What I Know is This was published this week.
That's all we have, so I guess we'll have to settle for something other than Shakespeare.
I feel a little electrified; I'm seeing all these points of connection. A network of stars, a pantheon drawn on them by a child joining the dots. I don't think I can come at it head-on because that's not how it works; it's circling, coming back in on itself, referencing things that reference things and leading back round, like following a chain of dictionary definitions that leads you back to the first word you looked up.
Besides, it'll give me an excuse to finally start writing here regularly, because it's too long for one post.
So, where to start? Okay. Awhile back, a writer friend (hi, Katie!) turned me onto a poem by Marty McConnell, 'Instructions for a Body'.
Trust me, if you've ever thought a single piece of advice I gave was worthwhile, listen to it, here:
Or watch, here:
It still sends shivers down my spine. But I'd forgotten about it, somehow. Somehow it just got on that list with Weebl and Bob and xkcd and lolcats: 'Hey, that's cool!' -- whoosh!, out the other ear.
Now, you don't need to analyse poetry to get at its beauty. But this piece says something really real and concrete to me about life, and about god or whatever you want to call something which may be bigger than us. So let me quote from it (I'm pretty sure she won't mind, based on her previous interactions with bloggers). She begins:
praise the miracle body: the odd
and undeniable mechanics of hand,
hundred-boned foot, perfect stretch
She's talking about the human body and it's beauty, and she does it shiver-inducingly. She's talking about the miracle of life, of the body you've been given. And she keeps using the word 'praise':
praise the strange convexity of ribcage
praise the single hair that insists on growing
from a right areola
And the first time I heard/read it, I'm pretty sure it was missing a part that's now in almost every version I see, so I didn't attach too much importance to the word 'praise'. Turn of phrase, I guess I thought. But the 'new' version says this:
tell me there are no gods then,
no master plans for this anatomy
with its mobile and evident spark
Now, I don't think she's making the intelligent design argument. She's not asking us to praise God, or any god outside ourselves. She's asking us to praise ourselves, the beautiful creation that we are. But not as individuals, not as a matter of pride and hubris. She goes on to say:
for what we take for granted, bone and dirt
and the million things that will kill us
someday, motion and the pursuit
This is about giving thanks for, praising, not our body in isolation, but our body as a creation of the universe. She's talking, to me, about the idea that there is more than just atoms and the void. What there is isn't God or Allah or Tom Cruise; it's the universe. You could see at as two sides of the same coin -- to say there is no god is maybe the same as saying that 'god' is the universe, but to me, the tail on that coin is a whole lot more compelling. Especially when we look at what she tells us to do with it:
give thanks or go home a waste of spark
speak or let the maker take back your throat
march or let the creator rescind your feet
dream or let your god destroy your good and fertile mind
this is your warning / this
your birthright / do not let
this universe regret you.
If that's they way they pray at this church, count me in.
*Her line, of course.