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Friday
Mar082013

The Quietest Sounds

Two feet of snow has a way of domesticating the populace. Only now are people venturing out to the task of errand-running. Finding myself out with hopes of having my hair trimmed, I sat waiting across the room from a mother soothingly humming to calm her small child. Her songs choices included the well familiar tunes of Pour Some Sugar On Me and Hey Ya!, reassuring her little child with the familiar folk songs of our time. Melodies sung to the next generation encompassing famous times of yore. Needless to say, the child was soothed and we all enjoyed our wait in peace, undisturbed by a child's exuberance (music from the overhead speakers continuing to supply comfortable noise to the untrimmed assembly).

The snow was beginning to melt, and obviously the audible drone had begun again. For, this snowy imposition, along with stopping errand traffic, lends its wonderful dampening affect to the hum of musical and non-musical modern noises. Although possibly just a white, fluffy supplementing happenstance, I had already been enamored lately with just these hidden, quietest of sounds close about me and the snow only added to the wonder: my feet on the creaking wood floor, setting down a cup, rubbing my hand across my chinny-chin-chin, etc.

It all began when wearing headphones (coincidentally) between songs. All the sounds of movements (rustling of my shirt and my breathing in and out) were amplified in my ears and I was reminded of the crystal clear natural "movement sounds" in Masterpiece Theater films like Bleak House or the movie Lincoln. In the quietness of the solitary individual footsteps, creaks, fingers tapping on a desk, a ticking clock, the shrug of a shoulder, and the crunch of snow under foot, life is given a natural clarity. The amplification of quiet sounds adds such a poignancy to the story portrayal. Though amplified for our pleasure in films, they are no less loud in reality if we can only get rid of all the other noise to enjoy them. This theme was one of the aspects that I enjoyed most from my brother R.E. Tippin's notes on his time at a monastery. His description moved like a fairy tale upon my mind as he painted the simple scene of the sounds at the dinner table!

The delight of my heart as of encountering fairyland in Eric's portrayal and my own quiet moments is rooted in an ancient magic. This interaction to make little sounds gives me strangely new understanding of being alive and awareness of the brevity of life on earth. Many have come before, even just short years ago, who can no longer make any kind of sound or have the slightest affect on the physical world as I can at this moment. These fingers of mine, whose atoms were spoken into existence brief years ago, freely go on tapping out a rhythm on my knee. But the opportunity won't last long for me either and I will be dead below the ground if the LORD tarries. We wait, with those who have fallen asleep, for the resurrection with physicality. In this we will follow our LORD as His resurrected body would have caused the snapping of sticks in making a fire while his feet quietly trod on the seaside. He will make all things new to relieve the groans of the earth, but His power and wisdom even now are made ever clearer as my walking stick taps the path and makes a small sound ring forth. Life has sound effects!

Although I could stop right here, I would be doing a dis-service to the quiet genre ever fighting the background music of our time. For, there is not just one but two types of quiet sounds: the subtle ones mentioned above and the ones which are only quiet because of the distance from their source!

Pervasive and permeating indeed is the modern hum! However, the source of this constant sound is quieter than the historical equivalent because it is ever near: ten short feet to the store speakers, an arms length to the car radio, and physical intimacy with headphones. In days of old (as noted in the passage London Bells and London Cars) this was not the case. The source of the music and songs were more scarce and therefore had to be louder at their source to have any kind of reach. For this reason, the music of the church bell rang clear at a distance but with alarming power and vibration in its very presence.

The hymns of the bells from the steeples have informed generations quietly from a distance as daily work was performed. The impact could gain its full voice, however, the closer one came to the source. The weekly gathering of the body at the very center to once again tune hearts to sing His praise, to regain right thinking before the Father who calls us while we were yet sinners going our own way upon the hills! In the days of now, chimes are ever nearer, yet with my ear smashed all the way against the speaker grill I do not come any closer to the music of the spheres.

