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League of Inveterate Poets

The out-of-context contextuality of a foolish sage

Context

This blog is an experiment in out-of-context contextuality.

I have to look for cracks and crevices.
Don’t tell me how God’s mercy
Is as wide as the ocean, as deep as the sea.
I already believe it, but that infinite prospect
Gets further away the more we mouth it.
I thank you for lamenting his absences-
His absence from marriages going mad, our sons dying young, from the
inescapable
Terrors of history: Treblinka, Vietnam,
September Eleven. His visible absence
Makes it hard for us in our time
To celebrate his invisible Presence.

This must be why mystics and poets record
The slender incursions of splintered light,
Echoes, fragments, odd words and phrases
Like flashes through darkened hallways.
These stabs remind me that the proud
Portly old church is really only
That cut green slip grafted into a tiny nick
That merciful God himself slit into the stem
Of his chosen Judah. The thin and tenuous
Thread we hang by, so astonishing,
Is the metaphor I need at the shoreline
Of all those immeasurable oceans of love.
Letter to Lew Smedes by Rod Jellema*

All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl
“A Long December” – Counting Crows

Think of a line from a favorite song. Why do you love it so? It may be partly for the sheer cleverness of it, or the beauty of the way the words fall together. But I’m betting it’s also because at some time or another, those words said something to you in the context of your own life situation. Or they brought up a long-suppressed memory. It didn’t matter that it had little or nothing to do with whatever the songwriter meant, it was what it meant to you in the moment.

The same thing can happen with an image or a snippet of music (or any sound for that matter).

This blog will explore the sometimes startling, sometimes sublime, sometimes outrageous, sometimes hysterical paths that can be generated when a piece of text, an image, a line of music–whatever–is kidnapped from its original context and left orphaned on the street for anyone to take home and do with as she pleases. Most posts will be generated from me seeing my own context providing a home to that orphaned bit of whatever. If I gain readers here, I’m hoping they (you?) will contribute their own. And I’m hoping that readers will also comment on mine, bringing their own recontextualizations.

“Keep pompous lads, your ancient stories!” cries he
With tapping keys.  “Give me your nouns, your verbs,
Your garbled phrases yearning to read free,
The wretched cuttings from your editing floor.
Send these, the vowel-less, dyslexia-tost to me,
I lift my lexicon beside the golden door!”
Ron Lusk (with apologies to no one, if I know him!)

Oh, and the Foolish Sage moniker? That’s how I’ve thought of myself for a long time, seeking “the foolishness of God” that is “wiser than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). “There is often wisdom under a shabby cloak” – Caecilius Statius

The blog’s title comes from a line from the C. S. Lewis book God in the Dock, shared with me by online acquaintance Joe Holland:

We are inveterate poets. Our imaginations awake.

Instead of mere quantity, we now have a quality–the sublime. Unless this were so, the merely arithmetical greatness of the galaxy would be no more impressive than the figures in a telephone directory. It is thus, in a sense, from ourselves that the material universe derives its power to over-awe us. To a mind which did not share our emotions, and lacked our imaginative energies, the argument from size would be sheerly meaningless. Men look on the starry heavens with reverence: monkeys do not.

The silence of the eternal spaces terrified Pascal, but it was the greatness of Pascal that enabled them to do so. When we are frightened by the greatness of the universe, we are (almost literally) frightened by our own shadows: for these light years and billions of centuries are mere arithmetic until the shadow of man, the poet, the maker of myth, falls upon them. I do not say we are wrong to tremble at his shadow; it is a shadow of an image of God. But if ever the vastness of matter threatens to overcross our spirits, one must remember that it is matter spiritualized which does so. To puny man, the great nebula in Andromeda owes in a sense its greatness. – C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock

*A Slender Grace: Poems. By Rod Jellema. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2004.



 

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The Author
Mark TraphagenMark Traphagen (aka Foolish Sage) is a lover of dark beers and darker music, of things that are but are not as they seem, of contexts taken out of context to become new contexts, of stories that point to a bigger Story. Mark lives in Durham, NC, with his wife and pet Macbook Pro. He has two married daughters and six grandchildren, and works by day for Virante, an Internet Marketing firm. He is a The Monti StorySlam winner and GrandSlam runner up.











  • Kristina G.

    Wow. That was really insightful poetry, prose, and thinking on each 'sage's' part. I think I'll be making a few trips back here!

  • Kristina G.

    Wow. That was really insightful poetry, prose, and thinking on each 'sage's' part. I think I'll be making a few trips back here!

  • Ron Lusk

    Blessed are the legendmakers with their rhyme
    Of things not found within recorded time. (Tolkien)

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