Modern Iconography

Today, I was reading a post, Synaxis of St. John the Baptist which had the following:

Grunewald has painted a picture in which he depicts John the Baptist with an unnaturally elongated forefinger pointing to Christ. This same type of finger is used in some Byzantine icons of John the Baptist to express the main purpose of his ministry: the pointing out of Christ as the expected Savior.

It got me thinking, what iconography would be used to depict my life? You life?

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The Edna Project

I can’t remember when I first came across Edna. It was probably during a high school poetry class, or perhaps scanning through an anthology. She didn’t make much of an impression. Years later, I saw a one person play about her. It was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I went to regularly back in the 80s. It was a long time ago, and I would often see five or six plays a day, so I must admit, I don’t remember much about the one person play, other than that I enjoyed it.

My next encounter with Edna St. Vincent Millay was as I was listening to the emerging artists selected to play at Falcon Ridge in 2015. One group, was Liz and the Family Tree. I had problems finding them; eventually finding Liz Queler and Seth Farber and their album, The Edna Project. Like with my experience of Edna at the Edinburgh Festival, the songs from the Edna project blended into the mix of the twenty four emerging artists. I enjoyed them, but couldn’t especially remember any of them. In my notes about the emerging artists, I shared a link to their webpage and Facebook page, and simply stated that I hadn’t found a favorite song from them yet.

In December, Liz contacted me on Facebook saying she had just come across my blog post and offered to send me a CD. I must admit, I don’t listen to CDs much anymore. Most of the music I listen to is streaming, but I accepted and when the CD came, I had to figure out where to play it. My laptop doesn’t have a CD player and the CD player in the family room hasn’t been set up for years.

It turns out, however, that my car does have a functioning CD player, and I was looking for something new to listen to on my commute. So, for the past several days, I’ve been listening to The Edna Project repeating on the CD player for an hour and a half each day as I drive to and from work.

I guess a good way to start to think about The Edna Project is to wonder, what would it be like if Edna St. Vincent Millay were a twenty first century singer songwriter? What would it be like, if she trekked from her place in Austerlitz over to Hillsdale?

My teenage daughter has grown up going to Falcon Ridge. She kicked along to the music of Jian Ghomeshi in her mother’s belly. Later, probably when she was around five, she ran up to Dan Navarro to tell him that her favorite song was “Teacher Teacher”. Then, it became Freebo’s “She Loves My Dog More Than Me” that was her favorite song. As she approached her teen years, she started listening to Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and has now moved on to My Chemical Romance, Fallout Boy, and Panic at the Disco. Their music surrounds her just about everywhere she goes.

As I listened to The Edna Project, I could not help but think what a better place this world would be if more teenaged girls listened to Liz Queler and Seth Farber singing the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay. There is a nuance and subtlety in their music that is missing from most pop music, and there is at least as much romance and intrigue.

So, what songs do I like best from The Edna Project? I’m still not clear. They mingle together in my mind. “There will be rose and rhododendron … The chilly apple from the grass warmed by your living hand … Blessed be death that took my love… like a fish scale or a butterfly’s wing…but, oh, the little hill they took, - I think I am its mother…wonder what sort of people could have had this house before … I will plant bergamot at my kitchen-door…we neither kissed nor spoke …If I can’t be sorry, why, I might as well be glad…scattering the blue dragon-flies… I knew her for a little ghost …”

The CD is still in my car player, and I’m wondering, what other collections of sung, or even read poetry can I find next? I’m listening to Billy Collins read his poetry aloud, and looking for other poetry to listen to in the car.

Not only would the world be a better place is more teenage girls were listening to The Edna Project, but more poets and songwriters should too, and there should be more projects like The Edna Project. It seems like putting Emily Dickinson’s poetry to music other than the Yellow Rose of Texas might be a good step.

To Seek the Unexpected

Perhaps it should be
my resolution
for the New Year
or even
my mantra
for the next twelve months.

To seek the unexpected.

Maybe, it will even become
a poem.

To seek the unexpected.

Like going alone
to an unknown museum
exhibiting
an unknown artist
and finding a new love

instead of running with the crowd
at the big museum
past well known paintings
at their blockbuster
exhibition

or taking the backroads to work,
less direct,
less traffic,
slower,
but worth it
for the different horizons.

This evening I went to church.

It wasn’t a high holy day
like Christmas or Easter.
It wasn’t even Sunday.

It was less than a week
after New Years,
when the usual resolutions
start wearing thin
and your thinking of taking down
the Christmas decorations.

Epiphany.
seeking the unexpected.

What was it like
for the Magi
traveling to a different country
and finding the new ruler
in an unexpected place?

What was it like
for Mary
having strangers visit
after her unexpected
and long expected
labor?

What would it be like
singing the familiar hymns
praying the familiar prayers
with a small group of faithful
on a weeknight?

The one thing
about seeking the unexpected
is that you usually find it
and it is wonderful.

Waiting for Epiphany

Again, I sit down to write after a long day. There are a lot of directions I’d like to go with this. I’d like to write my reflections on the daily mediations I read today, reflecting on God’s self-disclosure to us as a lover reveals himself to his beloved. The idea of scripture as God’s love letter to us.

I think about this, as I get in the car, listening to some poetry put to music. I would like to write about the poetry I’m listening to, that I’m reading, and how it fits into my daily life and disciplines. There are a couple blog posts that this could create. In between thoughts about God’s self-disclosure and the poetry I’m reading, I think about the tasks of the day. I’ll spare the details, but it leads back nicely to my thoughts about continuous partial discernment. How does the daily commute, the thoughts about work, the poetry, the daily meditations, and all that I see as I drive each day fit together.

Wednesday is Epiphany. I love that word. It reminds me of Denise Levertov’s poems. I try to find the poem, I think it was “Chekhov on West Heath”, and I stumble across a blog post from ten years ago. Happy Epiphany!

Now, ten years later, I’m waiting for Epiphany. According to the liturgical calendar, it is tomorrow, but I’m thinking about this as a year of epiphanies, a year of living prayerfully, or perhaps a year of praying dangerously, I’m not sure which.

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At the end of the day

“At the end of the day you’re another day older”

The lyrics from Les Mis come to mind at the end of this day. I’ve started using Workflowy to try and organize all the material that comes at me in a day. It is an interesting experiment. At the end of the say, I have over twenty tabs open in my browser. I sent about two dozen emails at work, have about fifty unread emails from today, but did manage to clear out about 250 work emails.

There are also 42 new unread personal emails. Since I was at work for most of the day, I only got a chance to write one outgoing personal email.

There are about 100 items in my RSS reader. I’m currently using the Digg reader.

There continues to be more coming at me than I have time to process. Can I use Workflowy to organize things so I get a higher percentage of the information coming at me processed? Can I use it so that I manage to read the most important stuff?

I’ll try to clean things up as much as I can this evening. Get some personal reading done, and get some sleep. Then, I’ll monitor to see if any tools or techniques can really help manage the flow of information.

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