Saturday, October 19, 2019

silent spaces

“For silence is not God, nor speaking; fasting is not God,
nor eating; solitude is not God, nor company; nor any other pair of opposites.
God is hidden between them and cannot be found by anything your soul does,
but only by the love of your heart.”

~ An Epistle of Discretion in the Stirrings of the Soul. (14th century)

The act of writing is as much tied to syntax as it is connected to context. And yet another factor for reflective writers is the essential attribute of observation. During my overscheduled years in graduate school, and in my overcommitted years since, I’ve made the necessary chore of laundry-doing into writing opportunities. The weekly wash is a constant. I’ve often said to Pam the laundromat proprietor, “death, taxes, and laundry!” And journaling. Though I’ve rarely seen others writing in laundromats, I’ve typically seen readers, crossword puzzlers, students doing homework, those who only appear for loading and unloading machines, and those who simply sit or stand with their thoughts. More recently, and today was no exception, I was the lone journal writer- surrounded by hunched individuals enveloped by their glowing phones.

Although this culture is a decade into the “smart phone” era, I’m still startled to notice that commonplace disjointedness which I refuse to espouse. Comprehension requires a mere conscious acknowledgment. Glancing around the busy laundromat, just like peering around any dining area, park, or train, I saw that everyone was engulfed by their little mirror-like electronic devices. Every last soul but me. Amidst the large room full of brow-knitted hunchbacks, I suddenly thought of the lost trait of looking up. Simply gazing upward, at least to me, is a natural motion: something of an interlude from whatever I might be reading or writing. Staring into space has its own healthful aspect, reminding us of distance, proximity, and context. Consider how cats like to watch life from windowsills, thoughtfully and meditatively. Or, perhaps not. Maybe the spacing-out in itself is a wise gesture from which we can learn.

When academic research was new to me, in high school, the idea was to pile up the source material; it was an additive process. With databases and boolean search strings, the conundrum became one of paring down to the relevant; it is a subtractive process. In a general sense, having everything to distract us, from every angle (including elevators, gas pumps, and between innings at ball games), the more conscientious among us must know to subtract. Instead of scarcities of amusements, the profounder rarity is reflective time.

Along with the slivers of breathers I carve away from chore-filled weekends- and monthly sojourns at the Boston Athenaeum- about every 4 months I make time for personal retreats. In our obligatory frameworks, nobody instructs us to seek out healthful silence. It is for us to inevitably know to step back into respite... when possible. Earned time off is a rare benefit, and many of us must endure extended gauntlets en route to a prize of time. Increasingly, as I navigate this world, I notice my stealing away to find tranquility away from the chaotic dins of disappointment. As the encroachments intensify, so does the hunger for unfettered quiet. That very appetite, fueled by depletion, sent my steps toward a recent retreat. And for a week in Boston, public transit is the wisest way there. Busses are clenched and jostling- but they have a strict no-cell-phone rule. Trains are roomier and smoother- but passengers are the mercies of the behaviors of other passengers: this has become a woeful risk.

Sure enough, what could’ve been a tranquil mid-day train ride was an excruciating two-hour sandbagging between a couple of phone-yakkers. No amount of glaring or blatantly sticking my fingers in my ears while trying to read was of any use. I wound up listening to music through earbuds, via my netbook, trying my best to drown out the boors. There is a difference between the dulcet hum of passengers and coffeehouse ambience- compared to the shrill paroxysms of “cell phone voice.” Aren’t there enough of us wincing through such boundariless abuses? Amtrak personnel merely shrug, and that has none of the usefulness of creating and enforcing a rule- like the bus company effectively does. And thus our general culture further extends its unbounded adolescence. Many of us witness how self-obsessions supersede common respect for shared public spaces. Sadly, our defenses are relegated to plugging wires into our ears and turning up “neutralizing” sounds, metaphorically painting ourselves into corners. So much for calming respite.

