Where Work Is Play for Mortal Stakes

It’s all, at the v same time, deadly serious and completely, brilliantly ebullient. It’s so grimly important that it’s time for skipping, throwing your cap into the air, dancing a grande jete as you do the Most Solemn Thing. It’s all real, it’s all metaphor, and there’s always more. It’s so serious and important, that the only proper response is gaiety and a completely conscious freedom.

Well, no one’s really said it exactly, but Mr. Frost came close. Or, maybe it was Rumi:

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let’s buy it!

Well, maybe Aunt Doreen said it:

You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites.

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.

. . .

Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.

Or, maybe, well, maybe Kenneth Grahame really came as close to saying it as it can be said:

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror–indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy–but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

`Rat!’ he found breath to whisper, shaking. `Are you afraid?’

`Afraid?’ murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. `Afraid! Of him? O, never, never! And yet–and yet– O, Mole, I am afraid!’

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

Sudden and magnificent, the sun’s broad golden disc showed itself over the horizon facing them; and the first rays, shooting across the level water-meadows, took the animals full in the eyes and dazzled them. When they were able to look once more, the Vision had vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that hailed the dawn.

You know, this was always meant to be marvelous fun. It is. It’s meant to be like clear dawn with birdsong just after the Piper disappears beyond the Gates and it’s meant to be perfect champagne and babies’ laughing and seeds unfurling and children learning to read and bells pealing and freedom happening and people finding their way and fathers holding toddlers and old people telling hilarious jokes and women reaping wheat and trumpets pealing.

It’s meant to be like good magic, the way it feels when a real Witch casts the Circle and you know that it’s all true, all working, all fitting perfectly into place like the Goddess dancing awake the World. It’s meant to be the way that it feels when a healthy priestess makes the whole world whole.

It’s meant to be like poetry clicking and bricks snigging into place atop each other and Sally Smith making ice sculptures in the Winter sun.

If we’re too miserable, too grim, too morbid, well, then, we’re just not doing it right.

We owe this work, this deadly serious work of trying, here, when it’s maybe already too late to try, this work that is nothing less than saving the planet, we owe this perfect work that must, in the end, be executed with exacting care, we owe this work the deep respect of approaching it with joy, with glee, with sparkling good will.

It’s kind of like this.

3 responses to “Where Work Is Play for Mortal Stakes

  1. I have been following your blog for awhile now. I’ve been Wiccan for half my life (I’m 30), and a priestess for a few years now. I’m a craftswoman, (I build props for theater) good with my hands and not always with words. You have put so many things I wish I could into words (and pull in things I’d half forgotten about- Wind in the Willows!) You inspire me. Thank you.

  2. Ah yes, I so agree. Lovely links.

  3. I often wondered how autumn/winter festivity came to be — whether humans were naturally up to rejoicing in the winter, or festivals were manufactured (long ago) to cheer us up. I wondered about this because of all the people I knew, including myself at times, who were terribly unhappy during the holidays. But your post opens up the idea to me that people — especially those of us in the “first world” — have simply been doing it wrong. Splendid writing.

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