Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The uses of enchantment -- part 3

The front of my earth-covered studio looks out on Dingle Bay through a wall of windows. This morning as I sat down with my coffee, a fox came trotting out of the woods and pranced smartly along the sill. He seemed not to notice my own presence a few feet away behind the glass.

Talk about enchantment! The fox bowled me over with its sleek beauty. But it wasn't just the fox. I wish I had had my camera so you could share what I saw outside the window. The fox. The roses. The montbretia and the willows. The patchwork of green fields reaching away to the sea. The curtain of rain out in the Atlantic. Somehow, the unexpected appearance of the fox brought it all into focus, made me see what had been there to see all along.

It is easy to become blind to the commonplace, to forget the extraordinariness of the ordinary. The fairies have vacated the landscape, but the fox remains -- dragging behind him a myriad of connections that bind him and me into a seamless web.

That is the import of the new story. Nothing is arbitrary. Nothing is independent. Pluck one string of creation and the whole resounds. The fox and I share genes contrived in the depths of time. Our atoms were forged in stars that lived and died before the Earth was born. That we exist at all depends upon what happened in the first nanoseconds of creation.

If there is an ethic to which we should attend, it does not derive from stone tablets brought down from the mountain, but from the connectedness of things. I could ramble on at length about the science of connectedness, but the fox on the windowsill reminds me of another fox, the one that asks to be tamed by Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Little Prince. The Little Prince responds:
"What does that mean -- 'tame'?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."
"'To establish ties'?"
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you will tame me, then we will need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world... [I]f you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."