Maybe it's stress or anger or adrenaline or disillusionment or a bullying nature or simple fear of getting killed themselves, but there is a problem if a cop cannot tell the difference between a menacing gangster and the far more common person they encounter whose life is a little frayed and messy.
One of my many horrors is to become the man with the frayed jacket and unfastened flies standing at the Co-op counter with egg on his shirt and more too because the mirror in the hall has given up the ghost. A shipwrecked man without an anchor in the world except in his own liquid thoughts where time has lost its sequence.
To his lasting credit, President Reagan never wavered. He recognized the strategic importance of staying the course, both in terms of denying Moscow the military hegemony it sought in Western Europe and of restoring the will, cohesiveness, and security of the NATO alliance, so badly frayed during the turbulent 1970s.
O America, I am your Liberty, and you are that huddled mass yearning to breathe free. I am your Lighthouse, the One beaconing [yea, beckoning], and you are that wayfarer-strayed, grayed, and frayed ... Now, return, you tempest-tost; lift up your gaze to the lighted torch aloft the golden door and come home.
I often feel an aversion, even disgust at the same words written and spoken over and over - at the same expressions, phrases, and metaphors repeated. And the worst is, when I listen to myself I have to admit that I too endlessly repeat the same things. They're so horribly frayed and threadbare, these words, worn out by constant overuse. Do they still have any meaning?
Maria Edgeworth grumbled against vandals who ruined immortal works by quoting the life out of them. "How far our literature may in future suffer from these blighting swarms, will best be conceived by a glance at what they have already withered and blasted of the favourite productions of our most popular poets." Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden, scissored, patched, and frayed.
I have always been inspired by the dream of America-families in the country, weathered trucks and farmhouses; sailing off the coast of Maine; following dirt roads in an old wood-paneled station wagon; a convertible filled with young college kids sporting crew cuts and sweatshirts and frayed sneakers.
And if you're going to criticize me for not finishing the whole thing and tying it up in a bow for you, why, do us both a favor and write your own damn book, only have the decency to call it a romance instead of a history, because history's got no bows on it, only frayed ends of ribbons and knots that can't be untied. It ain't a pretty package, but then it's not your birthday that I know of so I'm under no obligation to give you a gift.
Orson Scott Card
I grow old though pleased with my memories The tasks I can no longer complete Are balanced by the love of the tasks gone past I offer no apology only this plea: When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt That I might keep some child warm And some old person with no one else to talk to Will hear my whispers And cuddle near
It was her favorite story, that she remembers, but she would be hard-pressed to retell it now, faithfully, as it had been told to her. All she could recall were frayed, sleep-watered images of a forgotten castle in the middle of a wild forest, stone statues, crimson roses, and a dark, animal presence never seen, but which stained her memory of the tale, even past its edges to the daylight after.
Imagine that the universe is a great spinning engine. You want to stay near the core of the thing - right in the hub of the wheel - not out at the edges where all the wild whirling takes place, where you can get frayed and crazy. The hub of calmness - that's your heart. That's where God lives within you. So stop looking for answers in the world. Just keep coming back to that center and you'll always find peace.
Is this what it's like, I thought then, and think now: a little blood here, a chomp there, and still we live, trampling the grass? Must everything whole be nibbled? Here was a new light on the intricate texture of things in the world, the actual plot of the present moment in time after the fall: the ways we living are nibbled and nibbling- not held aloft on a cloud in the air but bumbling pitted and scarred and broken through a frayed and beautiful land.
Slowly, he lifts the flashlight. Her shorts are torn and frayed, her shirt ripped from chest to naval, exposing her black bra and dirty stomach. And then he raises the light so it reflects off her face, off the crimson tears streaming from the girl's eyes. Her boney hands fly up to protect her face, and her head tilts sharply as she hisses.
As anyone who has received or dispensed psychotherapy knows, it's a profession whose mainspring is love. Nearly everyone who visits a therapist has a love disorder of one sort or another, and each has a story to tell - of love lost or denied, love twisted or betrayed, love perverted or shackled to violence. Broken attachments litter the office floors like pick-up sticks. People appear with frayed seams and spilling pockets.
I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...
Children who are decked with prince's robes and who have jeweled chains round their necks lose all pleasure in play; their dress hampers them at every step. In fear that it may be frayed, or stained with dust, they keep themselves from the world and are afraid ever to move. Mother, it is no gain, thy bondage of finery, if it keep one shut off from the healthful dust of the earth, if it rob one of the right of entrance to the great fair of common human life.