The reminder must be noted then that even in these weekly moments of relative boisterous sound as we gather together with the body are only hushed whispers across time relative to the day the voices grow into the roar of the multitude as the throng of those robed in white by the blood of the lamb, the song of life becoming overpowering in the beauty of its Theme, draws near the throne. For here is the Source of all music, ruling with utter power and majesty. Although the bells of this music now only just reach our hearts over the distance, these soft pure tones are enough because we know the Source!

So, we are left with these two quiet sounds: the softness of the now and the softness of the melody in the distance!

LORD, tune my heart to sing your praise,
Your distant bells ringing in the vale of days.

Phillip Tippin
A few days ago
Roeland Park, KS

Tuesday
Mar052013

The Return of the Native

 

       On the recommendation of Gear Patrol’s list of “100 Best Books for Men: The Definitive Men’s Library” I recently read (just finished it today) The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, the Victorian novelist and poet. I knew it was a classic, and I had a vague idea of a story about an Indian brave who escapes to the city but in the end learns the value of tribal living; boy was I wrong. It is a flowing third person narrative about country folks living on a rural heath in Eighteenth Century England. I mention the third person aspect of the book because Hardy brilliantly utilizes that voice in creative ways unknown to most books. The only other time I have been floored by 3rd person omniscient storytelling is in one of the Master and Commander books by Patricky O’Brien. In the book, Captain Jack Aubrey and a woman are fox hunting (on horses of course); suddenly, as they are about to jump a hedge the perspective changes to that of the horse Captain Aubrey is riding. Hardy is no less creative with his omniscient narration power.

      He considered himself a poet and it shows in his prose. Here there is no Hemmigway choppy brevity, but lovely colorful accounts of landscapes, weather, people and events. He delves into psychology, but avoids spending the entire story in the brains of his characters as many modern novels do. It isn’t too long, and the story is riveting, sad but morally astute and correct. It is a masterpiece of Victorian literature and worth the read.

 

R. Eric Tippin
On Victoria Road, Newton, KS
March 5, 2013 

Monday
Mar042013

Adlestrop

Adlestrop

Yes, I remember Adlestrop -- 
The name, because one afternoon 
Of heat the express-train drew up there 
Unwontedly. It was late June. 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. 
No one left and no one came 
On the bare platform. What I saw 
Was Adlestrop -- only the name 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass, 
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, 
No whit less still and lonely fair 
Than the high cloudlets in the sky. 

And for that minute a blackbird sang 
Close by, and round him, mistier, 
Farther and farther, all the birds 
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. 

 

--Edward Thomas, 1878-1917 (died in the Great War)

\

Picture: Peter Higginbotham

Saturday
Feb232013

London Bells, London Cars

 

          I have been reading Peter Ackroyd’s, London: A Biography when I have the time—on the treadmill, between trays at work, in bed, in the pre-dawn darkness of my kitchen as I eat my breakfast and one time—almost—during church announcement time. One day while reading I came across this sad little passage:

“In 1994 the Meteorological Office reported that, before the sound of motorcars entered the already crowded streets, the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside “would have been audible all over London.”. . . Citizens used to bet which parish could make its bells heard at the greatest distance and it was said that bell-ringing was a salutary way of keeping warm in winter. It was sometimes surmised that at the Last Judgement the angels would peal the bells of London, rather than sound their trumpets, in order to convince the citizens that the day of doom had truly arrived. The bells were part of the sound and texture of its life. When the protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984 recalls the famous song with its mention of St. Clement’s and St. Martin’s, Bow and Shoreditch, he seems to “hear the bells of a lost London that still existed somewhere or other, disguised and forgotten.[1]

           My grandparents, on their first date in 1945, watched a film called “The Bells of Saint Mary’s” staring Bing Crosby as a priest and the Catholic church as its regal self. It’s sad to think, if they had decided to go see the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, London instead, they may not have heard them for all their looking.

           I like cars. I drive cars. I support the increase of cars (if the market will have it that way). Cars are imminently practical for anyone living in the Midwestern United States, but it is sort of tragic that they have drown out the bells of London.

