[Image: a communications “satelloon.” For more information,
see the note at the foot of this post.]
From whiskey river:
There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you’ve been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw — but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you were transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of — something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it — tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest — if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself — you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.
(C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain [source])
Not from whiskey river:
The tao of touch
What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.
Yet the touch of a stranger
the bumping or predatory thrust
in the subway is like a slap.
We long for the familiar, the open
palm of love, its tender fingers.
It is our hands that tamed cats
into pets, not our food.
The widow looks in the mirror
thinking, no one will ever touch
me again, never. Not hold me.
Not caress the softness of my
breasts, my inner thighs, the swell
of my belly. Do I still live
if no one knows my body?
We touch each other so many
ways, in curiosity, in anger,
to command attention, to soothe,
to quiet, to rouse, to cure.
Touch is our first language
and often, our last as the breath
ebbs and a hand closes our eyes.
(Marge Piercy, from The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems, 1980-2010 [source])
It was the first of May
A lovely warm spring day
I was strolling down the street in drunken pride,
But my knees were all a-flutter,
And I landed in the gutter
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.
Yes, I lay there in the gutter
Thinking thoughts I could not utter
When a lady passing by did softly say
“You can tell a man who boozes
By the company he chooses” —
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.
I don’t know how it’s regarded these days, but for decades the National Film Board of Canada was an almost preternaturally good source of films you could find nowhere else: short documentaries, experimental films, animations — all funded by the often preternaturally good people of Canada for no reason other than that such things enrich a culture. The one below is called The Apprentice; about it, the NFB site says:
In this animated short from Richard Condie (The Big Snit), an old fool meets a young fool at a crossroads in the 14th century. The old fool stays behind while the young fool skips blindly down the wrong road. The old fool must then teach his young apprentice about the consequences of taking the wrong road. A quirky tale told without words.
Note: About the image: “satelloons” were prototype communication satellites developed by NASA in the 1960s; radio waves were simply bounced, passively, from their reflective surfaces back to the Earth. The one depicted here is currently in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum, although not on display there. It is 135 feet in diameter and weighs about 375 pounds. The satelloons, folded flat like mirrored bedsheets, were launched into space in the nose cone of the launch vehicle and inflated — very slowly and carefully — only when in orbit. A NASA history published in 1995 (cited here) said:
For those enamored with its aesthetics, folding the beautiful balloon into its small container for packing into the nose cone of a Thor-Delta rocket was somewhat like folding a large Rembrandt canvas into a tiny square and taking it home from an art sale in one’s wallet.
Only two went into operation before higher-capacity, active electronic satellites replaced them. The name of the NASA program, unsurprisingly: Project Echo. The one in the photograph was itself a prototype of Echo 2.