I am not good at noticing when I'm happy, except in retrospect. My gift, or fatal flaw, is for nostalgia. I have sometimes been accused of demanding perfection, of rejecting heart's desires as soon as I get close enough that the mysterious impressionistic gloss disperses into plain solid dots, but the truth is less simplistic than that. I know very well that perfection is made up of frayed, off-struck mundanities. I suppose you could say my real weakness is a kind of long-sightedness: usually it is only at a distance, and much too late, that I can see the pattern.
It was a strange feeling going into a church I did not know for a service that I did not really believe in, but once inside I couldn't help a feeling of warmth and security. Outside there were wars and road accidents and murders, striptease clubs and battered babies and frayed tempers and unhappy marriages and people contemplating suicide and bad jokes, but once in St. Martin's there was peace. Surely people go to church not to involve themselves in the world's problems but to escape from them.
Every year, in the deep midwinter, there descends upon this world a terrible fortnight. ... every shop is a choked mass of humanity ... nerves are jangled and frayed, purses emptied to no purposes, all amusements and all occupations suspended in favor of frightful businesses with brown paper, string, letters, cards, stamps, and crammed post offices. This period is doubtless a foretaste of whatever purgatory lies in store for human creatures.
Love was a sacred garment, woven of a fabric so thin that it could not be seen, yet so strong that even mighty death could not tear it, a garment that could not be frayed by use, that brought warmth into what would otherwise be an intolerable, cold world- but at times love could also be as heavy as chain mail. Bearing the burden of love, on those occasions when it was a solemn weight, made it more precious when, in better times, it caught the wind in sleeves like wings, and lifted you.
History isn't like that. History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved in a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always - eventually - manages to spring back into its old familar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It's been around a long time.
Great cycles of history began with vigorous cultures awakening to the needs of children, but collapsing with frayed family ties. Have we failed to learn lessons which Ancient China, Greece and Rome learned too late - about day care and death houses for old folks? Do we without protest accept accelerating preschool and nursing home cultures which warn ominously that the earlier you institutionalize your child, the earlier he will institutionalize you!
Raymond S. Moore
Forever' by Logan Keeley October 18, 20xx Lying beside me in the failure of flesh, You wait for the words that will let your mind rest, But I've already left you-I'm inside this song, I'm chasing the rhythms that split right from wrong, Forming chords on your shoulder, tracing notes on your hips, I can't hear your thoughts as they fall from your lips, and Every day I give away A piece of me all torn and frayed- What I can't keep, I sell for cheap, Til nothing's left for you and me- Chorus: How can so much love feel like nothing at all? How can so much nothing leave me dying to crawl To the foot of your bed, I should be with you-instead, I walk away, stumbling, waiting, always waiting to fall. When you look in my eyes, can you see I'm not there, Just skin over bones and this flesh that I bear, And there's no room for you, and you know I can never Get out of myself, get over myself, For even one moment, much less for forever. They all take their shares and they all think they see This stranger inside who pretends to be me. They're a roomful of mirrors in this funhouse of fame, I shrink and I grow, I am wild, I am tame, But when I stand before you, I can pause, I can heal, Because you make me matter-you make me real. Every day they took away A piece of me all torn and frayed- What I couldn't keep, I sold for cheap, So now what's left for you and me? How can so much love feel like nothing at all? How can so much nothing leave me dying to crawl To the foot of your bed, I should be with you-instead, I walk away, stumbling, waiting, always waiting to fall. So I close my eyes, fill my hands with your hair, It's your skin and your bones and your flesh that I bear, If I could be part of you, if we could come together I could find myself, I could lose myself, Just for one moment, or maybe forever. They always say that nothing lasts forever Well, can this nothing last forever Now? When you look in my eyes, and this time I'm there, More than skin over bones and this flesh that we bare, When I'm getting worse, when you make me better, We'll find ourselves, we'll lose ourselves, We'll take this one moment... and make it forever.
The same sensitivity that opens artists to Being also makes them vulnerable to the dark powers of non-Being. It is no accident that many creative people-including Dante, Pascal, Goethe, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Beethoven, Rilke, Blake, and Van Gogh-struggled with depression, anxiety, and despair. They paid a heavy price to wrest their gifts from the clutches of non-Being. But this is what true artists do: they make their own frayed lives the cable for the surges of power generated in the creative force fields of Being and non-Being. (Beyond Religion, p. 124)
David N. Elkins
I love you." Why it worked right then, why the webbing of my godmother's spell frayed as though the words had been an open flame, I don't know. I haven't found any explanation for it. There aren't any magical words, really. The words just hold the magic. They give it a shape and a form, they make it useful, describe the images within. I'll say this, though: Some words have a power that has nothing to do with supernatural forces. They resound in the heart and mind, they live long after the sounds of them have died away, they echo in the heart and the soul. They have power, and that power is very real. Those three words are good ones.
