Category Archives: time

A brief pause for this…

You know how it is when the power goes out, and you can’t do anything that requires the computer or TV? You might read a book by candlelight, or play cards with people, or pray… and the temporary result is often more calm, and more quietness of heart. The benefits of deprivation are real.

Orthodox Lent begins Monday, and the Great Fast is a chance to acquire what our hearts need. This year, in addition to our traditional food fast, I plan to “fast” from blog writing and reading. I will still be using email, and if any of you would like to chat about anything or just say hello, I would love to hear from you. You can find my address on my About Page; it is one of the tabs above.

And I have drafted quite a few posts in advance, mostly gleanings from others, scheduled to automatically publish on certain dates. They are articles or re-posts that seem particularly Lenten; I will put them out there without a comment option. Again, comments are possible through direct email.

Until I see you again here, may God bring us all, in every way possible, deeper into His love.

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters;
And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in fatness.

-Isaiah 55:1-2

Seeing below the surface.

Repentance is not self-flagellation;
it is an opening flower.

-Met. Kallistos Ware

In the last weeks I’ve been more aware than ever of the truth that What We Need is Not More Information  – all the while collecting more books and reading, reading, reading. When I read Neil Postman in Technopoly say (in 1992) that our society’s glut of the stuff makes information into so much garbage, I was primed so that the word and image brought me great clarity.

“From millions of sources all over the globe, through every possible channel and medium—light waves, airwaves, ticker tapes, computer banks, telephone wires, television cables, satellites, printing presses—information pours in…. The milieu in which Technopoly flourishes is one in which the tie between information and human purpose has been severed, i.e., information appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose.” -Neil Postman in Technopoly

Even more recently Fr. Stephen Freeman re-posted this little meditation on simplicity, When Belief is Complicated, which, though it wasn’t particularly Lenten in focus, brought to mind Metropolitan Kallistos’s quote at top. Now I have two images in my mind, garbage overwhelming and weighing me down, and my soul as a tender flower struggling to open to God’s love and grace, but nearly crushed by the weight of a myriad of non-essentials. And Fr. Stephen introduces another metaphor:

“Kierkegaard wrote that ‘purity of heart is to will one thing.’ But we don’t will one thing. We will everything, regardless of the contradictions.

“Faith is not a matter of ‘belief,’ an act of intellectual willing. Faith is a perception of things that do not necessarily appear obvious. In the language of Scripture – ‘faith is the evidence of things not seen.’ But the perception of faith is similar to the perception of objects beneath the surface of a lake. If the surface is disturbed, the objects disappear. The objects do not go away – but we can no longer perceive them.

“In a world of manifold complication – the surface of the water is rarely still.

“The journey of faith thus becomes a movement away from complication.”

For those of us who feel that life is too complicated; that we ourselves are difficult to understand; and that trust and faith are impossible, Father Stephen has suggestions. My favorites:

  • Quit caring so much. The world does not depend on you getting the right answer to life’s questions. Answers often come when we learn to wait patiently for them.
  • Quit thinking so much. If thinking would solve the problem and make things less complicated, you’d be through by now.
  • Look for beauty. Beauty doesn’t make us think so much as it makes the heart a better listener.
  • Take some time off – from as much as you can.
  • Get some sleep.
  • Give away money. At least someone will benefit by this discipline.
  • Sing (beautiful things). The part of your brain that sings is much more closely wired to your heart than the part that thinks.

To put my hopes in terms of these evocative images: I am encouraged in the work of throwing off the garbage, opening like a flower, and peering down through the limpid water of a quiet lake, to glimpse the beautiful realities that my heart craves.

What is night will soon be day.

Ogden Nash makes me rejoice in the English language as it presents itself to his peculiar, playful mind. I liked this galloping poem, and won’t argue with it, because that’s not what humor is for. But I will say that the line I chose for the title of my post led me from laughing to silent theologizing…

TIME MARCHES ON

You ask me, brothers, why I flinch.
Well, I will tell you, inch by inch.
Is it not proper cause for fright
That what is day will soon be night?
Evenings I flinch the selfsame way,
For what is night will soon be day.
At five o’clock it chills my gore
Simply to know it isn’t four.
How Sunday into Monday melts!
And every month is something else.
If Summer on the ladder lingers,
Autumn tramples upon her fingers,
Fleeing before the jostling train
Of Winter, and Spring, and Summer again.
Year swallows year and licks its lips,
Then down the gullet of next year slips.
We chip at time with clocks and watches;
We flee him in love and double scotches;
Even as we scatter in alarm
He marches with us, arm in arm;
Though while we sleep, he forward rides,
Yet when we wake, he’s at our sides.
Let men walk straight or let them err,
He never leaves them as they were.
While ladies draw their stockings on
The ladies they were are up and gone.
I pen my lines, I finish, I scan them,
I’m not the poet who began them.
Each moment Time, the lord of changers,
Stuffs our skins with ephemeral strangers.
Good heavens, how remote from me
The billion people I used to be!
Flinch with me, brothers, why not flinch,
Shirts caught in the eternal winch?
Come, let us flinch till Time stands still;
Although I do not think he will.
Hark, brothers, to the dismal proof:
The seconds spattering on the roof!

-Ogden Nash

Heads rocking and tick-tocking.

My Kate is arriving by airliner tonight with her family, and I am imagining the little boys with their out-of-sync bodies debarking at a time when they would normally be in their beds asleep. This poem captures some of the sensory confusion of the experience of flying. (‘Kliegs’ are powerful arc lamps used in film lighting.)

TOUCHDOWN

The great airliner has been filled
all night with a huge sibilance
which would rhyme with FORTH
but now it banks, lets sunrise
in in freak lemon Kliegs,
onto swift cement, and throws out
its hurricane of air anchors.
Soon we’ll all be standing
encumbered and forbidding in the aisles
till the heads of those farthest forward
start rocking side to side, leaving,
and that will spread back:
we’ll all start swaying along as
people do on planks but not on streets,
our heads tick-tocking with times
that are wrong everywhere.

-Les Murray