Friday Five (Vol. 40)

— 1 —

When I walked out of my house this morning to drive downtown to work I experienced something not seen in these parts in months: rain! We were having a nice, slow, steady downpour. I don’t know how long it lasted at home, but it was still raining, albeit softer, by the time I got across town to the parking garage. Let the record state that I would have rather sat out back on the patio with a book and my large mug of coffee. One other thing I experienced for the first time in ages: the “scent” of rain. Do you know what I’m talking about? I bet you do. For my money there is nothing like it, both just before the heavens open and then again afterwards. It is among my favorite aromas in the world, right next to freshly cut alfalfa or smoked BBQ over apricot wood.

— 2 —

Milestone o’ the Week:

— 3 —

I was going to do a separate post on her first day of Kindergarten but will instead just write this brief note. She is the youngest and the last of my children who will make that journey through the halls of education. One of my favorite songs in all the world is “Annabel” by Don Henley, from his 2000 album Inside Job. Like his more famous “Desperado” the tune is just his vocals and a piano. I have sung this song to my daughter before after bedside prayers, or to avoid the giggling I’ll sneak in and do so when I watch her and her older brother sleep. I simply insert “Sophie Rose” for the song’s namesake.

I watch you sleeping
My weary heart rises up on wings
I hear your laughter
Something deep down inside me sings

Way down here in the land of cotton
You were born on a rainy day
Since then, sweet things long forgotten
They just keep flooding back my way

Oh child, I cannot tell you how the time just flies
But I have had my days of glory under sunny skies
These days, your bright dreams are all I want to see
Sleep tight, Annabel
You can always count on me

In this cold world, folks will judge you
Though they don’t know you at all
And I may not be there to catch you
Anytime that you might fall

But, you got my hard head
And your mother’s grace
All the likeness of the loved ones right there in your face
And I know in the end you’ll be who you will be

So sleep tight, Annabel
You can always count on me

She definitely has her father’s “hard head” and at the end of her first tiresome week of school she is showing it. But she also inherited her mother’s grace, thank goodness, and despite being very much influenced by two older brothers she is still all girl.

So sleep tight, Sophie Rose (and all my children), you can always count on me.

Annabel lyrics by Don Henley/John Corey. ©2000 Warner Brothers.

— 4 —

I wrote earlier this week about finishing Strangers and Sojourners by Michael O’Brien, and quoted from it a little. Here’s one more passage that struck me. It’s a conversation between Nathaniel Delaney and his grandfather, Stephen Delaney:

“Look at the light, lad. Looks invisible, doesn’t it?”

“Yep.”

“Put it through a prism, and you’ll get all the colors of the rainbow. Did y’know that a deer can’t see the colors we do? He’s color-blind, which is why hunters can wear bright orange without being spotted. Now, I think we’re like the deer in a way. We’re blind t’some colors, some spirits, to part of what’s real. We’re small and ignorant, but we got a whole lot of pride. We’re blindest of all when we think we see best.”

This brought to mind a short (2 pages) essay by C.S. Lewis titled “Meditation in a Toolshed.” In it Lewis uses the juxtaposition of a beam of light against the darkness to strengthen his point that both experience and observation are dependent on each other when seeking knowledge. He discusses two ways to consider facts; by looking along the beam of light, and the other by looking at it.

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

Lewis considers the different ways to look at the truth and although he states “One must look both along and at everything” to determine the truth he does not in any way imply relativism. He simply declares that one must be ready to experience the absolute truth by being a part of the event and also to observe the same event by looking at it. In this way the truth can be determined.

The people who look at things have had it all their own way; the people who look along things have simply been brow-beaten. It has even come to be taken for granted that the external account of a thing somehow refutes or “debunks” the account given from inside. “All these moral ideals which look so transcendental and beautiful from inside”, says the wiseacre, “are really only a mass of biological instincts and inherited taboos.” And no one plays the game the other way round by replying, “If you will only step inside, the things that look to you like instincts and taboos will suddenly reveal their real and transcendental nature.”

In other words: None so blind as those that will not see. And why won’t we see? Because as Stephen Delaney said “we got a whole lot of pride.” So the next time we feel compelled to so cavalierly dismiss someone or something because of what we think we know or because the talking heads in the media or chattering celebrity classes say, pause and take another look. Don’t just look at the issue. Look along it as well.

You choose: pride, or perspective? One takes effort, the other is the lazy way out. I guess that right there explains so much of politics, ignorance and bigotry today. Oh we certainly are an enlightened and evolved race, aren’t we?

Aren’t we?

— 5 —

A note about that phrase “none so blind as those…” Many people mistakenly think it’s from the Bible, but it was actually originated by Matthew Henry (1662-1714) an English Presbyterian minister and writer. He used the phrase in his Commentary on the Whole Bible (1708) thereby helping to popularize the English saying that has no clear origin. There is speculation that the saying was inspired by Matthew 13:13 (“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”) or Jeremiah 5:21 (“Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.”). [source]

Whatever the origin it is truly a strong, and too often accurate, phrase with regards to all of us.

I’ll wrap with a final thought I read a quote recently from the Dalai Lama about what surprised him most about humanity. He answered:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he’s so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and dies having never really lived.”

Again too often true for so many of us. Just look around. Look in the mirror.

I wish people would stop with the claptrap that there is no truth. The truth is all around us. The saddest truth is that we are so willingly blind.

*****

Good luck to Sophia and the Class of 2025

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