendrons and azaleas are starting to pop in a wide variety of colors, and the purple heather —now a part of so many urban landscapes— adds a complementary color along the foot of the everywhere-green. Seasonal change abundantly visible and visceral.


Today's randomly selected soundtrack was excellently chosen by the small digital gods of the iPhone. This was a string of tunes that played nicely together, as if designed to be played in just this order. Yet they will likely never play again in this order on mine or anyone else's iPhone. Could happen, statistically, but probably won't. Nothing in this algorithm is that static.

The same holds true of the poetry selection from this morning's "spin" of the Poetry Foundation iPad app. This app opens to a "spin" button, which then randomly selects two themes from two separately scrolling lines and pulls up poetry related to that combination. Today's spin combined the themes of Gratitude and Youth, and the first poem offered matches this morning's theme of changes. Easy As Falling Down Stairs by Dean Young, starts off with: To always be in motion there is no choice... and later goes on:
No matter
how stalled I seem, some crank in me
tightens the whirly-spring each time I see
your face so thank you for aiming it
my way, all this flashing like polished
brass, lightning, powder, step on the gas,
whoosh we're halfway through our lives,
fishmarkets flying by, Connecticut,
glut then scarcity, hurried haircuts,
smell of pencils sharpened, striving,
falling short, surviving because we ducked
or somehow got some shut-eye even though
inside the hotel wall loud leaks. I love
to watch the youthful flush drub your cheeks
in your galloping dream.
or we can draw on Sam Baker's lyric from this morning's first song, Juarez:
A beautiful woman
Wraps around his shoulder
Eyes painted like clay
Except older
She says hell of a deal
Ain't it
This getting older
He sings an old song
A song to himself
He sings waiting round to die
Waiting round to die
or (with more grace), Bruce Cockburn from Mighty Trucks of Midnight:
I believe its a sin to try and make things last forever
Everything that exists in time runs out of time someday
Got to let go of the things that keep you tethered
Take your place with grace and then be on your way
or, better still, Cockburn again, from The Gift:
These shoes have walked some strange streets
stranger still to come
Sometimes the prayers of strangers
Are all that keep me from
Trying to stay static
Something even death can't do
Everything is motion
To the motion be true
That all seems about right on a beautiful, though wet, spring morning. To the seasonal change, to colorful rebirth, to gratitude and youth, even, yes, to death in its time, to the motion be true.

Today's full playlist:
- Sam Baker: Juarez
- Phil Keaggy: Lady Slippers
- Bruce Cockburn: If A Tree Falls
- The Beatles: Long Tall Sally
- Dire Straits: Money for Nothing
- Sheryl Crow: Letter to God


- Posted via Hermes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

We haven't seen everything

Low hanging clouds and almost-fog give way to overcast skies as I drive in this morning. It's Wednesday, that most malleable day of the week, and I woke this morning at 4:00 AM. I wasn't woken by anything in particular (at least, not that I am concisely aware), I was simply awake. I know better than to fight that circumstance in the early morning, because once I'm awake, I stay that way. So up I got, very early, and early out the door.

The iPhone is set to an all Bruce Cockburn mix this morning which, with more than twenty albums to draw from, covers a lot of possible songs.


Lovers in a Dangerous Time kicks off the playlist as I point the Miata toward the college. This song could be the anthem for the supporters of marriage equality, and particularly during the current Supreme Court DOMA case:
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime --
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight --
Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight
When you're lovers in a dangerous time

As I listen to the song, I am reminded that I recently had a long-time friend show a homophobic facet of their world view, quite unexpectedly. Questions popped out of my initial hurt: Don't they know we have a gay son? Do they really mean this of/toward our children, whom they have known for a lifetime? Is this a true representation of how they really feel?

Somehow, they didn't know this about our son, as it turns out. They hadn't thought through all of the nuances in their comment, and were quick to retract it when my wife reached out with some of the questions raised above. Years of friendship are stronger than one painful incident, after all.

But what if we didn't have a gay son, couldn't put a known face to this struggle? Would I have been as quick to question the comment, or would I have let it sadly pass? Would they, in turn, have been as quick to acknowledge the unintended ramifications of their statement?

Hatred of others is so easy to fall into, as long as the others don't have specific faces and names. The history of propaganda has clearly taught us that. Let us be clear on this point: to say you can hate the "sin" (the word usually used in this phrase) but love the person is to hate the person. You can add a thousand words of justification to that idea, but it doesn't change the fact that you have directed your hatred toward an aspect of someone else. You have made that one aspect of a complicated human being into a defining and unreconcilable state of being "other," and separated. How else can the recipient of the remark possibly take it?

My commute ends to the final notes of You've Never Seen Everything. This song has one of the most beautiful chorus melodies wrapped into one of the most difficult songs to listen to. Difficult not just because its verses are all spoken poetry, but because of the song's subject matter. The premise of which is that no matter how much you think you've seen, someplace else something totally outside of your imagination or experience is taking place. That and the idea that we sometimes let all the bad news in the world block out the sunlight:
Nobody's making me say this
I'm talking to you
Been traveling 17 hours
Irradiated by signals, by images
of viruses, of virtues
like everyone
Like exiled angels we swing out of the clouds
Above night city-
Fields of light broken by the curve of dark waterways

On the other side of the world
an unhappy teenage girl sets fire
to herself, her house, her neighbourhood and some that dwell therein
Sorry simulacrum of sad dawn

You've never seen everything
and the chorus:
Bad pressure coming down
Tears - what we really traffic in
ride the ribbon of shadow
Never feel the light falling all around
The song never gets any more cheerful, but the poetry and imagery in it is worth a read or, even better, a listen.

Bruce is right, if rather darkly so. We haven't seen everything. That is sufficient reason for moving forward gently and speaking with care. We all have much yet to learn from those around us, as well those who live far away. From everyone we are tempted to cast as "other." From those we do not know yet, with their faces and names.

Today's full commute playlist:
- Lovers in a Dangerous Time
- World Of Wonders from Bruce Cockburn Live
- If A Tree Falls from Big Circumstance
- You've Never Seen Everything from the album of the same name

- Posted via Hermes.