Thursday, September 10, 2015

September 10: Surface of Jupiter, Moment of Grace, Judith Minty, "Purple Finches," Adventures of Stickman

Not one to read books on spiritual subjects, on out-of-body experiences, reincarnation, spiritualism, or mysticism, witchcraft or voodoo, Ives was left confounded by the strangeness of his vision.  He sighed, wishing that he had seen the Virgin Mother floating over Forty-first Street and Madison Avenue instead.  Somehow, in his mind, it all related to his ideas of afterlife.  He would think of all the depictions of Christ on the Cross, his tortured eyes looking upward, heaven just beyond, and wonder, to his horror, just what Christ might have been seeing.  What if he had looked up and seen the whirling center of a chaotic universe swallowing him up?  He felt disappointed that he had neither the education nor intelligence to fathom what had happened to him.  On some of those nights, he had concluded that death would not be a joyous ramble with ethereal and eternally pleasant angelic beings, but a chaotic, mysterious, and dark experience, as if a soul, in leaving the body, would alight upon the surface of Jupiter or Mars or some other mysterious planet, such as he had read about in Astonishing Stories magazine, or in the science-fiction books whose covers he had upon occasion illustrated.

Both the above passage from Mr. Ives' Christmas and the poem below from Judith Minty are about moments of transport.  Ives' vision is other-worldly.  Swirling colored winds, as if out of some strange science fiction story.  Minty's vision is transformative, the speaker somehow becoming wing and wind and color.  Both are connected with something natural and something divine.

I am incredibly tired this evening.  It has been a difficult day.  At work, I found myself short-tempered, impatient with anyone and everyone.  My medical office job puts me in contact with people who are sometimes very sick and sometimes, literally, out of their minds with worry.  They have chest pain, shortness of breath.  Their hearts feel like they're running ultra-marathons in their chests.  They feel like they're dying.  I understand.  I empathize.

However, there are times when my well of compassion runs a little dry.  Today was one of those days.  I didn't feel like I was connected to anything transformative.  I experienced no moments of transport.  They only time I felt something extraordinary was when I sat on a pencil in my car.  I didn't feel God's presence a whole lot.

That doesn't mean that I didn't have a moment of grace.  After my good books class, I spoke with a student who thinks he has bipolar disorder.  I listened to him, offered him advice.  He needed someone to listen.  I listened.  He seemed to physically relax as we spoke.  Tonight, I said a prayer for him.

There was nothing transcendent about the conversation I had with my student.  I didn't feel the Holy Spirit enter my body.  I didn't speak in tongues.  It was one human being talking to another human being about being broken, about finding help.  No swirling, colored winds.  No finch wings or birdsong.

Just Saint Marty being Saint Marty in all his imperfections and petty jealousies.

Purple Finches

by:  Judith Minty

They come in the morning.  Even before she is awake, she hears the tap-tap of their beaks, a scratching, faint whistles in the air.  When sun drifts along the bed, she floats to the surface.

They ripple over the feeder.  The males flame in the light, their pink and rose feathers.  The females are delicate, softer.  She wants to say, "Look, they are beautiful," but there is no one.  They fly up and wait in the pines, then sink back.

The window mutes their voices.  She circles the room slowly so they won't startle.  They bend to the seeds and crack them with their beaks.  They were not here yesterday or the day before.  They will not come tomorrow.  She puts her finger to the glass and enters their rhythm.  She steps inside their color.

Adventures of STICKMAN

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