Reflections on ravens: curiosity, creativity, and cultural messenger.

Songs about blackbirds and ravens (note: these are different species): 
Blackbird by The Beatles (rock)
Blackbird Song by Lee DeWyze (ballad/blues)
Raven Song by Elephant Revival (folk)
Blackbird by Nina Simone (blues)
The Raven by Alan Parsons Project (electronic rock pop based on Edgar Alan Poe’s work)
Hear Me O God, Nor Hide Thy Face (Christian choral music)
How Many Are Your Works (Christian hymn)



How sweetly did they float upon the wings
Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night
At every fall smoothing the raven down
Of darkness till it smil’d.
— John Milton
 
The Raven (excerpt) — Edgar Allen Poe

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door —
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door —
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore —
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.” …

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Cultural Quips about Ravens 

Did ever raven sing so like a lark, That gives sweet tidings of the sun’s uprise? — William Shakespeare

For out of black soul’s night have stirred dawn’s cold gleam, morning’s singing bird. Let black day die, let black flag fall, let raven call, let new day dawn of black reborn. — George Woodcock Honestly, all crows are not ravens. — Munia Khan

The raven spread out its glossy wings and departed like hope. — Cecilia Dart-Thornton

Ravens are at home everywhere. They only have one enemy: humans. — Bernd Heinrich

Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as ravens claws. — Jim Morrison

Does wisdom perhaps appear on the earth as a raven which is inspired by the smell of carrion? — Friedrich Nietzsche

My love, she’s like some raven / At my window with a broken wing. — Bob Dylan

Needless to say, urgings by ravens are ignored at one’s peril.  — James D. Doss

But the black raven, the bird over the fated men, will tell, will say to the eagle, how he succeeded at the meal, when he with the wolf plundered the slaughtered ones.  — The Beowulf Poet

For this reason, the lean wolf in the wold / rejoiced, and the dark raven, a bird greedy for slaughter. — Cynewulf

It is said that when Raven created the first world, he made everything perfect, a world full of happiness and beauty, without pain, suffering, or ugliness. But Raven grew bored with this perfect world and started reshaping things. — Catharine Feher-Elston

One raven does not peck out another’s eyes. — Danish proverb

Censure acquits the raven, but pursues the dove. — Juvenal

The cry of a young raven is nothing but the natural cry of a creature, but your cry, if it be sincere, is the result of a work of grace in your heart. — Charles Spurgeon

Ravens are the birds I’ll miss most when I die. If only the darkness into which we must look were composed of the black light of their limber intelligence. If only we did not have to die at all. Instead, become ravens. — Louise Erdrich

Commentary on Elijah and the Ravens

Elijah had enough, but it did not always come to him in the nicest way; for I do not imagine that the ravens knew how to get bread and meat always cut into nicest shape. Perhaps they snatched a rough bit of meat here, and perhaps a crust of bread there, and it came in all sorts of ugly pieces, but still, there it was, and it was enough. “Beggars are not to be choosers,” we say, and certainly pensioners on God’s bounty ought not pick holes and find fault with the Lords providing. Whatever God gives thee be grateful for, for if too proud to take from the raven’s mouth, it will be well for thee to go without, until shine hunger consume thy pride. God promises his people enough, but not more than enough, and even that enough may not come to us in the way we should choose. — Charles Spurgeon

God knows what you need, and he knows when you need it, and he will make sure you have it in time. As he sent the ravens to Elijah, he can command all heaven to come to your aid … God lets those things happen to move us from self-sufficiency to God-sufficiency. From self-reliance to God-reliance. From trusting in our own ability to trusting in him alone. … You should plan ahead. That’s biblical. You should plan ahead but you shouldn’t worry ahead. There’s a big difference … we would have been less surprised if God had used a robin redbreast or a meadowlark or a turtle dove to bring the food. But that is not how God works. He routinely chooses the despised things of the world in order to confound the mighty, and he uses the foolish to bring the strong down to nothing. As you look at the course of life, you may think that God is going to use some rich uncle or a wealthy friend to help you out. But experience shows how unlikely that is. He is much more likely to meet your needs through the ravens of the earth that fly to your need when you least expect them. — Ray Pritchard

Raven and the First Men —Bill Reid, qadasgu qligawaay clan (Haida Origins Story)
 Haida stories tell of how the first people emerged from a gigantic clamshell on the beach of Rose Spit. They got out with the help of Raven, the most powerful creature from myth time. Raven was wandering on the beach, when he heard some noise coming from a clamshell. He looked more closely and saw that it was full of little human creatures. They clearly looked terrified by Raven and the great big world outside the shell.

“So the Raven leaned his great head close to the shell, and with the smooth trickster’s tongue, that had got him out of so many misadventures, in his troubled and troublesome existence, he coaxed and cajoled and coerced the little creatures to come out and play in his wonderful, shiny, new world.” 


Fable: Fox and Raven
by Phaedrus
Retold by Rohini Chowdhury

Once, the Raven saw a piece of cheese in a window, and grabbing it in his beak, flew off quickly to a nearby tree, there to savour it and eat it in peace.

