seasonal

was unto be Lord god is said were was came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee went before blessed Elizabeth pass people saying son Zacharias city fear great heard house I Israel Jerusalem mother shalt womb according David father ghost man spake temple upon about after also among day filled Jesus Joseph law many mercy now out own seen spirit up wife accomplished babe because brought delivered forth found good hand hast hearts highest made Nazareth returned shepherds so told am art away been both call come conceived country custom departed even every fathers Galilee give glory go incense John joy Judaea know manger marveled named old one order peace salutation salvation saw sent servant sought speak strong taxed wisdom word ye you Abraham abroad again age answered barren being believed Bethlehem born bring children Christ clothes course dealt death down drink enemies espoused ever face favor feast first fulfilled Gabriel grew haste heart hill just kept known laid leaped light lo looked low lying manner men mighty mine month months most mouth multitude night office over parents performed power praising prepared priest's rejoiced revealed round savior sayings see set shewed sign Simeon sixth soon soul spoken stricken swaddling tarried thing three through thus tidings time troubled turn understanding visited voice waxed well whereby wherein while whose without women world wrapped was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee went before blessed Elizabeth pass people saying son Zacharias city fear great heard house I Israel Jerusalem mother shalt womb according David father ghost man spake temple upon about after also among day filled Jesus Joseph law many mercy now out own seen spirit up wife accomplished babe because brought delivered forth found good hand hast hearts highest made Nazareth returned shepherds so told am art away been both call come conceived country custom departed even every fathers Galilee give glory go incense John joy Judaea know manger marveled named old one order peace salutation salvation saw sent servant sought speak strong taxed wisdom word ye you Abraham abroad again age answered barren being believed Bethlehem born bring children Christ clothes course dealt death down drink enemies espoused ever face favor feast first fulfilled Gabriel grew haste heart hill just kept known laid leaped light lo looked low lying manner men mighty mine month months most mouth multitude night office over parents performed power praising prepared priest's rejoiced revealed round savior sayings see set shewed sign Simeon sixth soon soul spoken stricken swaddling tarried thing three through thus tidings time troubled turn understanding visited voice waxed well whereby wherein while whose without women world wrapped was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee went before blessed Elizabeth pass people saying son Zacharias city fear great heard house I Israel Jerusalem mother shalt womb according David father ghost man spake temple upon about after also among day filled Jesus Joseph law many mercy now out own seen spirit up wife accomplished babe because brought delivered forth found good hand hast hearts highest made Nazareth returned shepherds so told am art away been both call come conceived country custom departed even every fathers Galilee give glory go incense John joy Judaea know manger marveled named old one order peace salutation salvation saw sent servant sought speak strong taxed wisdom word ye you was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee went before blessed Elizabeth pass people saying son Zacharias city fear great heard house I Israel Jerusalem mother shalt womb according David father ghost man spake temple upon about after also among day filled Jesus Joseph law many mercy now out own seen spirit up wife accomplished babe because brought delivered forth found good hand hast hearts highest made Nazareth returned shepherds so told was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee went before blessed Elizabeth pass people saying son Zacharias city fear great heard house I Israel Jerusalem mother shalt womb according David father ghost be man spake temple upon about after also among day filled Jesus Joseph law many mercy now out own seen spirit up wife was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee went before blessed Elizabeth pass people saying son Zacharias city fear great heard house I Israel Jerusalem mother shalt womb according David father ghost man spake temple upon was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee went before blessed Elizabeth pass people saying son Zacharias city fear great heard house I Israel Jerusalem mother shalt womb was unto be Lord was god is said were was came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee went before blessed Elizabeth pass people saying son Zacharias was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto behold me my thee was went was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name unto was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things called holy name was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy child days Mary things was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath angel not thy was unto be Lord god is said were came thou hath was unto be Lord god is said were came thou was unto be Lord god is said were was came thou was unto be Lord god is said were was unto be Lord was god is said were was unto be Lord god is said was unto be Lord god is was unto be Lord was unto be Lord was unto be Lord was unto was unto was untoI gave to developmental students word-frequency lists for Shirley Jackson‘s popular short story “The Lottery.”

