It came to me as I waited at the desk, thinking how to turn another scattered group toward the day’s work: I want a bell. Not the electric commands that drilled through our younger days,
not some jingly tinkle. No, something small but clear—a signal, a reminder, a request. After Christmas we went looking and my son found a pair of heavy, small brass disks joined
by a leather thong at the import place in town. They had eight raised symbols in a ring, some scratchy lettering inside. When he struck them the pure tone hung for seven seconds
in the air, shimmering and clean as the sun. Of course I bought them. Each day now I put them on the desk, try to keep them quiet. They want nothing but to ring. They desire not to join but to meet.
When it’s time I hold the thong close to each disk and strike them at right angles to each other, as I learned from a man who told me that their true name is tingsha, that in Tibet the monks strike them
when minds start to ramble. Inside, he told me, were the great and ancient words, Om mani padme hum. We might say: See the jewel in the heart of the lotus. He rubbed the symbols on the top: here
is the conch shell, he said, here the prayer wheel, the umbrella, the flower. The students smile each time I strike the chimes, hold them as the sound wavers, fades. It lasts such a long time.
Such a short time. And then we begin, teasing new sounds from the old tongue as we can, taking the next steps across the rocky plain, following the smoky thread on the horizon.
We fold out the map and it tells us where we might be. We study the compass and it offers some names. We open the timepiece and it says, Be quiet. Bring the chimes together.
Great stories touch on many themes and give us a long list of things that they could be said to be “about.” As I tell my students, if you think Moby-Dick is just about whale- hunting, you weren’t paying attention.
This 1982 drama directed by Alan Parker is one of the great films of its decade—complex, adult, irresolvable, with a screenplay by Bo Goldman that poeticizes its characters’ anguish. Many of the lines stay in your head.
Meg went to the Tower, somehow passed the halberds of the Yeomen of the Guard to embrace once more the father whose hair shirt she washed, whose “wholesome counsel and virtuous example” she received, whose mind and person she loved.
Not Holbein’s Chancellor but an El Greco saint, he was led out carrying his red cross, emaciated and ready. He reminded the axe man his neck was short, asked him not to miss. Then put that noble neck in the arc of the block, and the great, wedge axe lopped off his blessed head. Faithless Henry had it put on a pike on London Bridge, a horrible deterrent to heroic silence.
At what cost and courage Margaret rescued it, carried it home to Canterbury, buried it by St. Dunstan’s Church. How often did she gaze from home across to the church yard, longing for the King whose name is love, Whom she, and we, still await?
Katrina Spade, founder of the Urban Death Project, plans to compost human remains with wood chips inside a three-story concrete core. She argues that this approach is even more ecologically sound than cremation, which creates greenhouse gases. Bob Fells, executive director of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, thinks treating human remains as a waste product is disrespectful. Spade is hoping to break ground for the composting facility in Seattle by 2022 (Slate, July 15).