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Grounded

April 3, 2020

37 of 47

We are neither moving nor sinking. We are grounded.

Society has stopped to keep society afloat. But we are not floating. We, like sheep, do the Right Thing as we are instructed what the Right Thing to do is. Now The Right Thing changes. Daily.

It is an Apocalypse. It is God Talking. It is the fault of the Devil. It is the fault of an Evil Man. It is the fault of an Evil Country. It is the fault of a Bat Eater.

It is hard.

Because we never really had a pot of Golden Truth at the end of Life’s Rainbow. We have Fear and we have Hope. But the hard truth is Faith. Does that happen? Faith, of her sort, is in Emily Dickinson. Her words, which need absorption to refusal, are exquisite:

Those not live yet

Who doubt to live again —

“Again” is of a twice

But this — is one —

The Ship beneath the Draw

Aground — is he?

Death — so — the Hyphen of the Sea —

Deep is the Schedule

Of the Disk to be —

Costumeless Consciousness —

That is he”

We are becoming costumeless on a grounded culture. Countless have lost their life’s work. Countless more keep theirs’ and know it is their life’s work, fully endangered. We could be stripped naked, we all could, at the whim of a virus.

We were Shocked. Humored. Resolved. Afraid. Now, What?

Coping is not enough, because we know, know, that coping ends when it cannot be done. Everyone knows it. Emily knew it. “Deep is the schedule Of the Disk to be -” We are grounded, here, now, with no “to be” and coping running short of Hope.

That, to me, leaves Faith.

What we are is not we ourselves. We can not even understand it or a tiny virus and what it does to us, even though every great good thing humans can do is being done to master the un-masterable.

Because we did not make it.

Because we did not make it.

Hard truths happen when what we have set sail gets grounded. Hope is revealed to be completely unseen, unknown. That black sea, which supports us in our way, is simply unknowable below the waterline. We are grounded. They were grounded, too, 2000 years ago.

The Vessel of Righteousness was ended by the Profane. Hard. With its own Righteousness of Humanity lording in its brutality. Lent is simply pulling back and seeing that brutality of death, and seeing that one death was not death.

But is is hard to know, know, that we simply do not know anything beyond that we are grounded. Whether in pandemic or in being Kings of Our Worlds, because we did not make those worlds ourselves, or really anything beyond what we can make, ourselves.

We can build ships. But we are grounded.

The COVID19 Diaspora

April 2, 2020

36 of 47

Emily Dickinson lived her adult life in a physical lock that poised an explosion of insight and question. To no one, perhaps a few, she wrote to and for herself the thoughts Billions are having, right now, as the world stops and stays in its room.

“Somewhere upon the general Earth

Itself exist Today —

The Magic passive but extant

That consecrated me —

Indifferent Seasons doubtless play

Where I for right to be —

Would pay each Atom that I am

But Immortality —

Reserving that but just to prove

Another Date of Thee —

Oh God of Width, do not for us

Curtail Eternity!”

Emily Dickinson went to Mount Holyoke College in the mid-19th century. I am guessing there she heard of the “atom” either as Ancient Greek Theory or as the hot, new, groundbreaking work of chemist John Dalton.

She returned from Holyoke to her home for nearly 30 years to live in her room. She was in an intellectual diaspora, where she travelled far inside a mind inside a room and encountered questions she could not answer. She was going nowhere as a physical being, but opting away from the life she, and everyone she knew, lived.

“Indifferent Seasons doubtless play

Where I for right to be —

Would pay each Atom that I am

But Immortality —”

I am guessing that Emily did not care whether cutting edge physics or Ancient Greek definitions of our wholeness described her whole. She was in her “Indifferent Season” of traveling in her intellectual diaspora on the The Good Ship Bedroom.

That is where we are, too.

We are in our bedrooms, now detached from the endless makings of lives, surviving, apparently, the eating of an infected bat (who had eaten infectious duck poop). We are in a COVID19 Diaspora.

