“My mind to me,” Augustine says in The Confessions, “has become a piece of difficult ground.”
Sometimes my mind to me becomes like the sound system at church that week it was picking up the morning talk shows.
The priest would be invoking the Spirit to come upon these gifts to make them holy, or we’d be saying the Our Father or the Agnus Dei, or there’d be one of those silences we really go to mass for, one of those moments when we’re sitting in our places and we can hear the silence of all of us being together and rustling and breathing in this big space smelling of candle wax—and all the while some AM talk show host or another would be gibbering in the background, mumbling over the speakers, softer, then louder, blah-blah-blahing. We couldn’t understand what the words meant. We just knew they were words, we just recognized their jagged, spiky syntax, because it’s always in our ears. There’s a radio talk show host in all our heads, a pale, bloated, spittling man blithering on and on about who to hate, most of all ourselves.
O God, my mind to me has become like a sound system. It has become to me a piece of difficult ground. It has become to me like the stream this morning and the trees along the stream and the warblers hopping from branch to branch in the trees, the Townsend’s Warblers and the chickadees, fretting the bare maple and oak. I was walking down the road, and it was muddy and wet, and the Townsend’s Warblers, with that soft, yellow almond curving around the dark of their eyes, they’re back, they’re making their way again, and standing on the altar behind the priest, later, at mass, stepping forward to raise the cup, I suddenly realized this. This came to me, with a start. The warblers are back and I had already forgotten them.