The clear eye on the map.

The Poem-a-Day selection for yesterday was about maps, by Carl Sandburg. I read it when I came home from church this afternoon, after hearing a homily about a map. In Liturgy we learned that the map to the Kingdom is in our heart — but many other things are in the heart, as is obvious from our own lives and from the daily news. One consequence that can result from contemplating the news of the world is an increase of fear and anxiety in our hearts.

The experience related in Sandburg’s poem seems to echo what St. Macarius describes, following the Prophet Jeremiah,  who said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

St. Macarius: “Within the heart is an unfathomable depth. There are reception rooms and bedchambers in it, doors and porches, and many offices and passages. In it is the workshop of righteousness and of wickedness. In it is death, in it is life….The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there, and there likewise are poisonous creatures….rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms.”

EXPERIENCE

This morning I looked at the map of the day
And said to myself, “This is the way! This is the way I will go;
Thus shall I range on the roads of achievement,
The way is so clear—it shall all be a joy on the lines marked out.”
And then as I went came a place that was strange,—
’Twas a place not down on the map!
And I stumbled and fell and lay in the weeds,
And looked on the day with rue.

I am learning a little—never to be sure—
To be positive only with what is past,
And to peer sometimes at the things to come
As a wanderer treading the night
When the mazy stars neither point nor beckon,
And of all the roads, no road is sure.

I see those men with maps and talk
Who tell how to go and where and why;
I hear with my ears the words of their mouths,
As they finger with ease the marks on the maps;
And only as one looks robust, lonely, and querulous,
As if he had gone to a country far
And made for himself a map,
Do I cry to him, “I would see your map!
I would heed that map you have!”

-Carl Sandburg

Our pastor was preaching on Matthew 6, where Christ teaches us:

The light of the body is the eye. If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

It’s interesting to look at several translations of the words describing the healthy or unhealthy eye: cloudy or clear, evil or single, diseased or unclouded. Of course, Christ is our Light, He said so Himself, and if we keep our eye on Him, He will light the path, He will be the map in our heart, so that we find the best things that St. Macarius tells about:

“The heart is Christ’s palace…There Christ the King comes to take His rest, with the angels and the spirits of the saints, and He dwells there, walking within it and placing His kingdom there….the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace: all things are there.”

When Christ places His kingdom there, we understand that our heavenly Father is obligated to take care of us — He loves us and is, after all, our Father. Much more than any earthly father He loves us and wants to provide for our needs.

Today I also read a poem by Wendell Berry, on this blog, and he expresses and heeds the exhortation in today’s Gospel:

THE PEACE of WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-Wendell Berry

What a contrast Berry’s focus is to Sandburg’s narrator who wanders where “no road is sure,” and who longs for a good map. “We have been given the map!” I want to tell him. Keep your eyes on Christ, and walk on past the dragons and gaping chasms. Cling to Him, keep bringing your focus back to Him as a light that is far brighter than your “mazy stars,” and you will find your way to Christ’s palace, and take your rest, too, with the saints and angels, amid the treasures of grace.

8 thoughts on “The clear eye on the map.

  1. Dear Gretchen, Thank you for the thought provoking lesson.  

    I just finished reading The Hobbit by Tolkien along with Walking with Bilbo by Sarah Arthur.  I like to read them together.  

    St. Joanna take good care of you this week.  I am heading off to bake prosphora. That always puts the fear of God in my heart.

       Love, Christie

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  2. I love the Wendell Berry poem, as I’ve worried about my son Josh and family as they tried to figure out where to live and how to make a living. God IS our provider and Father, and I can trust Him to care for my precious children. Berry’s picture of the peace of wild things that do not tax themselves with forethought of grief spoke to me. I invent so many possible scenarios and then worry myself sick about them, but I eventually remember that God the Father loves my children so much more than I even know how to love, and I must trust Him and allow his peace to fill me and my family. Thanks for the thoughts. 🙂

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  3. But your point is related to Sandburg’s point, I think. He seems to be saying, “Don’t trust the ones who claim to have the map, the ‘men with maps and talk.’ Trust the one whose map is based in experience, the lonely, querulous, and robust one who actually has made the journey. Someone who has seen, can tell.

    Such a lovely meditation, and so nice to see Wendell Berry’s poem shared even further.

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    1. Yes! The one who said He had “come down from heaven,” and “I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.” (John 7) Jesus is just the one who has made the journey, and can tell us — and be the Destination at the same time. Thank you, Linda!

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  4. When we want to be free with the wild things here, we go visit the pond where (occasionally, if we’re lucky) we catch sight of beavers at work.

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