The lives we carefully crafted, defended, believed in, relied upon, are now, for now, done. Finished without death to defer death. We each have been exiled into our hermitage. We have done it to ourselves, for ourselves. Some want to believe that someone “did” this to us, but this is as inevitable as our will and want.

Reserving that but just to prove

Another Date of Thee —

Oh God of Width, do not for us

Curtail Eternity!”

An architect friend just bewailed on the Internet: “I have just had all my jobs cancelled.” This is true for him and for untold others. But the reality is that this Diaspora is forcing us to the job each of us have, and Emily lived – to understand why we are here, doing this.

For some of us this is, as a meme I saw last night conveyed we are living “The Lentiest Lent I Ever Lented”. And it is. It is both new and fully forever human. What has been done to us is not what we have done, but what we do with it is why we are.

I think Emily got that.

The Worst In Us

April 1, 2020

35 of 47

We have lost control in this Covid19 Spring.

For once, we are actually victims of circumstance. Jobs gone, or rendered a threat. Opportunities vanished. Connections lost. Even loved ones taken away from us.

So many of us have doubled down on controlling what we can.

There really are only two ways of dealing with any life, and we all do both. We look outside ourselves and see how the world is affecting us and how we can affect it. And we look at ourselves, see how we are, who we are, and whether what we are doing is who we are, or want to be.

In this confined world we look more and more into our little screens to see what the rest of the world is doing, and it is not pretty. The “We are all in this together” ads, videos, memes, are all in self-congratulatory self-righteousness. And many of us, well, all of us, project that out from how we live this confined life to let others know that you have the Truth and the Way.

The sanctimonious shake their head when they see others too close, touching and not cleansing, going to places that can infect. I know I do.

Like the Puritans who Knew the Devil in some of us must be scourged in fire, or the villains of history who defined evil because it was not who they were, we forget, I forget, that everyone is just me and you.

Sure, idiots can buy 800 rolls of toilet paper, or party on the beach, or simply rationalize their attitudes that legitimately endanger others in self serving acts, but the response that results is often the worst in us.

The same folk that “never” go to any store, or touch any doorknob not under their control, or simply shake their head if others are not following their regimen have judged. They are Good. You are Bad. And that would be all of us, depending on what our regimen might be.

We cannot control our fear of Covid19: Because it is scary. But we can control our judgments to validate our fears, rather than understand them. I think that is because understanding some things is impossible.

Addressing Lent, a 2,000 year old time of knowing a severe lack of control is, now, seen as unimportant, in fact worthless. But killing someone to control others is just what the Puritans did, and all those other villains of history.

Covid19 has no agenda rather than survival by making humans sick, so we, the humans, try very hard to blame the person who ate the bat that transmitted the disease, to blame the country that that allowed the disease to spread, now to blame the people who allowed the disease to spread – or who use our fears to control us. We blame.

It is harder to understand than to blame, because life can be terrifying. Emily Dickinson knew the reality of death in life better than anyone I have read.

 

“He scanned it — staggered —

Dropped the Loop

To Past or Period —

Caught helpless at a sense as if

His Mind were going blind —

 

Groped up, to see if God was there —

Groped backward at Himself

Caressed a Trigger absently

And wandered out of Life”

And the final terror, death, is what finally, fully, makes any control we think we have brief, and limited. That is why Easter means a great deal to some of us. Life is as present as death, but death happens to each and every one of us, just as it did 2,000 years ago. But life is there, in every one, always.

But Wash Your Hands.

.

Song Of COVID

March 31, 2020

34 of 47

“This World is not Conclusion.

A Species stands beyond —

Invisible, as Music —

But positive, as Sound —

It beckons, and it baffles —

Philosophy — don’t know —

And through a Riddle, at the last —

Sagacity, must go —

To guess it, puzzles scholars —

To gain it, Men have borne

Contempt of Generations

And Crucifixion, shown —

Faith slips — and laughs, and rallies —

Blushes, if any see —

Plucks at a twig of Evidence —

And asks a Vane, the way —

Much Gesture, from the Pulpit —

Strong Hallelujahs roll —

Narcotics cannot still the Tooth

That nibbles at the soul —”

Emily Dickinson, 1862

At Sea

March 30, 2020

33 of 47

If my Bark sink

‘Tis to another sea —

Mortality’s Ground Floor

Is Immortality —

Emily Dickinson

In this Covid19 Time we are at sea.

