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Monday, October 5, 2009

Gimme! Thanks! Oops! Wow! IV. Wow! – CREDO XC

To complete Rabbi Marc Gellman’s brilliant description of the four types of prayer, Wow! implies genuine appreciation and praise. Today we would say we are “blown away” to such a degree that only spontaneous prayer can thank God (and the Holy Wisdom of Hagia Sophia especially) for manifesting the matter (mater!). Certainly all the religions, every one, are filled with poetic psalms, hymns of joy and gratitude, leading me to link Wow! with our appreciation of beauty, which extends the matter perhaps beyond the purview of religion per se to the vast world of human creativity – to music, to dance, poetry, to painting, sculpture, and sacred architecture! Also, to the world of seasonal festivals, common to humanity everywhere. These are all tangible or visual expressions of praise and things we celebrate year in year out. The shadow here, of course, is that today so much of it is lost in commercialism, yet, as many of these feast days are set by our planet’s rotation around the Sun, in the ultimate sense, the grandeur is there and our physical bodies are impacted. The heavens, indeed, do declare!

We have only to think of Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid of Egypt, or the Gothic cathedrals of Europe; or Bach, Handel’s Messiah, Shakespeare, Goethe, Michelangelo, to name the more obvious ones, but now we know of Macchu Picchu, the great temples of Asia, and the Vedas, The Bhagavad Gita or our own Emerson, Thoreau, Steinbeck, and Jung himself. Why not the Beatles! The list is endless, but the underlying idea is that Wow! is a human expression of consciousness, a reaction to amazement and awe, whether it be seeing a man walking on the moon or seeing a newborn baby boy’s wee eyelashes or the expression of a child seeing its first tree on Christmas morning!

For me (almost 87!), the world of I-pods and Blackberries, etc., is a Wow!-a-day but this differs from a night full of stars, the sight of perfect symmetry in a flashing snowflake, the miraculous patterning of a goldfinch’s feather, the gorgeous palette of autumnal colors in the trees at the moment. To me, these are silent gifts of prayer that nature gives every moment of every day. The ocean with its tides of breathing! Lovers discovering love!
I am at a loss for words, but suggest at the end of reading this CREDO you take a deep breath and close your eyes, and make a start on what creative example of the universe you might have overlooked. Making these Wows! conscious is itself a prayer. Here is a sample from just the Wow! of memory itself:

A pleasant English summer a life ago

A pleasant English summer a life ago –
a weaving of ovals green
above the riverflow
a dappling of those chips of blue
and gold below
all from a summerswifted evening glow –
a bending of the fluted waving grasses
where the carapaced slow beetle walks
lurching its scarabed angles
through the stalks

wrens in the dusty hedgerows
wagtails, linnets, buntings
darting soundlessly about a
somnolence of sheep
marking the leys of our longing now
to sleep –
oh, what were we waiting for
those summerhays ago
lying aneath the beeches
near the river's summerglow!
The old manse, the pilgrims' eaves
and bedding by the silvers of the starcut leaves
still life, life still
our faces framed by hands and leaning each to each
hushes, whispers, hushes on our tongues
as we let each other in
reaching for – so simply, softly, softly –
the sweetness of each other's skin

what were our pleasures then
drowsing the lovelit night
waking to the scattered pealing
of a morning's feathered light!

marigolds and hollyhocks and
dew-drenched bending roses
flax, weld and foxglove
and the river moving time along
reflecting and collecting
all that lovely, lovely summersong

thinking now in winter
of our older saddened eyes
parted and yet joined
by grey and sodden city skies
I pluck insistence so
from that which summering in dreams
while ever singing deeper, deems
to bear us forth where heaven seems
still flashing in the endless rippling riverflow:
all love that time would let us know
that pleasant English summer, only a life ago!


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