You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves. The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch, Nor strike out fire from each other, nor crash out loud. The planets seem to interfere in their curves, But nothing ever happens, no harm is done. We may as well go patiently on with our life, And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane. It is true the longest drouth will end in rain, The longest peace in China will end in strife. Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awake In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break On his particular time and personal sight. That calm seems certainly safe to last tonight.
Robert Frost, West-Running Brook, 1928
I read Frost’s poem on this blog: First Known When Lost, where it was posted this week along with a couple of others that may be seen as following a theme. Stephen Pentz leads off his article with the reminder that “… the feeling that the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket is a timeless feature of human nature.”
Then he leads the reader to make a distinction between the world and the World. I have been thinking lately about Mary Oliver’s poem “Messenger,” which is about this, and I’d say “Landscape” as well.
The details of our given “work assignments” are unique to each of us; we need to look to God for light and strength to do the essential spiritual work, which will help us to be ready for any more public tasks that come our way. Pentz’s last line sums it up pretty well:
“Life is ever a matter of attention and gratitude, don’t you think?”
I live in the area where high winds whipped up 60 different fires in a few hours early Monday (yesterday) morning. My neighborhood was on alert to evacuate, but that never became necessary. In this part of Northern California just north of San Francisco Bay, scores of my friends are among the 20,000 people who have been evacuated, and the homes of at least two families dear to me have burned to the ground.
Many hundreds of structures were destroyed yesterday, but fires are still burning and uncontained and it’s impossible to know at this point what the full extent of the damage will be, or how many lives will have been lost. Though we are all in shock at the speed and extent of this destruction all around us, everyone I know is thankful for the love and support, and continued existence, of their friends and family. I wanted you all to know that I am okay.
The public narrative (news and history) is like watching actors in a play. However, the actors have stumbled into the notion that the play is reality. They react to each other and the narrative within the play, but the reality off-stage (which is the rest of the whole world) is nowhere in sight. We might easily conclude that the entire idea of a public narrative is absurd (and it is, largely).
But people are story-tellers. If you ask, “What’s happening?” the answer will take some sort of story form. Apparently, God is a story-teller as well. In St. John’s gospel we read:
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18)
The Latin translation of this verse says that the only-begotten Son “narrates” Him (enarravit). And this is precisely the case. The Christian claim is that Christ Himself is the story of the universe. He is the author and the protagonist. He is the meaning of the true story. Every sub-story (my life and yours) gains its meaning and purpose from the greater story of which they are a part.