Fairy tales tend to be parables. They teach us to look beneath the surface (Beauty and the Beast), to exercise patience and to work to overcome obstacles (Sleeping Beauty), to avoid easy gratification and hold out for the real prizes in life (Pinocchio). In the fairy-tale films of the great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, the meanings are often layered.
“. . . he was carried up, and a cloud took him.” Acts 1:9
Gravity, they say, is all about mass. Big attracts Big sucks big pulls big, like death, won’t let go. Still, We worship those who try: “Lucky Lindy,” St. Michael Jordan. Leonardo, bless him, forever plotting how To fly, or assuage the general jowliness of time.
Jesus was taken up, and Mary. St. Teresa of Ávila Had to cling to the rail during prayer to keep from Floating skyward—the Assumption being that things Sometimes fall up. But, come on, which way is Up? That is to say, which way isn’t? If Teresa was
A person of such faith, why didn’t she just let go? Like The man I knew who, after being told he had “maybe Six months,” immediately signed up for swimming Lessons. “Well,” he said, “I just felt that if I could learn How to float, I could learn how to die.”
through the windows, fields that remember you. Past the yellow church beside the forest, hush. I’ve had to learn the ease of waiting. Somewhere, in autumns, the songs grow surer with waiting. You cannot hurry through hurt. Quiet. Still. Slow, like those swallows along the rooftops. Color upon a shawl.
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).