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Ringing Out on Clear Air

`AS sound as a bell....'' ``As clear as a bell....'' There's a purity and wholeness about bells - whether we're looking at them or listening to them. Figuratively and literally, they're lovely - from a church bell to a ship's bell, from a cowbell to a bluebell. Bells are always linking sight with hearing - whether they are glowing or tolling, shining or chiming. Or even when they are simply still. Bells.... They awaken, they invite, they celebrate, they charm. Bells are the princes of distance, the emissaries of innocence, the trustees of nostalgia. They wing the thought. When their sound is in our ears, it is because they are scintillating with the brightness of the hour they proclaim - or glowing with the memory of it, as when they ``toll the knell of parting day.''

Bells compel. Their beauty - in the ear or in the eye - lifts us out of the prose of business or academia. They compel gratitude, as when their sound spilt over cities throughout the world at the end of World War II.

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Bells compel purpose and loyalty, as when in townships like Cheltenham, on the edge of the Cotswold Hills, Sunday mornings become rich with belling. There the English stroll past stately Georgian homes, along shaded promenades, pondering their sabbath destinies.

And sometimes bells are the servants of paradox. I am reminded of Simone Weil, an ecumenist who resisted being urged into Christian orthodoxy. She felt a unique call to stay outside the church in order to draw people to its doors. She said ``God has called me to be the church bell....''

Of course, there are those who choose to associate bells with challenge. Perhaps they are thinking of boxing rings or the original fire engine - or even alarm clocks. Nevertheless, there is something very humanizing about bells when linked with the unexpected - something quite distinct from buzzers or sirens or cosmic beeps.

Let there be ringing....

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