Getting through the two hours intact, I kept in mind that I was on vacation, and would be getting away from the brutish Downeaster passengers. Navigating the streets and Boston’s subways, I found some refreshing civility. The trolley cars are loud, and instead of hollering into their little mirrors, people are swiping and texting instead. It was good to observe other people reading, as well. Moving through the adjustment from work and routines- to leisure and study, it was easier to notice things easily overlooked. While pursuing a week of reflection and quiet, I was pronouncedly reminded of the popular aversion to silence by the many who cannot (or will not) still themselves or detach from their pacifying devices. Sure, I see this every day during my downtown commuting and lunch breaks, but hadn’t really noticed how strange this looks. Before this current decade, it was considered “abnormal” to walk around in public, talking to oneself. Now we’ve all gotten used to the gesturing solo-talkers, contributing to the characters that surround us that make all the world a phone booth. (Remember phone booths?) I’ve learned to identify the white droplet-looking ear inserts, indicating “hands-free” yakking.

The quality of our civilization’s public settings rests very much in the hands of those who use these common spaces. “Sanctioned” quiet spaces, such as private enclosures and religious sites tend to comprise some expectations and rules. But when the common space is public transportation, a dining place, a building, or even a park, it’s really up to the individuals’ consciences to uphold the qualities of these spaces. Recently, and enjoying the continuing mild weather, I sat in a city park to write. Portland has a no-smoking law posted in all parks, yet there were smokers scattered throughout the place. I chose the least downwind part of the park, to avoid the fumes as much as possible. Each gust of ocean air made the park that much more enjoyable. Then, sure enough, a well-groomed man, that I assumed should know better, appeared in the park. He was pacing in circles, never more than ten feet from me, yammering into his glossy phone about schedules, restaurants, and various domestic trifles. He was so loud and obnoxious that other park denizens and I began exchanging disgusted glances. I could hardly think my next line of journaled text; so I began writing about him. Every time he’d walk one of his “laps” of his nervous circles, I’d think I was rid of him, only to hear the circular yelp get louder again... until suddenly and thankfully he pushed off to sully some other unfortunate part of town. Upon the man’s exit, I looked up from my books, and a park bench sitter and I swapped collective sighs. Even the universe celebrated the boor’s departure, as a busker appeared in the park, playing baroque music on a portable piano. The music was twinkling in its mellowness, blending with the composite din of passing traffic, non-phone chatting murmurs, dogs, and the occasional jetliner in the clouds overhead. This evenness allowed me to listen to the park.

As always, the Boston retreat was a week of salubrious respite. I was welcomed by many friends, and my studies at the Athenaeum were brought together by themes I created around the strengthening of character. Conviviality, collegiality, and kindredship- all threaded together by the leafy streets of Beacon Hill. On this occasion, I was hosted by the College Club of Boston. They’re situated in a grand Victorian town house near the Boston Public Garden. I was offered the writer’s room, which has a stately drop-leaf desk near a window. The house is a retreat in itself; no two alcoves, or rooms, or views are alike. My hosts were heartwarmingly kind to me. Then there was the quiet. Upstairs from the parlors and dining room, the large house was cushioned in a consoling hush that creates space for reflection and rest. I marveled at the difference between the bustle of Newbury Street and Commonwealth Avenue, compared with the muffled interior of the house. I believe that I’m not alone in my cherishing of tranquility and recognition of stepping away from unnecessary noise. Yes, retreats are great and healthful things, but ironically it takes some major effort! Current advertising seems to have caught some of the current: hotels market themselves to resemble spas; vacation getaways include the trappings of “peace and quiet.” These venues all look very expensive and dauntingly stress-inducing. Still, there is a detectable, general thirst for contemplation. Much less exotic, during a walk through Copley Square, I saw ads for public events called “The Big Quiet,” one of which to be held in the Boston Public Library. We can all use some recollective silence.

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan author, recently published an article called "Finding God in the Depths of Silence", in which he wrote: “Probably more than ever, because of iPads, cell phones, billboards, TVs, and iPods, we are a toxically overstimulated people. Only time will tell the deep effects of this on emotional maturity, relationships, communication, conversation, and religion itself.” He added that although silence may come across as a luxury, it is inevitably a decision. Striking a very familiar chord, Rohr offered this succinctly-articulated observation:

We are all forced to overhear cell phone calls in cafés, airports, and other public places today. People now seem to fill up their available time, reacting to their boredom—and their fear of silence—often by talking about nothing, or making nervous attempts at mutual flattery and reassurance. One wonders if the people on the other end of the line really need your too-easy comforts. Maybe they do, and maybe we all have come to expect it. But that is all we can settle for when there is no greater non-self, no gracious silence to hold all of our pain and our self-doubt. Cheap communication is often a substitute for actual communion.

