Tag Archives: being

He thought there was time.

THE NEW SONG

For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then

there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song

–W.S. Merwin

In Ephesians 5 we are told to redeem the time: See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”

That admonition comes to mind as I read this poem  in the New Yorker. It’s by W.S. Merwin, whom I mentioned previously here and here in regard to his book The Folding Cliffs, which captivated me and gave me for the first time an interest in visiting Hawaii.

Willow flowers fading, and leaves emerging.

To me it speaks of how we can only make up for lost time by being attentive to the gifts that are coming to us right now, attentive to the presence of God. He is giving Himself in the present moment, and He has given us the lenten season to help us tune into that Reality, to come back to it and to Him.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The paragraphs above are from the first time I posted this poem on my blog. As I read Merwin’s meditation now, I find another layer of meaning, which explains the joyful last line. It’s in the words, “there is no time yet it grows less.”

We probably all feel that there is less time in the sense of opportunity to accomplish more things before it “runs out.” But chronologically we don’t get to “no time” until we are long past being able to compose verse about it. Merwin must be referring to the moments of “no time” in the sense of timelessness, such as when he listens to the rain, or hears the thrush, and experiences that fullness of heart that comes with the awareness of the gift of being. “Here I am, alive, and it’s raining!”

It’s still a good poem for Lent. This is when we try to make some space in our busy schedules for that time out of time, and listening for the new song.

(Re-post from 2012)

 

mythology of floating logic

It’s been a while since I picked up David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God, and I was pleased to see that I’m a third of the way through the book, nearing the end of the first part, on Being. I wasn’t pleased to find myself struggling to follow his train of thought as he picked apart what is known as Anselm’s argument, and was relieved when he moved on after a few pages, saying that he didn’t want to get “entangled in needless complications on this matter.”

Though I am philosophical by nature, I’m woefully unschooled in the discipline and its fundamentals. How many times have I looked up words like phenomenology, ontology,  and epistemology? Whatever I read on the subject is an attempt to correct that lack, and I appreciate Hart’s clarity and organization; he does seem to be writing for someone like me.

When we say that God is Being or “the source and ground of all reality,” following in the tradition of centuries of philosophers and theologians, many contemporary thinkers say it is because we are “mired in sheer nonsense.” Hart tells what he considers an important source of this lack of agreement:

…The analytic tradition is pervaded by the mythology of “pure” philosophical discourse, a propositional logic that somehow floats above the historical and cultural contingency of ideas and words, and that somehow can be applied to every epoch of philosophy without any proper attention to what the language and conceptual schemes of earlier thinkers meant in their own times and places. This is a pernicious error under the best of conditions, but it has worked arguably its greatest mischief in the realm of ontology, often as a result of principles that, truth be told, are almost entirely arbitrary.

I enjoy learning about particular people of the past and of their contributions to the wealth of humanity’s philosophical legacy. Hart mentions Meister Eckhart and his idea of “Is-ness,” and that takes me back to when I was a college freshman and privileged to be in a tutorial course that was an introduction to Meister Eckhart. I certainly had no intellectual grid prepared to fit him into then! How nice to have him come around again when I can appreciate his place in history.

Hart’s book was on the table with my bowl of stew this morning, but now the breakfast philosophy session has come to an end and other tasks are calling; I will go forward with the prayer that the presence of Him Who Is will sustain me. Given my ignorance of that floating kind of logic, I shouldn’t have any trouble keeping my feet on the ground and my self in the flow of history, soon to close out the year twenty-fifteen.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Let’s be here, now.

There is a pure fragility.

Part II of The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss contains three chapters on those three aspects of the experience. In “Being” the author says that our wonder at the universe comes from a deep realization that it didn’t have to be this way, it didn’t have to be at all. Some snippets:

All thingsPippin 4th are subject to time…they possess no complete identity within themselves, but are always in the process of becoming something else, and hence also in the process of becoming nothing at all. There is a pure fragility and necessary incompleteness to any finite thing; nothing has its actuality entirely in itself, fully enjoyed in some impregnable present instant, but must always receive itself from beyond itself, and then only by losing itself at the same time. Nothing within the cosmos contains the ground of its own being….

One knows of oneself, for instance, that every instant of one’s existence is only a partial realization of what one is, achieved by surrendering the past to the future in the vanishing and infinitesimal interval of the present. Both one’s essence and one’s existence come from elsewhere — from the past and the future, from the surrounding universe and whatever it may dKtree 81JABMCBepend upon, in a chain of causal dependencies reaching backward and forward and upward and downward — and one receives them both not as possessions secured within some absolute state of being but as evanescent gifts….

Simply said, one is contingent through and through, partaking of being rather than generating it out some source within oneself; and the same is true of the whole intricate web of interdependence that constitutes nature.

–David Bentley Hart in The Experience of God

See and be His art.

The second chapter of The Hidden Art of Homemaking is short, and titled “What is Hidden Art?” I love reading all the many women’s thoughts on this topic, which [used to be found, but not these several years later] on Ordo Armoris where the discussion [was] taking place.

It’s a huge topic! Each human is a living and complex demonstration of creative powers, as is revealed by the uniqueness of each woman’s life as expressed in her contributions to these discussions. The stories, the photos on the Hidden Art Pinterest page, the glimpses into the families whose wives and mothers are taking time to share their creativity online in addition to the never-ending work they do in their homes….it’s all a glory to the Creator.

Obviously, art is hidden as long as you don’t see it. That seems a basic point of this discussion. For me, having children opened my eyes to the world in a new way, because I often thought of my babies as tiny foreigners who were themselves seeing things in this new “country” for the first time. It was fun being the tour guide, and it challenged me to look afresh at my environment.

Sometimes just pointing a camera at some everyday scene helps to reveal a pattern of beauty – or to preserve the art when there isn’t time for a quick sketch. My picture that I titled “Butter Art” so many years ago still makes me happy with its hominess, and it calls to mind the intangible kinds of creativity that I also brought to bear on the task of mothering my children, small “art” projects that took place in the kitchen, or the garden, or — the heart.

I’m still pondering the thoughts of my previous post on this inward kind of creativity, which the author I quoted says “begins with the ability to change — to change intentionally. Creativeness begins with the ability a being has…to become what he is not yet, to start at the point at which he was created and then grow into a fullness that he did not possess before…”

Might this not include the developing in us of the fruits of the Spirit, the love, joy, peace, kindness, longsuffering, etc. that are so essential to making a home? I know that Edith Schaeffer in the book under discussion is primarily dealing with outward, visual or sensory beauty. But what if we could “create” peace by our very presence, or transfer some of our own joy into our children’s hearts?

Mothers naturally do those kinds of things, and often it’s by the attitude they have while they are accomplishing practical works such as laundering the socks, changing them from stiff and smelly to soft and fresh. It all starts with something we are. The artistry of our God is not just something to imitate, but is His active work in us, with which we participate, and by which we become ourselves lights in the world.