These Moments Cascade Upon One Another "Here at shepherd's dusk, in a valley without echo, I listen for you. With a frayed longing, I hear your shadow voice whispering within me from far away. I grasp at what is left of this husky sun lying golden upon the upper meadows of lodge pole and bear grass. I gather the last remnants of the evening's breeze, so cool and lazy within my arms, feeling it curl up like a small and innocent kitten. And I see that behind a cloak of clouds, dalliance suits the canting moon. Suddenly I do not wish to lose another moment, And I covet all pristine light.
There are times when every act, no matter how private or unconscious, becomes political. Whom you live with, how you wear your hair, whether you marry, whether you insist that your child take piano lessons, what are the brand names on your shelf; all these become political decisions. At other times, no act-no campaign or tract, statement or rampage-has any political charge at all. People with the least sense of which times are, and which are not, political are usually most avid about politics. At six one morning, Will went out in jeans and a frayed sweater to buy a quart of milk. A tourist bus went by. The megaphone was directed at him. "There's one, " it said. That was in the 1960's. Ever since, he's wondered. There's one what?
I carry my adornments on my soul. I do not dress up like a popinjay; But inwardly, I keep my daintiness. I do not bear with me, by any chance, An insult not yet washed away- a conscience Yellow with unpurged bile- an honor frayed To rags, a set of scruples badly worn. I go caparisoned in gems unseen, Trailing white plumes of freedom, garlanded With my good name- no figure of a man, But a soul clothed in shining armor, hung With deeds for decorations, twirling- thus- A bristling wit, and swinging at my side Courage, and on the stones of this old town Making the sharp truth ring, like golden spurs!
The American flag doesn't give her glory on a peaceful, calm day. It's when the winds pick up and become boisterous, do we see her strength. When she unfolds her hand, and shows her frayed fingers, where we see the stretch of red-blood lines of man that fought for this land. The purity of white stripes that strips our sins, and the stars of Abraham's covenant, broad in a midnight blue sky. The rights our forefathers established. As it waves high in the currents of freedom, where the Torch of Liberty shines over the sea, does she give meaning to unity. When we strive as one nation, or when it drops half-mast, to a fallen soldier.
The fact is,' said Van Gogh, 'the fact is that we are painters in real life, and the important thing is to breathe as hard as ever we can breathe.' So I breathe. I breathe at the open window above my desk, and a moist fragrance assails me from the gnawed leaves of the growing mock orange. This air is as intricate as the light that filters through forested mountain ridges and into my kitchen window; this sweet air is the breath of leafy lungs more rotted than mine; it has sifted through the serrations of many teeth. I have to love these tatters. And I must confess that the thought of this old yard breathing alone in the dark turns my mind to something else. I cannot in all honesty call the world old when I've seen it new. On the other hand, neither will honesty permit me suddenly to invoke certain experiences of newness and beauty as binding, sweeping away all knowledge. But I am thinking now of the tree with the lights in it, the cedar in the yard by the creek I saw transfigured. That the world is old and frayed is no surprise; that the world could ever become new and whole beyond uncertainty was, and is, such a surprise that I find myself referring all subsequent kinds of knowledge to it. And it suddenly occurs to me to wonder: were the twigs of the cedar I saw really bloated with galls? They probably were; they almost surely were. I have seen these 'cedar apples' swell from that cedar's green before and since: reddish gray, rank, malignant. All right then. But knowledge does not vanquish mystery, or obscure its distant lights. I still now and will tomorrow steer by what happened that day, when some undeniably new spirit roared down the air, bowled me over, and turned on the lights. I stood on grass like air, air like lightning coursed in my blood, floated my bones, swam in my teeth. I've been there, seen it, been done by it. I know what happened to the cedar tree, I saw the cells in the cedar tree pulse charged like wings beating praise. Now, it would be too facile to pull everything out of the hat and say that mystery vanquishes knowledge. Although my vision of the world of the spirit would not be altered a jot if the cedar had been purulent with galls, those galls actually do matter to my understanding of this world. Can I say then that corruption is one of beauty's deep-blue speckles, that the frayed and nibbled fringe of the world is a tallith, a prayer shawl, the intricate garment of beauty? It is very tempting, but I cannot. But I can, however, affirm that corruption is not beauty's very heart and I can I think call the vision of the cedar and the knowledge of these wormy quarryings twin fjords cutting into the granite cliffs of mystery and say the new is always present simultaneously with the old, however hidden. The tree with the lights in it does not go out; that light still shines on an old world, now feebly, now bright. I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down.
