There’s something you need to hear…

When I needed to escape the digital-utopian future, I’d head up into the hills. I was not, then, particularly attuned to the magic of trees. But it doesn’t take great sensitivity to be stunned into silence by redwoods — the sight, sound, and smell of those forests, which feel to so many people like holy places.

One day, up near Skyline Road, I came across a tree the width of a house and the length of a football field. I would learn later that this single living thing was almost as old as Christianity. It dwarfed every other trunk on that ridge. As I looked at it, I began to realize that all the trees I’d been walking through were in fact no more than a hundred years old. This one tree had escaped the clearcutting that had built and rebuilt San Francisco. And the forest that it came from must have been, compared to the one I was standing in, as the OED is to a pocket dictionary. When I went back down to Silicon Valley that evening, I had the seed for a story…

When a person says, “I live in the real world,” they generally mean that they live in the artificially created social world, the human-made world that is hurtling toward a brick wall of its own making. This is what I’d ask the critics of the literature of extra-human awe: Which is more childish, naïve, romantic, or mystical: the belief that we can get away with making Earth revolve around our personal appetites and fantasies, or the belief that a vast, multi-million-pronged project four and a half billion years old deserves a little reverent humility? …

Tree-consciousness is a religion of life, a kind of bio-pantheism. My characters are willing to entertain a telos in living things that scientific empiricism shies away from. Life wants something from us. The trees say to each of these people: There’s something you need to hear…

A friend came to visit me here in my home in the Smokies. Despite the winter turbulence that whipped the jet stream around like a jump rope, making for 80-degree days in February and polar-vortex March nights 20 degrees colder than average, spring was creeping back in. The first ephemerals were rising everywhere through last year’s leaf litter: hepatica, trailing arbutus, star chickweed, spring beauties. I stopped on the trail where we were walking and pointed out the crown of a maple infused in red, like a blurry watercolor.

My friend, who’d grown up surrounded by these trees, was astonished. “Maples have flowers?”

Yes. They’ve been flowering every spring, for the last hundred million years. They flowered in every year you’ve been alive. And with luck, they’ll flower for a few years yet to come.

~ Richard Powers, excerpts from Here’s to Unsuicide: An Interview with Richard Powers by Everett Hammer (Los Angeles Review of Books, April 8, 2018)

Powers new book: The Overstory: A Novel was published this month.


Photo: imgfave (via goodmemory)

Luminous

woman, portrait,hands,listen

Q: “The use of music is to remind us how short a time we have a body.” What do you mean by that?

RP: You start the song, it has a pulse, three-quarter time, one hundred and twenty beats per minute, and you know, even as you round the corner of the first verse, that it’s only going to last for four and a half minutes. All you can do is keep moving to it. When the beat stops, you are aware of having had that beat moving through you, and moving you, and you are aware of the ephemerality of your own existence, the fragility of your own body, the fact that your body is already becoming something else.

~ Richard Powers, In an Interview in The Paris Review


And, this tune, for me, does exactly that…

↓ click for audio (Max Richter– “Luminous”)


Credit: Photograph – Daniel Lehenbauer

Books


Unfortunately, I didn’t understand a word* that was spoken on this short clip, but loved it anyway. The writer and producer of this film, Lou Salloum, explains that this film is a reflective narrative inspired by Matthew 6:6. This short film reminded me of a quote by Richard Powers on Reading in an interview by The Paris Review:

It’s an invisible, sedate, almost inert process. Reading is the last act of secular prayer. Even if you’re reading in an airport, you’re making a womb unto yourself—you’re blocking the end results of information and communication long enough to be in a kind of stationary, meditative aspect.


* Updated on Thanksgiving Day Nov 27, 2014. Lou Salloum was kind enough to offer an English translation.

Think of the things you are thinking about because you are more than just your thoughts. Life is weird, especially when you’re present in someone else’s imagination, thinking it’s the only place one ought to be alive. Find a place, create this place, where you can find yourself. A place where you can know who you are and discover what you could become. A place where you can hear the cry of pain in the beauty of this world, and find hope in the agony of this generation. A place, where you reflect and discover your own heart. Away from everything around you, everyone within you. At first, you may find it hard, but when you do take this quiet time alone, away, something magnificent will happen.

Inspired by Matthew 6:6

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