So far out that there is no shore to sight. There may be a captain, but it does not matter, the sea is calling the shots. The Captain can steer the boat, but the boat is completely dominated by a calmly raging sea.

I am no sailor. But I know a raging sea. No, not just metaphorically, I was a deep sea scallop fisherman to pay for college, 21 miles out on the Continental Shelf off Cape May, New Jersey in 1978.

In the 20 foot swells our tiny, wooden boat with a crew of 7 was out to sea without the outriggers it used to use for stabilization. As the cook, and recent graduate of architecture school, in my trips to fetch food from the hole, I saw that the boat’s main cross-beaming between the sides of the hull had been deeply cut to accommodate something that had long since been removed.

So, when the sea was not gentle, or glassy, it was a bit stressed. (The was no Head (bathroom) either.)

In the rage, the crew did as told in our 10 day trips, working 10 hours on, 2 hours off, for 24 hours each day (if you were the cook or the Captain) and we did not die. I paid off my loan. But it was clear that no captain ever controlled any sea. And that each of us were just at the ground floor of immortality.

These last weeks, we are each on our separate boats heading into a raging sea. The sea is also other places, and we see the evidence of what it will be, and frankly, it sucks. We did not make the sea, or the storm, but some, many, hate the Captain. The anger is reasonable as we must follow his orders in a time of danger, but the hatred is often hard to, well, fathom.

Could we, any of us, stopped the storm? Maybe it could have been shorter, maybe fewer would be affected. But in the storm, does blame change the outcome of the storm?

The great thing about about storms is when they are over. If we survive this, and we will, it will be despite any captain, because all captains err. And mutiny is always possible, after we survive the sea.

2,000 years ago there was a small, short, intense storm around one person. The storm killed him. But that storm was us. Rather than curse the storm, or the Captain in charge of those going through it, something happened that changed that and every future storm. Life followed death. Whether literal life or the life of the devotion of those who loved the dead, death did not end life. “Tis to another sea”

It may be the time of Covid19, but it is also Lent. The storm will pass, there will be Easter. Things will change, no matter how much they stay the same.

This Day Was Once Sunday

March 29, 2020

32 of 47

I labor to make and remake places touching God every day, and will for the rest of my life. But no one makes God. When Notre Dame burned, it was terrible, but no one damaged Jesus.

Things, that we hold, stare at, infuse with value, are not God. So “religious icons” in any form are nice, but are not compelling to me.

But I miss Sunday. Sunday is a casualty of Corvid19, like going to a game, or dinner with friends. But you can watch a video, and “ya gotta eat”, so activities are dumbed down to our homes.

But Sunday, a day that was once different for all, then in this generation, became a second Saturday for most, has lost all distinction for everyone.

I miss church.

But Sunday’s were never the same in the last 60 years in my life.

For the first decade of being aware I wore clothing that I wore nowhere else. Then a second Saturday happened in the summer.

In high school, alone in Buffalo, in the fall I healed after crashing into others, and had 4 years of second Saturday’s.

At college, I struggled to wake up after debauchery before Brunch was ended at the Student Union at the crack of 1pm.

Then for a decade, second Saturday’s returned. Until they were, well, not enough. I found my first decade again, without the good clothes.

Then the next 15 years our sons could sing, so they did, at church, and we went.

Then this last decade, for the first time, after 40 years, the duet of touching something was our Sunday. Every Sunday. I, of course, broke the Sabbath Commandment and ever worked on every Sunday, but those services are part of our life.

Now, “The Weekend” is completely gone, including Sunday’s for a while. No Work-Home separation, let alone touching something that others have touched for 2,000 years.

