Posts tagged ‘Robinson’

November 27, 2015

we should think of our humanity as a privilege

You are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.

From Marilynne Robinson (unknown source).

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November 27, 2015

to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light

It has seemed to me Sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance—for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light.
…So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turn radiant at once, that word ‘good’ so profoundly affirmed in my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing. There may have been a more wonderful first moment ‘when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy,’ but for all I know to the contrary, they still do sing and shout, and they certainly might well. Here on the prairie there is nothing to distract attention from the evening and the morning, nothing on the horizon to abbreviate or to delay. Mountains would seem an impertinence from that point of view. To me it seems rather Christlike to be as unadorned as this [prairie] is, as little regarded.

Marilynne Robinson in Gilead.

November 17, 2015

existence is the essential thing and the holy thing

Now here is the point I wish to make, because this is the thought that came to me as I was putting all this before the Lord. Existence is the essential thing and the holy thing.

If the Lord chooses to make nothing of our transgressions, then they are nothing. Or whatever reality they have is trivial and conditional beside the exquisite primary fact of existence. Of course the Lord would wipe them away, just as I wipe dirt from your face, or tears. After all, why should the Lord bother much over these smirches that are no part of His Creation?

Well, there are a good many reasons why He should. We human beings do real harm. History could make a stone weep. I am aware that significant confusion enters my thinking at this point. I’m tired—that may be some part of the problem. Though I recall even in my prime foundering whenever I set the true gravity of sin over against the free grace of forgiveness. If young Boughton is my son, then by the same reasoning that child of his was also my daughter, and it was just terrible what happened to her, and that’s a fact. As I am a Christian man I could never say otherwise.

Marilynne Robinson in Gilead.

November 16, 2015

be sure that the doubts and questions are your own

In the matter of belief, I have always found that defenses have the same irrelevance about them as the criticisms they are meant to answer. I think the attempt to defend belief can unsettle it, in fact, because there is always an inadequacy in argument about ultimate things. We participate in Being without remainder. No breath, no thought, no wart or whisker, is not as sunk in Being as it could be. And yet no one can say what Being is. If you describe what a thought and a whisker have in common, and a typhoon and a rise in the stock market, exclud- ing “existence,” which merely restates the fact that they have a place on our list of known and nameable things (and which would yield as insight: being equals existencel), you would have accomplished a wonderful thing, still too partial in an infinite degree to have any meaning, however.

I’ve lost my point. It was to the effect that you can assert the existence of something—Being—having not the slightest notion of what it is. Then God is at a greater remove altogether—if God is the Author of Existence, what can it mean to say God exists? There’s a problem in vocabulary. He would have to have had a character before existence which the poverty of our understanding can only call existence. That is clearly a source of confusion. Another term would be needed to describe a state or quality of which we can have no experience whatever, to which existence as we know it can bear only the slightest likeness or affinity. So creating proofs from experience of any sort is like building a ladder to the moon. It seems that it should be possible, until you stop to consider the nature of the problem.

So my advice is this—don’t look for proofs. Don’t bother with them at all. They are never sufficient to the question, and they’re always a little impertinent, I think, because they claim for God a place within our conceptual grasp. And they will likely sound wrong to you even if you convince someone else with them. That is very unsettling over the long term. “Let your works so shine before men,” etc. It was Coleridge who said Christianity is a life, not a doctrine, words to that effect. I’m not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I’m saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion of any particular moment.

Marilynne Robinson in Gilead.

November 16, 2015

taking offense at the beauty of it

I don’t know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else’s virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offense at the beauty of it.

Marilynne Robinson in Gilead.

November 12, 2015

nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense

Nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense.

From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

November 7, 2015

just sitting there multiplying the feel of the wind by two

Boughton says he has more ideas of heaven every day. He said, “Mainly I just think about the splendors of the world and multiply by two. I’d multiply by ten or twelve if I had the energy. But two is much more than sufficient for my purposes.” So he’s just sitting there multiplying the feel of the wind by two, multiplying the smell of the grass by two.

From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

September 7, 2015

honoring your mother might be the last in the sequence relating to right worship

But to return to the matter of honoring your mother. I think it is significant that the Fifth Commandment falls between those that have to do with proper worship of God and those that have to do with right conduct toward other people. I have always wondered if the Commandments should be read as occurring in order of importance. If that is correct, honoring your mother is more important than not committing murder. That seems remarkable, though I am open to the idea.

Or they may be thought of as different kinds of law, not comparable in terms of their importance, and honoring your mother might be the last in the sequence relating to right worship rather than the first in the sequence relating to right conduct. I believe this is a very defensible view.

…It seems to me almost a retelling of Creation—First there is the Lord, then the Word, then the Day, then the Man and Women—and after that Cain and Able—Thou shalt not kill—and all the sins recorded in those prohibitions, just as crimes are recorded in the laws against them. So perhaps the tablets differ as addressing the eternal and the temporal.

What the reading yields is the idea of father and mother as the Universal Father and Mother, the Lord’s dear Adam and His beloved Eve; that is, essential humankind as it came from His hand. There’s a pattern in these Commandments of setting things apart so that their holiness will be precieved. Every day is holy, but the Sabbath is set apart so that the holiness of time can be experienced. Every human being is worthy of honor, but the conscious discipline of honor is learned from this setting apart of the mother and father, who usually labor and are heavy-laden, and may be cranky or stinky or ignorant or overbearing. …At the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object. In the particular instance of your mother, I know if you are attentive to her in this way, you will find a very great loveliness in her. When you love someone to that degree that you love her, you see her as God sees her, and that is an instruction in the nature of God and humankind and of Being itself. That is why the Fifth Commandmemt belongs on the first tablet. I have persuaded myself of it.

From Gilead my Marilynne Robinson.

September 7, 2015

dreaming what is true

I remember once as a child dreaming that my mother came into my bedroom and sat down in a chair in the corner and folded her hands in her lap and stayed there, very calm and still. It made me feel wonderfully safe, wounderfully happy. When I woke up, there she was, sitting in that chair. She smiled at me and said, “I was just enjoying the quiet.” I have that same feeling in church, that I am dreaming what is true.

From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

July 18, 2015

far too narrow an idea of what a vision might be

I believe that the old man did indeed have far too narrow an idea of what a vision might be. He may, so to speak, have been too dazzled by the great light of his experience to realize that an impressive sun shines on us all. Perhaps that is the one thing I wish to tell you. Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time.

From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

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