Readers of P. D. James’s novel Children of Men won’t be prepared for the emotional breadth of the film version by Alfonso Cuarón. Like most dystopian stories, the book is relentlessly grim, icy and pedantic.
Close to an hour more of light since December’s solstice stood the calendar on edge, balancing my dwindling days between the here and the hereafter. This late January thaw has turned thoughts to spring again, those Holland-ordered bulbs I bedded late into November already showing green above the gray and crusted soil. You’d think, with seventy winters now beneath my crust, that I’d know better, learn to stay hunkered warm against those drifts that still must slump against the garage door. Yet an old, insistent summoning, wiser than winter’s experts, sends me back to the seed catalogs, makes me check trowel, fork and leaf mold, bends my head to bloom and blossoms yet unseen but lending never-ending fragrance to every lifeless, frigid scene.
The year: 1944. The place: a makeshift military encampment in the verdant countryside outside of Madrid, where a company of Spanish soldiers is methodically eliminating the few remaining resistance fighters trying to topple the fascist government of General Franco.
The trouble is the halo. He’s never dissected one, prying it open with a blade under cover of night to determine its component parts: seeking with his fingertips for the thin band of cartilage that holds it erect, or the branched nerves channeling light as coldly steady as foxfire on a rotting log. The same goes for wings. Without evidence from his cadavers, he dispenses with them, painting angels as fit as young quarrymen and pasta-loving cherubs to whom aerodynamic principles will never apply. Even God looks as if he climbs into bed each night stiff from a hard day’s work but not ready for sleep, his brain crammed with thumbnail sketches of airy beings aglow with inexhaustible fuel flying by faith in unborn Bernoulli’s constant.
Thesis: What we commonly think of as Miracles, are mere Synchronicities, felicitous accidents, startling coincidences; Whereas that which we call common is actually miraculous. Whoa; let’s approach this slowly from the side, as we would Edge up shy and careful to a sleeping wolverine. Wolverines Are good to start with, come to think of it—I mean, consider A wolverine carefully. A whopping big one weighs less than Half the dogs you know, not to mention those two obese cats, Yet bears and cougars and even the most stupendously stupid Men back away from wolverines. They have been revered by People who know them well for years beyond counting. They Own their place. They were designed by immeasurable years. There are only a few of them, compared to, for example, ants. Are they not miraculous? Do they not inspire a reverent awe? Can any of us make any of those? No? Can it be that miracles Are things which we cannot comprehend or construct? Hawks, Elk, porpoises, children, damselflies, quasars—the list cannot Ever end, because every time we discover something, we also Discover more that we don’t know yet, isn’t that certainly so? So that which is miraculous is quotidian. While the occasional Inexplicable recovery, the avoidance of death and mayhem by The thinnest of margins, that only happens on occasion, right? So because it isn’t quotidian, perhaps it isn’t a miracle. Listen, I know your brain is buzzling right about now—it’s happening To me too. But the thought that miracles are normal, isn’t that The cool thought of the day? Let’s remember that until dinner, You and me, and then savor the miracles with whom we dine.
The discovery of a Philistine cemetery outside the walls of the ancient city Ashkelon on the southern coast of Israel may provide clues to the origins of the ancient Philistines. A team of scholars is using DNA research and other techniques to determine the Philistines’ origins. Existing archaeological and textual evidence indicates that they originated somewhere in the Aegean region (National Geographic, July).