Thy will be done
Woke up from a dream that caused me to wonder, right off:
Have I done
Will I have
° ° °
A white policeman shot an unarmed black man, triggering the 1943 Harlem race riot. Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son – sweet, somehow raw essays with seemingly simple rhetorical movements.
The Americans in Baldwin’s Paris, the “little band of bohemians” who share “a total confusion about the nature of experience.” They discount the power of society because they can’t believe “that time [i.e., a society's powerful history] is real.” Without society they are rootless, unable to find themselves. With society they are trapped, because “society is never anything less than a perfect labyrinth of limitations.”
Experience, if permitted, leads to untenable associations. Experience will always teach me that I killed the Christ.
No loving mercy unless you need it. But experience for Baldwin’s bohemians “is nothing more than sensation – so many sensations, added up like arithmetic, give on the rich, full life.” It’s not even a particularly creative way of avoiding experience.
° ° °
The notion of travel and the notion of staying put. The cosmopolite and the provincial. On the one hand, travel gives perspective. Homesickness may be the ultimate perspective. No. But it suggests it. I’m homesick for somewhere I’ve never been.
Staying home, on the other hand, and being washed in love by the differences each day makes to something that, to others, always looks the same. The place takes on a kind of holiness, which bears some relation to nostalgia. Maybe nostalgia is holiness’s demiurge. Holiness’s half light.
Recalled myself riding the Pentran Bus to the shipyard, marveling at the different faces of the James River. The gray alone is a lifetime’s obsession. “You can’t step into the same river twice.” Popper thought Heraclitus’s adage was Plato’s obsession. Maybe so. The gray gradations, some leaning against a blue buoy, some clinging to a green lover. Red is never arrived at. Not until the evening bus when the sunset sometimes skips across the river like a hot rock. God in a dream dropping down Jacob’s ladder.
Robert Lax this morning:
ow of the
– Poem 22 in A Thing that Is
° ° °
What is the distinction between universal truths and tribalism? We can’t exist in ideas, even ideals, alone. We’d lose the scent of our identity, the roots that ground and feed us. The soil of good and evil. The mystery of the past.
We can’t exist on tribes alone. We’d lose our identity, the sun and air that we all share. The promise, the mystery of a deeper past.
The difference between the Big Bang (universalism) and the first motion not a moment after (tribalism).
The militarized police in Ferguson. Blacks may see it as an expression of white fear, power, and repression – of tribalism and its dehumanization of outsiders. Whites may see it as a tool of the state, the federal enforcement of universal truths that would take away their tribe. “The Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11). Kill the Christ, Caiaphas counseled.
Your basic cop is underpaid. They’re told to take on more than even teachers.
° ° °
Experience, for Baldwin, can be avoided. One then develops a narrowed, occluded soul. One becomes Jason Compson. But experience, for Baldwin, can lead to destruction, as it does in Another Country for Rufus. Or it can lead to humility and the first hints of freedom and self-knowledge, as it does for Ida, Cass, Eric, and Vivaldo.
° ° °
Isn’t beauty in the tribe?
Isn’t holiness in the universal?
Is this our problem: we find beauty in ideas and holiness in our tribes?
– Poem 27 in A Thing that Is
The circle from hope to patience to experience (transformation) to hope again in Romans 5:1-5 is Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, depicted also as a circle. From hope to hope, from home to home.
England and nowhere
Know the place for the first time
Heaven, perhaps, is where God helps us sort out the slides to share our trip to the audience we never quite locate on earth.
On earth as it is in heaven
[My journal entry this morning between “thy will be done” and “on earth as it is in heaven.” Video is of the James River this past spring. I took it while walking my parents' dog. Photo is a detail from the front page of the August 12, 2014 issue of the Washington Post.]