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SAG HARBOR
July 8, 2011
 
Sag Harbor

We got off the train in Bridgehampton and stepped into a fog we did not experience in the city. †It haloed the street lamps, softened the hard edges of all the buildings, rendered parked cars indistinct. †It followed us along dark country roads and into Sag Harbor. †A half moon rode it, coming in and out of view as the mist granted us glimpses.†

A late supper in the only place in town still serving after nine. †An ice cream cone on a park bench for dessert. †Talk and music at our hosts' home for as long as I could stay awake, and so to bed. †

Now, in the morning, the birds announce themselves, each with his different song. †I say "his" because it is so: for the most part, it is the male birds who sing. †We think they are entertaining themselves and us, that music is beauty to them, as it is to us. †That birds sing as we sometimes do, just because they are glad to be alive. ††

But birds have no duty to be like us. †They do not aspire to our state. Nothing in nature does. †Nature is not about us; it is about itself. †We are the pinnacle of nothing. †

Someday soon, human beings will be very different from what we are now. †It is already visible: you see it coming every time you hand your cellphone to your seventh grader, so he can program it for you. †Natural selection, the slow engine of evolution we think of first when we think about evolution, is not its only engine. †The machine is another, mating with us even now, transforming our tasks and transforming us. †We will blend with it: it will enter our bodies, thinking †and perhaps even feeling alongside us, perhaps changing what thinking and feeling mean. †And, unlike natural selection, it will be fast.†

An arid prospect, this future in such intimate harness with what were once our tools? †And a godless one? †Not so fast. †The hard and fast line we draw between organic and inorganic is probably a good deal less so to the God in whom all things exist. †Eons ago, isolated amino acids assembled into the protein soup from which all life came: there was a time when it did not live, and then a time when it did. The living and the nonliving emerged from one thing, not two. †

If we can only countenance a future of which humankind is†
lord, we will be unable to see the further blending of our race with its environment as anything but tragic. †We will fight to preserve every last shred of what we call our "humanity," not realizing how fluid a term that already is. †But be of good cheer: the vessel in which our humanity is contained grows with us. †The future may not be ours alone, but it is still ours.

Last night we walked along the street toward home. †The half moon rode with us overhead, neither benign nor hostile, its inscrutable face not visible in its current phase. †It spoke not a word to me. †But if it had spoken, it might have said that it is not necessary for me to be the star of the whole creation drama. †It is not necessary that there be a grand plan, a blueprint for my life, symmetrical and foreknown. †It is enough for me to observe and wonder at what I see, assembling what voice and meaning I can from the rich, random pile of it.
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To Become a Poet

When I am asked how I began writing poems
I speak about the indifference of nature.
It was the day of my fatherís burial,
a chilly May afternoon with a cloudless sky.
No breeze stirred the limp leaves of trees.
I sat on my grandmotherís porch swing,
looking at day lilies and roses in the garden
that seemed oblivious to my sadness.

There was no cheerful chorus of bird songó
only the distant cawing of crows.
The air was still and solemn about meó
the only smell was the sweet scent
of funeral flowers in the front parlor.†† † † † ††
I sat all alone on that porch swing
and placed my grief in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.
†† † † † † † † † -Henry Langhorne

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It may be time to read Teilhard†de Chardin again. †If you don't know this early 20th century priest and theologian, you might begin with two: "The Phenomenon of Man" and "The Divine Milieu.". Both are available at www.amazon.com.





†† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † Henry Langhorne



†† † † † † †To Become a Poet




When I am asked how I began writing poems
I speak about the indifference of nature.
It was the day of my fatherís burial,
a chilly May afternoon with a cloudless sky.
No breeze stirred the limp leaves of trees.
I sat on my grandmotherís porch swing,
looking at day lilies and roses in the garden
that seemed oblivious to my sadness.

There was no cheerful chorus of bird songó
only the distant cawing of crows.
The air was still and solemn about meó
the only smell was the sweet scent
of funeral flowers in the front parlor.
†† † † † † I sat all alone on that porch swing
and placed my grief in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

†† † † † ††



†† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † †
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