Being The Beginning Sunday, January 23, 2011
1 The Exchange Sunday, January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft Saturday, February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings Friday, February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis Saturday, February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes Friday, February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh Friday, March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme Thursday, March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light Thursday, March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman Friday, April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way Sunday, April 25, 2011
12 Angels Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos Tuesday, May 10, 2011
14 Idols Tuesday, May 10, 2011
15 Nightingale Sunday, May 15, 2011
16 The Perfect Square Sunday, May 22, 2011
17 Haunting Thursday, May 26, 2011
18 The Uncontainable Wednesday, June 1, 2011
19 The Ear of Malchus Monday, June 6, 2011
20 Mauvais Pas Wednesday, June 15, 2011
21 Sinan Qua Non Saturday, June 25, 2011
22 Spirit-Level Sunday, July 10, 2011
23 Witness Saturday, July 16, 2011
24 Alcibiades Friday, July 22, 2011
25 Ney Thursday, August 11, 2011
26 Birdsong Thursday, August 18, 2011
27 The Vanishing Point Wednesday, August 24, 2011
28 The Cat Walks Wednesday, August 31, 2011
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being Thursday, September 8, 2011
Becalming Unscientific Postscript Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Becalming Unscientific Postscript
“Then even ‘he’ disappears and only the dream of
himself remains with himself in it.”
Robert M. Pirsig
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
“When numerous people have the same type of dreams and what they
have seen in their dreams actually happens – to call these kind of
dreams as only dreams, this is said by the people that have no sense.”
Hafidhh Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya
The music surrounds Flanagan, gusting through the room, and the cracks between his fingers. It is not music for lovers, he thinks, at least not in the shared sense, unlike that first night with Alanna long ago in Corsica; a night like this, on a blanket thrown down beneath the stars in the middle of a mountain chestnut grove, and the urgent, passionate love made to a stranger, a stranger more intimate than many he had known forever, to the strains of a shepherd’s lament, rising within and without the song ever upward a paghella from the village square below. ‘Music of the wind,’ he had said. ‘Breath in my breath,’ Alanna had whispered back.
He lifts his head from his hands and types: The journey for all of us is finding the music of the wind, the chant of being! He re-reads the words, shivers, gets up from the chair and stares at the moon and a star-filled northern sky. He thinks he sees the silhouette of an airplane cross in front of the moon and realises that Jack Dawson must be nearly landing in Miami by now, with Rio’s hermetically sealed coffin in the cargo bay. Probably drunk too, he supposes, as he had been when he came back to the apartment.
‘Did you know what your fucken’ friend was capable of?’ Jack had immediately asked, before the door was half-open. ‘Did he give you any hint of what he was going to do?’ he had demanded.
‘Who knows what any of us are capable of?’ he had replied, accusing Jack with his eyes.
‘Whaddya mean?’ Jack had slurred.
‘Nothing, Jack! I meant nothing. I’m just tired. Mac’s funeral is on Thursday in Connemara.’
‘He can rot in fucken’ hell . . . and you too Flanagan!’
‘I’ll be there soon enough Jack,’ he had said.
He had thought about explaining but then decided it was pointless. ‘A package was delivered yesterday with the Book in it. That’s why I left a message for you to come over,’ he had said.
‘Did he send it?’
‘Don’t know.’ He had lied easily. ‘There was nothing else in the package. It’s over there on the table if you want it.’
Jack had crossed the room and picked up the Book. He immediately checked the postmark on the outside. ‘Posted four days ago, a day before . . . Are you sure there was nothing else in this,’ he had asked, as he ripped off the paper packaging.
‘Certain!’ he had replied. Jack was not getting either the note or the diary, Flanagan had decided. Those he had destroyed.
‘What did Rosalind want when she came here?’
Flanagan had said nothing for a long time and had watched as Jack stood, ashen-faced, waiting for his reply. He had taken no pleasure in it. ‘She wanted me to keep looking for the Book. She was happy about going back with you to Eleuthera and intended to be there for a long time,’ he had finally said.
‘Was she really?’ Jack Dawson had pleaded.
‘Yes, Jack. She was.’
Jack Dawson had slumped at that stage, and great sobbing tears had flowed down his cheeks.
Flanagan had waited until they subsided. ‘What will you do with the Book, Jack?’ he had asked.
‘Dunno! I want fuck-all to do with it. I’ll give it back to the Turkish government; perhaps try to arrange a rotation with Dublin every five years or so. Whaddya think?’
‘I think Rio would be glad of that?’
‘Yeah,’ Jack Dawson had said without conviction before he headed for the door. ‘I’m flying home Friday afternoon. Taking Rosalind’s body with me, to bury her on the island.’
