Then Before My Eyes

We are witness to an age that could paralyze us, to people in power who don’t know what they’re doing, to the rise of hatred and intolerance. So here is a countervailing force–music.

Thank you, Brain Pickings, and to Mark Karlins for pointing me here

Here are a couple of stanzas from One Fine Day

Then before my eyes, is standing still

I beheld it there, a city on a hill
I complete my tasks, one by one
I remove my masks, when I am done

Then a peace of mind fell over me —
In these troubled times, I still can see
We can use the stars, to guide the way
It is not that far, the one fine —

One fine day

One Fine Day by David Byrne and Brian Eno

Feels prescient, doesn’t it? In much the way that E.B.White’s Here is New York felt after 9/11:

The subtlest change in New York is something people don’t speak much about but that is in everyone’s mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.

We are none of us writing only for this day, yet all we can know is what’s before our eyes. It has to be enough. We don’t have a choice. We have to hope that, in the fullness of time, at least some of our words might grow into their own sufficiency. For that reason, it behooves us to choose them with care.

Loreena McKennitt on Progress Traps and Her New Album

Loreena-McKennittI fell in love with the music of Loreena McKennitt many years ago, when I first heard the haunting sounds of  The Dark Night of the Soul and her renditions of  The Highwayman and The Lady of Shalott. Ghosts give hope to dead lovers in these poems, and her singing made me feel as if I inhabited some ghostly terrain myself, as if I had always known that those poems would find this music someday.

I kept looking for new work by her–and there hasn’t been any for years! It’s given me hope, in an odd way, because I’m unable to crank out a book a year the way so many talented writers do. The work always seems to take its own time, or else I run the risk of breaking it. Loreena seemed to be telling me it was okay to do things my way, to serve my craft, with ends more complicated and interior than any business model could encompass.

She has much to say in this interview with CBC Radio, about the new album that is really a reflection on the last decade, about her decision to quit Facebook, and about the progress traps referred to by novelist and historian Ronald Wright in his book, A Short History of Progress. It’s the idea that humans have this ability to evolve ourselves into disaster, to take an intriguing idea or a creative process to ends that may be logical but turn out to be terribly destructive. You know, denuding forests, damming rivers, creating the atom bomb. It’s quite a list.

Snippet from an interview with Ronald Wright:

Refugees from earlier failed civilizations could move on to other places and try again. Today, however, civilization is global. This time we cannot flee. As a sign at the Copenhagen summit noted, “There is no Planet B.”

Loreena’s conversation with the CBC host of Q is enriched as well by her eloquent music. For myself, I was most intrigued about an aside she tossed in–about a project under way in India, something to do with the history of cows.

But I can wait. I’m sure it will be something rich and strange and thought-provoking.