Sunday, June 25, 2006

De profundis

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine:Domine, exaudi vocem meam:  (Psalm 129)

I write to chase away my demons and to allure my angels into the net of my imagination.  My love affair with words is as complex as the love affairs of my life.  As I have not been feeling too well of late, I am finding it harder to write; harder to concentrate; harder to make sense of what’s happening to my body and to my mind; harder to keep going; harder as T.S. Eliot put it “to prepare a face to meet the faces that I meet”; harder to keep my enthusiasm for the big and small things of my daily existence; harder to be patient with what we call the human condition.

My existence has been a love affair with words, with beautiful words, those ciphers of meaning and significance.  How could I live without them?  How could I live without the magic and wonder of their spell?  Yet, many do live without the sustenance of those beautiful written symbols shaping themselves on the screen of my laptop - the deaf, the dumb, the deaf blind.  And yet, mystery of mysteries, victory of victories, the great Helen Keller managed to take a degree by learning solely through the sense of touch.

Words, you ciphers that sketch the heights and depths of my heart, friends of my solitary moments, I need you now to help me to surface from the slough of despond; from the fog that falls all too soon; from this sense of impending isolation; from this prison whose walls enclose, confine and constrict both body and mind; from all that reduces my independence; from all that diminishes me.

My words belong to a universe beyond my ken. They inhabit infinite spaces; heights and depths that I can barely comprehend; oceans I can barely swim in for all too short a time; rivers that teem with the salmon spawn of knowledge; mountains that take my breath away and tire my aching limbs; walks that invite me ever onward to unknown destinations; heavens, hells and purgatories of my own making and some few not mine.

My words belong to three tongues – English, Gaeilge and Italian – the three linguistic loves of my life.  I am listening to the beautiful voice of Andrea Bocelli as I type.  His voice lifts my heart and brings tears to my eyes.  Blind tenor who never saw the written word, never saw the cipher encoded on the page, and yet, what greater joy its sound on the living ear, enlivened by human strings of voice.  Let us rejoice in such luscious sound. In such harmony let meaning abound.  I need such sound around to lift my jaded spirit.  I need such sound to confound the fog that falls.  I need such sound to give me sure footing and a little ground.

When we go down to the depths we need something beautiful to lift us up even a little; something to give us even a small kick-start; something to act as a springboard or a diving board from which we can at least push off.  It is so much easier to light a candle than to scorn the dark.  And now as the dark seems to be coming down so inevitably like a little death needling me back to live again under a broader, though not cloudless, sky, I grasp at whatever straws I can.  I grasp at the straws of meaning in the odd stray lines of poetry; in the sound of a lyric that lifts the heart; in the beauty of a painting; in the love in the eyes of a small innocent child; in the incongruity and contradiction of daily living; in the one behind the many; in the greater picture when you move ever further back to gain perspective; in the words of praise handed my way; in the smile of another face; in the magnificence of difference; in a word of thanks really meant; in the significance of a little human touch.

Even if we hit rock bottom, we must believe for our own sanity that it is just like the bottom of a deep swimming pool.  We must believe that all that is necessary is that we kick off from the bottom in the knowledge that we will soon surface; in the knowledge that there is light at the end of the tunnel; in the knowledge that the darkest moment is often before the dawn; in the knowledge that the small birds of hope are seeking out and finding the odd worm in the garden of our souls.  I need these words as the birds their seeds.  I need these words as the body needs its food.  I need these words as my lungs need air or my heart blood or my mind oxygen.  I need these words of hope to sing songs, all types of songs as the need arises.  I need these shapes, these symbols, these ciphers to help me through.  I need to feel I’m making sense of this life I’ve been given, rich in its variety and short in its duration.  Let me make the best of it for me, for those I love and for all who may come in contact with this earthly bundle of joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams that I am.           

The above painting is one by El Greco of St Francis in prayer

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