Indeed, the soul needs silent space, in some accessible form. We must procure it for ourselves, even if it is at our expense. Even if it means a few less enslaving gadgets, apps, or activities. Even if it might mean sitting with our thoughts as we decompress in laundromats and on trains. There is more to be missed than to be amassed.

The week of retreat and reflection happened as late-summer transitioned toward early-autumn. A liminal season of noticeably changing light and air. Being in Boston, I’m unavoidably reminded of the annual return to school for the new academic year. Added to the city’s usual intensity are the swarms of arriving students. I saw reminders of this time of the year in all my places of community and study, through the week. But I was in the city for the contrasting purpose of respite. Ancient pages of text reflected up to me in the Athenaeum reading rooms, while muted sounds of traffic audibly reminded me of where I was- albeit on my own schedule. As with the moments in which I saw common spaces upheld by a shared sense of sanctity, I was able to savour the sounds of the environment. Finding silent space of any duration, amidst our chaotic swirls, is essentially our developed skill for identifying counterforms between our time structures. During work weeks, morsels of respite, discovered between rigid forms, can serve as windows through which we can admit light and air. Just as in graphic design, the ability to delineate counterform leads to improved perception of solid form. In the life of thought, this would be parenthetic quiet. Surely not a rule for every person, as we must each determine whether or not some grasp of our consciousness is being denied. Beneath this realization is an awareness of a deficit to be transcended.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

open windows

“You must know that if there are ruts,
you must jump your wheels out of them,
and if there is no language in which to reach
your audience, you must invent one.”

~ Austin Marsden Farrer, from Called to be Saints.


Pencil journals are for my flow of ideas, and the more pocketable, the better. The smallest Moleskine notebooks are very useful for this. I've been using their Boston themed journals, adding my own mementos to make these like scrapbooks.


My daily journals must be free of lines- completely blank. My mother taught me how to write before I learned in school; no guidelines or grids, thank you very much! My taste for fountain pens is thanks to my father. There are many good pens out there- such as Waterman, Dupont, Diplomat, and Cross, but for me there's nothing quite as smooth and solid as a Caran d'Ache.
Many good inks, too- such as Pelikan, Mont Blanc, Monteverde, Diamine, and- yes- Caran d'Ache.

Ballpoints are great for writing aboard jostling buses and trains, when I have to lean more into the notebooks. Waterman and Diplomat make nice ballpoints, but for many years Ballograf has been tops for me. The designer of these invented the push-button pen, and he also designed the pens used by astronauts in space. They are made in Sweden, and I bought the set in this photo in Norway. I use the .5 mechanical pencil for marginal notes.


As surely as I am my father's son, I love a good, dependable portable typewriter that can be taken anywhere. Nothing fits the bill quite like an Olympia. Durable and precise. I made the typecast pages above on a cursive-writing Olympia SM9. I do a lot of my writing on disc-bind paper, which snaps into Levenger binders. I've found this to be a great way to journal, and these items are easy to travel with. In the photo below, which I took in the Boston Public Library courtyard, you can see one of the Levenger binders decorated with a pencil motif!


A bit of the creative process: Here is the outline I wrote- at the Weston Priory- en route to the essay, "before us." The finished essay followed this sequence. The important thing was to write this down while I had the concept in mind.

The poem, "so they say" was sketched out in my graphite journal. I made many changes, based on how it sounded when I'd read it aloud. These pencil notebooks are ideal for designing my essays and collecting additional thoughts.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

so they say


Seize your dreams;
they lie before you.
So they say.
If you work hard,
you’ll be successful.
So they say.

From commencement to commencement,
I excitedly heard it preached;
we were ushered through the portals,
to horizons yet unreached.

They said it all through school
and right up to this day.
Grades open the future;
performance lets you stay.
“You can take it to the bank.”
So they said.

What’s been said has not been seen,
we hustle without guarantee.
Tenaciously, quixotically
clutching dreams
founded on sands
of hearsay.


In this day,
with truth and falsehood,
can we say?
masqueraded and juxtaposed,
haven’t we seen?
promises darkened by light of day.
And who’s that they,

If I knew then, what I know now,
exams and commissions wouldn’t matter,
and I would talk even more in class.
Voice and faith are ways to the better.
So I say.

