02 May 2010

Thinking Parabolically

There must be a connection between 'parable' and parabola. If not, there ought to be. To me they both curve around a hidden center. They reveal indirectly the thing that is weighty.

I have been seeking parable, parabolas, of the spiritual meaning of aging because I am concluding a long sequence opn spirituality through the life cycle. As this is the stage of life I have not yet seen, there is an ignorance I cannot erase. To remedy that I seek out examples of what it could be.

Great names comes to mind like Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter (who with others are part of something called the elders. check them out at http://www.theelders.org/) And there are folks like Monet and Matisse and Martha Graham and Maya Angelou. But we cannot all be former presidents and artists and the like. What could most people use to imagine age in a new, empowered, meaningful, but also realistic way?

Then I thought of the power of parables. Find something indirect, symbolic, even non human. And came to me. Trees.

The best ones are the oldest ones. They combine individuality with society, rootedness with flexibility, and more. In fact, I came to this insight from a great poem found fortuitously in my preparations this week. It's by Howard Nemerov.

Trees

To be a giant and keep quiet about it,
To stay in one's own place;
To stand for the constant presence of process
And always to seem the same;
To be steady as a rock and always trembling,
Having the hard appearance of death
With the soft, fluent nature of growth,
One's Being deceptively armored,
One's Becoming deceptively vulnerable,
To be so tough, and take the light so well,
Freely providing forbidden knowledge
Of so many things about heaven and earth
For which we should otherwise have no word-
Poems or people are rarely so lovely,
And even when they have great qualities
They tend to tell you rather then exemplify
What they believe themselves to be about,
While from the moving silence of trees,
Whether in storm or calm, in leaf and naked,
Night or day, we draw conclusions of our own,
Sustaining and unnoticed as our breath,
And perilous also-though there has never been
A critical tree-about the nature of things.

3 comments:

Paul Oakley said...

Per Merriam Webster Online, the etymology of parable is as follows:

"Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin parabola, from Greek parabolē meaning comparison"

WFW said...

cool. that explains the biblical use, but i wonder how the word came to be applied to an algebraic shape?

Elisa (Nudelman) Winter said...

Would rather be an Ent than an Elve. (Go watch Lord of the Rings again).