It’s been a month of horrifically overwhelming headlines. As such I’m taking a break in today’s Friday Five and am going to go “soft”. I awoke in a cold sweat this morning after a nightmare that involved the loss of one of my children. And then I was greeted with the news of the day and its cynicism coupled with an extensive prayer list that I receive each morning through our state Knights of Columbus organization. All of which finds me wanting to open the gate to a green open stretch of mental prairie and let my mind wander around aimlessly for a day.
I read a quote once by Marsha Norman that said
Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.
I must say that lately I’m not a fan of this book. Let’s instead journey to the open prairie…
— 1 —
A favorite book of fairy tales that I purchased a few years ago was The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle. It is a masterpiece of nineteenth century storytelling and meant to be read by parents to children at night. The premise of the story is given in the introduction whereby the narrator comes across a clock in Father Time’s attic which strikes the hour with songs and puppet dances. Twenty-four stories follow, one for each hour of the day. Each story begins with a verse that corresponds to the hour of the day: lighting the fire, preparing breakfast, sending the children to school, making the noonday meal, milking, tea, bedtime. The small verses that begin each “hour” alone are fascinating, as they bring to life the household routines of a very different era, and the illustrations perfectly enhance the storytelling.
The Wonder Clock is also available to be read online here.
From the preface:
I PUT on my dream-cap one day and stepped into Wonderland.
Along the road I jogged and never dusted my shoes, and all the time the pleasant sun shone and never burned my back, and the little white clouds floated across the blue sky and never let fall a drop of rain to wet my jacket. And by and by I came to a steep hill.
I climbed the hill, though I had more than one tumble in doing it, and there, on the tip-top, I found a house as old as the world itself.
That was where Father Time lived; and who should sit in the sun at the door, spinning away for dear life, but Time’s Grandmother herself; and if you would like to know how old she is you will have to climb to the top of the church steeple and ask the wind as he sits upon the weather-cock, humming the tune of Over-yonder song to himself.
“Good-morning,” says Time’s Grandmother to me.
“Good-morning,” says I to her.
“And what do you seek here?” says she to me.
“I come to look for odds and ends,” says I to her.
“Very well,” says she; “just climb the stairs to the garret, and there you will find more than ten men can think about.”
“Thank you,” says I, and up the stairs I went. There I found all manner of queer forgotten things which had been laid away, nobody but Time and his Grandmother could tell where.
— 2 —
When younger during the lazy days of summer one of the things my friends and I would do to pass the time was sit in the shade of the front porch eating popsicles and debating lazy summer things like “what is the greatest album side?” While I can still list four or five I listened to one of my favorites driving to work yesterday: Side 3 from Eagles Live. Seven Bridges Road, Wasted Time, Take It To The Limit and Desperado. The only thing missing was an open and endless ribbon of highway and twilight skies.
Sometimes there’s a part of me
Has to turn from here and go
Running like a child from these warm stars
Down the Seven Bridges Road
— 3 —
A little encouragement for our walk along the prairie:
For a while, we are fully aware of God’s concern for us. But then, when God begins to use us in His work, we begin to take on a pitiful look and talk only of our trials and difficulties. And all the while God is trying to make us do our work as hidden people who are not in the spotlight. None of us would be hidden spiritually if we could help it. Can we do our work when it seems that God has sealed up heaven? Some of us always want to be brightly illuminated saints with golden halos and with the continual glow of inspiration, and to have other saints of God dealing with us all the time. A self-assured saint is of no value to God. He is abnormal, unfit for daily life, and completely unlike God. We are here, not as immature angels, but as men and women, to do the work of this world. And we are to do it with an infinitely greater power to withstand the struggle because we have been born from above.
From My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers (May 1st entry)
— 4 —
In an article titled “Music as a Character-Forming Force” I read the following quote by philosopher Roger Scruton:
Nobody who understands the experiences of melody, harmony, and rhythm will doubt their value. Not only are they the distillation of centuries of social life: they are also forms of knowledge, providing the competence to reach out of ourselves through music. Through melody, harmony, and rhythm, we enter a world where others exist besides the self, a world that is full of feeling but also ordered, disciplined but free. That is why music is a character-forming force, and the decline of musical taste a decline in morals. (The Aesthetics of Music, 502)
Behold the Agnus Dei from Berlioz’s Requiem, Op. 5. It’s as moving as any piece of music I’ve heard, and when used with the final scenes from Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life pretty much renders me a puddle of goo.
And if you don’t have nine minutes to spare in order to watch or even listen to the music, then perhaps you can spare five to read and ruminate over this:
Ever heard about the three transcendentals? Christian philosophers claim that the ultimate desire of man, the ultimate direction towards which all things are ordered, is perfection. Perfection has three properties which cannot be divorced from one another: Veritas, Bonitas, Pulchritudo; Truth, Goodness and Beauty. As Christians we believe that God is the fulfilment of these transcendentals. In His being we find absolute Truth, absolute Goodness and absolute Beauty. Hence St. Augustine’s famous line: “Our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in Thee.” We will never be satisfied until we are suffused with His being.
I’m afraid I’ve lost the source, so if you happen to know who or what that might be, please let me know.
— 5 —
I’ll end in an unconventional place. It’s true that among my favorite songwriters and performers are the members of ABBA. I was a fan when being a fan was very uncool. Maybe it still is. I don’t really care. All I know is the music is catchy, yet more layered and complex than given credit for, and that Benny and Bjorn’s collaboration with Tim Rice for the broadway musical Chess is on par with Les Miserables in my opinion. Again…my opinion. If you want to debate it or argue go elsewhere. I’m not in the mood for that today. I read where they opened an ABBA Museum in Stockholm earlier this week. I found myself listening to this and thinking of friends, both old and new.
You and I can share the silence
Finding comfort together
The way old friends do
And after fights and words of violence
We make up with each other
The way old friends do
Times of joy and times of sorrow
We will always see it through
Oh I don’t care what comes tomorrow
We can face it together
The way old friends do
From The Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien:
“Love is the soul of the world, though its body bleeds, and we must learn to bleed with it. Love is also the seed and milk and the fruit of the world, though we can partake of it in greed or reverence. We are born, we eat, and learn, and die. We leave a tracery of messages in the lives of others, a little shifting of the soil, a stone moved from here to there, a word uttered, a song, a poem left behind. I was here, each of these declare. I was here.”
The world can make one crazy if we have not love. We are not immature angels. We have been born from above in love.
We are here. Together.