“Do what you love,” and
“Follow your bliss.”
So they say.
But reality says, “Take what there is,”
and what you can find,
amidst these times.
Bliss sounds nice,
but it doesn’t pay,
so I grind
and toil
and search.

Economic growth,
jobs creation;
so they say.
The harvest great, the workers few,
did they say?
The evidence in this abundance
is scarcity and deception.
“We’ll pass the savings on to you,”
so they say.

Office cultures
are now enlightened,
so they say.
Most are buried
in the last century,
so we see.
Hostility seethes in tense détente,
while vertical resists horizontal.
Discourse reduced to monologues;
slick fixtures plopped on shopworn floors,
so we see.


“Keep hope alive,” and “hang in there,”
so they say.
Follow the trends and watch them change,
so we see.
If progress is to be pursued,
it’s an added, unpaid job to do;
through the woeful slowful silted slough,
persevere with conscience true;
because you say.

“Transparency” and “openness,”
so they say.
Dumb it down and settle for less:
No, I say.
Question euphemisms, all.
Smarten up, follow your call;
you must say.

Shake off the dust and guard your soul,
you can say.
Gimmicks, fads, and influencers
will not save.
Take your stock and prove them wrong,
Don’t let them take away your song.
You’ll have fought the fight and kept the faith.
You will say.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

before us

“Therefore, surrounded as we are by such a vast cloud of witnesses,
let us fling aside every encumbrance and the sin that so readily entangles our feet.
And let us run with patient endurance
the race that lies before us.”

~ Hebrews 12:1

the indefinite temporal

Most of us, perhaps all of us, are creatures of habit. We like what we like, and we are consoled by what consoles us. There are several ways to specifically define our own creature comforts: one is to notice our preferences during times of leisure, another is to notice our reactions to distress, yet another includes what we’ll do to comfort another person. All are drawn from our experiences - at any age- of what has set us at ease. As workplace oppression presses, artistic pursuits and the worlds of imagination and scholarship can be medicinal sources. The wilderness ahead is as trackless as it was for me a year ago, five years ago, or ten years ago. In the grand scheme of things, this is nothing particularly new. Even as a high school student, I used to say that independence comes at a price. Well into adulthood, the basics of life continue in their uncertainty. The indefinite temporal forces an acute awareness and practice of spiritual consolations. The voyage can be desolate and undefended- granted there is occasional cheer and respite- yet throughout is the imperative to keep focused. For many years, I’ve admired the Greek title parakletos, referring to the Spirit of God, which translates to the advocate, the at one’s side, the consoler. This, in itself, is a poignant point of contemplation.

Icon of Saint Benedict, Weston Priory, Vermont.

the saints that have gone before us

Sources of consolation can also be as earthily human as we are. I believe each of us emulate those we hold in highest esteem, those who’ve set examples we comprehend as worth following. We couldn’t imagine perceiving without them. Such individuals surface throughout our lives. These are the saintly souls that have gone before us. And if we know them during our own lifetimes, they are presently before us. It may be the exception to the rule to not have a personal roster of saints and role-models that influence and encourage from their respective experiences and words. Our predecessor saints, upon our reflection, continue attending to us. I notice countless occasions at which perspectives and even the words I’ve learned come out of me. Often it’s the voice of common sense, particularly amidst situations that do not make sense. Hardly a day passes without my issuing forth my father’s “what do you mean by that?”- or “what’s the point?” To go with that are the conciliatory monastic words of “let’s find a way,” with the gems gentle, patient, and humble. Of the spiritual mind, Austin Farrer observed that it is...

“...incapable of proving faith in seventy years of imperfection, adds the years of others to its own and extends experiment by proxy. We live and feel through the friends we know, or through the saints and apostles we read. And now the balance swings the other way. Instead of valuing what we have received as a prescription for the experiments we may make, we begin to value our own experiences as clues to a labyrinth of spiritual history.”

