I hear a sound.

It is music, silver and bright like shards of glass scattered in the sun. It is swift like running water; it is ever going somewhere, rushing and flowing and racing; fell like a dragon, or proud like a stallion, or mighty like a raging torrent. It is both bright like glittering swords, and dark as summer thunderheads. It is going somewhere – the future is its destination, and it is calling me to join also.

In my consciousness the music explodes like stars going nova, and the sight is so radiant and beautiful that it makes my heart ache, while tears blot out my vision, in the presence of such beauty.

Oh – I cannot resist it, its voice is too beautiful and so fell; the siren that cries, Come to me.

This is the sound of the future, and who can resist the future? It means leaving the old behind, forsaking it for the new and the unknown.

Perhaps this is what the Call is like – that sweet and achingly beautiful voice that is so fatal, that the People cannot resist. It is radiant, it makes all things new and bright. Beyond the brightness is the unknown, and what does it conceal?

The music encompasses me.

I feel the cavernous reverberation beneath my feet, the lightning shards glittering, and the towering lofty constructs twining into a sold wall, and the soaring chords like explosions of light – higher, higher and faster, and brighter, we go.

I go.

—30 June 2008. The music still rings in my ears, majestic, puissant, irresistible.

As in all sweetest music,

a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy. Cometh white-robed Sorrow, stooping and wan, and flingeth wide the doors she may not enter. Almost we linger with Sorrow for very love.

Phantastes, chapter X,
George MacDonald

The Happy Mariners

I know a window in a western tower
That opens on celestial seas,
And wind that has been blowing round the stars
Comes to nestle in its tossing draperies.
It is a white tower builded in the Twilight Isles,
Wher Evening sits for ever in the shade;
It glimmers like a spike of lonely pearl
That mirrors beams forlorn and lights that fade;
And sea goes washing round the dark rock where it stands,
And fairy boats go by to gloaming lands
All piled and twinkling in the gloom
With hoarded sparks of orient fire
That divers won in waters of the unknown Sun –
And, maybe, ‘tis a throbbing silver lyre,
Or voices of grey sailors echo up
Afloat among the shadows of the world
In oarless shallop and with canvas furled;
For often seems there ring of feet and song
Or twilit twinkle of a trembling gong.

O! happy mariners upon a journey long
To those great portals on the Western shores
Where far away constellate fountains leap,
And dashed against Night’s dragon-headed doors,
In foam of stars fall sparkling in the deep.
While I alone look out behind the Moon
From in my white and windy tower,
Ye bide no moment and await no hour,
But chanting snatches of a mystic tune
Go through the shadows and the dangerous seas
Past sunless lands to fairy leas
Where stars upon the jacinth wall of space
Do tangle burst and interlace.
Ye follow Earendel through the West,
The shining mariner, to Islands blest;
While only from beyond that sombre rim
A wind returns to stir these crystal panes
And murmur magically of golden rains
That fall for ever in those spaces dim.

– J.R.R. Tolkien (1915)

A Sonnet of the Moon

Look how the pale queen of the silent night
Doth cause the ocean to attend upon her,
And he, as long as she is in his sight,
With her full tide is ready her to honor.
But when the silver waggon of the moon
Is mounted up so high he cannot follow,
The sea calls home his crystal waves to moan,
And with low ebb doth manifest his sorrow.
So you that are the sovereign of my heart
Have all my joys attending on your will;
My joys low-ebbing when you do depart,
When you return their tide my heart doth fill.
So as you come and as you do depart,
Joys ebb and flow within my tender heart.

– Charles Best (1602)

The problem of pain

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 have 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 realise that this landscape means something totally dfferent to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are 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[…]? 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–tantalising 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.

The Problem of Pain, chapter 10,
C.S. Lewis
(paragraph divisions mine)

Wanderer in the Wasteland

The wasteland.

A city, once puissant and luminous, now sunk into decay and obscurity.

The guttering sun hovers on the horizon, a massive red eye, casting navy and violet shadows over a glowering sky. The stars circle overhead, like birds of prey, their cold light piercing the glow of the dying day.

Great obelisks rise up spiralling, massive intricate arcologies lofty and regal, and gargantuan constructs of alloys and woven polymers stand at attention. Once they rose toward the sky like a defiant gesture, but now they bow beneath the weight of time, eroded by the constant wave of the years. At their feet lie shedded chrysalides, but only of their own corroded bodies. No life will emerge, the only metamorphosis is in the face of decay. Buried in their own detritus, they lie forgotten.

Like glory, forgetfulness is everlasting.

Only the stars remain witness to the dying world.

And the Wanderer, who walks amidst the rust and verdigris, tall and erect despite time’s heavy hand. For like the stars, he is immortal. Like the stars, he remembers forever. Unlike them, he is not cold.

He remembers this crushed world, when it was still an empire of light. Long ago, in ages now forgotten, he was their downfall.

So he walks and remembers, this world that he destroyed.

I have seen the rise and fall of manifold empires, witnessed the creation and destruction of universes. How can I not feel sorrow? How can I not remember?

(written 18 May 2005)