The band R.E.M. is easy to love—and hate. In the 1980s the group from Athens, Georgia, defined college and indie rock. It grafted locomotive Rickenbacker guitar and bass onto the no-nonsense beats of Bill Berry and the barely audible but alluring vocals of Michael Stipe.
A wave in the water. The word opens, shape for knowing at edges, darker fields, trouble: a wave in the water. The word waits long to shatter on silence, prove, prove that falling is a wave. In the water, the word opens, shape for knowing.
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.
So, I didn’t latch onto a holy word and go into space and, ethereal, lose touch with my body. But God, in those thirty slow minutes, you unfolded in me the bud of a fresh flower, with color and fragrance that was more than my soul was capable of, on its own.
. . . We all, with unveiled face, behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.
And when the peony showed up, I knew it as a kind of mirror. This was glory in pink and cream, with a smell of heaven. Petals like valves opening into the colors of my heart.
I saw myself kneeling on a grass border, my knees bruising the green, pressing my face into the face of this silken, just-opened bloom, and breathing it, wanting to drown in it. Wanting to grow in its reflected image.
Sanduk Ruit, a Nepali ophthalmologist, has restored eyesight to more than 100,000 people, perhaps a record for one person. He has pioneered a very simple cataract removal procedure that costs only $25 and takes only five minutes per eye. Dr. Ruit’s procedure has the same success rate (98 percent) as the more complicated one used in the United States. The “Nepal method” is now taught in medical schools in the United States (New York Times, November 7).