This morning, I was sent a wind map of the United States that showed ever-changing streaks of moving air, including hurricane Isaac. To look at the movement of air as waving grey capillaries made me wonder again about the historian’s point of view, the location from which I dare survey a given slice of life or lives. From my heart and head, especially the latter, unfortunately. When I survey the conglomerated lives of ancient Israel and Judah and attempt to make of it a history, am I trying to compose something like the wind map linked to above, which gives both a sense of wonder and the illusion of sharing a moment with the divine, all-encompassing eye? Or am I following a thin strand or two for an exhilarating and extenuating ride, and losing it as soon as I think I’m on it? Yet I know I want to feel this unseen the poet invokes in Song of the banner at daybreak:
Fresh and rosy red the sun is mounting high,
On floats the sea in distant blue careering through its channels,
On floats the wind over the breast of the sea setting in toward land,
The great steady wind from west or west-by-south,
Floating so buoyant with milk-white foam on the waters.
But I am not the sea nor the red sun,
I am not the wind with girlish laughter,
Not the immense wind which strengthens, not the wind which lashes,
Not the spirit that ever lashes its own body to terror and death,
But I am that which unseen comes and sings, sings, sings,
Which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the land,
Which the birds know in the woods mornings and evenings,
And the shore-sands know and the hissing wave, and that banner and pennant,
Aloft there flapping and flapping.