Saturday, December 12, 2009

advent journal: happy to be here

In my reading earlier in the week, Madeleine L’Engle (on a page I can’t find now) talked about the necessary structure of life giving us freedom. She used poetry in general, and the sonnet in particular, to make her point: the boundaries of the form create the space to move freely. I’ve had my copy of Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks in the CD player this week and he proves her point:

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."
This morning, Raymo reminded me the structure that fosters creativity runs to the very core of our existence.
Blake was right to see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. The silicon and oxygen in the grain of sand and the carbon in the flower could not have come into being unless the forces that hold the universe together had exactly the values they do. Adjust the strength of the electromagnetic force or the nuclear force but slightly, and you knock out of kilter the resonance in the carbon nucleus that allows three helium nuclei to come together in the cores of stars to form that element. Stop the synthesis of elements at helium, and never in a billion years of burning would a galaxy of stars produce enough silicon or oxygen to make a single grain of sand. No, the coin did not come down on its edge. The situation is more improbable than that. The coin was flipped into the air 10(to the fifteenth power) times, and it came down on its edge but once. If all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth were possible universes – that is, universes consistent with the laws of physics as we know them – and only one of those grains of sand were a universe that allowed for the existence of intelligent life, then that one grain of sand is the universe we inhabit. (93)
And in that universe, on a tiny planet revolving around an average star, I am one small being; one small, grateful being. Had the synthesis stopped at helium (notice the way I write as though I understand), we would not be here. Here, in the middle of the afternoon of the day that begins my fifty-fourth year, I’m aware that the journey that is my life, that has gone from Corpus Christi to Bulawayo to Lusaka to Nairobi to Accra to Houston to Dallas to Boston to Durham, with intermittent stops in Fort Worth along the way, is equally as full of structure and surprise as any planet or poem. The structure of Facebook allows for birthday greetings to come across the years, like light from distant stars, all arriving at the same time, a meteor shower of memories and affection. What a gift.

While I’m here typing at Beyu Caffé, Durham’s newest coffee shop and restaurant, Ginger is presiding at a funeral for one of our church members who passed away a couple of weeks ago. Her family had to come some distance, and so the service was set for today. I know that one way to look at life is to see each passing year, even each day, as a step closer to the end. What often comes with that is an aversion towards, if not a fear of, aging. I am growing older; my intention is also to be growing, period. These are not days to begin winding down, or settling in, but to be looking up and out, buoyed by all the gratitude I can muster. I turn to another poet, Guy Clark:
I got an ol’ blue shirt
And it suits me just fine
I like the way it feels
So I wear it all the time
I got an old guitar
It won’t ever stay in tune
I like the way it sounds
In a dark and empty room

I got an ol’ pair of boots
And they fit just right
I can work all day
And I can dance all night
I got an ol’ used car
And it runs just like a top
I get the feelin’ it ain’t
Ever gonna stop

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall

I got a pretty good friend
Who’s seen me at my worst
He can’t tell if I’m a blessing
Or a curse
But he always shows up
When the chips are down
That’s the kind of stuff
I like to be around

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall

I got a woman I love
She’s crazy and paints like God
She’s got a playground sense of justice
She won’t take odds
I got a tattoo with her name
Right through my soul
I think everything she touches
Turns to gold

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall
Thank you.

Peace,
Milton

1 comment:

pad thai said...

Cheers! Love that poem "Stuff that works" or is it a song? Ali