I was also one of those people who hadn't caught up with the latest social networking site. Maura belonged to most of them. She passed most evenings befriending men who had tried to date-rape her in high school, but I was still stuck in the last virtual community, a sad place to be, like Europe, say, during the Black Death. Whenever I cruised this site, with its favorites lists and its paeans to somebody's cousin's gas station art gallery, I could not help but think of medieval corpses in the spring-thaw mud, buboes sprouted in every armpit and anus, black bile curling out of frozen mouths. Those of us still cursed with life wandered the blasted dales of this stricken network, wept and moaned and flogged ourselves with frayed AC adaptors, called out for God to strike us dead, or else let us find somebody who liked similar bands.
My vision of the gathered church that had come to me... had been replaced by a vision of the gathered community. What I saw now was the community imperfect and irresolute but held together by the frayed and always fraying, incomplete and yet ever-holding bonds of the various sorts of affection. There had maybe never been anybody who had not been loved by somebody, who had been loved by somebody else, and so on and on... It was a community always disappointed in itself, disappointing its members, always trying to contain its divisions and gentle its meanness, always failing and yet always preserving a sort of will toward goodwill. I knew that, in the midst of all the ignorance and error, this was a membership; it was the membership of Port William and of no other place on earth. My vision gathered the community as it never has been and never will be gathered in this world of time, for the community must always be marred by members who are indifferent to it or against it, who are nonetheless its members and maybe nonetheless essential to it. And yet I saw them all as somehow perfected, beyond time, by one another's love, compassion, and forgiveness, as it is said we may be perfected by grace.
He had on - oh wow, he was wearing that outfit again. The one he'd lost in the prison. 'Hang about, ' Sam managed.'How'd you get -' 'I made a little side trip, ' said the Doctor. 'There's a tailor in Neo Sydney who was more than happy to make these up for me.' Now she was close enough to touch, she could see it wasn't the same - every last detail of the design was right, but so much more care and workmanship had gone into this outfit than the original. She ran her hands over the fabric: that coat was real velvet, not costume shop velveteen, and the cravat had the softness of real silk. Instead of the hasty costume stitching, which frayed badly even under normal wear (much less Doctor wear), these seams were reinforced, built to last. These clothes were meant to be worn for real. She looked up at him, still grinning. Only he would get an expensive tailor to use authentic period materials to re create a fancy dress outfit. And all so it could be worn by a man who wasn't from the same century, or even the same planet.
The name Mary Jo Quinn was written neatly in faded blue marker on the front of the scrapbook, its gray edges frayed with age and wear, as though it had been handled often. Such a memento was a strange thing to find in a used bookstore, especially when one considered its contents. I'd discovered the handmade tome buried on the bottom shelf on the back wall of a little musty-smelling shop in the tiny resort town of Copper Harbor. This picturesque community is the gateway to Isle Royale National Park, an island in the western quarter of Lake Superior that beckoned to hikers, kayakers and canoers. Copper Harbor is the northern-most bastion of civilization in Michigan on a crooked finger of land called the Keweenaw Peninsula. Its remote, pristine shoreline provided an excellent respite from a hellacious year for my best friend from high school and me on a late September weekend.
All at once, something wonderful happened, although at first, it seemed perfectly ordinary. A female goldfinch suddenly hove into view. She lighted weightlessly on the head of a bankside purple thistle and began emptying the seedcase, sowing the air with down. The lighted frame of my window filled. The down rose and spread in all directions, wafting over the dam's waterfall and wavering between the tulip trunks and into the meadow. It vaulted towards the orchard in a puff; it hovered over the ripening pawpaw fruit and staggered up the steep faced terrace. It jerked, floated, rolled, veered, swayed. The thistle down faltered down toward the cottage and gusted clear to the woods; it rose and entered the shaggy arms of pecans. At last it strayed like snow, blind and sweet, into the pool of the creek upstream, and into the race of the creek over rocks down. It shuddered onto the tips of growing grasses, where it poised, light, still wracked by errant quivers. I was holding my breath. Is this where we live, I thought, in this place in this moment, with the air so light and wild? The same fixity that collapses stars and drives the mantis to devour her mate eased these creatures together before my eyes: the thick adept bill of the goldfinch, and the feathery coded down. How could anything be amiss? If I myself were lighter and frayed, I could ride these small winds, too, taking my chances, for the pleasure of being so purely played. The thistle is part of Adam's curse. 'Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.' A terrible curse: But does the goldfinch eat thorny sorrow with the thistle or do I? If this furling air is fallen, then the fall was happy indeed. If this creekside garden is sorrow, then I seek martyrdom. I was weightless; my bones were taut skins blown with buoyant gas; it seemed that if I inhaled too deeply, my shoulders and head would waft off. Alleluia.
