A POSSIBLE ETYMOLOGY OF WONDER
It’s been quite some time since I added to these notes, but this morning something clicked in while writing to a dear friend, poet and author Deena Metzger. When I was done writing to her, it occurred to me to post it here for others to read and, who knows?, possibly enjoy. She and I were having a rare visit since I live far north of her digs, and, as we tend to do, the conversation veered toward language and the marvelous possibilities it holds, especially in the realm of the origin of words where, I feel, the extraordinary early intuition of human beings can often be found. I’m posting this, pretty much as written to Deena, but please consider it might also be a letter to you. After all, given that I’m posting it, it is:
And so —
a funny thought jumps in after reconsidering our conversation about the words consider and its dear cousin, considerate, viz: if, as we talked about, the etymology of the word consider does, in fact, imply that to be considerate is to align oneself with, as it were, the stars,
from com meaning “with” + sidus (gen.sideris) meaning “constellation” cf. sidereal,
it could point to two well known phrases that make pre-tty curious buddies, all in all: “not my will, but thy will” and “may the force be with you”.
Now, even as I write these seemingly odd linguistic companions, with, of course, a smile now I see what they are, especially the latter, I am put in mind of how everything tends to bend one a little more and then a little more again toward the earth as we age. A kind of gravitational pull, then. We grow smaller in body and, often, the head seems to more naturally bow. I like this part especially since, as you know, it is my conviction that we could never bow respectfully or in gratitude enough. Call it spiritual aerobics, if you will, but whatever one says, and no matter how anaerobic this gesture may tend to be, I believe it is, as the fitness gurus tell us, ‘good for you’.
Of course, if things go well, this growing smaller in body does not include the largesse of heart’s compassion, or the expansiveness of the mind in one’s consideration of “the great matter of birth-and-death”, as Dogen said, but even one’s shadow makes a less considerable mark on the planet as we continue to move here and there, as and where we can, and I can’t help but feel the benefit of this as well.
When People Ask Me “What’s my sign?” I Often Think “Enter”
I’m no astrologer, as you know. I continue to refuse to know or even pretend to know anything about how this star, that star, or various clusters of stars and planets may or may not affect who and how and what as we go about our daily lives. When I was a boy I was given a glow in the dark Bulova watch with a silver wrist band that held it snugly to me. At night, I’d place it beside my bed where I could reach it and then, with the obsessive repetition of both the lover and the child, reach over in the pitch dark of my bedroom again and again to see the watch face glow. Often I’d feel that I was looking into the heavens at some marvelous planets or stars, and the steady and consistent turning of the so-called second hand made me feel that I was witnessing the wheeling of the planets around the sun. No one, I knew, could convince me that I wasn’t seeing exactly this, though I never spoke of this with anyone lest they come up with that ubiquitous killer of a child’s imagination when in the hands of a well meaning though pedantic adult: information.
I haven’t lost this quality of fascination, by the way, born of knowing very little but what the imagination produces in response to the world before me, and so my refusal to be involved with signs and houses and all of the language of astrology that I’ve heard since the sixties is rooted in my simple desire to be able to look up at the night sky, as I often do, and see the stars shining without the obscuration of knowing a thing about them except that they are marvelous to behold beyond anything I might be able to say about them or pretend to understand. The stubborn insistence of child’s vision, or a poet’s wanting to be careful not to fill his head too close to the top with unneeded data has not damaged me all that much, I believe, so all goes well. [And, if it has, would I know?]
What The Other Foot Says
Now that I’ve made my case against knowing of a certain kind, and I feel it is rock solid with the absolute conviction of a child who knows his paper sailboat can take him around the world, let me speak briefly while standing on the other foot. I love knowing everything about everything I can know about, since it is often the case that I am equally fascinated by the slightest detail in a way no different from my fascination with my beloved Bulova watch. After all, it is often the case that one minor, usually overlooked detail or fact will consume me for days or weeks as it makes its way through the darkness of the imagination until even I can see the glowing seed it has become, that holy causation of an outbreak of poetry which nothing can inoculate against except that other killer of the imagination: lack of attention.
And, to push my cart further down the aisle just a wee bit more before I end, or at least this note does, I feel it is very much my obligation to know what I can as a way of respecting the thingness of things, the process of processes [prounounced pro-cess-sees in my mind] in this never-ending spin of interconnection that gives us the world we live in and, hopefully, tend with a tenderness it deserves and increasingly needs.
And so now I go, knowing not knowing and unknowing into the day with wonder in my heart and love, as always, at the fore. In other words, Good Morning. It’s so good to talk with my friend.
I especially loved the image of the Bulova watch next to you at night. Not to date us too much, I’m sure it was the wind-up kind of watch — not the digital, battery-operated kind.
With its glow in the dark, it probably also made a tick-tick sound, much like a heart beating.
May the glow be with you,