Now the Fox, who was passing by, was very fond of cheese, and when she saw the cheese in the Raven’s beak, she determined to have it for herself. Going up to the foot of the tree, she called up to the Raven, ‘Oh my dear friend, how wonderful you look today! You are the handsomest bird I have ever seen. Oh the shine of your feathers, the regal grace with which you hold you hold your head! Your voice must be as beautiful as you! If only I could hear you sing…’ and the Fox sighed, as though with longing.

The Raven was deeply flattered. No one had called him handsome before, or wanted to hear him sing! Surely he could please this kind Fox and sing a little song for her! Taking a deep breathe, he opened his beak…and let fall the piece of cheese. The first caw was not even out of his throat when the Fox had snapped up the piece of cheese and run off through the woods with it!

Reflections on vows, theme from Book of Ruth

My whole life changed when I decided not just what I’d like to do, but when I decided who I was committed to being and having in my life. — Tony Robbins
The Four Great Bodhisattva Vows
Shu jo mu hen sei gan do. Bon no mu jin sei gan dan.
Ho mon mu ryo sei gan gaku. Butsu do mu jo sei gan jo.
Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them all.
Desires are inexhaustible; I vow to end them all.
The Dharma Gates are infinite; I vow to enter them all.
The Buddha Way is unexcelled; I vow to attain it completely.

The Road to Emmaus (excerpt) —  Spencer Reece
But if I get nothing right,
I must try to get a nuance of our friendship
and his sponsorship right—
we were bound, bound by a vow, a vow of attention
(there are many causes for attention, among them redemption).
Our attention concerned the spirit,
although that sounds pious and we were not so pious,
we were more selfish, more human than pious.
What else can I say?
I needed a liberator
and liberators can come in some unexpected guises.
I may never wholly explain the two of us.
Perhaps the spirit defies the human mind …

On Making & Keeping Vows

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work. — Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Vows are powerful things … They set things in motion. ― John C. Wright, Orphans of Chaos

Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come. ― Rumi

We want to renew our vows with our people. We want to reconnect with our people. We want to get our people excited again. — Cyril Ramaphosa

Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us. Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative. ― David Cameron

It was a vow we made those long years ago. Neither of us spoke of it afterwards, but it hung between us like a spider web, fragile and easy to break, but danged hard to get shed of once the threads took hold. ― Cassie Dandridge Selleck, The Pecan Man

Riotous madness, To be entangled with those mouth-made vows, Which break themselves in swearing! ― William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

There was something of relative freedom in that feudal gesture of the vow; for no man asks vows from slaves …  ― G.K. Chesterton

The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them. ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

Vows made in storms are forgotten in calm. — Thomas Fuller

Blind obedience is itself an abuse of human morality. It is a misuse of the human soul in the name of religious commitment. It is a sin against individual conscience. It makes moral children of the adults from whom moral agency is required. It makes a vow, which is meant to require religious figures to listen always to the law of God, beholden first to the laws of very human organizations in the person of very human authorities. It is a law that … can never substitute for personal morality. ― Joan D. Chittister

On Wedding Vows

The papers say we’re married, but it’s the heart that writes the love story. ― Anthony Liccione

With the Mother Earth and Father Sun here to witness I give you my everlasting oath. My body is created of this Earth and belongs to it, but my soul belongs only to you. Even when this body succumbs and fades, my soul will continue to look after you even unto the next life, and the next, forever. ― Kazusa Takashima, Wild Rock

Blood of my Blood … and bone of my bone. You carry me within ye … and ye canna leave me now, no matter what happens, You are mine, always, if ye will it or no, if ye want me or nay. Mine, and I wilna let ye go. ― Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber

Among men and women, those in love do not always announce themselves with declarations and vows. But they are the ones who weep when you’re gone. Who miss you every single night, especially when the sky is so deep and beautiful, and the ground so very cold. — Alice Hoffman

The forsaking of all others is a keeping of faith, not just with the chosen one, but with the ones forsaken. The marriage vow unites not just a woman and a man with each other; it unites each of them with the community in a vow of … responsibility toward all others. ― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays, “The Body and the Earth”

Two people fall in love, and decide to see if their love might stand up over time, if there might be enough grace and forgiveness and memory lapses to help the whole shebang hang together. — Anne Lamott

Meditations on Kingdom of God: pearls, yeast, abundant nets, hidden treasure

Small and precious things found in sacred stories,
with the power to grow exponentially:
yeast, fish, pearls, seeds, and other treasures in the kingdom of God.

