is not enough
said the butterfly.
one must have
sunshine, freedom ,
and a little flower.
~ Hans Christian Andersen
I’m no fan of prank phone calls, but I am a fan of kids, and this little 8 year old girl may be one of the funniest kids alive..(and the people she calls are wonderful, too!) Here’s a recording of Becky calling a demolitions company to order the destruction of her school:
Listen to more here: Little Becky
It is one of the small tragedies in the American church, that there is something called “Christian music.” My personal bias is that the word “Christian” is just about worthless as an adjective in the first place. It has been usurped by marketers who use it to penetrate the religious market with all kinds of silly junk- but that’s another rant for another day.
Christian is a noun; first and always.
Because there exists this entity known as Christian music, however, many people are missing the spiritual treasures to be found in many other pieces of music. R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” is one of those treasures. It is even better the tenth time one watches it, than it was the first- I know, I just did, again. Here:
See what I mean?
Stretch your arms and take hold of the cloth of your clothes
with both hands.
The cure for pain is in the pain.
Good and bad are mixed.
If you don’t have both,
you don’t belong with us.
Blessed are the poor in spirit
the kingdom of heaven.
To give pleasure to a single heart
by a single act
is better than a thousand heads
bowing in prayer.
In truth the forest hears each sound Each blade of grass as it lies down.
The world requires no audience, No witnesses, no witnesses..
~Conor Oberst, from “I Must Belong Somewhere”
I walk across the top of an earthen dam. To my right is a lake, carved from the carboniferous remains of two hundred million year old forests. To my left, and below (I am higher than the treetops there), there is a green field of coastal grass, surrounded by woods of native pecan, oak, hemlock, and various evergreens. Half a mile ahead, there is a shale hill, a once lush swampland on the shoreline of an ancient ocean.
Grasshoppers and mayflies crisscross my path. Some land on me, others nearby, and all are only momentarily distracted by my presence past them. The occasional black swallowtail butterfly lands briefly on a sunflower or coneflower, then is gone, to another, and another, and away.
A fish jumps from the water. I hear it, but only see the rings of water where it was. The woods below are filled with the July chorus of cicadas, by the thousands. Doves, somewhere, call to each other. And the clicking of the grasshoppers is ever present.
I am irrelevant to the great, furious, and quiet bursting-forth of life all around me. I am irrelevant to all of it, but I am in love with all of it. I am irrelevant to all of it yet, at the same time, I am loved, too.
I am attracted to this place; just as the mayflies are, and exactly as the evergreens. The yellow sunflower sirens beckon me; the same sun-yellow that calls the butterflies to their pollen-filled centers calls me to their random, scattered beauty. I rise like the trees, without thought, without intentionality, to the noonday light which encompasses us (all of us) and nurtures us (all of us). My seventy/eighty years on this planet and the twenty-four hour life spans of the mayflies on this shore pale in their dissimilarities against the rock forms of sixty-five million year old ammonites and coral and clams beneath us all in the shale formations.
I am a witness here, and nothing more. I am able to overhear and see bits of the world in this place, for a little while, and nothing less.
The allure, the calling to me of the grasses, trees, insects, and flowers is the same seductive attraction with which all things call to others of their kind and to that which enhances their life symbiotically. The same magenta which calls the swallowtail butterflies to the coneflower, calls me to kneel down beside it and imagine its photosynthetic singing. The same breeze which guides the grasshoppers to succulent bluegrass stems, guides me to watch their clicking flight. The same black rich earth which absorbed the hard shell of pecan seeds and fed the tiny green germ within, is the same earth which caused men and women crossing these prairies to stop here, build here, plant here, and raise their children here. The earth here called them, attracted them, loved them.
And now, I am here, too.
I am here, too, and in love with and loved by that which I cannot embrace with my arms. I cannot kiss it on the cheek, squeeze its hand, or whisper anything that could be understood as exclamations of my devotion. I can only feel the sweet but benign acceptance of my witness. I can only lose myself in the green glorious seas of grass and trees and in the tiny waves of other living things washing through them. I can only imagine telling them that my words are wholly inadequate to describe their sensuality and their beauty.
“I love you,” I say to them, anyway.
And I hear them in return and I smile.
From the Essence of Wisdom, page 8
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyph to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life before he apprehends it as truth.”
It’s true. But it makes for slippery, dangerous slopes.
We have already answered the questions we will have, by our actions which preceded them. Ask a person what their values are- what do they consider important in life? Now sit back and listen to the answer. It will probably be a little prettier than their previous answers, already recorded in their checkbook, or credit card statement.
The existentialist question that is reborn sometime during the freshman year of every young person in college- Why am I here?- can easily be answered by anyone looking around that young student’s dormitory room. The freshman may not yet perceive that their question has already been answered, but it has.
In my day, the answer was usually Raquel Welch! Her poster from the movie “1,000,000 B.C.” was on the wall of every male freshman I knew. (You remember that poster; Raquel was clad in animal skin- a single muskrat?- which revealed her to be anything but Neanderthal.) Why am I here? The answer we might have given with our brain and lips was drowned out by the shouting of the poster.
The pyramid of empty Schlitz cans against the wall probably had much to say as well.
Others have fewer questions about us than we have about ourselves. They see our actions- the ways we live- as answering most of the questions they might have about us. We are always acting out the real truths we believe. We may be giving lip service to greater truths, but- if they are greater truths- why aren’t they showing?
Why am I here? A lot of people are stuck with the answers of others that they have appropriated from others (because that’s the easy thing to do) or have had forced on them. The latter was evidenced dramatically in the mid-70s, when Patti Hearst, California heiress, was kidnapped by something called the Symbionese Liberation Army. Within weeks of isolation from her family, and immersion in the SLA’s bank-robbing approach to life, Patti had “become” SLA. Ideas can be forced on anyone through fear and intimidation.
But most people are walking, talking, acting examples of truths which have been eased into because they cause the least friction, and enable them to feel like part of the team. Those appropriated ideas also involve little thinking. Let’s call it the “pink shirt syndrome.”
Ten years ago, the streets of Dallas, and most American cities, I assume, were suddenly filled with men wearing pink shirts and- often- pink ties. Never before had pink been a color bought by so many men, but suddenly, there it was, piled high in the Neiman-Marcus shirt department, and worn first by the executives who shop there. Before long, pink had become the “power” color of the moment and to fit in at the sales meeting or the bar after the meeting, pink was de rigueur.
Others’ ideas are seductive. But they are also pinkly goofy at times. (In the 80s, at various times, those ideas had been chartreusely, then yellowy goofy at times, too.)
Why am I here? The answer we’ve already given is sometimes so shallow as to be imperceptible.
Our truths need always to be examined. And we begin to do that by looking at what we’ve been doing today, for the last year, and for a lifetime. Because no matter how flowery and grand the truths are that we think we live by, we may have gotten ourselves stuck in the rut of someone else’s truths or, worse, compromised our own.