"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

20 September 2007

Musing on the Muse

The last couple of mornings, I've missed the moon on my drive to work. A few late stars show in the darkened sky, but too far and too faint to compete with the glare of the streetlamps and blinking bus lights and blinding advertisements that conceal more than they reveal. I'm too lazy (or busy, by your leave) to find out if Phoebe's rising too late or too early these days for my early morning delight, but the sky seems lonely without her, though never without beauty.

The moonlight at night has attracted me from the time I can remember, but when we got a second vehicle and I began driving to work a couple of years ago, I began to notice her more often in the early mornings, as I was focusing on the road and my surroundings instead of talking with others in the car. About the same time, I also found myself wanting to improve my ability to see and describe the physical world.

(Most of you know that this physical world generally only comes to my attention when it impinges upon me in some abrupt and usually painful way. This is a distinct liability for a writer, even one who writes about the life of the mind.)

And so I began to observe Phoebe more closely, and her moods and phases fascinated me: how she could be so warm one morning, so cold another, how her light could fill the sky or barely light herself, and how this did not seem dependent on whether she were a mere sliver or at the full. As I thought about these vagaries, I thought too about the one constant -- she is reflected light only, useful only in the darkness.

Thus Phoebe became my muse, because I see myself as reflected light, subject to phases I can't always control, offering more or less light on any given day, but startled by the way the True Light can use even the tiniest sliver to illuminate someone else's way. It's never me; it's always and only the Son in me. There's humility in that, a good humility that gives hope and joy because I don't have to constantly strive to be approved, and when the clouds come, the clouds that He has created and allowed, I can be at peace, too, knowing that His light has not failed and never will.

And what joy to know that ultimately I will know Him for who He is, as I stand in His actual presence, subsumed by His brilliance, and yet, too, become fully myself, knowing at last my created nature revealed in His Light, the darkness forever gone.

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