As in the Johannine letters, that which we have seen and held lives within us as strongly as we can manifest such divine gifts. Our best learning really does provide clues to labyrinthine roads. One of my mentoring historic saints, San Juan de la Cruz, reminded his readers that “The light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul.” Among the 20th century minds long established in my pantheon of saints, Thomas Merton, saw many sides of contemporary life. He warned of the dangers of defining ourselves with our careers, obsessively looking in mirrors for reassurance. Activities that were meant to exalt, wind up reproaching and condemning us, Merton wrote in No Man is an Island. “The less he is able to bethe more he has to do. He becomes his own slave driver- a shadow whipping a shadow to death.” He added, “we must stop checking and verifying ourselves in the mirror of our own futility, and be content to be in God.” Merton was surely not advocating misery, but quite the opposite. Seeking peace within ourselves, we learn to commune with ourselves so that we can communicate with others and support their wellbeing: “We cannot achieve greatness unless we lose all interest in being great. For our own idea of greatness is illusory, and if we pay too much attention to it we will be lured out of the peace and stability of the being God gave us, and seek to live in a myth we have created for ourselves.” The accompanying wisdom of saints provides a guiding cloud by day, and light by night.

saints, heroes, and tangibles

Shrine of Saint Joseph the Worker, Lowell, Massachusetts.

Surely less austere and subtle- but surely evident in popular culture are the crossroads of patron saints and personal identity. The traditional idea of a patron saint relates to personally identifying with an exemplary historic personage. The devoted becomes something of a student of their chosen patron saint, following through by learning about that person’s life and observing the saint’s feast day- which may be their date of birth, or decease, or an anniversary of remark. The “popular” part enters the equation with our reasons for attaching to a patron saint: perhaps a trait, a surmounted adversity, something the saint was known for having accomplished, or a national saint. Saint Francis of Assisi is admired for his respectful attitude toward animals; students in France celebrate Charlemagne, who is believed to be the founder of public education. Saint Joseph is regarded as patron saint of Canada, among other countries, virtues, and workers. The converging of popular ideas and these historic mortals manifest in ways that can reflect our human gestures and aspirations more than anything else. We naturally ask for help; spiritual life brings us to be grateful for favors granted.

Remembering Thomas Merton’s words, how much of our selves are we pursuing? How do we express our allegiances and affinities? We all tend to need tangibles, looking for the sense of things, for hopefulness, for paths in the wilderness. Do we represent those we admire, or are they representing us? Perhaps it’s both, in varying degrees. Who identifies whom? Often the exhilaration of festivities- or the severity of solemnities- can subvert the questions. I diverted from my studies last fall, with a few lively strolls through Boston’s North End during the Feast of San Gennaro. Among the pleasant diversions are musical events and savoury Italian cuisine, centered around celebrating the patron saint of Naples. For the occasion, Hanover Street becomes a pedestrian mall, lined with dining tables and vendors. At the heart of the event is Saint Leonard’s Church, and a nearby year-round landmark on Battery Street called All Saints Way also draws enhanced attention. Being a reverent observer, I enjoyed colors, sounds, and impromptu sidewalk chats, with the prayerful silence inside Saint Leonard’s. From the muffled Baroque sanctuary, I could hear the outdoor animated festivities. Celebrations like this are replete with visual language and reminders of those before us.

All Saints Way, in the North End of Boston.

Above: Feast of San Gennaro.
Below: Saint Leonard's Church.

On one of my many visits to the Saint Anthony shrine in downtown Boston, a greeter gave me a holy card. A small, humble, printed treasure, picturing the decorated statue on Arch Street, there are some good and calming words printed on the verso side. It is a miniature reminder of the nearness of holiness that I keep with me at work. It is also something of an icon, representing how iconographic we are. Long before I’d ever seen a holy card, I knew plenty from my childhood about sports cards. The photos of athletes are backed with their respective statistics. They are collected and revered as objects by many, even at auction houses. The subjects of the cards have numerous fans who celebrate their heroes’ accomplishments. Sports genres honor their achievers and eras. There are halls of fame; the one for hockey, in Canada, has the less-subtle title of Le Temple de la Renommée. Athletes themselves often like to wear the same uniform numbers as their personal heroes- in some ways their patron saints. In reverence, Jackie Robinson’s number 42 is not worn by any major league baseball player. In other genres, buildings, campuses, and various locations often bear the names of saints, of benefactors, and the sundry famous. There’s always a reason and story for each person of note. And many of these individuals, with their imperfections, were endearingly normal people albeit of extraordinary achievement.

Shrine of Saint Anthony, Arch Street, Boston.

