The biblical archaeologist at my seminary once donned Indiana Jones–inspired attire to publicize one of his discoveries. He claimed not to enjoy this publicity stunt. If so, he’s about the only movie-watching male who didn’t want to play at being Indy, the brainy, hip, unflappable professor of archaeology who could fight off Nazis with little more than a fedora and a bullwhip.
Holy Spirit: do not descend as a dove. Better to return as a millipede hidden beneath decaying bark than anything that can soar. Ponder the incarnational worth of Pneumodesmus Newmani, the oldest known form of life on land, linking air breathing with the surname of the Scottish bus driver and amateur paleontologist who chiseled its fossil from harbor rocks north of Stonehaven, observing through his field lens small openings in its exoskeleton used for inspiration, meaning it moved its many legs on dry ground, not seabed. Or consider this descendent of Pneumo, younger by four hundred million years, curled for self-preservation on my palm, a hard button of red legs whorled inward, circled by dark armor plate, both of us breathing air while we wait for a sign that it is safe to resume whatever it was we were scurrying to do prior to this disruption of our forward flow to make a theological point: Of what use are metaphors of flight for things with feet?
His fascination with light begins in a lantern held by a shepherd, over a little family against inky velvet. Then light shifts; Christ becomes core. When he preaches rays fall like song on some earnest, captivated faces, some distracted by other conversations, and a dog facing the wrong way.
From his raised hand light spills like waterfall over Lazarus and lifts him, pale and twisted into that luminous aura. Even on the cross, the thin etched lines leave an ivory bowl around him, gather from dimness the only dawn.
The limp corpse with extended ribs still radiates. Its slide starts at a peasant face, guided into arms that catch the contagious light, leaking onto the stocky official, plumply supervising procedures. Visual poems carved on copperplate: I stood rinsed in that light.
Here’s my question. What if there was a poem That didn’t know what it was about until it got To the end of itself? So that the poet’s job isn’t To play with imagery and cadence and metrical Toys in order to make a point, but rather to just Keep going in order to find out that the poem is About how hard it is to watch your kids get hurt By things they can’t manage and you cannot fix. If I had been the boss of this poem I would have Made it so they can manage things, or I could be The quiet fixer I always wanted to be as a father; But that’s not what the poem wanted to be about, It turns out. This poem is just like your daughter: No one knows what’s going to happen, and there Will be pain, and you can’t fix everything, and it Hurts to watch, and you are terrified even as you Try to stay calm and cool and pretend to manage. Some poems you can leave when they thrash too Much but kids are not those sorts of poems. They Have to keep writing themselves, and it turns out You are not allowed to edit. You’re not in charge At all—a major bummer. I guess there’s a lesson Here about literature, about how you have to sing Without knowing the score . . . something like that. All you can do is sing wildly and hope it’ll finish So joyous and refreshing that you gape with awe.
Philosopher Michael Ruse is an ardent evolutionist and unbeliever, but he often comes to the defense of believers who are under fire from militant atheists like Richard Dawkins. Ruse says his sympathetic stance toward religion is partly due to his Quaker upbringing. “I grew up surrounded by gentle, loving (and very intelligent) Christians. I never forget that,” said Ruse. He also objects to what he regards as bad atheist arguments. Evolution explains the existence of religion as an adaptive mechanism, but that doesn’t necessarily explain it away. “It is as plausible that my love of Mozart’s operas is a byproduct of adaptation, but it doesn’t make them any the less beautiful and meaningful,” Ruse said (New York Times interview, July 8).