Reflection Crashing into Dawn

My Morning Struggle

One of the most powerful opening lines in film is from the movie Crash:

It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In [our Modern World], nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.  [1]

Here the narrator targets automobiles (metal and glass) as being to blame for the rift that has formed within human interaction. Nowadays people don't walk they drive, and in doing so probable opportunities for genuine interaction are reduced to obligatory hand waves -general acknowledgments directed toward people that we don't really know. Our capacity for Being Known ourselves is diminished by the walls we have constructed. Inside our metal chariots we focus only on our expectation of swift travel; sounds and fragrances from the outside world cannot reach inside our transparent encasements. In this same way our homes (brick and stone) are capable of the same kind of depravity. The seasons of the year are abolished. The early light of spring mornings is held off by our window shades, the quickened twilight of winter is circumvented by the flip of a light switch, and the climate within our little worlds are kept at very specific temperatures; held within a limited range of comfortable degrees.

Regardless of the amount sleep I get I am not what you would call a "morning person". The only pleasant mornings that I can remember are from a time when my responsibilities were few and I could achieve a full ten hours of un-interrupted sleep. I would awaken when my eyelids became weightless and the early-afternoon sun remained hidden behind a thick curtain. I have always thought the alarm clock to be a cruel invention, it's design is a blatantly specific one, providing an abrupt shove into the next day (breaking the threshold that separates the night from the morning.) I realize now that my sentiments toward alarm clocks have been a bit harsh, after all they are no longer to blame for my morning struggle. I am reminded that all things are indeed relative!

These days early morning cries frighten me awake, stealing my last breath of sleep. The cries come from two different sources, either from my son who is confined to his room at the end of the hall or from my daughter who remains ensnared in her crib in the room just adjacent to mine. The thresholds of their mornings have also been shattered. They have woken with realizations that a new day has already begun without them and their longings for human contact cascade down a short hallway at an unknown hour. I sleep deeply in the hours leading up to dawn, it is rare that I even stir when my wife makes her way down the stairs and off to work. I remain in my slumber until suddenly I do not. Often the shriek of my daughter wakes my son, then my eyes dart open and I gasp (a futile effort to catch the breath that had escaped me.) Through the fog in my eyes I examine the red, digital sequence of numbers that alert me to the labor of a new day. I receive my children as delicately as I am able... making my way toward the door of the one wailing loudest.

Today was a rare occurrence however. My transition between sleep and wakefulness remained a graceful threshold. My day appeared as a welcome gift as my alarm clock chimed in my ear, and I was able to reach over and silence it and then lay there three to four minutes instead of reactively leaping out of bed to investigate the source of a cry. It is strange to me that the sound of this unnatural electronic device now rings blessing into my ear, alerting me to the gift of a couple extra minutes to make the voyage to the light side of my soul. This morning I became aware that within a few minutes sunlight would slowly gather around the edges of the window shades, shades that were pulled down tight.

I have considered at times leaving the window shades up. Perhaps if my nights were not extended by extra hours of work or the inability to reach sleep I would let the light in. After all, Light Is Generous - as John O'Donohue states in the opening pages of Anam Cara:

If you ever had the occasion to be out early in the morning before the dawn breaks, you will have noticed that the darkest time of night is immediately before dawn. The darkness deepens and becomes more anonymous. If you had never been to the world and never known what a day was, you couldn't possibly imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrive. Light is incredibly generous, but also gentle. When you attend to the way the dawn comes, you learn how light can coax the dark. The first fingers of light appear on the horizon, and ever so deftly and gradually, they pull the mantle of darkness away from the world. Quietly before you is the mystery of a new dawn, the new day.  [2]

On the one or two days a year when I make the time to go camping the walls and shades have been removed from the scene and a splendid alternative is revealed. I feel like a morning person; I awaken gradually... just as a soft light graces the horizon. The chirping of song birds embroiders a natural threshold that offers me deep restoration. I think there is peace to be found in "natural thresholds" such as the dawn. These thresholds allow the shape of our day to become smooth, for each portion to move fluently into the next and fit together seamlessly (like the scenes of a movie). Integrating our thoughts at the end of such days is rendered an effortless task in the presence of such gentle transitions. I have recently begun to wonder if I am to blame for the daily collisions that occur at the onset of my mornings. That is: "Perhaps it is not the responsibility of the morning to suit my life, but rather it should be the desire of my life to suit the morning."

The film Crash does a profound job of illustrating the hurt and pain that we cause to one another by building up barriers of prejudice. The walls that we construct only hinder us from experiencing the potential beauty that lays dormant within our daily interactions. Through our hard shells we lose the ability to be touched/to feel. Just as the people that we encounter have the capacity to touch us if we allow them to... so do the elements of the natural world. We as a culture have strong-armed the natural world into serving our agendas and have forgotten how to just 'be'. Realizing that this next statement will sound a bit "earthy", the technological advancements that serve our lives of luxury have the keen ability to subdue the voice that lies deep within us. We have forgotten that the experience of raw natural beauty is essential to understanding the clay that forms us.

John O'Donohue continues:

It is one of the tragedies of modern culture that we have lost touch with these primal thresholds of nature. The urbanization of modern life has succeeded in exiling us from this fecund kinship with our mother earth. Fashioned from the earth, we are souls in clay form. We need to remain in rhythm with our inner clay voice and longing. Yet this voice is no longer audible in the modern would. We are not even aware of our loss, consequently, the pain of our spiritual exile is more intense in being largely unintelligible.  [3]

At night the lights of our houses come on. Lights that do not arrive gracefully. At the flip of a switch a smoke stack somewhere feeds a harnessed electric fire that throws our world out of balance. The darkness and soft flickering flames that used to embrace us so warmly have been drenched in a harsh, artificial glare of light. We sit alone, with our thoughts crowded out. The noise and images that emerge from our electronic devices drown-out the words that the day has spoken to us. And after the lights have been turned out our walls and window shades keep us hidden from the natural light of dawn... until we rush through the door (back into the Modern World) at a time of our own choosing. In attempt to put lyrical expression to the issues that plague our Modern World: Buildings continue to stretch higher-and-higher, how long and large are the shadows they create and how is the light ever to reach our human-clay?

How are we to rediscover the natural rhythm that lives deep within us? The solution is one. Our Modern World is in a hurry. Slow down... everyone. Receive the natural world.

[1] Crash, Written and Directed By Paul Haggis, 2004 (Film), braces: Mine

[2] Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, Written By John O'Donohue, 1997

[3] (quote continued) Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, Written By John O'Donohue, 1997

Bill Hudson   # August 20, 2013

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