Rime of the Ancient Magi

The Merry Mystic Speaks for the Joy of Being Alive

I was about thirteen years old when I had this little epiphany: I realized that I needed to speak for the joy of being alive. Forty years later, I haven’t made all that much progress! The problem is, I can tell the truth, or I can make sense, but not both at once.

Sermons just don’t seem to work for this.  (Actually, I think the sermon is a highly overrated form of communication!) And rational language in general can be pretty inadequate for the task; “I too am untranslatable,” as Whitman said in Leaves of Grass. Whitman said this as well (this is from With Walt Whitman in Camden, Horace Traubel et. al., p. 56):

After culture has said its last say we find that the best things yet remain to be said: that the heart is still listening to have heart things said to it—the brain still listening to have brain things said to it—the faith, the spirit, the soul of man waiting to have such things of faith, spirit, the soul, said to it. Books won’t say what we must have said: try all that books may they can’t say it.

I dare say I’m not the first to experience the compulsion to say what can’t be said.  Here’s a poem about it.  (Poetry helps—a little!)

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8 thoughts on “Rime of the Ancient Magi

    • Thanks, Katie. When I was a boy, Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” inspired me to think that I could maybe write some music too. “How far? How far, my crystal star?”

  1. THANK YOU. I am, right now, working on a three week Bible study about the nativity story, or, really the nativity stories in their divergence and harmony and you have given me exactly what I need for the final session when we get to John’s gospel. So perhaps we will use this excerpt from the Gospel According to Adam. Thank you for these Tidings of Great Joy.

    • That sounds cool — I wish I could sit in. I think some of the infancy gospels are fascinating, too: the Infancy Gospels of James and Thomas, and Pseudo-Matthew, and the Arabic Infancy Gospel.