Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Song

A long time ago, before there were any galaxies, even before there was any far away, there was a globule of blazing matter, a cosmos in a bead, expanding at breakneck speed, stretching space with it as it grew.

All was even at first, featureless, every bit just like the bit next to it.

And then the One, the Merciful, the Wise sang. His divine note coursed through the exploding world, its waves compressing particles here, separating them there, in glorious series of concentric spheres, each emanating and crossing the others on its journey across the spreading universe.

Eventually, length, breadth, and width unfolded enough to leave gaping holes in the humming mass. The largest ripples then subsided and their ultimate effect appeared: clumps of matter scattered over the material realm in virtually random, mathematically chaotic fashion, every clump held together by gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong force, and yet separated from all the others by the silence of distance.

But the motion of the song went on in the urgent rotation of these massive clouds of stuff. Great spinning galaxies coalesced, the symphonies of the sky. Within the galaxies, spinning suns, like motives within a melody, fell in on themselves and burst into nuclear flame. Around these suns, spinning planets and comets gathered.

Still the song continues. The morning stars sing. Night calls to night. Sitting here on one of those spinning planets revolving around one of those suns in one of those galaxies, we don’t hear the divine music. But why? Because we have forgotten the tune? Or to the contrary, because we are inured to its persistent presence?

Either way, were we to hear the melody, we might not be able to comprehend it. The song might well strike us with a power beyond our human capabilities to perceive, like a light too bright for us to discern its color.

Anodos, the protagonist from George MacDonald’s Phantastes, hears the song occasionally. He hears it in the water of the magical land he wanders through. He hears it from the lips of fairies and of living statues. He hears it, but he can’t reproduce it, although he can sometimes translate its import into poetry. For that matter, the poetry he hears in fairy land is in a language too lofty to register in his memory, and again he can only render the impression it makes on him into new verse, which he apologizes for.

So what enters my ears when I read Phantastes is at best only Anodos’s rendition of the memory of the performance of the song. Or maybe my experience is even farther removed from the true Source. Maybe the words in the book offer George MacDonald’s recasting of the impression made on him by the utterance of the invented man in his mind, who renders the memory of a performance of the original song. Six degrees of separation.

But still, I think I can hear the echoes of the song.

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