And I perpetually await...

It's Sunday afternoon after a good Sunday Morning at St. Peter's and an afternoon of preparation for a three day trip into the bowels of Episcopal-land, where the discussion of just what to do with the Anglican Covenant is taking place.  We've heard it all...the good, the bad and the ugly. The Anglican Covenant is just there, a lump that may be benign, an aggravation or a cancer. The pathologist has not returned a verdict. We are watchful.

But never mind. I am writing this afternoon from another place, produced by listening to the wonderful music of Leonard Cohen, working on a image transfer of a anatomy skull, the skull having been left by my father to his sons.  

The transfer image, in ink on  blockprint paper
I am the carrier of that skull to my son Matthew. And having it on hand for some days I've been working on an art piece using it. Ever since my father acquired the skull as part of a engineering project on making better head protection gear we have had it around. It is treated with great respect, but it is a reminder of a beauty that is not easily explained. The shedding of all flesh and the stark bone is of death, of course, but it is also of life. The rounded curve of the skull in the back is remembered in the caress and holding of the head of a loved one whose hair is gone...a baby, a monk, a cancer warrior, an old one. There are echoes of dear ones in the curve and the bone's starkness.

And I am listening to  Leonard Cohen's, "Villanelle for our Time." The words are by Frank Scott, a former teacher of his. Here they are:

From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.

This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.

We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.

The lesser loyalties depart,
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.

Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.

Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.

And my mind turns to good ol' Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who is perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder.  And I wonder if I still have that perpetual hope.. I think I do. The wonder is that we might rise to play a greater part, that we might on some simple Sunday afternoon see with the inner eye some great plaza where the bitter heart and the presence of death is met head on (to excuse the pun) by the gentle curve and the bare bones both which betray a commonwealth in which we all might participate, in which "narrow law and art" are overcome.

This all seems depressing, but I assure you it is not. I am more hopeful than I have been in years. But that does not mean I am not saddened by how long we are all waiting...even perpetually. 

It is about to rain.


  1. In the interests of transparency, may we know who is sponsoring this meeting, for what purpose and who will attend?


  2. 'Into the bowels of Episcopal-land' -- where is this?


  3. Powerful post, Mark.

    --however, I admit the first thought that occurred to me --do you know the ethnic origins of the skull? As a physician, my father had bone parts around the house when I was a kid --and after the Repatriation Act (restoration of Native American grave articles to their proper place), my father gave all the bones to the local museum to make sure they got proper and respectful treatment if they were NA bones. We never got them back, so I assume they were. There also were bones displayed in the elevator shaft of the campanile at UCB --turned out they were NA and were taken off display and repatriated.

    When I worked on at a rural museum that contained both historic and prehistoric materials, we once found a cache of small bones and a human tooth and an archaeologist identified them as NA. I immediately called the local tribe --and they were so very grateful that I did --and came out to do ceremony for disturbing the grave of the ancestor, and I was privileged to be present to help rebury the remains with full ceremony and respect in a marked place where they were not likely to be disturbed again.

    Of course, if these are human remains that were given for science --that is a whole different game --but I remember there were different attitudes in times past --and now.... well... So... just thinking....

  4. Fixing sitars. Writing and quoting poetry. Etching skulls. All while musing about the Anglican Communion. You are such a Renaissance man! When I grow up I want to be just like you. Except the female version.

    WV: bluting. Sounds about right.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.