Hi. I’m new. My name is Nick. I was invited by one of the team to write about some topics of possible interest to the LGBTQ community. I’m not going to give you the cereal box bio of me because I’m not sure that it matters and I don’t like cereal. (Ok, before you freak out and question my taste and integrity, of course I LOVE cereal. However the carbs… they are not my friends, but I digress).
I do have a certain theme I want to write about here but first I’d like to give you a peek into my brain/mind so you can get to know the real “me”.Sorry for the clutter, I didn’t have time to tidy up before you came. Pull up a lobe and have a seat. Oh, yes, just put those mental images of porn anywhere and put my childhood thoughts over on that virtual table.. gently, they tend to break and it’s a chore to put them back together.
It’s Sunday morning, more specifically Easter Sunday morning. I suppose I could be getting ready for church like most of the professed Christians do today; I am not. It’s not for want to consider the meaning of Easter, it’s just that I’m not sure I’m going to get it in church.
So I’m in my favorite chair, it’s a deep brown soft leather… oh wait, you’re in my brain so you can see it EXACTLY how I do. Well, maybe not exactly but that will be a topic for another day. Nice chair, huh? I’m drinking my coffee and considering the meaning of the day and it dawns on me that I’m playing the part of a character in one of my favorite poems, “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens.
The poem was written in 1915 and is a beautiful, difficult, and somewhat philosophical reflection on some ancient questions.I’ve copied the poem for you to read below. While you are doing so, consider the following questions:
What is death like?
What and how can we believe in an afterlife?
If there is nothing “after”, what implications does that have on us now?
I also want to consider some bible verses. Not because I think the bible is the authority on what the afterlife, divinity, or morality is or should be. I do think it’s valuable and because of it’s ubiquitous nature, necessary to consider.
What do you think it means in stanza II when Stevens writes “Divinity must live within herself” and how does that compare to the gospel of Luke 17:21 where Jesus says:“nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” ?
Think about the conflicting images in the last stanza; Stevens uses imprisoning words like dependency, solitude, inescapable, isolation, downward, darkness. Yet, he twists in the words of freedom and liberation like unsponsored, free, wide, spontaneous, sweet, casual, extended.How does that compare to what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 : “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”
Two more questions:
Does the bible represent it?
(Ok, I lied, one more)Does reading this poem and thinking about these questions count for going to church on Easter when my mom asks if I did?
I’ll answer that one. Tell your mom “Yes”.
Let’s not get into an apologetic discussion of the existence of God or the accuracy of the bible… not yet. Let’s stick to the poem and the verses I’m asking about.
There is much unpacking to do but this place is already messy and so I grabbed the box that said “kitchen” and here’s what was in it. It’s a good place to start as any to understand my theme and some of what’s in here. I’ve got to go but feel free to hang around a bit, just lock up when you leave. We can’t have uninvited people roaming around my mind… it’s dangerous to the universe.
BY WALLACE STEVENS
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.