In Praise of Predictability
June 08, 2015
Today we praise . . . can you believe it? . . . predictability.
that well-worn shoe on the walk of life,
that known, dependable reliability amidst flux,
the as-close-to-a-sure-thing as we ever get.
It is to you—oh prosaic predictability—we offer our praise.
for a year exactly divided into equal, identical quarters;
for seasons arriving and departing with punctual precision;
for orbits and revolutions of absolutely known duration; and
for all mappings of our universe
showing all things in their perennially moving places—praise.
for the sunrise—at just the rightly known second—each morning;
for the sunset—at just the rightly known second—every evening;
for the lunar cycle waxing from new to crescent to gibbous to full,
and then waning with similarly knowable surety;
for daily, weekly, monthly, annual cycles
functioning just like clockwork, and, in fact,
for clocks and calendars equal in their increments
for all of music’s fixities:
neatly lined scores in black and white
with notes and indications appearing in their proper places,
tonal progression, precise in its do and re and mi up the scale, and
rhythm, that steady, solid, reliable base on which to build.
for music’s old standards, well-worn chestnuts, familiar as the fall of rain;
for common folk songs—soundtracks of the nations;
for symphonic standards we hum along with in the car
and beloved operatic arias we mimic in the shower;
for soul-filled spirituals sung with heart, from the heart;
for the bold, throbbing, steady assertion of funk and hip-hop;
for simple children’s songs, sung over and over . . .
. . . and over and over and over . . .
for old hymns whose suspect theology never completely severs
some sentimental tug upon our hearts; and,
for those few, rare familiar hymns we intone in this room—
the ones we can sing without wondering where they’ll wander off to next;
for all of these, we sing out “praise.”
for birds who break the silence every single dawn, without fail,
serenading the slumbering landscape back to life;
for crickets and frogs, cicadas and toads—
those glorious nocturnal-noise-makers signaling another summer;
for rabbits who always and only hop, breakfasting on dew-wet grasses; and
for habitual, instinctual deer who relentlessly forage
with no regard for our landscaping plans.
for majestic hawks in soaring flight overhead;
for sagely owls patiently hooting their haunting nighttime cries;
for the simple, pure, single-note “cheep” of the cardinal, every time the same; and
for hummingbirds in frenetic flight, those type-A, high-strung addicts of sweetness,
forever flickering here and there—praise.
for football fields of green, lined with white,
precise indications of 10-yard increments everywhere identical—
in Chicago and Champagne and Cheyenne and Charlotte—just the same;
for a basketball free throw line that’s exactly fifteen feet away—
in Denver and Detroit and Des Moines and Durham
and even, unless an investigation discovers otherwise, in Chapel Hill.
oh, praise indeed, for baseball’s lines carefully chalked anew each evening,
between which precisely nine vie with nine;
for stitched white balls which cannot be deflated,
hurled from exactly 60 feet 6 inches away;
for dimensions demanding that one always dash
90 feet from home to first, then journey in equal increments
around the diamond, simply trying to get back home;
for the unwavering order of things insisting that
even an evil empire in the Bronx cannot buy more than three outs in an inning;
and then, for resulting box scores in which all the relevant facts and figures
are displayed in nice, neat columns without fail—praise.
Praise too, with unembarrassed joy, for every single, superspeedway,
the one place on this planet insisting, wisely, that the only correct way
for everyone to turn is always, always . . . left.
for waves lured endlessly ashore
and then leaving with similarly rhythmic regularity;
for tides, unable to resist lunar wooing,
rising and falling right on schedule;
for mountains, strong and sure,
majestic peaks that remain etched in our minds long after we leave them;
for creeks and streams and brooks and tributaries and rivers
summoned by gravity’s suasion to seek the sea—praise.
for all things alphabetized—
dictionaries and encyclopedias and the like;
for all places where “f” is only and always followed by “g”
and where “z” is always and only the caboose to the engine that is “a”;
for numbers that forever fall right into place,
trailing off into infinity but always in incremental increases;
for all those digits that identify our lives with such precision;
for anything in our fickle and capricious lives that we can coral into order
with the lariats of letters and the nooses of numbers— praise.
for earth on whose gravity we can always rely;
for water that everywhere freezes at precisely 0 degrees centigrade
and boils at precisely 100 degrees centigrade;
for fire that always produces heat;
for air, always drawn in as oxygen and expelled as carbon dioxide and
for all the ways in which science enables us to predict just what will happen—praise.
for comfort foods, those culinary commoners
who rarely venture into the dining room
but are always at home on the back porch;
for meals with those we love, with those we know best—
simple suppers when we can take our shoes off and let our hair down;
for uncomplicated children’s blessings, invoked over and over and over
each time pausing to say or sing “thanks” for life’s bountiful goodness—praise.
for seductive deciduous trees
dancing a salacious kaleidoscopic striptease each autumn,
left to shiver through winter in penitent nakedness,
then discreetly redressing themselves in the new season’s haute shade of green,
so that they might sway with elegant modestly throughout the sweltering days of summer;
for upright, prim and proper pines who ever so modestly shed needles,
careful always not to bare too much;
for the alabaster blossoms of gardenias intoxicating in their recurring sweet perfume, and
for similarly snowy, showy magnolia blooms swelling with outlandish audacity amidst waxy green foliage— praise.
for cars that start, washing machines that work, toilets that flush;
for roofs that don’t leak and faucets that don’t drip;
for all times when “H” really is hot and “C” really is cold;
for thermostats that measure out comfort in precise increments;
for locks monogamous in their chaste welcome to but a single key; and
for homes—however humble—always right where we left them when we come back to them—praise.
for the sure, tactile solidity of a book—
that never crashes,
opens with excruciating slowness, or
presents us with maddening technological challenges;
for newspapers retrieved each morning from the driveway or lawn or bushes or street—
daily doses of digestible information we can hold in our hands;
for handwritten notes of more than 140 characters that arrive in our mailboxes
and include all of the vowels;
for familiar poems that rhyme and make sense and
for the ones to which we return again and again and that still make us sigh;
for literary classics to which we can turn always anew—praise
for semesters that begin and end;
for school years that start and stop;
for buses routed through our city’s streets
and sidewalks that end at schoolhouse doorways;
for facts that can be taught;
for scientific truths that can be demonstrated;
for journeys through academia that begin with giddy hope
and then, curiously, end by commencing—praise.
for roads that lead, without question, from point A to point B;
for train tracks stretching far out of sight laid out with such exacting accuracy;
for flights that take off and land with mundane boredom;
for maps and Global Positioning Systems
guiding us until we have arrived at our destination and that get us back home again—praise.
Praise . . . praise—
for human minds’ unquenchable sense of wonder;
for human hearts’ inexhaustible reservoir of love;
for human souls’ unending discoveries of purpose and joy,
for human integrity melding our whole beings in ways that assure
the absolute predictability that the future will—
we can say with certainty—will hold
creativity, courage, possibilities, new insights, and unimaginable, unpredictable joy.
Praise, oh sweet and heartfelt praise
for familiar voices,
routine rituals and
for all days . . . without drama.
for long relationships,
for old friends,
for steady neighbors,
for comfortable colleagues,
for all who are reliably in our lives—praise.
Praise, praise for sermons that—no matter how long—always eventually come to . . .