Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Majesties Muted and Unmuted

I always thought that if I could be conscious of my thoughts and emotions, I could be better at controlling them.  I'm quite conscious of my emotional landscape, but I'm not good at forcing my brain to the Zen-like acceptance of the situation at hand.

Some days, I feel serene and confident about the direction of my life.  I have no doubts about the house we've chosen.  I feel sure that even with declining student numbers, we have an academic future.  I feel good about my health.

Other days, I've let the minutiae of daily life swamp my good feelings.  Lately the requirements of home buying have often been a challenge to my good mood. I've gotten hung up on quarter point moves of the interest rate, instead of marvelling at the idea that I'm getting a rate well below 5%. I'm worried about all the steps happening as quickly as they need to. I'm fretful about money.  And then there's global sea level rise and the elevation of South Florida . . .

I try to keep my thoughts in perspective by reminding myself that, with the exception of global sea level rise, these are good problems to have. I remember all the people wrestling with issues that are much larger:  health issues of all sorts, job loss issues, issues with parents and children.

It's important to remember the larger picture, the fact that our very existence is an improbability in this universe.

These thoughts remind me of a poem I wrote years ago, which was just published in Clackamas Literary Review. I was teaching Composition down the hallway from an Astronomy class, and the evening happened just as the poem describes:

Majesty Muted

The poet teaches first year Composition
down the hall from an Astronomy
class. Her students struggle
to turn basic sentences into coherent
paragraphs. Language strips its potential
for majesty as they get back to basics:
subject, verb, direct object.

Over the students' bent heads, the poet hears
whisps of Cosmology from down the hall,
hints of a big bang and dancing around Darwin.
She thinks of that teacher who has seen glimmers
of the mysteries of the universe
and must now use language that lacks
enough words to explain tough concepts to bored students.

The astronomer and the poet, modern mystics, cracked
open by cosmic glories unglimpsed
by most. They return
from the mountaintops
with great news of glad tidings.
They're greeted with the sighs
of those who prefer to have majesty muted.

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