‘That’s the right thing,’ he had agreed.
‘Don’t bother ever looking me up, Flanagan. You will not be welcome.’
‘Right. Goodbye Jack.’
And the door had closed with a bang behind him.
After a few moments, Flanagan shivers again, closes the patio-door and shuts out the breeze. He touches the orchid, fondling one of its blooms, remembering how Alanna had known how to find the wind and journey with its power. She had shown me how, he thinks. Mac on the other hand knew instinctively where that wind would take him, tried to warn him but was now gone. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he howls, suddenly, violently at the moon, ashamed at his inarticulate sense of grief – grievance even – the previous day when he arrived late at the small church where the funeral service was taking place. The church and the occasion had really bothered him, unsettled him. Mac would have appreciated that, he thinks.
Later – three whiskeys later – Flanagan sits down at the computer again, fires up the sleeping keys and begins to type:
The church nestled in a hollow, sheltering behind bent mystical hazel, coll, and a single fairy hawthorn, sceach gheal, at the bleak, bog-end of an Atlantic estuary; also some alder, fearnóg, its soft wood white in life, blooded in death. Built during the famine period the church somehow, had never shrugged off its blighted, shrivelled appearance and given present-day vocational and spiritual rationing denying it pastoral or communal sustenance, now only opened sepulchral doors: the consolation for a departing soul, conducted from his temporal way by a temporary priest and temporising congregation.
There was a big turnout. Arriving late I found the church’s car park, and narrow access road, full to obstruction with haphazardly parked cars and about the doorway, overflowing groups of mourners gathered; some by choice and some by exclusion. Men in the main, they stood with flat-capped heads, ruddy faces, impassive eyes and solemn stoop in occasional and ill fitting suits; collars unfurled high against the wind, and intrusion. Some looked up as I approached; a nod of recognition here, a shrug of resignation there, and then quickly returned to their stoop.
I didn’t feel like pushing past these men to seek the warmth of the church but in electing to remain outside had to listen to the service as it was relayed by the small, single speaker mounted near the door; its rusted brackets threatening to disintegrate with every squall.
The priest’s words struggled to be understood; their pitch and volume sucked here and there by that same wind: ‘ . . . and as human beings we are distinguished in . . . by the gift of reason. That is our gift from God . . . and faith is the duty of that reason; the covenant with . . . and that draws us to His Being. In death faith is . . . but it is that faith . . . goodness rewarded and we become One with Him: one truth, one being. Cormac McMurragh had such faith . . . will get . . . reward. He –’
What faith, what reward, I wondered at that point, as the words from the speaker death-rattled and then ceased completely. Bothered by this version of the truth, I suddenly felt very tired; tired of funerals; tired of waiting; tired of the search for truth and, turning away from the church, returned to my car to drive back towards the city.
About halfway to my hotel the tiredness overwhelmed me and after a near miss with an articulated truck – piled high with plastic-wrapped bales of winter silage – I pulled into a small lay-by that overlooked breaking green-black waves as they pounded a salt-marsh shoreline. Turning off the engine, my thoughts idled on being nearly foddered to death as I watched the scurvy grass, reeds and sedges protest the wind and spray. After a while however, the land, sea and sky began to merge and as the waves receded I receded, hopes ebbing out of me.
Good and evil merged into being, and that being, being reward enough.
Dreamt of crossroads again, a recurring theme. Strange the topography of the mind when confronted by an image of crossroads: conjuring up dust bowls of mid-continental drifting, centrifugal and centripetal emotions, being somewhere and not being anywhere, harmony and discord, certainty and confusion, entrapment and escape, an end and a beginning . . .
It was nearly two hours later that I awoke, disturbed by the fierce alarm of wading curlew: vi-vi-vü, vi-vi-vü! I felt stiff and sore in the cold car; the windows misted over by my moistened breath.
Flanagan straightens, easing an aching back, and looks down at what he has typed. I’m a romantic, he thinks, interested, as Robert M. Pirsig would have it, in the imagery and ‘pleasure-seeking’ of the words. Pirsig, he remembers, was an important ghost in their discussions, before the Messenger changed their lives – all their lives. What would the classicist have done, he wonders and then begins typing again:
Small church, isolated, nowadays only opens for funerals. I arrive late; groups of men standing around; listen to service on small outside speaker; hard to hear the words of the priest but he is talking about reason, faith and reward. I’m bothered by this version of the truth, Mac! I don’t really want to be there and head for the city; nearly killed by a truck because of tiredness; pull into a lay-by to rest; fall asleep thinking about our discussions. Dreamt of crossroads. Good and evil merged into being, and that being, being reward enough. Wake up cold and stiff....
