Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dr. Thursday's Thursday Post

Making a Prayer at the Cross Road

Given the curious and stimulating discussions about rock-and-roll in a previous post, I was going to write some nonsense about pipe organs (because I once built a little one in my house) or about playing bass (which I have tried, both bowed and electronic). But I shall defer that for a bit.

Instead, I ask you to go quickly to the blogg called Enchiridion and read a very rich and wonderful poem by a young Chestertonian named Sheila, whom I met at a past Conference. Also, please read, not my own witless comment, but her own sensible one. For she has latched on to a very important idea, and one on which we should spend some real thought. Hence this post. Click to read more - but please read her poem first.Here are the words I wish to consider:
My mom likes to go on about Incarnational theology, and I also like to think of Chesterton and the poetry of trains. Can we really say, in an A.D. world, that anything is unpoetic?
[From Enchiridion cited above; my emphasis]
Simply, the answer is - of course not! Everything is now poetic. We assert this truth, Sunday after Sunday, though unless we happen to know a bit of Greek, or perhaps histology, we would overlook it. For when we recite the Nicene Creed, we say "per quem omnia facta sunt" = "Through Whom [Jesus] all things were made." You see, the English word "poem" or "poet" comes from the Greek verb poieo which means "I make". The clue from the branch of medicine called histology is that the "hemopoetic" tissues are those in the bone marrow which make red blood cells.

I wish I had the time to go into a consideration of what some call the "anthropic principle" - the idea that the Universe was made with Man in mind (Man-the-species = anthropos in Greek). But it might be said (as GKC might say) how much more we might really call it the "Christic" principle: God made the Universe with Christ in mind!

But Man has also made things - and his making is also poetic. In a previous posting I hinted at some of the fantastic poetry of the Bridge... so what can "the poetry of trains" mean?
For me, there is one particular Potteresque scene which leaps to mind:
"It is you who are unpoetical," replied the poet Syme. "...The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates his victories."
[GKC, The Man Who Was Thursday CW6:478-9]
(Just in case you did not get it from the context, "Bradshaw" was the master-reference timetable for British trains.) Nor are trains the only magic we magicians have at our disposal.

Sheila mentions how her poem hangs from the highway lights - GKC also gave a splendid word-painting of such lights:
A great many people talk as if this claim of ours, that all things are poetical, were a mere literary ingenuity, a play on words. Precisely the contrary is true. It is the idea that some things are not poetical which is literary, which is a mere product of words. The word "signal-box" is unpoetical. But the thing signal-box is not unpoetical; it is a place where men, in an agony of vigilance, light blood-red and sea-green fires to keep other men from death. That is the plain, genuine description of what it is; the prose only comes in with what it is called.
[GKC, Heretics CW1:55]
Wow, read those words again, as I fear that perhaps you will not really think about this as you should:

Next time you are out driving, and you see a traffic light, be it red or green (we'll skip yellow) did you EVER consider it to be "the place where men in an agony of vigilance" have kindled the fires - be they simply electronic - with the rich colours of the sea or of blood - in order to keep other men from death!!!

No wonder we call them the CROSS roads.

It may be postulated - and may be true - that long ago, the demons hinted distortions of the truth to the ancient pagans, so as to further their twisted plots. But from very ancient times any intersection of three roads (like a T, especially at the divisions of farm-lands) was considered sacred, and shrines were erected there. That is why one of the names of the Roman goddess Diana is "Trivia" (Latin: "three ways"). But again! There is poetry, mystical poetry here, for we now know the Truth: He who said "I am the Truth" also said "I am the Way"! [Jn 14:6]

Chesterton as usual says it much better than I can:
Mythology had many sins; but it had not been wrong in being as carnal as the Incarnation.
[GKC, The Everlasting Man CW2:308]
No, in an A.D. world, all things are poetic - all things, water and wine, bread and oil, words and stones, cars and roads... and us too!

As GKC says "The greatest of poems is an inventory." [Orthodoxy CW1:267] and it is no wonder that the last psalm (150) is simply a list of musical instruments - all of which are organized that they may MAKE harmony - to praise God. Like this:

Cars and trucks, praise the Lord.
Highways and roads, praise the Lord.
All manner of lights and signals, praise the Lord.
Machines and computers, praise the Lord.
Ye drivers and passengers,
Ye police and fire and emergency workers,
Ye automotive mechanics and fast-food makers,
Ye scientists and engineers,
praise the Lord, give glory and eternal praise to Him.
Amen. Alleluia.

Yes, and tomorrow we'll add some more verses - until the End, when the psalm will stand complete, and then we shall all sing it together.

--Dr. Thursday

1 comment:

  1. King Alfred should have put this poem in his Enchiridion. If only he could have been born now---we could have used his leadership.


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