Who Shall Command the Skylark

In times like these, my first and foremost offering to the great void of the internet that may or may not ever consume my blog must always be: cat. And as always, if you feel so led, please do feel free to share your own cat pictures with me because we must truly be here for one another when we possess such a commodity. In this case, as is not the case for basically everything else right now, sharing is caring.

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Over the past several months, I have kept going back to Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet and its soaringly beautiful way of describing the world. Recently, a line from the section referred to as On Laws has been on my mind.

You can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?

This week has been rough on a lot of people in a lot of ways. I’m not sure the best way to address any of those people or those ways. One approach is to provide relief in the form of humor; another is to give encouragement and solace; another is to take the opportunity to look out for the least of us and try to argue for deep change. All good, all appropriate in times and places, I’m just not sure that I’m quite up to any of those tasks this week.

I feel like I spend too much time in self-pity and it’s something that I’m deliberately trying to change but, like, not trying too hard. When I say that I didn’t get the job that I had been hoping for, I really do feel like I have gotten over it and I didn’t spend an undue amount of time torn up about it. But at the same time, while I’m not overly sad and I did try to manage hopes beforehand, I do have numerous expectations that I have to–once again–revise.

So I’m not sure what I have to say because honestly, my current bleh is only kind of tangentially related to the current global situation. I’m just thinking again and again about the skylark. And the singing, as Emily Dickinson knew, that goes on and on. That thing with feathers that sings whether the world at large or merely your personal universe is in the midst of storm. That indomitable bird.

If you yourself aren’t up to singing, take solace in this: no one can command the skylark to be silent.

This section of The Prophet is immediately (and very appropriately, given the whole of the treatment of the topic of laws) followed by a section called On Freedom. Would that we staying at home were more free in this time, would that all people were more free in all other times. If we are not free, do we begrudge others their freedom–rightfully expressed without harm to others–or do we celebrate with them?

That’s kind of what I’m thinking about now, having pondered that single line the past couple days. How can I be the skylark to another–how can I bring hope or freedom or joy? And in the circumstances where my drum is muffled and my strings are loosed, am I listening for the skylark’s song–am I able to rejoice with those who rejoice when I am down?

Maybe this is all beating a metaphor or three way past their limits. I can’t help it, I’m a poetic romantic and I have a lot of time on my hands. Regardless, that’s what I want to say to you and to myself in this time. Plenty of people are reminding us to wash our hands (as they well should) so I guess I’ll be here to remind us to sing or hope or be free or whatever it is that I’m trying to say.

Anyway. As we cross into April, and continue into an uncertain future, let’s all resolve to be cleaner, kinder, and more hopeful. And, of course, let us luxuriate in the time spent with one another–virtually or in person–and with our cats.

 

 

Too Much Tenderness

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Or, in other words,

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That’s probably too millennial for me but I still thought it was amusing. I wanted to start with a funny little something because I know I drone on all the time about love and it’s all both cheesy and kind of pointless. But the lead-in to that renowned section of scripture (not to say that it’s received short shrift) is fixed in my mind as a rationale for never tiring of saying the same things about love ad infinitum:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

I don’t feel like it’s wildly overstating the point to say that love is kind of the meaning and reason for life, the universe, and everything. Which, I’ll just say, is a little more satisfying an answer–as much of a non-answer as it is–than 42.

I heard this poem about love the other day and was deeply moved. I cannot recommend giving it a listen or read enough. It is by Kahlil Gibran and is so piercingly beautiful that I don’t even know what to tell you about it. I’ve rewritten this section a few dozen times, trying to decide which parts to highlight and what to say about them. Truly, the whole thing is remarkable so please read it. But I will offer something for you here as well because I can’t not.

Before we get to an excerpt, the thing I’ve landed on telling you about is a short line near the beginning and it encompasses, I think, the main idea of the whole work. The speaker says, “When love beckons to you, follow him,/ Though his ways are hard and steep.”

Some conversations about love are difficult to have. As Pete said, referenced in last week’s post, sometimes it’s difficult even to imagine love. Sometimes the road to finding love–within or without–is difficult. Sometimes we resist love because we know that there will be a cost. But when love beckons to us, we ought to follow. Not because it will be easy but because it will be valuable. As the poem describes, we must be threshed and freed, ground and kneaded, to become part of the feast love is preparing.

Sometimes, it’s annoying that in English there is only one word to describe how you feel about goulash, your brother, your significant other, and God. But sometimes, I think it’s actually pretty cool. Love is, as others have noted, a many-splendored thing that does not sit well in rigidly prescribed boxes. I think the trials and joys that love gives, and the multifaceted and varying ways in which we experience is, thwarts any attempt to classify it in language at all, so we may as well have only one to catch it all in a term of wonder, awe, and reverence.

This poem is really just a section of a much longer poetical work but I want to leave you with the final stanza of this part, generally referred to as On Love.


Love has no other desire but to fulfil
itself.
But if you love and must needs have
desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own under-
standing of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate
love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.