“You are anthropologists,” I said. “Suppose you had only these lists as the remains of `The Lottery.’ Obviously you do not have the evidence needed to reconstruct the story, but what evidence in the lists points to what you discovered to be the heart of the story?”

Some played with the puzzle pieces, never discerning any patterns, bored with it all, yet a few wrote their best papers of the semester, pursuing the patterns hidden in the stacks of evidence–the use of the word black and variants of laugh, for example. When these detectives wrote, they did so not only with the authority of their own insights but also with the weight of specific evidence, which they had made their own.

Prompted by their experience, I assigned myself the task of using a word-frequency list as my annual Christmas card, which I printed without title or comment on one side of a 4”x6” postcard:

Thirty-eight times: was. Thirty-four times: unto. Thirty-one times: be. Twenty-eight times: Lord. Twenty times: god, is. Nineteen times: said. Eighteen times: were. Sixteen times: came, thou. Fifteen times: hath. Fourteen times: angel, not, thy. Twelve times: child, days, Mary, things. Eleven times: called, holy, name. Ten times: unto. Nine times: behold, me, my, thee, went. Eight times: before, blessed, Elizabeth, pass, people, saying, son, Zacharias. Seven times: city, fear, great, heard, house, I, Israel, Jerusalem, mother, shalt, womb. Six times: according, David, father, ghost, man, spake, temple, upon. Five times: about, after, also, among, day, filled, Jesus, Joseph, law, many, mercy, now, out, own, seen, spirit, up, wife, years. Four times: acomplished, babe, because, brought, delivered, forth, found, good, hand, hast, hearts, highest, made, Nazareth, returned, shepherds, so, told. Thrice: am, art, away, been, both, call, come, conceived, country, custom, departed, even, every, fathers, Galilee, give, glory, go, incense, John, joy, Judaea, know, manger, marveled, named, old, one, order, peace, salutation, salvation, saw, sent, servant, sought, speak, strong, taxed, wisdom, word, ye, you. Twice: Abraham, abroad, again, age, answered, barren, being, believed, Bethlehem, born, bring, children, Christ, clothes, course, dealt, death, down, drink, enemies, espoused, ever, face, favor, feast, first, fulfilled, Gabriel, grew, haste, heart, hill, just, kept, known, laid, leaped, light, lo, looked, low, lying, manner, men, mighty, mine, month, months, most, mouth, multitude, night, office, over, parents, performed, power, praising, prepared, priest’s, rejoiced, revealed, round, savior, sayings, see, set, shewed, sign, Simeon, sixth, soon, soul, spoken, stricken, swaddling, tarried, thing, three, through, thus,tidings, time, troubled, turn, understanding, visited, voice, waxed, well, whereby, wherein, while, whose, without, women, world, wrapped.

Many take pleasure in recognizing the source, the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ birth narrative. I think of it as “Christmas Deconstructed.”

Word-frequency programs are widely available on the internet, many of them for free. They cannot think for us, but we can use them to think for ourselves inventively.

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Louie Crew Clay

Louie Crew Clay,  81, is an Anniston, Alabama native and Professor Emeritus at Rutgers. He lives in East Orange, NJ, with Ernest Clay, his husband for 44 years. He holds an M.A. from Auburn University, a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), and honorary doctorates from three seminaries of the Episcopal Church. He is the founder of Integrity, an international organization of lgbt Episcopalians/Anglicans. Editors have published 2,730+ of Louie Crew Clay's poems and essays — including Letters from Samaria: The Prose & Poetry of Louie Crew Clay, NYC: Church Publishing, Inc., November 2015 and  Our Station Forgot to Give the Evening News,  Poetry Superhighway. An eBook in the press' annual 'The Great Poetry E-Book Free-For-All,' online from December 1, 2016. You can follow his work at Rutgers.edu. See also Wikipedia.org. The University of Michigan collects Clay’s papers.