30 August 2012

Three Quarter Moon

It is too early in the morning. Perhaps I was awakened by the heat . . . but I don’t think so. In the center of the dream there was something troubling, something incurable, something dark. Interestingly enough, I was not threatened so much as disturbed by its presence, and having awakened from the dream at 3:45am, I could not fall back asleep. The moon is just past full, but its brightness illumines the landscape about my house, and it looks like day at night. The house casts its full shadow on the North side, and as I glance out of the window, I think I live in a mansion. I love the moon’s illumined glance into my room; it reminds me, I hope, that there is work to be done. Indeed, past my house at 4:00am I hear the start of the day: the tires whine on the road as workers head toward their labor.  And even that sound seems to have begun early this morning.
Gary took his grandchild to the Minnesota State Fair this past week. When we moved here from New York City the State Fair represented as dramatic a change of environment as we could imagine. Suddenly we were surrounded by sheds filled with cows and chickens and rabbits and horses; thousands of people roamed through the fair grounds eating anything as long as the consumption didn’t interfere with their rambling. Anything that could be fastened on a stick became edible. The air was redolent with the aromas of fried foods, cotton candies and animal excrement; sounds of live music floated throughout the fair grounds as did the imploring insistence of hawkers and rubes. The ferris wheel ladened with screaming happy children spun like the earth’s own pin fan, and the fair’s paths were stuffed with visitors who had traveled many miles with their year’s savings to enjoy this event. For us city dwellers, life didn’t get more strange than this proud display of agricultural achievement and hedonistic carnival of consumption.
And so Gary took his grandchild to the Minnesota State Fair this week. It was the child’s first visit, though Gary had over the years attended his share of fair events. For Gary, it wasn’t the Fair but the child’s visit to it that had brought him to the fair grounds this time. And it puzzled Gary that it wasn’t the horses or the cows or the rabbits or chickens that interested his grandchild; rather, it was the display of the skulls of small animals that intrigued the child most. “Why do you think that is?” he asked me. And I answered: “Perhaps it was for him the earliest hint of mortality.” I think that this statement figured in the dream from which this morning I awoke. Spinoza said that a free man thinks least of all of his death, but freedom is not given but must be achieved. We still have a long way to go.
But outside my cabin window now in this very early morning is the call of a pheasant who has nested in the near vicinity; the blanket of crickets chirp unconcernedly, and the black cat wends his way toward my cabin door and his breakfast. When he arrives he will call to me, hiss performatively, perfunctorily, but politely at my presence, and thank me for the food. I will return to the Monks of Tibhirine and to the room of my own. There is, indeed, much yet to be done.


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