Dale and I are taking a class at Grace Church on Monday nights—EFM, which stands for education for ministry. It is an outreach of the University of the South’s seminary program. So far we have enjoyed it very much, though we missed last week because I was sick. Dale is a nonbeliever and I’m all over the place but we both grew up in the church and it is good to return to the bible. I’m reading Genesis now—not just reading, but studying, reading very, very closely. Which pretty much proves to me that most people who believe that the bible is literal and unflawed have pretty much never read the thing. It’s glorious and Genesis has always been my favorite, but people—this is so obviously a mythos, a story, a way of explaining our understanding or what was going on in the world way, way back. It’s all mixed up and strange and, like Greek Mythology, or ESPECIALLY like Gilgamesh, it is straight up fun and joy. Noah ain’t the only old guy to build an ark and get in and “escape” the flood. And, having read enough Plato to see the similarities between what came out of Socrates’ mouth and what came out of Jesus’ mouth, well.
I watched The Unbelievers Saturday, a documentary featuring Richard Dawkins and his sidekick (can’t remember dude’s name) traveling and spreading their message of reason and the importance of science and questioning everything, of not being afraid of asking questions about everything. But the film wasn’t very effective for me. They were essentially preaching to the atheist choir and really, what does that accomplish? Their deadsetedness against the very notion of a god, not just the big GOD of the Jews, of Christianity, of Islam, but the very notion of any sort of god whatsoever is just off-putting for me. Their view seems to leave no room for the rich experience of metaphor. Sure, I know the moon is a dead hunk of rock. But when I look up and see the man in the moon, whom I only recently discovered, or a goddess lifting up her dress, that has more meaning to me. There’s richness to all the different views of looking at the world. And yes, religious fundamentalism causes many of the world’s problems, both in this country and in other countries, but not all of us are kooks or crazies. Some of us look through a different lens that enriches us in the same way that science knocks off their socks. Please—there is room enough in the inn.
Last Saturday I attended a friend’s daughter’s wedding and my friend had asked me to write a poem for the occasion. I am including it here, because I can’t really publish it anywhere, and I do love it:
What the Heart Can Give That the Face Cannot
Emma, you are beautiful. You might be the
Lady of Shallot, or Guinevere, except
they were tragic and
you are not.
He loves you, Emma, for your
generous heart. He loves you,
because you are strong.
You must love him hard with that heart and
hold him hard with those arms and kiss him kiss him closer closer when the
troubles come, because even in the happiest of lives,
they always come.
Andrew, you like things simple, and on a day like today things are simple and arrow-straight. Today
Emma is your fast-fixed star. Today, you are joyful, you are smitten; Emma is smitten; we all, watching you,
are smitten--you’ve taken our breath, we are caught up in the
joy of joining together this perfectly imperfect pair.
But, Andrew, Emma is not simple, and you are not simple, nor is marriage, nor is life, nor a love that
breathes, a love that
morphs and shocks and thrills, a love
we pray will last.
Emma, do not fault him for the spot on
the dish, or the recession of his hair.
Andrew, do not fault her when she angers with tears and soaks your shoulder through with the full drought of a
woman’s tears when
the babies come.
Emma, do not fear that the shoe
will drop. It will not shatter. True love is
a steal-toed hard-ass boot, his pair,
your pair, suitable for any sort of turf.
But, Andrew, you’re also right. It can be simple, if you are honest and kind, the both of you. If you
water it and till it, if you turn up the fresh dirt year by year.
If you let it grow strong and supple, a clever tree that bends low when the fury comes, when she slams the door, when you bite down on your
mouth before you say what you will regret.
Emma, Andrew, if you let it surprise you, if you let it spin and dizzy you. If you let it laugh at itself, let it lift you and
fly you and hold you together like the strong force of
the stars holds all of us together.
Be smart, be sharp, for love wrinkles and
love aches and sooner or later, your love will break
your hearts. But when you fall
soft on the bed, your mouths whispering and the sorrys are said
this mirror reflecting the two of you will show no blemish, bear no blot of the vicious storm
that just blew itself out.
Remember this day, how it sparks,
how it sizzles. Keep watch—you will
need more wood, hotter coals,
thousands, millions of midnight talks to last the long winter of life.
If you keep it burning, blue hot burning, then this is the how it will work.
You will catch her when she falls; she will catch you when you fail. And when you are both rickety in bone
and muscle, you will sit down on the porch and she will
sit in your lap and she will lift up her face
and Andrew, you will see what you see today and, Emma, you
will kiss him then with the same pulse pound stomach drop of the kiss
that sealed the deal--the I do, the I will, the I will always
ravish you, still.
Isn’t it lovely? Isn’t it an achievement? If you would like for me to write an occasional piece for your special occasion, please let me know. We can work something out. This was so much fun to do. I’ve written such things before, but never enjoyed it quite this much.
Today I am going to work on submissions and read up for tonight’s EFM class. Of course, doing submissions always means tweaking and working on the words as I go, so lots of that too.