If I care not for icons, why do I miss the iconic? I do not know. But I do.

In these mornings, alone, in Lent, nothing has changed, but everything has changed. Our huge machines of connection have been decoupled, and our tiny screens of simulated connection are racing ahead.

‘”Why don’t you just stream services?”

Yeah. No.

I do not focus on icons. Even as I focus, without church, on the reality of 2,000 years ago, and the human reality of expression.

“It is an honorable Thought

And make One lift One’s Hat

As One met sudden Gentlefolk

Upon a daily Street

That We’ve immortal Place

Though Pyramids decay

And Kingdoms, like the Orchard

Flit Russetly away”

Pyramids, kingdoms, an orchard’s leaves, even Notre Dame decay. Emily Dickinson knew that. Our “immortal place”, our humanity, remains, even in self-isolation – maybe more pungently. But, in Lent, the source of our humanity, God, is as undeniable as he was when I broke breaking the Sabbath every week. Maybe more so.

But I miss Sunday, even in Lent.

We Are Better Than Our Dreams

March 28, 2020

31 of 47

“Conscious am I in my Chamber,

Of a shapeless friend —

He doth not attest by Posture —

Nor Confirm — by Word —”

These days apart, together, in coronavirus, are a singularity.

In times of deadened reality while awake, the power of dreams while fretfully not awake, explodes.

We are not distracted to complete distraction. Some compulsively work out, eat, Internet, screen-focus themselves into a new state. Existence without connection, let alone progress or resolution.

There is no plan, except waiting for a plan.

So we dream. A lot.

“Neither Place — need I present Him —

Fitter Courtesy

Hospitable intuition

Of His Company —”

Sleep without exhaustion, but in high anxiety, creates dreams – at least according to a recent story read at predawn this morning, after another, lengthy, dream last night.

When things are dark, dreams are vivid. They touch something. Another thing, an entity that we know is there, cannot define, cannot summon, but is a louder, more impactful presence in more and more lives, the more that we do not do focuses us on what we do. Which is not much except when we sleep.

“Presence — is His furthest license —

Neither He to Me

Nor Myself to Him — by Accent —

Forfeit Probity —”

Of course the usual array: driving, academic terror, for some flying or sex – but for me it is the unending inevitability of failure. I am watching me err, deny erring keep screwing up. Compounding the error into errors, and then collapse in a pile of failure.

Not a happy thing.

But I wake up.

“Weariness of Him, were quainter

Than Monotony

Knew a Particle — of Space’s

Vast Society”

The sheets are often wet, pillow soaked. (No, not Covid Fever, this has been my entire life.)

Night terrors have often been realer than much of my day to day. I had a benign dream last week, and I did have one terribly happy dream when I was 12. I was in a happy family, love and laughter. I awake, dress, and as I walked down my driveway to school, I realized that it was a dream. It was crushing.

Awaking to reality may ease the freak of night terrors, but it can buzzkill the full on fantasies of dreams, too. Especially now that night meetings, dinners, parties, even going out to eat are simply non-existent.

“Neither if He visit Other —

Do He dwell — or Nay — know I —

But Instinct esteem Him

Immortality —”

No matter what Emily Dickinson wrote in her chamber 150 years ago, we are here, now. In a time without deadline, without progress other than the passage of time, these spontaneous but regular explosions of experience are more powerful, because we cannot control them, but we make them, they go away, but when they are with us they are undeniably extreme.

In a time of “Hurry Up And Wait”, what we have is what we got: unless we go outside ourselves. We can ZOOM or email, take a 2 Meter Separated From Everything Walk. But we are left with ourselves.

Until we dream.

Or perhaps think. Thinking is what I do more of in Lent these last 5 years. That training has made these Covid Times a bit more, well, thinky. I think of 2,000 years ago, when ignorance washed over everything and life usual ended by 30. And I think of a life ended, but, publicly not ended.

I do not think that was a dream.