It is Holy Week, Maundy Thursday to be exact, and I am standing in line at Target waiting to pay for Sulfamethoxazole. I have some sort of infection that started in my nose, spread to my sinuses, and, worst, has manifested itself on my hands: little round bumps that itch and fester. They’re disgusting. I’m disgusting. I’m certain that if this were medieval times, I’d be put to death due to my condition.
In last month’s blog, I mentioned that Birdman and Boyhood shared more than the race for the Best Picture Oscar last year. Though the two movies were as different as can be imagined in tone, form, subject matter, pace and just about every other movie-making category, they were unified in pushing to the forefront a philosophy that goes back some fifty years, but seems to be gaining momentum as a philosophy of life: existentialism. I wrote about Boyhood and its thoroughgoing, but hopeful, existentialism, and accused it of cheating since classic existentialism was anything but hopeful because of one single factor: death.
I overlooked a small detail in the Elijah story. It’s right after God’s fire comes down from Heaven in glorious proof that He is God. Right after Jezebel threatens Elijah’s life and he runs away exhausted, ready to be done with all this prophet business. It’s a small and obvious detail I overlooked and it changes the story for me. After an angel feeds him and lets him rest, Elijah travels to a mountain called Horeb. I should get it when it’s described as the mountain of God, but I didn’t realize we’ve been to this mountain before in the Bible story. I thought he went to some random mountain. I didn’t realize Elijah purposely travels to this mountain also called Mt. Sinai—where God’s presence has been before—without food or water for 40 days. He went looking for God. I always thought he was just running away, going where the angel directed him. But his journey is more purposeful. He’s seeking out God’s presence. Maybe hoping God will sweep him up to Heaven on arrival. But going toward God nonetheless.
In late February, on a dreary night, I attended a poetry reading, featuring Mary Szybist and Kevin Young, an unlikely pair. It would have been easier to stay home. After all, it was midweek, pitch-black outside, and wet cold. Yet life’s promise is nothing if not contradictory, for this reading at Wortham Center in downtown Houston provided inspiration enough to carry me, and I daresay many in the audience, out of winter and into spring. Szybist read from Incarnadine, many of its poems focused on the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation. Young’s poetry, from his Book of Hours, reveled in the birth of a son and grieved for the loss of a father. Heaven and earth.