The North Korean capital, Pyongyang, is a city consecrated to the worship of a father-son dynasty. (I came to think of them, with their nuclear-family implications, as 'Fat Man and Little Boy.') And a river runs through it. And on this river, the Taedong River, is moored the only American naval vessel in captivity. It was in January 1968 that the U.S.S. Pueblo strayed into North Korean waters, and was boarded and captured. One sailor was killed; the rest were held for nearly a year before being released. I looked over the spy ship, its radio antennae and surveillance equipment still intact, and found photographs of the captain and crew with their hands on their heads in gestures of abject surrender. Copies of their groveling 'confessions, ' written in tremulous script, were also on show. So was a humiliating document from the United States government, admitting wrongdoing in the penetration of North Korean waters and petitioning the 'D.P.R.K.' (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) for 'lenience.' Kim Il Sung ('Fat Man') was eventually lenient about the men, but not about the ship. Madeleine Albright didn't ask to see the vessel on her visit last October, during which she described the gruesome, depopulated vistas of Pyongyang as 'beautiful.' As I got back onto the wharf, I noticed a refreshment cart, staffed by two women under a frayed umbrella. It didn't look like much-one of its three wheels was missing and a piece of brick was propping it up-but it was the only such cart I'd see. What toothsome local snacks might the ladies be offering? The choices turned out to be slices of dry bread and cups of warm water. Nor did Madeleine Albright visit the absurdly misnamed 'Demilitarized Zone, ' one of the most heavily militarized strips of land on earth. Across the waist of the Korean peninsula lies a wasteland, roughly following the 38th parallel, and packed with a titanic concentration of potential violence. It is four kilometers wide (I have now looked apprehensively at it from both sides) and very near to the capital cities of both North and South. On the day I spent on the northern side, I met a group of aging Chinese veterans, all from Szechuan, touring the old battlefields and reliving a war they helped North Korea nearly win (China sacrificed perhaps a million soldiers in that campaign, including Mao Anying, son of Mao himself). Across the frontier are 37, 000 United States soldiers. Their arsenal, which has included undeclared nuclear weapons, is the reason given by Washington for its refusal to sign the land-mines treaty. In August 1976, U.S. officers entered the neutral zone to trim a tree that was obscuring the view of an observation post. A posse of North Koreans came after them, and one, seizing the ax with which the trimming was to be done, hacked two U.S. servicemen to death with it. I visited the ax also; it's proudly displayed in a glass case on the North Korean side.
I was standing lost, sunk, my hands in my pockets, gazing toward Tinker Mountain and feeling the earth reel down. All at once, I saw what looked like a Martian spaceship whirling towards me in the air. It flashed borrowed light like a propeller. Its forward motion greatly outran its fall. As I watched, transfixed, it rose, just before it would have touched a thistle, and hovered pirouetting in one spot, then twirled on and finally came to rest. I found it in the grass; it was a maple key... Hullo. I threw it into the wind and it flew off again, bristling with animate purpose, not like a thing dropped or windblown, pushed by the witless winds of convection currents hauling round the world's rondure where they must, but like a creature muscled and vigorous, or a creature spread thin to that other wind, the wind of the spirit that bloweth where it listeth, lighting, and raising up, and easing down. O maple key, I thought, I must confess I thought, o welcome, cheers. And the bell under my ribs rang a true note, a flourish of blended horns, clarion, sweet, and making a long dim sense I will try at length to explain. Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath. That breath never ceases to kindle, exuberant, abandoned; frayed splinters spatter in every direction and burgeon into flame. And now when I sway to a fitful wind, alone and listing, I will think, maple key. When I see a photograph of earth from outer space, the planet so startlingly painterly and hung, I will think, maple key. When I shake your hand or meet your eyes, I will think two maple keys. If I am maple key falling, at least I can twirl. Thomas Merton wrote, 'There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.' There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It's no self-conscious, so apparently moral, simple to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won't have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus. Ezekiel excoriates false prophets who have 'not gone up into the gaps.' The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit's one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first time like a once blind man unbound. The gaps are the cliffs in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fjords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock- more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend the afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you.