Thursday, May 24, 2012
i was just sitting there watching my dog chew a bone. i watched each crunch of his jaws vanish into the past, one after the other. i sensed the present moment, watched it vanish into the past, one moment after the next. i wondered about this present, some now turning into memory, some time down a long road before i die, before i die and this is all gone, dog, bone, youth - watching the present is a can of worms. watching this slow down. conscious of the end of everything, everything gets transparent but glows a little. and i thought happily i don't know what's going to happen next, and this seemed supernatural;
Posted by steven martin at 5/24/2012 06:00:00 PM
Friday, May 18, 2012
for people with very painful lives, the past is more often than not of little interest. remembering is difficult, a return to bad old days. much of my grandparents’ times are lost, and what little is known took a lot of asking and prying. even the happy memories tend to get buried with the hard ones. to me each scrap of their memories and artifacts from their time held immense value, whether it was my irish grandmother’s memory of going to a dance as a teenager in belfast during the second world war and being locked in when a bombing raid began. with nothing else to do, she spent the evening dancing. or finding my grandfather’s fake identification papers when he worked in the maquis (the french resistance), probably made in the south of france around the same time as my grandmother was dancing. they are points of contact, however fragmentary and one-sided, to a once-living past, and that once-livingness seems to me to be worthy of awe. but while i might find this or that particular history fascinating for a while, i see these as currents within a much larger river of time. All of history is interesting to me, even the occurrence of some dandelion on the side of the road in medieval ireland, or the lifespan of a single mountain peak in the northern rockies, or a sailor on an extinct sea. in many traditions, there seems to be an excessive emphasis on those events that “made” history, those world shaping events and forces that smashed the course of the river this way or that, the big boulders, the big rains.
but history to me is everything that happened before now; even those things which did not have the power to affect the course of human events have significance.although i have my doubts as to whether it is possible, i would like to eventually have a detailed sense of the entire course of this river of history. a river seems a good analogy to me, because this progression of time does happen intimately with the land. one can look back at the course of a river and see distant land and distant life, and this is equally true of time.
i’m not sure what having a long sense of history would accomplish necessarily, since my primary motivation is reverence rather than utility. to some degree having knowledge of many histories could help explain the relationships between eras and societies as they are now and how they got to where they are. to some degree it could help understand forces in the world that act on people over time. for me, many histories taken together make a grand story that is worth telling if for no other reason than it is in a wider sense my story, or better said anyone’s story.
Posted by steven martin at 5/18/2012 03:16:00 PM
Thursday, May 17, 2012
one day in the summer when i was very young, no older than five or six, i was out with my father on a lake in the late afternoon, close to sunset. the water shimmered on that lake in a unique way, in a way that gave it a visibly unique character. while i was playing with the water and talking, my father grew very quiet until I noticed that there were no responses to my child-thoughts. i remember looking at him and seeing a strange distant look in his face, and i think he said something like, “wow” or “my god” and i, amazed, wondered what he was looking at to cause him to be so shocked. i looked and looked in the direction he was staring but saw nothing unusual, until i began to realize in my own little way that he was awed into silence by the mere beauty of the world around him. it was the kind of silence that is done for things worthy of reverence. being a son at that age i thought him the wisest of men. i too looked out on the water and the land and felt an immense reverence for the world. i don’t think my father could have explained in words this sense of reverence, and i am glad i was present to witness it myself. what i learned inadvertently from my father is that the world is an awe-inspiring place even at its most ordinary. i am awed by the notion of so many people coming and going on this land or that land, of the connection of the present moment in a long strand of movements and experiences going back into the distance of the past, and that the land itself has its own stories. a kind of sacred memory.
Posted by steven martin at 5/17/2012 11:35:00 AM
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
we little beings, we little strange ghosts, we little specks under the big trees and the giant mountains and the far oceans, we make machines that we send up into the universe, which until recently we didn't think was that much bigger than us, and it looks and feels and sounds like this:
Posted by steven martin at 5/15/2012 11:03:00 AM