"Red as blood, white as snow, black as a raven's wing…." These three colors appear again and again in folklore the world over, but why? What is it about this triad that exerts such power on our collective imaginations?
Responses to a recent tweet by Pete Buttigieg rightly called out the presidential candidate for his use of the phrase "American Heartland" as "code for white." The incident raises interesting linguistic questions about how we unpack complex cultural metaphors.
Our knowledge, instead of leading us to certainty, betrays us. This is holy bewilderment.
Our knowledge, instead of leading us to certainty, betrays us — guiding us deeper into the confused complexity of the forest, the dark wilds of unknowing. This is holy bewilderment. This is the horizon that is forever receding and can never be reached; the periphery that is everywhere and nowhere. We find ourselves spinning in circles. We look for a centered self that isn’t there, and when we find it, it is deeply bizarre. We are confronted by an Other that can never be centered or normalized. This is the call of the Wild One. Welcome to the hunt...
Have you ever heard of a murder of crows? I strongly believe that the mass noun term for poets should be bureaucracy. Singly, poets have this reputation for being sensitive, articulate, deeply strange and haunted — not to say enlightened — creatures who drift through life with the veils lifted and the doors of perception open.
Don't be fooled.
When my friend Carl McColman says that language is tricky, and that God is bigger than the limits of the human mind, we might imagine our words are just so many rigged-up rubber bands, paper clips and packing tape with which we are, MacGyver-style, trying to capture a wild and mighty wind.
Yet our words are our own breath given form by our body and its movements, and where else have we drawn that breath but from the winds themselves? Our speaking is a shaping of the wind within us, released back into the wild to work its way into someone else's body, moving with the ebb and flow of sound waves, pressing in against their eardrums, stirring the tiny hairs of their skin.
To talk about language this way is to break out of the metaphor of objects and containers, and to see words as experiences in themselves.
I don't want to live in a world where we are no longer allowed to ask each other for kindness and respect. I don't want to live in a world where one person's anger is more important than another person's pain. I don't want to live in a world where our only recourse if we want to be heard is to raise our voices more and more loudly and force our anger onto others.
I would rather learn how to turn my anger into something beautiful and powerful that cannot be ignored, than to waste it in ways that can be dismissed because of my "tone." I would rather turn my rage into an agent of compassion, than use it as a weapon against those who have hurt me.