Indeed, there are many more examples of how we enshrine- whether globally or within our own hearts. But the degree of influence and personal proximity will be different for as many souls as encounter such things as landmarks. For this instance, let’s imagine the individual soul as a walking repository: an individual person to be sure; unique and unlike anyone else- but there are influences, sources, and mentors that make us who we are. They’ve preceded us: our saints that we have ever before us. Lives providing noble examples, as the lines of our roads give way to occasion. The way is not always a clearly-marked road with dividers, lanes, lighting, and directional signs. Amidst the wilderness immediately ahead and at all sides, I have little more than instincts and the words of saints for my navigational senses. In these scarce and oppressive times, it becomes necessary to lean heavily into the words and legacies of those who have been mentoring me- both in my lifetime and through their words handed down to me in written observations.

taught from within

Those souls most treasured are individuals that have taught me the most compassionately. That latter trait is decisive, as I’ve surely learned enduring lessons though hardships, and too many unkind situations and people. But to offset oppressions and bullying are all the lifegiving examples I’ve seen before me, and those that lived before my time. Before my eyes and ears have been family members, friends, mentors, and colleagues. Before my era are the subtle role models that have been teaching me from within, through my studies and travels. Sometimes my first impressions are through biographical writing, most other times the initial acquaintances are through their own written works or by trusted recommendations. Among the great benefits of studying physical books in well-stocked libraries are editorial and bibliographic notes. The way to find is to seek, and one of the best ways to seek new influences is to browse for the serendipitous. Another is to pinpoint specific sources by reading general treatments.

During a highly unusual weekday off from work, this past May, I made the opportunity to read in the Boston Athenaeum’s inner sanctum, the Vershbow Room. With time for just one item, I chose a 17th century imprint containing selections of Saint Anselm. The saint of the 11th century came to mind as I’d gotten tastes of his thought and work through studies of philosophical surveys by Paul Vignaux, and by D.J.B. Hawkins. The Athenaeum has just one tome of Anselm in English, albeit in the 1600s vernacular, and the delicate volume can only be viewed in the pencils-only room. Due to what I’d been reading through the winter, I expected speculative philosophy- perhaps some more of the Neoplatonist texts of my familiarity. Well, what I found was something more personal and quite captivating.

Considering the author’s time and the context of his writing, the stern and austere words were not surprising to read. Some of the tone of reformist writings 600 years later are detectable in the ways Anselm laments, “I cannot look upon my past life without horror.” He addresses his own self, as an observer, with: “Open thine eyes, my Soul, and let them overflow with tears of godly sorrow. Force yourself to see and hear the danger of thy Condition.” But as much as Anselm is unlike the puritanical authors of a half-millennium later, these writings were also unlike what I’d been reading thus far in his philosophical texts. Turning the fragile leaves of the book, I found an inviting tenderness. Anselm rhetorically asks, “Who will be my Defence? Is there not one, who is call’d the Angel of the Covenant?’ Then he speaks to the reader- to me- and implores:

“Look up, and sink not in despair.”

Right about there, I found my study submerging beneath the mere reading of words. As it often happens when I discover such sources, I became aware of the guidance before me. Continuing on, as I only had an afternoon in the rare books room that day, the book proceeded into Anselm’s Incentive to Holy Love. This turns out to be a set of meditations that Anselm based upon the Passion, which is also known as “the way of the cross.” I took many notes for my future reference, as the writing was intimately compelling. Though he tracks through the narrative, as with Saint Augustine, the fascinating “teachable moments” are in the tangential reflections and prayers. Anselm pauses along the way, with this:

“I, who invoke thee here as my Pilot, to conduct me through this rough and hazardous Sea of Life, may, by thy guidance be preserved from making Shipwreck of Faith and a good Conscience, and at length be safe landed at the Haven of eternal Rest.”

As with any effective instructor, the teaching is patient, respectful, and challenging. After completing my reading and signing out of the secure room, I went out to the Athenaeum’s terrace for a bit of transitional air. The words of Saint Anselm were so prominently in my thoughts, I could simply stand and look down toward the Granary Yard and Tremont Street- and then up toward the skyline. The saintly, brilliant minds that have gone before me, are ever before us, went my thoughts. The words, books, and their various manifestations await. Such guiding consolations are as directing clouds by day, and lights in the night.