In this informal presentation I relates our very human attachment to “old things,” to which we attach emotion and meaning–including some of my own personal experiences–and how that is connected broadly to “archaeology”–that is, the scientific exploration of the human material past. Our imagination connects us to the past–places, artifacts, and historical records that all correlate together in a kind of “Time Travel” experience–much like the hit series “Outlander” which millions have binged through.
As I think of “retirement,” or more properly “transition” from student oriented life to my own research and projects—and outreach to a broader mass of “students” or at least comrades along the way, from my tiny corner of the human experience and endeavor, I have this sense of stable drifting and open seas. An overwhelming sense of finitude in our complex world of history, religions, cultures, politics, science, and philosophy. What matters most, is what matters most in my mind—and determining that is an ethical challenge. But the lines of the RLS children’s poem: “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings,” came to mind, and of course “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep…” Hoping to shine on!
I can hardly believe it has been a year. There is nothing I could say that would improve on what I wrote last year, a week after David’s death. I am posting it again here as I want alll of you to know what an extraordiary person he was and especially to enjoy his extraordinary art. Please click on the link:
This story takes place “east of Eden” in the land of Nod. It begins with her stepping out of the bath, water dripping, a large white towel draped tight around her, hugging the fair skin that had grown pink from the hot water. The door of the bath was almost shut; he could not see her but he could he could hear it all, sitting in the next room in his chair reading Koestler’s, Arrow in the Blue, under a dim lamp. It was a lovely familiar march of sequential sounds… First water splashing, the sounds of washing. She made this kind of groaning noise when she was positioned back against the tub and the full feelings of wet and warm had penetrated. Then almost perfect silence for five minutes or so. Then the sudden standing in the tub, with a rush of water again; one foot, and then the other, onto the floor, with sounds of toweling dry, arms and backside, one leg, then the other.
There are a hundred different ways to try and tell a story—or maybe better put—to tell the story. Every writer knows the feeling; those who endlessly edit as well as those who don’t and surely should. We all have that story in us, that singular unfolding narrative of life, of ourlife, that is finally all one has, however multiplied, forgotten, distorted or recast. It remains somehow our single story, felt and experienced, inside and out. In that sense there is really no “fiction” in good fiction—just good and bad, better and best ways of approximation in the telling. Homo sum: humani nil a me alientum puto: I am human; I consider nothing human alien to me (Terentius, 150 B.C.). That is what makes creativity so strange and so frightening, how it comes and goes, in flashes and thrusts of thought, then bouncing around like a ping-pong ball against four walls, directions and angles unpredictable.
But back to the bath. There is no way that he could possibly have known or remotely imagined what was to come. Life is like that. The dim firelight of memory is there looking back, but never forward, not even faintly. Only fears, anticipations, guesses, and longings fill that space, that non-existent every present “becoming.”
There are many speculations as to the origins and meanings of the late 18th century nursery rhyme Rock-a-bye-Baby. Once I became old enough to think about its meaning, its chilling final lines “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, down will come baby, cradle and all” have given me sober pause. I have come to see them as a kind of cipher for unspeakable tragedy.
“I heard the news today oh boy.” Bowie used the line in his 1975 song “Young Americans” and Dylan included it in his tribute to Leon “Roll on John.” It opens that last cut on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For those of us old enough to remember that album’s release in 1967 there is much to think about in those lyrics.
A text message last night at 7:15pm EST shattered our world. One of those unexpected lines out of the blue announced by that familiar ding on our smart phones when a new text arrives. It was from our beloved friends Dave and Patty Tyler:
Our son Daniel Tyler just passed away. We are devastated
Dave and Patty are musicians par excellence. David in addition has a mathematical mind like a steel trap and Patty has a voice that is truly transcendent and beyond this world in power and feeling. She is one of the truest souls I have ever known. I know their hearts are utterly broken and a thousand lines from the music they play, sing, write, and love, and the Scriptures they have built their lives around, are flooding their souls. Such times are especially hard for artists as their souls are tuned to a perspective that is as painful at times as it is insightful. A flurry of texts and a touching call with Dave a bit later filled in a few details. Daniel was on a job in Nebraska. Yesterday he began to feel weak, like something was wrong. He was checked out medically and released, but ended up collapsing and dying later in the day in his hotel room. Dave got a call from the ER with the news.
Of all the pain we humans can experience surely that of losing a child is at the top of the top of any list. But there is no word such as orphan, or widow, or widower. No naming or labeling the pain. As one of our friends put it last night, who has experienced the same, there is simply nothing one can do or say. So I will say no more here but I felt this early morning, waking up at 5:33am, after a tossing night of thinking about the Tylers, I had to at least write this with this touching picture from Patty’s Facebook page of a happier time so that captures her wonderful personality and love as well as that of her dear firstborn son Daniel.