The mystical beauty of the moon and clouds the other night got me to thinking, as I admittedly do so often, about the ephemeral and ethereal qualities of our species and the strangeness of our even existing. When Space looms so visibly vast over us and insists on reminding me how tiny and potentially insignificant I am, my life is, in the grand scheme of it all, I begin to have exactly the opposite reaction any sensible person might assume I would have. I think that, just possibly, if there can be no logic or extravagant purpose evident for the creation and continuation of our peculiar and oddball race, then we can’t have just appeared at random or even serendipitously–we must really have arrived here with at least some intended point. Being a thoroughly sideways creature myself in so many ways right from the start, I find it comforting to imagine that the very impossibility if explaining my reason for existing seems to argue for some small purpose. Foolish dream or actual conundrum, it makes stargazing that much more attractive on nights like these….
Ah, the elegance of simplicity. There’s little I find more beautiful than very simple things, excellently performed, made, or executed. Even the commonest thing, in a rather average way, can be fabulous in its simplicity if it’s perfect in its common averageness. Odd, but true. Let me give you an example.
I love eggs. They are delicious to eat, and fairly easy to prepare in a wide number of lovely ways. They are pretty. Their extremely uncomplicated ovals come in a relatively narrow range of colors and textures by nature, each of them marvelous and precious in its own way. They make an outstanding subject for artworks, for this very reason.
As the sole or central subject of any number of artworks in any medium, or as the medium in itself by virtue of being decorated or carved or sculpted upon, an egg is delightfully fine. But even as a supporting player in a larger cast, the humble egg in its unfettered simplicity always pleases my mind as well as my eyes.
If it sneaks into some of my artworks where it really doesn’t have any particular purpose, can I really be blamed? I think not. You may try, but you might well be left with egg on your face. If you know what I mean.
…when we should be agents of change. We wish for rescue when we should be out seeking ways to aid others. We huddle fearfully in the late summer, already conscious that the autumn ahead will lead inevitably to winter’s dormancy or killing frost, when what we could be doing is plotting the way to make use of the transition to position ourselves to take fuller advantage of the ripening and plenitude ahead.We are, after all, only human. But the exemplary people of generations past have proved, and those of our own time are still showing, that as long as we exist to worry about them the ages and seasons, the events and goings-on do indeed go on, cycle and change, and that if we choose to do so—if we determine to do so and act on it—we can make the changes better and the growth so much the more meaningful and joyful. If we wait for change, it will happen, all right, but it will happen however and whenever the universe or others in it decide. Ours is the calling to engage in the world, no matter how intimidating it is, and move toward what we desire. It may seem like plowing on foot through chin-deep snow, but trusting that there’s a thaw ahead and behind it, renewal, we can stay the course.At the other end of it is potential that surpasses even our fondest, wildest imaginings, if we dare to move instead of lying waiting.
It’s interesting to me that I wrote the foregoing portions of this post a few weeks ago and set it aside for this very date, not knowing that it would follow immediately on the heels of my publishing my first book, something I’ve longed to do for years but never had the nerve until now. Funny how we sometimes put things in motion without even realizing what we’ve done; it’s a saving grace of our race, I think. O happy day, when we stumble into our dreams because we kept seeking them despite all sense!
I love a good ruin. While I understand the urgency of need for shelter among the homeless of the world and I generally don’t condone waste, the beauty of a derelict and decaying building speaks to me of history, mystery and longing. The reclamation of the ruin by nature, so astoundingly quick in geological terms, appears in the lifetime of a human to be perversely slow, creeping up and catching observers unawares. Deferred maintenance–a term that has taken on a modern oxymoronic twist I despise, given that such deferral is really deference to eventual wrack and ruin of a very irresponsible sort–becomes dire in what seems to have been the length of the watchman’s single circuit, and when we come back to the front door of the property we thought we’d only just circumambulated, it’s already hanging by one rusty hinge.
The character in and inherent fairytales posed by ancient ruins are naturally enhanced and perhaps exaggerated by their superior age, so a once-fine castle or cathedral, stone cottage or pillared temple has an advantage in terms of potential drama. But I am equally fond of a tumble-down shed or an industrial derelict, for nothing in its skeletal state lacks the piquant possibility of backstory as the mind attempts to re-flesh it with purpose and activity. Given half a chance, I might attempt to revive the corpse in the way that I went with cousins and undertook the rehabilitation of an abandoned cabin near our grandpa’s when we were young, because the romance of emptiness is that it’s always seemingly waiting for something special to happen. On the other hand, spending time in a ruin only to contemplate what did or might happen there can be just as alluring.
In this regard, I suppose I think of ruins as endlessly optimistic, though it may seem quite contradictory: the sense of their potential, whether for new life or for telling their stories of what has gone before, tends to outweigh the sense of sorrow that is in their current state of dishevelment and disrepute.
I wonder, then, how I so often forget to see imperfect looking people in the same way.
No leaf is greener than the rising blade
Of grass over the grave where I am laid
I, who in life was fitted in this wise:
So full of $h!t as born to fertilize–
Useless in life, perhaps, but still of worth
In death, as food to feed a hungry earth;
Now blooms adorn my plot in dazzling wave,
Rejoicing in the cr@p that fills my grave–
Howe’er a rotter I, when breathing air,
At last as corpse I do my earthly share,
Delighting all the butterflies and birds
With brilliant lilies compost-fed by tu®d$–
Yea, e’en this sewage soul is heaven-sent:
Humans are not the only animals that can look both forward and back. But we’re the ones that choose to recognize this trait with a certain reverence and, particularly, to think we ought to make some use of it. We’re undoubtedly the only ones that impute a moral value to one or the other, depending not only on whichever we personally prefer but on what we think can benefit us or others.
We can spend our time and energies on studying, learning from, or even dwelling in the past. We can devote our hopes and plans to the ideation of what lies ahead as scientists, fortune tellers, scam artists or futurists of any sort from literary to application development. And there are certainly those among us who for whatever their religious, philosophical or preferential reasons are dedicated to keeping attention focused on the present time.
All of these approaches have their uses, to be sure. But I like to think that there’s room for a balanced use of this knowledge, these skills. In any time, there is much for us to learn. The successes and failures of the past inform present action, but keeping eyes on present action demands enough concentration that the revisiting of historical notes had best be done while not in the very act of the performance. Likewise, learning to predict, extrapolate and imagine possible improvements and variant outcomes is often the richest trove of possible new successes, but again, dreaming of these accomplishments-yet-to-come is only useful if we aren’t so immersed in them that we can’t complete the steps of today necessary to position us for the future.
We may not be the only beasts able to remember or to aspire, and are clearly not the only ones able to be completely present in the moment. But if we’re the only ones that truly care about such capabilities, why then, let us expend what effort and wisdom we’re able and see how well we can integrate the three. Only then, I suspect, will any of us ever live the fullest lives for which our many possible directions can set our courses.