Category Archives: Whitsunday

X

Whitsunday––Pentecost––comes today, marking the descent of the Holy Spirit (known in times past as the Holy Ghost), closing the Easter season. Pentecost slipped my mind (even with the Convivio Book of Days Calendar!) until a friend in Barbados wrote to say Happy Whitsuntide and to tell me he’ll be off on Monday for the Whitsun Bank Holiday. But here in the States, we don’t get Monday off and “Happy Whitsuntide” is a not a greeting we hear much. So, thanks to David in Barbados for stirring my memory, here’s a quick little something for Pentecost: a small suggestion of something to ponder today, a consideration of the mystical connexions this day suggests. The connexions come to me via two friends in two very different places: Father Bob Limpert (speaking at the 1794 Meetinghouse at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community back in 1996) and Professor Myriam Swennan Ruthenberg (speaking in a classroom at Florida Atlantic University a year or two prior). They both had things to say about inspiration, things that have stuck with me all these years. If it’s a windy day today, all the better for making those connexions apparent. It certainly was a gusty morning, I recall, as Father Bob was speaking. Maybe it was when Myriam was speaking, too. Anyway, here is my linear amalgamation articulating the thoughts of these two thinkers, which I hope they’d both appreciate:

gust–> ghost–> spirit–> breath–> respiration–> inspiration

I’ve talked about these two people (and these connexions they bring to my mind) in further depth in years past for Pentecost, and if you’d like to read more, just click the word PENTECOST in the sidebar and you can choose from many previous posts. To me, this is a day for creativity and inspiration, pure and simple, all coming out of (take your choice of one or both) the Holy Spirit and the Italian root word for both respiration and inspiration: spirare.

It’s maybe also a good day to explain to you why I love the connexions variant of the word connections so much: No, it’s not a misspelling, but it is a rarely used variant. I choose it because I view that X in the middle of the word as having connecting lines, of sorts, much like the ones we use in algebraic equations. The “x” shows (to me, anyway) more relativity than the “ct” does… even if the “ct” does make for a lovely ligature in some fonts.

Take all this as you wish. Maybe it just demonstrates that I put way too much thought into things. Be that as it may… as David in Barbados reminds us: Happy Whitsuntide. May you find some inspiration in this.

 

Image: The letter X drawn by Luca Pacioli in De Divina Proportione, Italy, 1509. Online Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons].

 

Inspiration

Today is Pentecost, also known as White Sunday, or Whitsunday. We are fifty days past Easter, and this is the day marking the descent from above of the Holy Spirit. It has, for me, long been a day of pondering mysterious connexions concerning things of air, not earth. (Connexion, a little used spelling variant of connection… I feel that x, visually, at least, has a way of making these relationships between things more tangible; more so than ct… and I suppose that’s the typographer in me pondering even more.)

For Pentecost this year I offer a reprint of last year’s Convivio Book of Days chapter. I don’t think I can explain it any better this time around, and the message is still the same. And as always, I wish you inspired days.
––John

Inspiration

My very first Sunday Meeting at the 1794 Meeting House at Chosen Land, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community in Maine where I interned as a printer in the late 90s, happened to be on Pentecost Sunday. It was a blustery day, the sort of day when laundry left on the line to dry takes on a life of its own, the shirts and dresses and jeans dancing with each other as they catch the breeze and fill and empty of air and sunlight.

The Shaker Meeting House at Chosen Land is modest but beautiful in its simplicity. I entered on the left side, for this is the door through which the men enter. The women enter on the right. The room you enter into is large and uninterrupted by posts or columns; the roof is supported by boxed beams that span across the room. The walls are white plaster and the wooden beams and original benches are painted blue. The blue takes your breath away. It is the original milk paint, dyed with Maine wild blueberries, from 1794. The floor is wide plank wood. To look at it and to step upon it is to think of all the Shaker brothers and sisters who walked and danced and twirled upon it throughout its history. All these years later I still think of that wood floor and think of doing rubbings of it for a book project someday. History has seeped into every corner and crevice of this building, and this is the building I’d stepped into that First Sunday of Pentecost in 1996.

If you’ve never been to a Shaker Meeting (and chances are good, I realize, that you haven’t), here’s what happens: Sister June reads a prayer to open Meeting, then Sister Frances announces which set song will be sung from the Shaker Hymnal. There are three Bible readings. And then Brother Arnold will say a few words about their founder, Mother Ann Lee, and remind everyone to “not feel strange or a stranger.” And this is an invitation for spontaneous songs and testimonies. The songs are any of thousands of Shaker songs handed down orally through the years. And the testimonies are from the heart, inspired by the atmosphere of the Meeting.

