Two things yesterday had me surmising this old poem, part of which is my most used poem.
The first thing was a photograph on Facebook, which sadly I cannot find 24 hours on, that showed how tiny the earth was in the vastness of the universe and then asked how even tinier we were in the midst of all of that?
The second thing was The Waterboys new song Long Strange Golden Road. I am loving the new album Modern Blues. It is a southern rock groove of a thing and wonderful to listen to in the car. No more so than this final track, weighing it at over 10 minutes long. I had heard it when they played a concert in Belfast last November and it is a Mike Scott poetic, musical and spiritual epic. More on the song in another blog but the following lines had me surmising that poem again as I drove around yesterday.
“Keep the river on your right
And the highway at your shoulder
And the frontline in your sights
The entire photograph and every second of the ten minute song reminded me of my poem but it was these particular references to the size we are in the universe and the idea of being pioneers that encapsulated the whole.
I wrote Bigger Picture on a journey back to my flat in Antrim in maybe early 1991. I can remember being on the M2 from Belfast turning off towards Antrim and the sky as it often does grabbing my attention. I was gazing into the sunset surmising. I had just seen Dances With Wolves and in that film Kevin Costner’s character says, “I want to see the frontier before it’s gone” and I think he made some reference to the miracles at the start and end of each day. I was also reflecting on my own smallness in the Universe and in history and therefore the desire to live life in all its fulness (John 10:10) that has now become our logo in Fitzroy.
The blessing at the end is inspired either by John Martyn’s May You Never, Bob Dylan’s Forever Young or both. Those last lines are the most requested and most used lines I have ever written. Maybe my best. So that idea of vastness… that idea of being a pioneer… they blended into that old rhyming surmise! Almost my life statement in verse.
In one of later poetry books Dare I wrote in the Preface about CS Lewis’s book The Magicians Nephew where magic rings transport Diggory and Lucy into Narnia. Lucy is frightened to go on but Diggory says something like, “What good is it if you find magic rings that get you into a whole new world if you don’t explore that world when you get there.” For me what good is it if God made us and if Jesus came to live, die and be raised to life so that we could live life in all its fulness if we don’t live that life when we are gifted it by grace!
I want to see the frontier
Before the frontier’s gone
Miracles happen every day
At the dusk and the dawn
The visual aids of nature
Pointers to the Grand design
In the span of everlasting
How insignificant this life of mine
The billions of unknown faces
Who’ve maintained this life on earth
Dying in search of answers
To the questions of their birth
So I gaze in the eye of the sunset
Such a reason to believe
It reminds me another day is gone
That can never be retrieved
So give me faith to believe the truth
And the right to ask why
Give me joy in life’s fulfilment
And the right to cry
Give me the strength to carry others
And the right to wilt
Give me grace towards holiness
And the right to confess my guilt
Father God show me a bigger picture
Jesus play me a longer song
Holy Spirit put me on a road that’s deeper
And more eternal than the one I’ve been on.