Monday over Coffee: Louder sing, for every tatter...

Need Some Words of Encouragement?


Louder sing, for every tatter...

 

What has become one of my favorite things to do is interview people in front of other people. Tom Cole is the Director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the UT Health Science Center. He’s a Yale grad, holds both a Masters and a PhD in history, is a documentary filmmaker, and has written a Pulitzer Prize nominated book. His latest book is called Old Man Country: My Search for Meaning among the Elders, in which he shares a series of deep-dive conversations he had with 12 distinguished and famous American men, all over 80 years of age. Between the dialogues, Tom splices in vignettes from his own compelling life and sometimes grief-driven work.

 

Tom is a deeply creative soul and I'm going to talk to him about all of this Tuesday, August 11 at 11:30 AM online at this link. You should definitely listen in. Definitely.

 

In his introduction, Tom quotes Sailing to Byzantium by the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats:

 

An aged man is but a paltry thing

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap and sing, and louder sing 

For every tatter in its mortal dress.

 

This season has been a grind, not just for the oldest among us, but for everyone. At different moments, we seem to be holding on well, at others we're white-knuckling it; then in other moments, we feel pretty shredded, leaving us, as Yeats puts it, in tatters, a tattered coat upon a stick. Both Yeats in his poem and Tom in his book, tell us that to overcome all that life takes from us requires a soul that claps and sings – and, in fact, louder sings for every tatter it deals out.

 

Let's do a little thought exercise: Picture a scale, not a scale you step on to check your weight, but the sort you see when you think of the scales of justice – the kind with two plates or bowls suspended at equal distances from a fulcrum. Got it? Now, in your mind's eye, put the hardships you've faced during the pandemic in one of the plates. What's left you in tatters? Maybe you've lost someone. Maybe, your job. Maybe you're anxious about your health. Maybe you've been picked apart by the vague but exhausting grief of the ongoing loss of experience. Maybe your child was robbed of graduation, prom, or another significant marker of life's passage. Maybe you're anxious about sending a small child to school soon, or a grown one off to college. Maybe you're not able to visit a growing grandchild. Whatever it is, put it all over there on one side of the scale.

 

OK, what's on the other side now? What's going to balance all that out? Or is it just the ka-thunk sound of the heavy side landing. I think we have to do the imaginative work of placing something over there against all that is ripping up our lives right now. Both Yeats and Tom Cole suggest that we'll remain tattered unless we find and lean into what makes each of our souls “clap and sing.”

 

For every blow we receive, for every punch we've taken this year, for every piece of bad news that saps our strength, for every sickness and grief we've absorbed within our aging bodies and spirits, for every tear in our “mortal dress,” we must “louder sing.”

 

An aged man is but a paltry thing

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress.

 

So, what’s available and accessible to you now that makes your “soul clap and sing?” Think about it. Do the imaginative work to balance the scales. Here, I’ll leave a blank for you. __________. Go ahead. Fill it in. Whatever it is, let the second half of 2020 hear it from you. Put your thumb on the scale if you have to. You’re no paltry thing. No tattered coat upon a stick. From the soul. Clap and sing. Then louder sing! 

 

 

God—

The Psalms tell me to clap my hands. The Psalms tell me to shout my God-songs at the top of my lungs. That’s especially hard to do right now because I feel so often in tatters. Help me to push back imaginatively against the day with grace, but also with strength. Help me to strike back against the season with my faith, knowing with me, You’ve made no paltry thing. My soul will clap and sing. Then louder sing for every tatter in its mortal dress. Amen.

—Greg Funderburk 


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