The Ancient Modern
Inspiration / Joshua Alan Sturgill
I always feel that I’m about to run out of inspiration.
I like the phrase “run out of” because it could also be used for a burning building. As if inspiration is a place and not something I carry around inside myself. Well, something I carry in and out of myself, since “inspiration” means breath.
But I’m looking out at the watercolor clouds of an Addis sunset. The wind is cool and sleepy, and seems to be the breath of a quiet Earth. I wonder if Earth dreams? I feel the Earth in some kind of deep concentration. Preparing to emerge or awaken, or even to go into labor. The Earth in a kind of late-pregnancy meditation—before the wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes in diverse places.
I feel the Earth steadying herself against our fear and anger. Against our racism, too—our looking at skin rather than soul. Political tensions everywhere, but no poetry to guide our thinking out of politics. Or into better politics. We have no Shakespeares nor Whitmans; in other words, no spokesmen for the soul of the culture.
I am sure that there are always spokesmen, always watchmen, always prophets. But their voices are natively quiet amid the noise. We walk on Earth without seeing it. We wander through the wind without hearing it. We walk on asphalt, concrete, parks and green spaces—which are beautiful, but tightly controlled, confined. “Landscaping” has come to mean something very close to “tamed and disposable.”
Trees are decoration for parking lots. But Earth gives and gives. She supports the asphalt we’re walking on. She bears up under our machines. She allows us to turn her skin into machines. Why is She so kind? For how much longer? Someone said global warming is a kind of fever.
But this evening, in Addis Ababa (“New Flower” in the Amharic language), there is a watercolor sky and a sleepy, comforting wind. Earth is deep in meditation. Her breathing has become very slow. She is finishing her work. She is carrying us into the Hands of God.