Friday, January 01, 2010

Twenty Ten

I was told last night, post celebration, that this is how one says it, now: Twenty. And "twenty ten," I agreed, sounds so good. Our corporate power to name the new year.

News from an older year: On November 28th 1582, 18 year-old William Shakespeare and 26 year-old Anne Hathaway paid a 40-pound bond for their marriage license.

That same year, just a month and a half earlier, ten days had gone missing from the Calendar. Pope Gregory and his entourage had decided that 10 days would be dropped from 1582, in order to correct a 13th century drift away from the vernal equinox, which had served as anchor. They decided to drop those naughty days from October, since that was when the Julian calendar ended-- that is, the calendar Julius Caesar had instituted in 45 BC. Apparently, Caesar's calendar, designed around solar cycles, had been screwed up by politicians and popes, and by mathematical lag, and no longer allowed for important feasts to fall at the right seasonal times.

Who kept calendars back then? I'm imagining a 16th century wall calendar, in England, the October page. Queen Elizabeth's face? Maybe Henry 8th's? A fuzzy kitten? Either way, the truncated month would have read Thursday October 4th, and the next day would have read, weirdly, Friday October 15th.

I can imagine a lovelorn Shakespeare, pondering the weirdness of waking up that Friday, ten days having evaporated over night. The jokes he might have made to Anne.

I wonder if he, or any of the other great English poets of the time, wrote any poems about the dropped days. Maybe not, as it wasn't exactly the sort of thing one wrote about in that day.

But St. Teresa of Avila, mystic and writer of the counter-reformation, died on that October 4th, and was buried the next day, on the 15th.

And as I consider now, in my thirtieth year, how I should live these moments of mine, there is a little poem of St. Teresa's that is bothering me:

God alone is enough.

Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing:
God alone is enough

If only this mantra gave me satisfaction-- it is so much like the many mantras of my heart from the last ten years. Yet I don't know what it means-- or I think I do, but the way I make it mean for me is difficult.

We have the world. How does one possess God? Either through words, or through having, as a way of being. One is representation, and I suppose the other must be spiritual-- since God is spirit.

But the seal of the holy spirit is demonstrated one way: by the fruits of the spirit. We know, the bible tells us, that the Holy Spirit is being with us because we get really good. Really righteous.

Righteousness I've never possessed. A Spirit, therefore, who has remained a word.

Not that I think St. Teresa wrong. I don't. But I don't know how to translate into my heart's language what she is saying.

And somehow this seems a profound admission, for a hesitant man like myself, on the first day of the new year.

I wonder what Will thought of St. Teresa, and her death. Will, who would marry the older Anne in just over a month, who wouldn't publish his first play for 8 years, who would later say through the mouth of Macbeth, famously:

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing."

Which I find myself believing less than St. Teresa's mystical words, no matter how ambiguous they are. Oh, I think life is a "brief candle," and I would this morning agree that life doesn't signify anything-- that it, existence, is the meaning for our lives. But the pessimism, the sound and fury, the idiot: no, I can't agree.

But then, I am in a privileged nation, in a coffee shop, typing on a lap-top computer which I own, in good-health, from a good family, and full of caffeine. I feel good.

A poor-player, strutting on my little coffee-shop stage, bewildered by time, 20 centuries after Caesar, and 400 years since Shakespeare found his first wife willing. "What a piece of work is a man!," he says. A piece of working. Of being.

No piece, really, but all in being. No peace in seeing yourself as a "piece," because when you think of yourself as a symbol, you are forgetting about what you are: a being. And that is where meaning is: right now. Right now.

Does St. Teresa have a right now, right now? Macbeth at least didn't think so. I'll be thinking about it, as she lives through words, in the way of God's spirit, in my mind today.


s.t.liaw said...

I'm beginning to think of the word 'has' in "whoever has God" and the word 'possess' in terms of the erotic versus the rational - as per our conversation about gift theory. Hyde (author) argues that possession of an object (or person, as object) implies that we have the right to enforce our will on it - sell, trade, give, store - as we please.

Clearly, as regards to relationships, we have no such right. So to have someone - a friend, a child, a lover, a God - is "through having, as a way of being," that someone.

Justin said...

Yeah, I completely agree. And the Bible implies that one has God erotically, and the evidence of this "having" isn't the mormon "burning in the bosom" (which is what we usually cite as evidence) but the fruits of the spirit. Which I've never had convincing evidence of in myself, and honestly can't see how it ever would be demonstrated in someone convincingly. Therefore, our relationship to Him, to his spirit, must be logical-- logos, via language. Representation. If my own logic is correct here, which it likely isn't, then my relationship to God is the same as my relationship to St. Teresa of Avila. Her words live in me, and inspire emotion in me, but if her "spirit" lives in me, and this means something substantial, then I can't know it.

Ryan Hofer said...

I feel most of the time there is a clear next step to take; I just get confused thinking about planning ahead, or completing plans laid earlier because I feel I have changed or I "figured" something out. I realized that I am transistioning out of this piecemeal figure something nifty out lifestyle. I mean that previously I was waiting for those moments of telling myself something about the world and then thinking "now I can move forward". But really I don't need that and I am just always able to move forward into something new. Feels like having something different...