28 June 2009

The Shadow

Some people say our star is fading: the light of man and everything he has created, in its radical finitude, is slipping into the abyss, into the dark recesses of Sirius' shadow. Others, more poignantly, perhaps, say the Jesus question is fading, the need for salvation and its oil-painted and mosaicized dogma has submerged beneath a final wave. The brilliant brightness of human exploration is waning. Graduate students are writing lengthy tomes on the glosses of this thinker or that; they are writing entire theses on the root system of an obscure plant, on the retina development of an Amazonian reptile. We are fading.

The author of Ecclesiastes, who's body has been flung to the wind for so long there is some chance we are now inhaling him, saw as much: what is new under the sun? Are we not, we people of the latest surge, making the recycling of everything we do and are our primary creed? I know people who blush in admitting they do not recylce plastic. I know even fewer academics who blush in admitting they haven't had an original thought in an entire career of thinking.

We are transfixed by the butterfly effect. Absorbed by the notion that my little here and now can reorder the cosmos, change the weather, mean life or death for some unfortunate on the dark side of the globe. It gives one a sense of duty as well as a sense of guilt. But above all, it gives the sense of power that we so long to caress.

It has become difficult to distinguish the nightly news from the tabloid news. The death of a singing sensation rivets the civilized world - or at least its population that enjoys being photographed - and all the while the stars spin in the distant space without a care or a hoot for what we are up to, we processed, hurried things.

The notion that the Jesus question is fading does not strike me with the same panic that it once did. Nor does the notion that the whole human venture is fading. I am candidly glad to be alive with the people around me, locking doors and sipping beer. I am most certainly edified to be, as Annie Dillard put it, "on this side of the topsoil," but I somewhere before let go of the anxious desire to be around forever, to make things right and scold those who don't see it.

I just came from dinner with a friend who enjoys talking art and the subtle. We sat on a patio amongst families and young couples and aspiriing romantics, oblivious to their goings on and interests. And nevertheless, it was quite clear to me that I was unmistakenly among their number, in their differences of opinion and dress and color, if only because I happened to be inhaling similar air in the same century in a dimlit patio in St. Louis.

It well may be true that we are fading, and our religions and politics and celebrity-craze. While we dominate this spinning orb, we certainly dominate nothing else, and that nothing else is vast and unapolagetic.

The moral of all this, if there need be one at all, is to take it easy and smile once or twice at a passerby. To sit in the exhausting heat and humidity of a St. Louis summer and be enveloped by something that is much greater than oneself. The helpful reminder is always that I am but an absurdly small speck in the scheme of things. If that remark causes depression, then you need to get a grip. If it causes a sense of liberation and exhaltation, then you're on to being.


Anonymous said...

As always, your thoughts are poignant and well-spoken. Once we are "gone," so, too, will our shadows have evaporated. It leaves me to wonder...to ponder...When next we meet, will we speak of our musings, doubts, joys, fears, reflections or will we simply pass one another conscious of what we need to know in the light of something greater?

Please keep posting...JH

Patrick 'Pancake' McAvoy said...

JK, I do have to say this: I'm nothing less, nothing more, but always something greater. But I am.

I just say this because, it helps remind me of something truly wonderful.

Great post. The way you put your words together is thought invoking in their own way but what really got me is "I know even fewer academics who blush in admitting they haven't had an original thought in an entire career of thinking." I enjoy reading this line as to have all question it.

Your last paragraph just completes this blog post. I think once you realize this, it makes what you want to do with your life, easier and much more enjoyable because of the liberation you set upon yourself.

Jack said...

Jack Sr.


I sometimes wonder if the world becoming wrapped up in tabloid news and being photographed isn't perhaps something new, but perhaps just more apparent with the advent of newer technologies.

I think one can find solace and great promise in life in the small things. In the very simplistic instances where you're just content with existence.

Your words speak volumes on the human condition and the state of modern society as well as share an important message on the relevance and deep importance finding the 'real' individuals and situations in life and cherishing them.

Thanks again for the post Jack, as always, I greatly enjoyed it.