Meditations on Kingdom of God

God is the Possessor of the Kingdom: whoever lays his head before Him, to him he gives a hundred kingdoms without the terrestrial world; but the inward savour of a single prostration before God will be more sweet to you than a hundred empires: then you will cry in humble entreaty, “I desire not kingdoms: commit unto me the kingdom of that prostration.— Rumi

You’re just left with yourself all the time, whatever you do anyway. You’ve got to get down to your own God in your own temple. It’s all down to you, mate. — John Lennon

Meditations on Pearls

After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography. — Federico Fellini

Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange. — Shakespeare

At the edge of madness you howl diamonds and pearls. — Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry

Meditations on Fish

The act of fishing – for fish, dreams or whatever magic is available – is enough. ― Fennel Hudson, Traditional Angling – Fennel’s Journal – No. 6

Teach all men to fish, but first teach all men to be fair. Take less, give more. Give more of yourself, take less from the world. Nobody owes you anything, you owe the world everything. ― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun

The trout is still with me, as are my memories. The future is somewhere between these two forces, but it lives in mystery. The river records to trail behind or before me, and covers everything as it flows. This mountain and this river are old … ― Daniel J. Rice, The Unpeopled Season

“He can’t have gone,” he said “Christ know he can’t have gone. He’s making a turn. Maybe he has been hooked before and he remembers something of it.” Then he felt the gentle touch on the line and he was happy.”
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Meditations on Yeast

All men cannot go to college, but some men must; every isolated group or nation must have its yeast, must have, for the talented few, centers of training where men are not so mystified and befuddled by the hard and necessary toil of earning a living as to have no aims higher than their bellies and no God greater than Gold. — W.E. B. DuBois

Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas. — Henry Ford

You can’t just leave out one part; the bread won’t rise if the yeast isn’t there. — Holly Near

I Ask My Grandmother If We Can Make Lahmajoun
— Gregory Djanikian

Sure, she says, why not,
we buy the ground lamb from the market
we buy parsley, fresh tomatoes, garlic
we cut, press, dice, mix

make the yeasty dough
the night before, kneading it
until our knuckles feel the hardness
of river beds or rocks in the desert

we tell Tante Lola to come
with her rolling pins we tell
Zaven and Maroush, Hagop and Arpiné
to bring their baking sheets

we sprinkle the flour on the kitchen table
and it is snowing on Ararat
we sprinkle the flour and the memory
of winter is in our eyes

we roll the dough out
into small circles
pale moons over
every empty village

Kevork is standing on a chair
and singing
O my Armenian girl
my spirit longs to be nearer

Nevrig is warming the oven
and a dry desert breeze
is skimming over the rooftops
toward the sea

we are spreading the lahma
on the ajoun with our fingers
whispering into it the histories
of those who have none

we are baking them
under the heat of the sun
the dough crispening
so thin and delicate

you would swear
it is valuable parchment
we are taking out
and rolling up in our hands

and eating and tasting again
everything that has already
been written
into the body.

Meditations on Psalm 23

Language of Hope
Reflecting on Psalm 23 — specifically through its verbs — there’s something for almost everyone. What speaks to you? — Rev. Gail

WANT

It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. — George Eliot

Want (excerpt) by Gretchen Marquette
When I was twelve, I wanted a macaw
but they cost hundreds of dollars.
If we win the lottery? …
Yes, my mother said. If we win the lottery.
I was satisfied, so long as it wasn’t impossible …

LIE DOWN

A friend is someone who helps you up when you’re down, and if they can’t, they lay down beside you and listen. — Anonymous (proverb)

There is not a person alive who isn’t going to have some awfully bad days in their lives. I tell my players that what I mean by fighting is when … all the odds are against you. What are you going to do? Most people just lay down and quit. Well, I want my people to fight back. — Coach Paul Bryant

RESTORE

Look Out (excerpt) — Wendell Berry
Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
… saying yes to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes.

LEAD

To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, We did it ourselves! ― Lao Tzu

Black and White (excerpt)
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun
I was born into a religion of Light,
But with so many other
Religions and Philosophies,
How do I know which ONE is right?
Is it not my birthright to seek out the light?
To find Truth after surveying all the proof,
Am I supposed to love or fight?
And why do all those who try to guide me,
Always start by dividing and multiplying me –
From what they consider wrong or right?

WALK

If Spirits Walk (excerpt) —  Sophie Jewett
If spirits walk, Love, when the night climbs slow
The slant footpath where we were wont to go,
Be sure that I shall take the self-same way …

FEAR

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we … love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. — John Lennon

Carrion Comfort (excerpt) — Gerard Manley Hopkins
Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can …
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ― Plato

COMFORT

I am the breeze that nurtures all things green. I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits. I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life. — Hildegard of Bingen

I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. … There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me. — Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Carrion Comfort (excerpt) — Gerard Manley Hopkins
… I can; Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be. … my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.

PREPARE

We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation. ― Thomas Edison

All things are ready, if our mind be so. ― William Shakespeare, Henry V

ANOINT

ode to coffee
          oda al café
(excerpt) — Urayoán Noel
… anoint the neural vessels we refill
al matorral neural en donde vive …

Killing Him (excerpt) — Yehuda Amichai
… The sound of warm running waters
Filling a white tub of foaming bubble bath
Spills happiness into the heart of the sorrowful listener.
Languidly stretching her body
She slowly, indulgently prepares to anoint herself in oils …

FOLLOW

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. ― Jalaluddin Rumi

If you want to govern the people, You must place yourself below them. If you want to lead people, You must learn how to follow them. ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

DWELL

I dwell in Possibility – (466) —  Emily Dickinson
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

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