Life is fickle, is it not?
As I mentioned in my last post, grappling with uncertainty is hard. And there are many unknowns these days. I know this to be true in my own life. Unknowns — delay, despair, death — wreak chaos… and how can one edify chaos? How can one live well, breathe on when impending darkness and suffering hovers near?
These are questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past (uncertain) year. Difficult questions. I think of the Afghan people, living in a perpetual state of fear and vigilance, the world, suffocating from the weight of a virus, and us, dangling in unknowns, and the truth hits me: we cannot control the chaos.
We can choose what we water the gardens of our mind, heart, and soul with.
I write quite a bit about art, life, and beauty on this blog, about nourishing the “treasures of the soul.” And I desired to formulate a monthly/bi-monthly newsletter that conveyed resources and practices that I’ve found helpful in edifying my being.
A few weeks ago, I watched a lecture on the myth of Jason & the Golden Fleece. For the sake of brevity, the tale follows Jason and his followers as they sail in pursuit of “the Golden Fleece,” a symbol of entitlement and authority. Along the way, they pass the island of the Sirens. The sirens, half-women, half-bird creatures with seductive yet lethal voices, attempt to lure the men to the rocks. However, Jason was prepared for this temptation. He had in his company a legendary musician, a man named Orpheus. Orpheus, at heart, possessed a voice more profound, more beautiful than that of the sirens. And, as the sacred notes fell from his lips, the sirens’ melody faded away.
In short, in light of the dark depravity and temptation surrounding them, the men’s ears were tuned to the music of beauty.
And that is a practice I strive to apply in my daily life and through my blog. I desire to convey ways in which we can sense beauty (through art, literature, music, and other treasures of the soul), despite the pervading distraction and sorrow in our world.
from the journal
- “To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to all bravely await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.” ~William Ellery Channing
- What a delight it is to chase a butterfly! Feathery white, free, living.
- September really is pleasant in the Mid-West. One gains both a bright sun & lush scenery and cool wind.
- Psalms 130 has been on my heart this past month:
"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
- In an excerpt from The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jane Jacobs fights for the continued existence of “old city” neighborhoods in the face of urban renewal projects. She gestures to the community of established city life, old sidewalks, familiar faces, fixed memories, and first-hand experiences of living in an “old city” neighborhood as her justification. She deems this choatic symphony of urban life “sidewalk ballet.”
- Lucy Scholes reflects on how literature is a guide and solace for living in solitude and the way in which literature has affected her. “I came to London to study literature, so perhaps it’s only natural that my existence here has always been tempered by the books I’ve read that are set in the city, a potent alchemy at work in the particular way in which the real and the fictional combine in my mind. My experience in this city has always been twofold, containing and dependent on both my lived experience and the very real topography of the streets, as well as the fictional versions of the same city I have read about in novels. They intertwine, and in doing so become indistinguishable from one another.”
- The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas. I finally finished this monster and the ending was worth all 1200 pages. A tale of revenge and redemption, profound grief and profound hope. Edmond Dantès’s character and the conflicts he undergoes is captivating. The volume is thrilling and very worthy of the five stars I give it. Perhaps a good book to put on your vacation to-read list. 🙂
- The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side and The Moving Finger, Agatha Christie. In these two underrated Agatha Christie novels, Christie’s genius is in full display. I loved how developed the main characters were as opposed to some of the other Christie novels I’ve read and, of course, Miss Marple’s deep knowledge of human nature and sharp wit continued to captivate me. She really is the best detective. 😉
- When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalinithi. A beautiful memoir about a distinguished neuro-surgeon who is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at 36 and his wrestle with meaning and mortality. There is more to come regarding this book, but I highly recommend you read it.
- Roo Panes dropped a new song “I Just Love You,” conveying the “why” behind his love and the struggle of being sincere in today’s world. Simple but profound.
- Malcolm Guite, British poet, reads Wendell Berry’s sabath poetry and discusses the importance of being still and resting from the perpetual motion of life. (Malcolm Guite is adorable, by the way. And I was (surprised but) thrilled when I found he had a YouTube channel. He’s a jolly, wise, venerable poet who films in a cozy study room (with walls of books) and smokes a pipe. What more can we desire?)))
- “Soulmate” by Flora Cash is stunning. I hadn’t listened to any of their songs, but when this one appeared on my recommended, I listened and fell in love. And the music video adds further layers to the song’s meaning as it portrays topics of racism and bereavment. To quote a dear friend, “that was the most beautiful music video I have ever seen.”
poem of the month
"Meditation on a Grapefruit" By Craig Arnold To wake when all is possible before the agitations of the day have gripped you To come to the kitchen and peel a little basketball for breakfast To tear the husk like cotton padding a cloud of oil misting out of its pinprick pores clean and sharp as pepper To ease each pale pink section out of its case so carefully without breaking a single pearly cell To slide each piece into a cold blue china bowl the juice pooling until the whole fruit is divided from its skin and only then to eat so sweet a discipline precisely pointless a devout involvement of the hands and senses a pause a little emptiness each year harder to live within each year harder to live without.
What music/art/literature has touched your soul this month? What unexpected grief/beauty has August/September brought you? Comment or email me your thoughts, and I'll select some (with your permission) to highlight in my next post.