Pentecost never meant much to me but it did after that day. Father Bob Limpert, an Episcopal minister from New York, was there, and the Shakers let him give a more formal sermon. Father Bob was inspired by that blustery day to talk about the relationships between words like gust and ghost and of course it was Pentecost, the day the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit… which, when I was a kid, was better known as the Holy Ghost. And here was this day of gusting wind ushering in holy ghosts of all kinds in this old building dripping with history: gust to ghost to spirit. And spirit brings us to inspiration.

And this always reminds me of one of my favorite professors from college, Myriam Swennen Ruthenberg, who, in an Italian Literature class, perhaps over Dante or Bocaccio or di Lampedusa, spoke one day of the connections between words, too. Her words that day were the Italian versions of respiration and inspiration and their common Latin root: spirare, breath. We breathe in and out in the act of respiration, but we also breathe in and out inspiration: we are inspired by what we take in, and what we exude or breathe out hopefully inspires others.

If you’ll follow along on my winding trail, these things all connect: the gust and ghost of Father Bob, the breathing in and out of Professoressa Ruthenberg. All are not so much of the earth as they are of the air (ghost/gust/spirit/breath/respiration/inspiration) and so they lack heaviness and instead are light and ethereal. Inspiration comes to us sometimes as fleeting as breath, a ghost seen just briefly from the corner of the eye.

Image: Taking a deep breath, crossing into the unknown. A 16th century engraving from the dust jacket of the book The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin.

 

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Inspiration

Inspiration

My very first Sunday Meeting at the 1794 Meeting House at Chosen Land, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community in Maine where I interned as a printer in the late 90s, happened to be on Pentecost Sunday. It was a blustery day, the sort of day when laundry left on the line to dry takes on a life of its own, the shirts and dresses and jeans dancing with each other as they catch the breeze and fill and empty of air and sunlight.

The Shaker Meeting House at Chosen Land is modest but beautiful in its simplicity. I entered on the left side, for this is the door through which the men enter. The women enter on the right. The room you enter into is large and uninterrupted by posts or columns; the roof is supported by boxed beams that span across the room. The walls are white plaster and the wooden beams and original benches are painted blue. The blue takes your breath away. It is the original milk paint, dyed with Maine wild blueberries, from 1794. The floor is wide plank wood. To look at it and to step upon it is to think of all the Shaker brothers and sisters who walked and danced and twirled upon it throughout its history. All these years later I still think of that wood floor and think of doing rubbings of it for a book project someday. History has seeped into every corner and crevice of this building, and this is the building I’d stepped into that First Sunday of Pentecost in 1996.

If you’ve never been to a Shaker Meeting (and chances are good, I realize, that you haven’t), here’s what happens: Sister June reads a prayer to open Meeting, then Sister Frances announces which set song will be sung from the Shaker Hymnal. There are three Bible readings. And then Brother Arnold will say a few words about their founder, Mother Ann Lee, and remind everyone to “not feel strange or a stranger.” And this is an invitation for spontaneous songs and testimonies. The songs are any of thousands of Shaker songs handed down orally through the years. And the testimonies are from the heart, inspired by the atmosphere of the Meeting.

Pentecost never meant much to me but it did after that day. Father Bob Limpert, an Episcopal minister from New York, was there, and the Shakers let him give a more formal sermon. Father Bob was inspired by that blustery day to talk about the relationships between words like gust and ghost and of course it was Pentecost, the day the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit… which, when I was a kid, was better known as the Holy Ghost. And here was this day of gusting wind ushering in holy ghosts of all kinds in this old building dripping with history: gust to ghost to spirit. And spirit brings us to inspiration.

And this always reminds me of one of my favorite professors from college, Myriam Swennen Ruthenberg, who, in an Italian Literature class, perhaps over Dante or Bocaccio or di Lampedusa, spoke one day of the connections between words, too. Her words that day were the Italian versions of respiration and inspiration and their common Latin root: spirare, breath. We breathe in and out in the act of respiration, but we also breathe in and out inspiration: we are inspired by what we take in, and what we exude or breathe out hopefully inspires others.

If you’ll follow along on my winding trail, these things all connect: the gust and ghost of Father Bob, the breathing in and out of Professoressa Ruthenberg. All are not so much of the earth as they are of the air (ghost/gust/spirit/breath/respiration/inspiration) and so they lack heaviness and instead are light and ethereal. Inspiration comes to us sometimes as fleeting as breath, a ghost seen just briefly from the corner of the eye.

Image: Taking a deep breath, crossing into the unknown. A 16th century engraving from the dust jacket of the book The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin.