B is my favorite professor and friend at Illhoptay that I never had as a teacher. She's in the Theology Department and specializes in the history of religion and society in America with an emphasis on mid-20th C to today. Her perspective is one of a frustrated but devout Catholic of the most liberal stripe. The new Pope makes her laugh with hope. She is also the most relentlessly serene human I have ever met. We talk about my jones for faith and my jones against belief and their, for me, irreconcilability. She says no one is responsible for faith but me, faith in what is not as important as the faith. She is the most relentlessly optimistic human I have ever met. Real faith is Kind, she's certain. Faith grants serenity, faith grants optimism, she says, that's what separates faith from belief. Faith grants, belief demands. She doesn't proselytize - I ask. We had a drink last evening. We talked about the Paris shooters, how those who drew the cartoons, those who laughed at the cartoons, those offended by the cartoons, those who shot the cartoonists, and those who derive pleasure from the shootings - those who rejoice in the release of hate washing over them - have belief, not faith. I said, include me, I revel in hating the shallow hypocrisy of people who would harangue a flag-burner from a job who now proclaim free speech for islamophobes. I believe I hate those who believe, I said. She is as honest as she is serene and optimistic. I think you have faith in you, she said, we wouldn't be friends otherwise, but, said the most optimistic human I have ever met, I worry that when you find it you will not try it.
More Bowie. Links tomorrow. Or not.
THE THEORY OF HATS
It is hard even to admit this theory of hats, that to wear
The faithless one brimmed tightly over the eyes—
The featherless and discreet one, a hat with a secret code
That says, To spoil the child is to fatten the serpent—
To wear that hat (imperfectly as a crow’s crown) against the sun
Is to bear the ruins of the unborn into our hearts—
He, shouting at the brunt of trees;
She, shifting like a seer to restore them.
It is hard to know happiness with a hat like that.
Or to forget the pangs sung with such burly impatience,
Or to heal the blurred things and soft hurts.
Even the blind self becomes a dervish, what with the torsion
And the far-off vita nuova like a new virus or virtuoso,
What with the tussles and old, pure-lit suppressions.
Then to be surprised by joy: Like the last rain of summer,
The big, spiraling, wounded animal of rain
With no place to turn, drumming the brown grass,
Rain falling without meaning, but perfectly faithful,
Into the petals of wind and the unopened roots—
Such tenderness looked to, like love, but unquestioned.
Then some afternoon with the sky lifting off again,
She will come to sit on the porch like a dark sparrow
And let the sun creep slowly onto her hair
And grow old and wonder about the balance of things.
And he beside her, sitting, too, distracted in the sun for hours,
But all the same, both of them, at last, so much warmer.