Etude on a mystery

Or a study on a metaphor for control
“All our values depend on the nature of our God” Jacques Maritain
Three times it has happened to me now
I am like a participant observer
In a science experiment
Something is proven true if
The results are repeatable
Eighty year old men
Their life at this moment
Out of their control
Though not out of control
Pain, disease, trauma to their bones
They cope with being a patient
By raising their voice
And swearing
Into the air, at the curtains
Around their bed on the wards
At the nurses, male or female
Just as the old men did in the ‘40s
When these were boys
At their anvils, horses, plows
Must be one of those culturally
Specific expressions
“Dude, you really need to find a healthier way
To deal with your helplessness”
I imagine saying to them
In my culturally specific manner
If I were their psychologist
“You should be like…”
And that’s where I
Draw a blank
So begins my search
My study, this etude
For a metaphor
About what life is like
When something in it is beyond
Your control:
Peter on the sea, in a boat, in a storm
Forgets he is a good swimmer
Accepts admonishment from Christ
And conveys that trust to us
“Whom having not seen, you love
In whom also now though you see him not
You believe and, believing
Shall rejoice with joy unspeakable”
A prisoner of war
Who hoards moments in the day
Like crusts and crumbs of mouldy bread
After a beating, before lunch
To play a game of cards
He has made himself
From empty cigarette packs
Sees in his nature
What he has been fighting to regain
Like the images in a Borys Humenyuk poem
The sun a burning tire
The moon the mouth of a bullet casing
After it’s been fired
And ejected, smouldering
From the barrel of a gun
A prodigal son, comes to his senses
Returns home
But finds it abandoned
Dilapidated, decrepit
His father and mother have died
Waiting for him
He dedicates the rest of his life
To their memory
For the ancient Greeks a flowing river
“The only constant is change”
To which a Cardinal Newman might reply
“Growth is the only sign of life”
And Jacques Maritain
Be like the deer at the river
Whose only job is to drink
“Insatiable thirst” for the proverbial
Something More
“Is the liveliest proof of our immortality”
When I was in the cradle
Much of my life was outside my control
While those in their graves assume
Others will take the torch from them
As John McCrae would say
Except in our culture
If it cannot be known
Eternal life, for instance
It doesn’t exist
What is alive just becomes
No wonder there is an appetite
For Medical Aid in Dying
Except that the human soul
Once created at conception
Is eternal
“Our values depend on the nature of our god”
If random selection, equal only to the animals
Only the material and physical exist
“There can in fact be no mystery
Where there is nothing
To know” – Jacques Maritain
“Mystery exists where there is more
To be known
Than is offered to our apprehension”
Do not be satisfied with the degrading
Slavery of being a child
Of one’s own age (G. K. Chesterton)
I have been avoiding this metaphor
For three days running
It is not a healthy example
Of regaining control of a life
Over which you have lost control
Surrogate what?
Well mother, of course
Then this is your child
It’s an embryo
Who bonds with an embryo?
“I-It” Martin Buber
Instead of “I-Thou”
Maybe it’s a rabbit
Maybe it’s a pig
You say it might never get human
If it’s not allowed to grow big
“I-Thou encounter rely on
Mutuality and truth-telling”
Painfully honest with who you are
Excruciatingly painful
You are mother to this child
Any other scalpelled calculation of words
Is a trick and a lie
“To engage another in anything less
Would be to engage him or her
In a way that is less than a whole being”
Embryo, surrogate
And they complain that we reduce
A woman to her
Uterus, ovaries
Blob of tissue like a Rorscharch blot
It can be anything you want
Or need it to be
With no essence in itself
A commodity, a thing, an it, and worse
“In each Thou we address
The eternal Thou”
Deny the humanity of the pre-born
Deny the existence of God
OMG has now become oIAMg
A modern anti-Mary
“Anything opposed to God”
Writes Jacques Maritain
Can never be called a good”
We have no right to idolatry
How do I respond
When something in my world
Is out of my control
Or really it is the world that is out
Of control
My life is a field of grain
Let it be of wheat
Since that was my father’s specialty
He is “the good man of the house”
In St. Matthew
Good seed, healthy shot blade
Expect a bumper crop
But someone has broadcast weeds
“An enemy hath done this”
Then doesn’t even bother
To defend these actions
“Suffer both to grow until the harvest”
Then the wheat will be separated
From the weeds
And we will rejoice in a good crop
And the land, too
Will still be ours
Until then, learn vigilance
“We shelter an angel
Whom we never cease to offend”
Jean Cocteau, quoted by Jacques Maritain
“We ought to be the guardians
Of that angel
Shelter your virtue carefully”


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