Monday, April 30, 2007

(For a Silent Retreat) The Necessary Chatter of the World

I wrote this during my first year of seminary, during a silent retreat. I'm reposting it today because we at the Wash U. ECM are about to have a day-and-a-half long silent retreat...


Is talk something we "need," the way we need
food or love or internet access?
Yet monks go years without saying a word...
Today's a "quiet day" at Seabury,
which means that we are not supposed to talk
when we are in the halls, refectory,
or any other common space today.
At lunch, I sit and pick at my salad
(I'm trying to lose weight, or change my life
in a way vaguely linked to how I look,
or how I live, or how I treat myself...)
and look around at all my fellow students.
Most of them seem inward-turned today,
not looking at each other, eyes downcast
as if to say, "If I can't speak to you,
we might as well be in two different rooms."
What terrifying emptiness is formed
around us when sensations can't be named:
A siren bays somewhere not far away
and I can't lock it safely down with words--
as if the world might sink its million teeth,
from millions of its tiny mouths, in us
without the safety of restraining talk.
What does it "mean," when in a lingual void,
a rabbit runs across the campus Garth?
A tree falls in the woods, and no one speaks.
So did it make a sound? What would they mean,
sound, tree, meaning, woods, without the words?
And by the time I get back to my room
I'm feeling nervy as Schrödinger’s cat,
tense with the unnamed's breath upon my neck,
and sit down by the screen to write a bit--
to push the nothing back as by a charm,
as bonfires in the woods drive back the dark--
A stream of language, babbling like the sea--
The necessary chatter of the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easter Wednesday (Daily Office Lectionary) Year One

[Micah 7:7-15]
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
- Micah 7:8

I love that this passage acknowledges, as does our Baptismal Creed, the inevitability of falling. It's not "if," but "when I fall." And what is so inspiring to me about this passage is its stubborn faith, the unlikely hope of the one who has already fallen. Who hasn't encountered, at some point or another, someone whose faith absolutely defied their circumstances? Those fallen-darkness-sitters who by all accounts have no reasont to hope, but do-- not an insane manic hope, but the calm certainty that God is with them, continues to be a light to them, and that they shall rise?

Oscar Wilde: True, all of us are in the gutter; But some of us are looking at the stars.

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