Tag Archives: liberty

It could be new.

Elizabeth Jennings was younger than I am now when she wrote the poem below, which includes lines about “not fitting in,” and about  being old and unnoticed. But the finish, “At last you can be…” is so promising, and expresses what I want to be learning.

Have you seen the meme of the month, as we see the 2020’s drawing near? (Mostly young) people are posting photos of themselves from the beginning of the decade to compare with others more recent, sometimes with an assessment of, or a thanksgiving for, what has happened in their lives in those ten years. Izzy’s photos were the most striking, because ten years ago she was still a chubby pre-teen, and her Now photo shows an adult holding my great-granddaughter; Izzy is a blossoming and lovely wife and mother.

My daughter Pearl’s thankful husband posted pictures of her, from 1999, 2009, and this year, and they are stunning to me, as they not only show how she has become more beautiful with every decade, but hint that her beauty flows from some of that liberty that this poem explores, and it shines out from her countenance as peace and joy.

From my vantage point, on the outside I seem to have changed little in ten years, and God only knows what has happened on the inside; it’s not for me to assess. I am astonished most mornings at His mercy and grace in giving me one more day of strength to engage with my struggles, and to love His creation, including the humans.

I’m sure the title of this poem carries multiple meanings — related also to what is communicated in the last lines, where “to include them all” might mean two things: First, to be all the things that the young and old can’t have, to have in your person and consciousness the blessings and wisdom of all the ages that you ever have been; and also, to include all of those who for various reasons ignore or scowl at you. To hold them in your love, and in your prayers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

ACCEPTED

You are no longer young,
Nor are you very old.
There are homes where those belong.
You know you do not fit
When you observe the cold
Stares of those who sit

In bath-chairs or the park
(A stick, then, at their side)
Or find yourself in the dark
And see the lovers who,
In love and in their stride,
Don’t even notice you.

This is a time to begin
Your life. It could be new.
The sheer not fitting in
With the old who envy you
And the young who want to win,
Not knowing false from true,

Means you have liberty
Denied to their extremes.
At last now you can be
What the old cannot recall
And the young long for in dreams,
Yet still include them all.

-Elizabeth Jennings

The one wild place…

“Of all modern notions, the worst is this: that domesticity is dull. Inside the home, they say, is dead decorum and routine; outside is adventure and variety. But the truth is that the home is the only place of liberty, the only spot on earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an experiment or indulge in a whim. The home is not the one tame place in a world of adventure; it is the one wild place in a world of rules and set tasks.” 

― G.K. Chesterton

1980’s

But the moon and I.

LIBERTY

The last light has gone out of the world, except
This moonlight lying on the grass like frost
Beyond the brink of the tall elm’s shadow.
It is as if everything else had slept
Many an age, unforgotten and lost
The men that were, the things done, long ago,
All I have thought; and but the moon and I
Live yet and here stand idle over the grave
Where all is buried. Both have liberty
To dream what we could do if we were free
To do some thing we had desired long,
The moon and I. There’s none less free than who
Does nothing and has nothing else to do,
Being free only for what is not to his mind,
And nothing is to his mind. If every hour
Like this one passing that I have spent among
The wiser others when I have forgot
To wonder whether I was free or not,
Were piled before me, and not lost behind,
And I could take and carry them away
I should be rich; or if I had the power
To wipe out every one and not again
Regret, I should be rich to be so poor.
And yet I still am half in love with pain,
With what is imperfect, with both tears and mirth,
With things that have an end, with life and earth,
And this moon that leaves me dark within the door.

-Edward Thomas

moon & white sky www

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo from Internet

To Walk in Spaciousness

On the Feast of the Transfiguration I was standing in church listening to the prayers a few minutes before the main service was to begin, when our rector handed me the Psalter and asked me to go outside and ring this bell. I was to ring it once by means of the foot pedal, read aloud a passage from the Psalter which was penciled off, push the pedal once more, read the next passage, and so on until another parishioner came to relieve me.

It was the first time I had ever rung that big bell. As I began chanting, I was praying the Psalm and at the same time reflecting on how I’d never known, when standing inside the church I heard those slow peals, that the bell-ringer’s voice was ringing out there along with the bell.

After a few stanzas, the words, “I walk in spaciousness, because I search Your commandments,” came out of my mouth and piqued my consciousness, as I did not remember reading that word spaciousness in the Bible before. Before I knew it, the skilled bell-ringer had come to my side and was gathering the ropes for all the other bells, getting ready to ring the full and celebratory announcement that accompanies the priest’s “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!” and I went back in. I hadn’t noticed which Psalm it was that I was reading, partly because the number was in Roman numerals, and those don’t register without my actively working them out as a puzzle, however speedily.

So it was days later that I found out it was Psalm 119 (or 118 in the Septuagint, which we use) and verse 45. Before that, I’d searched all the Bible translations and discovered that spaciousness is not in them. It is in the lectionary of the Orthodox Church in America. The other translations do use similar language, such as “I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom.” (The Message) or “I will walk at liberty and at ease, for I have sought and inquired for [and desperately required] Your precepts.” (Amplified)

Just the week before, I’d been thinking about the negative and positive meanings of freedom and liberty. We can be free from something, or free for something. Even some of our positive freedom can be used to enslave, as T.S. Eliot put it: “Hell is where everyone must do what he wants.” That would be confinement, and not liberty.

This experience of true spaciousness can only be of God’s presence, or His energies, as the theologians explain it. And I like that Amplified phrasing, “I have sought and inquired for and desperately required Your precepts.” As Deuteronomy 4:29 explains, we find Him when we seek with our whole heart and soul.

Our whole heart and soul? I know that I have rarely felt that kind of wholeness. I am too scattered, distracted, agitated, muddled—even when I am not downright uninterested and double-minded. But occasionally I catch glimpses, of that spaciousness that is my Lord, the Holy Trinity in my heart. Breezes blow from those wide open spaces, and I know I am there for Now. And you can’t be in Now if you are wondering how long it will last.

This morning my dear friend at Bread on the Water sent me the whole of George MacDonald’s poem A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul, and I immediately looked, naturally, at the section titled “August,” which begins with this fitting stanza:

So shall abundant entrance me be given
Into the truth, my life’s inheritance.
Lo! as the sun shoots straight out his tomb,
God-floated, casting round a lordly glance
Into the corners of his endless room,
So through the rent which thou, O Christ, hast riven,
I enter liberty’s divine expanse.

Now, I expect we will have plenty of full-sunny days for another month, which will remind me to contemplate the divine expanse of His endless room, and strive to enter into His spaciousness.