Monday, January 16, 2006

Arching towards Bethlehem

Mood: Dreamy
Listening to: Say Yes! to Michigan--Sufjan Stevens


For those of you who aren't familiar with WB Yeats, my title is a referance to his famous poem, The Second Coming." What is it about the closing lines that stick with me: "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" Only a handful of poets can manage such epic resonance, echoing like a gong for decades or centuries after pen hits paper. Yeats shows us a God who is so large, such a massive collection of beauty, truth and goodness that the moment of incarnation is like the rolling-up of a carpet, the collapsing of an easel, the huncing-down of a great giant. This is no distant and insatiable deity, this is one who, at the moment of Christ, spreads his arms wide and draws them in, curves his back like a cat, and collapses into an impossible smallness. A changeable God--poured into the feeding trough of farm animals--like some cosmic game of hide-and-seek.

So why "Arching?" Being a Sagittarius on the Astrological charts, I thought it a fitting Yeatsian play. Not that I'm about to be incarnated or anything, but I fancy the image of aiming towards re-creation, purposefully and skillfully. Life is not one birth but many. And because I orient myself around that little cradle, tucked away in some negligible corner of the world, births have become a guiding trope for me.


Almost everyone knows where they fall under the stars, whether they place a lot of significance in it or only a few skeptical grains. Every morning at the coffee shop we read our hororscopes to each other. I've always positionned myself at the edge of these types of things, not sure where exactly to stand, not sure precisely what to think. The zodiac, after all, usually made its way into the "be careful of" lists of my youth--along with ouiji boards and fortune-tellers. It was always a tamer one though; perhaps its roots in Greek mythology lent it some kind of credibility. I've always liked my sign: adventurous, creative, philosophical, ardent, jovial, frivolous. I have nothing against looking upward to seek understanding. I have nothing against looking for patterns to existence. I also have nothing against those far-off firey orbs having something more to say to us than "gosh aren't they pretty," or providing a backdrop for first kisses and pacts of friendship. The randomness that sometimes topples my sense of well-being is countered by the idea that above me there might be a wild order and symmetry. That on the day of my birth there might have been a Centaur shooting his arrow across the canopy above me; shooting his small arrows towards perpetual re-birth.

We could probably find something true about ourselves in every astrological sign. When you're looking hard enough for yourself, you're more apt to find pieces everywhere. The other day one of our regulars, waiting patiently as I timed his espresso shot out to a perfect 25 seconds, asked me when my birthday was. From the numbers I gave him, he formulated a quick map of my life: my strengths and weaknesses, how others see me, what types of work I would be well-suited to. I may have raised my eyebrows briefly, sending him off into his day well-caffeinated and conversationally stimulated, but I didn't pay much heed to his theories. What is the merit in these things? How much stock should we put in them? I do believe some people are gifted in seeing beyond the scratched surface of reality, and I did find something strangely comforting in his words. Is it merely that our exchange went beyond that of normal acquaintances, that there was a rickety bridge built across the vast canyon that separates two human personalities?

Life is chasing the little clues written on yellowing papers, scattered throughout the world: tucked in mountain crevasses, floating on oceans, twirling in desert winds. Clues to find and cherish, to read and share, to question and to doubt. I'm not one to live blindly by any book; I'm one to live with eyes wide open.

2 comments:

Dave said...

Hey Jen... It's Dave, from U of W (blast from the past, eh?). I found your blog by checking up on Steve's and going down the electronic rabbit hole... I wish that I had something profound to say, but being a science student, I really can't pull that off.

However, I did read Yeat's poem 'The Second Coming' and I really like your thoughts here on being life being a series of opportunities to be reborn, recreated and that every day and every minute that life is refreshed.

You're a good writer... I like your thoughts, even if I can't clearly ellucidate precisely why (I'll leave that to the english students).
I'll have to reflect on this entry today.

PS- how'd you end up in Vancouver?

Jen said...

hey dave...thanks for leaving your thoughts. Hey--you used "ellucidate," not bad for a science student! I ended up in Vancouver as a result of the random course of events that I often feel life is. Something bursts through the crust of everyday life, be it a new idea or a way of coping with something, and you either chase it down to see where it came from, or you don't. Where are you these days?
jen