          We’ve all heard the story of Sir Edward Gray staring out the window of the Foreign Office in London, at dusk, on August 3, 1914—the eve of The Great War—and saying sadly to a friend, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” He forgot the bells! For that was they time they too were dying out, and have hardly been heard of since.

 

R. Eric Tippin
The Study on 8th Street
February 23, 2013

Photo:
Tottenham Court Road, London c. 1908
http://www.peterberthoud.co.uk/


[1] Ackroyd, Peter (2009-12-23). London: A Biography (Kindle Locations 1080-1088). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Monday
Feb182013

Unweeded Garden

            As the days begin to lengthen and shades of green are added to the dull browns of winter, an excitement annually kindles in my spirit. From my earliest days, spring has always pricked my green thumb and inspired attempts to raise assortments of vegetables. When I was a young boy, I would race to my older brother’s garden and implore them to allow my miniature hands to assist them in their endeavors. I especially enjoyed the planting process; I would till the small portion of the garden assigned to me, and enthusiastically place the seeds within the dark soil. The hope and anticipation was tangible in the twinkle of my eyes and the spring in my step.

            Unfortunately, the excitement of planting was soon replaced by the monotony of maintaining the vegetable sprouts. I remember showing an impressive aptitude of neither being seen or heard when my brothers wanted to weed or water the garden. While my disappearing act proved quite useful when my brothers were overseeing the garden, it became a real problem when I became the primary caretaker of the family garden. I remember the compliments from my father and brothers upon my preparations and planting of the garden; these were soon contrasted by the displeasure and disappointment they communicated upon my lack of diligence in maintaining the rows of vegetables.

            After enduring a short reprimand from my father, I remember vividly plodding to the garden, dragging my hoe pathetically behind me. Upon arriving, my disdain morphed into despair. Where rows of sweet corn, beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables had once lined the garden, a convoluted tangle of vegetation lay before my little feet. As I slowly advanced through the foliage, I occasionally glimpsed a vegetable plant among the leaves and stalks of the weeds. After muttering under my breath and looking longingly toward my bike, I began to tackles the arduous task of reclaiming the soil from the army of invading weeds. Soon, I realized how difficult distinguishing between the vegetable plants and weeds could be. Various types of plants reflecting numerous shades of green muddled my mind, and I found myself occasionally destroying stalks of sweet corn or vines of cucumbers. Differentiating the nutritious vegetation from the multitude of botanic imposters was painstaking; it was a lengthy, scorching afternoon.

             As I reflect back on my childhood gardening escapades, I cannot help but notice similar principles in my adult life. Life is very much like an unweeded garden as Shakespeare says through his most famous character, Hamlet. Weeding my personal garden on a regular basis is vital for nutritious vegetation to thrive in my life. The rank weeds of falsehood slither up and entangle with one another between the rows of my marriage, career, and faith. Left unabated, they begin to blur my sense of what is wholesome and good, muddling my mind as the tangle of weeds once did to me as a child. As I unwittingly struck down the stalks of sweet corn concealed within the woven weeds, so also do I unknowingly attack the stalk of morality and the vine of truth in the garden of life.

             After being reprimanded by my father, I painstakingly had to remove the weeds from the garden without damaging the vegetable plants; likewise, weeding my life garden can be incredibly meticulous and frustrating. In order to make progress I must first obtain the ability to determine the identity of nourishing botany from water sucking vegetation. Failing to become knowledgeable of the truth will ultimately cause damage to the very morals and values Christians attempt to safeguard. Simply plowing into the problem blindly is a recipe for pain and disappointment.

            Eventually, I reclaimed the garden as a boy and continued to maintain its many rows of vegetables until harvest. Upon removing the weeds, I learned that weeding was much easier when the vegetable plants were easily identified. Never again did I allow the weeds to overrun the garden; never again did I have such a difficult time of removing the weeds. Life can be an unweeded garden, but we must continually maintain the truths of God’s Word by removing the falsehoods that tangle their way into our lives.   

 

Stuart Busenitz
At a Palatial Country Estate
February 17, 2013 

Painting:
"A Country Garden"
Oil on Canvas, 1892
Thomas James Lloyd