Monday, May 30, 2016

May 30: Shreds of Creation, Memorial Day, Experiment in Freedom

What I aim to do is not so much learn the names of the shreds of creation that flourish in this valley, but to keep myself open to their meanings, which is to try to impress myself at all times with the fullest possible force of their very reality.  I want to have things as multiply and intricately as possible present and visible in my mind.  Then I might be able to sit on the hill by the burnt books where the starlings fly over, and see not only the starlings, but grass field, the quarried rock, the viney woods, Hollins Pond, and the mountains beyond, but also, and simultaneously, feathers' barbs, springtails in the soil, crystal in rock, chloroplasts streaming, rotifers pulsing, and the shape of the air in the pines.  And, if I try to keep my eye on quantum physics, if I try to keep up with astronomy and cosmology, and really believe it all, I might ultimately be able to make out the landscape of the universe.  Why not?

Dillard is constantly looking behind names, trying to understand the intricacies of meaning.  It's not enough to be able to say, "This is a sugar maple leaf."  Dillard wants to know its cellular makeup:  cuticle, mesophyll, epidermis, chlorophyll, stoma.  She wants to understand its greenness.  Where it fits in the story of the universe.

It is Memorial Day.  This morning, I went to see a parade and then attended a VFW service at a local cemetery.  I listened to the bands play, bagpiper pipe.  And the speakers talk of sacrifice and freedom.  A pastor got up and spoke about the honor of giving up your life for the sake of another.  I always find these proceedings really moving.  They reinforce the real meaning of this American holiday.  It's not about a three-day weekend and grilling hotdogs and bratwurst.  It's about what's behind all that:  men and women who have given up their freedom for my freedom.  That's Memorial Day's cellular makeup.

I tend to shy away from people who are rabidly patriotic.  Everything done in the name of patriotism is not always a good thing.  Crackpots and fanatics are able to twist the ideas of freedom and democracy to serve any cause, from xenophobia to homophobia.  However, there are just causes, reasons to be patriotic.  The defeat of Adolf Hitler--a just cause, a reason to be gratefully patriotic.  The emancipation of slaves and preservation of the union--another just cause and reason to be patriotic.

I am not here today to argue over the morality and ethics of war.  I am here to talk about the meaning behind Memorial Day:  there were/are people who put themselves in harm's way so that I can sit here with my laptop and express my ideas freely.  So that I can attend the church I want.  Read the books I want.  Believe whatever I want.  That's what Memorial Day is all about.  Sacrifice for the ideal of freedom, no matter how messy and flawed that freedom may be.

And Saint Marty is deeply grateful to the people who have given their lives to make this experiment in freedom called the United States possible.

On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you

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