Or something like that, Flanagan thinks, before pressing save and moving the pointer towards quit. He hesitates. If only there had been more time to right the wrongs, to wrong the rights, to . . . He feels the fatigue, and the tightness in his throat. Suddenly there is an even greater urgency.
He types furiously, pounding down on the keys, which offer little resistance: Time is the messenger, and killing time, an illusion: as if there is an end to it . . .
Time to quit, he thinks, and does. His fingers cramp and he lets his hand rest on the closed lid for a moment, feeling the heat leave its ceramic heart, waiting for his twitching to ease before heading to the door of the study and turning off the lights. In the small garage to the rear of the apartment building, he knows everything is prepared: the fresh bottle of whiskey from the Isles; Joe Cocker in the tape-deck of his old Capri; a hosepipe connected through a bored hole in the floor to the exhaust; the tablets; the letters of instruction . . . He hears the wind rising again behind him, causing the branches of the plum tree to drum against the glass of the bedroom window. Did I lock the patio door, he suddenly wonders. Turning around, he imagines – no, he sees the orchid dancing in the moonbeams. But that’s not possible, he thinks, staring into the darkness. ‘No buts, Jerome,’ he says aloud, thinking of what K had written: The least trace of a ‘but’ and the beginning has already gone wrong.
He hears her go out and waits for a few minutes. Jerome Augustus Flanagan quietly opens and then closes the door of his apartment behind him, stands for a moment in the middle of the corridor staring at its polished marble floor. His focus shifts to the picture of the Connemara bog on the wall. Replaced earlier that day by the caretaker it is hanging at a slight angle. He moves to straighten it then suddenly stops, smiles, shakes his head and ignores the urge. He puts his key in the envelope with the brief note, slips the envelope under Felicity Fellow’s door, and makes his way towards the back exit.
And the three cornered light awakening
So strong as to take your breath away…
A Brief Explanation
The Language of Being.
Ruah: In Hebrew ruah is used interchangeably to indicate breath, wind and in particular the life force given to mankind. The receptacle of that life-force is the soul or nephesh. Neshamah is also used to describe breath.
“In his hand is the soul (nepesh; Gr: psyche) of every living being, and the life-breath (ruah; Gr: pneuma) of all mankind.” Job 12:10
In general in the Old Testament breath is life and inspiration is the in-breathing of the life-force or spirit of man. In contrast, in Job 4:9 the wind (ruah) of God is judgemental and destructive whereas in Job 26:8 the ruah is seen as the spirit, breath or life-force within mankind and the breath of God is neshamah and is described as a source of wisdom.
“But it is a spirit (ruah) in man, the breath of God (neshamah), that gives him understanding.”
Rûh: In Arabic Rûh is used in all the possible meanings of “spirit” but in particular means the non-individual aspect of the soul, the intellect or nous, in Arabic al ‘aql al-fa‘âl (“active intellect”), as opposed to the lower individual soul, the psyche, in Arabic an-nafs.
The Spirit (al-rûh) in the individual is continuous with Being itself . . .
– Cyril Glassé, Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, Revised Edition, Stacey Int. 2001
Nafs, in the early Arabic poetry is used reflexively to refer to the self or person, while rûh meant breath and wind. Beginning with the Kur’ãn nafs also means soul, and rûh, means a special angel messenger and a special divine gift. Only in post-Kur’ãnic literature are nafs and rûh used interchangeably and both applied to the human spirit, angels and djinn.
– Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, E.J.Brill, Leiden 1953.
“Rûh is an entity which differs totally from the physical body. It is a subtle, ecclesiastical, enlightened living and moving body which penetrates into the depths of the organs and flows into them like the water in the rose or the oil in the olive or the fire in the coal. As long as these organs remain able to accept the impressions of this subtle body, the ‘Rûh’ remains attached to these organs and provides them with feeling and movement. But when these organs are spoiled because of the dominance of diseased elements upon it, and they are no longer able to accept the impressions of the soul, it leaves the body and heads toward the world of souls.”
– Hafidhh Ibn Qayyim, Kitab al-Rûh
Greek & Latin Sources
In the Greek version of St John’s Gospel the same word (pneuma) is used for wind and spirit:
“The wind (pneuma) blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but know not where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (pneuma).” John 3.8
Anemos in Greek is also a term for breath or wind, and sometimes anemoso was an archaic term used for the Holy Spirit.
In Latin usage anima is the breath of life, or soul (i.e. animal – having breath) and animus the mind or soul. Spiritus is breath or spirit as in inspiration or expiration.