I described earlier (in the section on the “sets of sevens”) the meaning of the title of this stanza, and how I almost named this stanza Ordo Operandi. You can reference that again if needed as part of this section on the poem.
If I were to rewrite this stanza/verse in simple language for this annotation – and therefore rob it of some of its nuance and other possible meanings – it would be rewritten or summarized thusly: This is how it works/this is what is going on: We are all an extraordinary combination of body and spirit, and that spirit is eternal. The great question to be resolved in this life, in this window of time that we live here and where we are only really aware of ‘now,’ is what we will become after everything but the essential falls away: a caricature of one extreme or another, or a truly divine (even godly) combination of attributes, including the attributes of body and spirit. Salah = to weigh/measure, i.e., what will be our ultimate measure?
Some terms and their use/meaning in the stanza:
“Eden’s bloody cambium” – this is the body. “Eden” references the creation, and “bloody” the entry of death/mortality in the world after the fall and the garden. This is the body. In biology, the “cambium” is
a tissue layer that provides partially undifferentiated cells for plant growth. – wikipedia
In grafting, a key concept here, the rootstock and the scion (the plant matter being grafted to the rootstock) must be joined at their respective cambia.
Grafting or graftage is a horticultural technique whereby tissues of plants are joined so as to continue their growth together. The upper part of the combined plant is called the scion while the lower part is called the rootstock. The success of this joining requires that the vascular tissue grow together… – wikipedia
For successful grafting to take place, the vascular cambium tissues of the stock and scion plants must be placed in contact with each other. Both tissues must be kept alive until the graft has “taken”, usually a period of a few weeks. – wikipedia
The central grafting happening in this stanza – and in life – is the grafting of a mortal body on eternal, spiritual rootstock to see what will grow. What advantages are gained by such a graft (in gardening and in this life)? Per wikipedia, here is some of what is gained in grafting:
Precocity: The ability to induce fruitfulness…
Hybrid breeding: To speed maturity… Grafting can reduce the time to flowering…
Hardiness: Because the scion has weak roots or the roots of the stock plants are tolerant of difficult conditions…
Sturdiness: To provide a strong, tall trunk…
“coeval” – a wonderful word that means ‘having the same age or date of origin.’ In Latter-day Saint theology, Joseph Smith, Jr., declared that the intelligence that comprises our spirits, which are joined to our bodies to form living souls, is eternal. Read about that here. This is pretty powerful stuff, probably unique to Latter-day Saint theology. Here is an example of that teaching from Joseph Smith:
We say that God Himself is a self-existing being. Who told you so? It is correct enough; but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul. (Refers to the Bible.) How does it read in the Hebrew? It does not say in the Hebrew that God created the spirit of man. It says, “God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam’s spirit, and so became a living body.”
The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal [co-eternal] with God himself…. I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven.
By the way, as other Latter-day Saint apologists have noted, this teaching resolves philosophers’ age-old “Problem of Evil,” which I am actually working on another poem about. But anyway – the idea here in this stanza is from this idea – this eternal spirit is serving as rootstock for a bloody, living body – this graft has the chance to create a divine hybrid – sturdy, hardy, flowering, fertile – a true and divine and eternal hybrid.
“galling, callus” – this is a play on words. Galls and calluses (as opposed to the word “callous,” which “callus” sounds like and looks like) are plant biological terms. Where the body meets the spirit, we have the present, this mortal life – this galling, callus consciousness. The “now” we experience. Galls are
a kind of swelling growth on the external tissues of plants or animals. Plant galls are abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues, similar to benign tumors or warts in animals…. Plant galls are often highly organized structures and because of this the cause of the gall can often be determined without the actual agent being identified. – wikipedia
More importantly, calluses are a wound response in plants, and are essential for successful grafting. One key to successful grafting is that it is
Completed during Appropriate Stage of Plant: The grafting is completed at a time when the scion and stock are capable of producing callus and other wound-response tissues. – wikipedia
As defined in Google’s dictionary, a callus is “a hard formation of tissue, especially new tissue formed over a wound.”
“What scion shewest Thou unto us?” – In John 2:18, Christ is asked the question “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” And his answer in John 2:19 foreshadows the resurrection. The phrase appears in this stanza as us asking God; we as the mortals in this callus consciousness experiencing the grafting in the most personal way, ask: “what scion shewest Thou?” or “What is the purpose of this mortal body and mortal life, with all of its shocks, wounds, sorrows, blood, and pain? Why are we here?” Said slightly differently: From grafting and in context of this stanza, the “scion” (used because “scion” sounds like “sign” here from John 2:18) is the body, grafted on spiritual stock. What is being shown us? Why this experience? Why “every human shock” – as asked in the stanza titled “Drupelet.” Why “seeds and pulp and pith and rind” – as asked in the stanza titled “QED.” – But the question (“what scion shewest Thou?”) could also be – what will the final product of this grafting be? And the rest of this line and the next line responds to that version of the question by describing the possible answers:
“abscissa, ordinate, or ordered pair – the chymaeric question” This is the question. This is the question asked in “what scion shewest Thou unto us?” The first of these terms in this question are geometry terms: “abscissa” is the x-coordinate, the “ordinate” is the y-coordinate, and together they form an “ordered pair” (x,y) – to define a point in 2-D space on a graph. In other words, will we be one extreme/one half of our potential or the other, or will we become a perfect/divine/godly blend – an ordered pair? That is the chymaeric question.
Which means we have to briefly discuss “graft chymaeras” (or chimeras). Because one of the alternatives is that we won’t reach the full potential of our hybrid/graft of spirit and body. We might remain abscissa or ordinate. From wikipedia:
In horticulture, a graft-chimaera may arise in grafting at the point of contact between rootstock and scion and will have properties intermediate between those of its “parents”. A graft-chimaera is not a true hybrid but a mixture of cells, each with the genotype of one of its “parents”: it is a chimaera…
Propagation is by cloning only. In practice graft-chimaeras are not noted for their stability and may easily revert…
“cumbrously resolved” – A phrase in the Book of Mormon, referring to pruned “wild branches” of olive trees in a failed post-graft state, is that the branches “cumber the ground” (Jacob 5:9 as an example). Because this line is about the resolution of the great question after abscission, the question isn’t just resolved, but “cumbrously resolved.” The word “cumbrous” doesn’t only have this scriptural “tree” connection, but also means cumbersome, weighty, ponderous. This is the great question.
“deadwooding and abscission.” “Deadwooding” is the practice of removing or pruning dead branches and plant matter, while “abscission” is the biologic process of dead leaves and dead parts of the plant falling off or falling away. Both of these processes mean that ultimately we will be seen for what we are – and what we are will be the answer to the chymaeric question: “abscissa, ordinate, or ordered pair.”
We will someday be fully evident as ourselves. My original notes include this thought: “addition by subtraction.”
Jump to any part of the annotation here (including directly to the stanza by stanza descriptions):
- The conceptual outline of the poem, generally
- The basic layout, in reference to the concept of the jubilee.
- The use of the word “selah”
- The sets of sevens
- A stanza by stanza review of some of what it all means
Links to the stanzas for their individual “behind the scenes”: