Posts tagged ‘time’

January 18, 2016

that universe is not human

A non-religious man today ignores what he considers sacred but, in the structure of his consciousness, could not be without the ideas of being and the meaningful. He may consider these purely human aspects of the structure of consciousness. What we see today is that man considers himself to have nothing sacred, no god; but still his life has a meaning, because without it he could not live; he would be in chaos. He looks for being and does not immediately call it being, but meaning or goals; he behaves in his existence as if he had a kind of center. He is going somewhere, he is doing something. We do not see anything religious here; we just see man behaving as a human being. But as a historian of religion, I am not certain that there is nothing religious here.

…I cannot consider exclusively what that man tells me when he consciously says, ‘I don’t believe in God; I believe in history,’ and so on. For example, I do not think that Jean-Paul Sartre gives all of himself in his philosophy, because I know that Sartre sleeps and dreams and likes music and goes to the theater. And in the theater he gets into a temporal dimension in which he no longer lives his ‘moment historique.’ There he lives in quite another dimension. We live in another dimension when we listen to Bach. Another experience of time is given in drama. We spend two hours at a play, and yet the time represented in the play occupies years and years. We also dream. This is the complete man. I cannot cut this complete man off and believe someone immediately when he consciously says that he is not a religious man. I think that unconsciously, this man still behaves as the ‘homo religiosus,’ has some source of value and meaning, some images, is nourished by his unconscious, by the imaginary universe of the poems he reads, of the plays he sees; he still lives in different universes. I cannot limit his universe to that purely self-conscious, rationalistic universe which he pretends to inhabit, since that universe is not human.

From Mircea Eliade (source unknown).

August 31, 2014

driven by a kind of flywheel

He was giving me the picture of a man snarled in a tangle, helpless to get free.

I knew that he didn’t have the strength to get free. His life was driven by a kind of flywheel. He had submitted to it and accepted it. It was turning fast. To slow down or stop it and come to a place that was moving with the motion only of time and loss and slow grief was more, that day, than he could imagine.

I knew too that it was more than he could bear. He was in a way given over to machines, but he is not a machine himself. Right then, he could not bear the thought of coming back to stand even for a few hours by his dead father in the emptiness he once filled. He said he would come as soon as he could.

…And then there was the funeral. The sixth of May. Eleven o’clock in the morning. Not twenty minutes beforehand, Mattie came. He was standing by the coffin, flustered and shaken, everybody looking at him, before unrecognized him and could believe it was him. He had flown to Cincinnati, rented a car, dashed down the interstate, and made it barely in time. And he had to hurry back one breath after the preacher said the final amen. I had to think of all that it had cost, of all the engines that had run, just to give one man a few minutes of ordinary grief at his dad’s funeral, but I was completely glad to see him.”

From Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (164-165).

September 23, 2013

love your crooked neighbour

As I Walked out One Evening
by W. H. Auden

As I walked out one evening,
     Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
     Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
     I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
     “Love has no ending.

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
     Till China and Africa meet
And the river jumps over the mountain
     And the salmon sing in the street.

“I’ll love you till the ocean
     Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
     Like geese about the sky.

“The years shall run like rabbits
     For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages
     And the first love of the world.”

But all the clocks in the city
     Began to whirr and chime:
“O let not Time deceive you,
     You cannot conquer Time.

“In the burrows of the Nightmare
     Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
     And coughs when you would kiss.

“In headaches and in worry
     Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
     To-morrow or to-day.

“Into many a green valley
     Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
     And the diver’s brilliant bow.

“O plunge your hands in water,
     Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
     And wonder what you’ve missed.

“The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
     The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
     A lane to the land of the dead.

“Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
     And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer
     And Jill goes down on her back.

“O look, look in the mirror,
     O look in your distress;
Life remains a blessing
     Although you cannot bless.

“O stand, stand at the window
     As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
     With your crooked heart.”

It was late, late in the evening,
     The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming
     And the deep river ran on.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden (Random House, 1940)

Tags: , , , ,
October 29, 2012

strange vacuum covered by this truly demonic word

Today no one, except the peculiar and esoteric race of men called “liturgiologists,” is interested in what was in the past a major preoccupation for Christians: the feasts and the seasons, the cycles of prayer, a very real concern about the “kairos“–the time of liturgical celebration. Not only the average layman, even the theologian seems to say: the world of Christian “symbolism” is no longer our world, all this failed, all this is gone and we have more serious affairs to attend to; it would be unthinkable, ridiculous to try to solve any real “problem” of modern life by referring it, say, to Easter or Pentecost, or even to Sunday.

…The real tragedy of Christianity is not its “compromise” with the world and progressive “materialism,” but on the contrary, its “spiritualization” and transformation into “religion.” …Christians were tempted to reject time altogether and replace it with mysticism and “spiritual” pursuits, to live as Christians out of time and thereby escape its frustrations; to insist that time has no real meaning from the point of view of the Kingdom which “beyond time.” And they finally succeeded.

…We must understand, therefore, that the intensive, almost pathological, preoccupation of our modern world with time and its “problem” is rooted in this specifically Christian failure. It is because of us, Christians, that the world in which we live has literally no time. Is it not true that the more “time saving” devices we invent, the less time we have? The joyless rush is interrupted by relaxation (“sit back and relax!”), but such is the horror of the strange vacuum covered by this truly demonic word, “relaxation,” that men must take pills to endure it, and buy expensive books about how to kill this no man’s land of “modern living.”

There is no time because Christianity, on the one hand, made it impossible for man to live in the old natural time, broke beyond repair the cycle of the eternal return. It has announced the fullness of time, revealed time as history and fulfillment, and has truly poisoned us once for all with the dream of a meaningful time. There is no time, on the other hand, because having announced all this, Christianity abandoned time, invited Christians simply to leave it and to think of eternity as of an eternal rest (if not yet “relaxation”). To be sure, one can still adorn the meaningless time with “beautiful symbols” and “colorful rites,” preferably “ancient.”

…The cross of Christ signified an end of all “natural” rejoicing; it made it, indeed, impossible. From this point of view the sad “seriousness” of modern man is certainly of Christian origin, even if this has been forgotten by that man himself. Since the Gospel was preached in this world, all attempts to go back to a pure “pagan joy,” all “renaissances,” all “healthy optimisms” were bound to fail. “There is but one sadness,” said Leon Bloy, “that of not being a saint.” And it is this sadness that permeates mysteriously the whole life of the world, its frantic and pathetic hunger and thirst for perfection, which kills all joy.

From chapter three in For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann (48-49, 54).

October 21, 2012

a tender young lamb’s summer afternoon

From The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander in The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 2, Chapter 14 (“The Price”):

“You make sport of us,” Taran cried angrily. “The price you ask is beyond what any of us can pay.”

Orddu hesitated. “Possibly you’re right,” she admitted. “Well, then, something a little more personal. I have it!” she said, beaming at Taran. “Give us—give us the nicest summer day you can remember! You can’t say that’s hard, since it belongs to you!”

“Yes,” Orwen said eagerly. “A lovely summer afternoon full of sunlight and sleepy scents.”

“There’s nothing so sweet,” murmured Orgoch, sucking a tooth, “as a tender young lamb’s summer afternoon.”

“How can I give you that?” protested Taran. “Or any other day, when they’re—they’re inside of me somewhere? You can’t get them out! I mean…”

“We could try,” Orgoch muttered.

February 25, 2012

sabbath was to time what temple was to space

The sabbath was the day when human time and God’s time met, when the day-to-day succession of tasks and sorrows was set aside and one entered a different sort of time, celebrating the original sabbath and looking forward to the ultimate one. This was the natural moment to celebrate, to worship, to pray, to study God’s law. The sabbath was the moment during which one sensed the onward movement of history from its first foundations to its ultimate resolution. If the Temple was the space in which God’s sphere and the human sphere met, the sabbath was the time when God’s time and human time coincided. Sabbath was to time what Temple was to space.

…This sense of looking forward was heightened by the larger sabbatical scheme in which the seventh year was a year of agricultural rest and the seven-times-seventh year the year of jubilee, the time for slaves to be freed, for debts to be cancelled, for life to get back on track.

…The jubilee was, as it were, the once-in-a-lifetime “exodus” that everyone could experience. We don’t know whether or to what extent the jubilee as set forth in Leviticus 25 was actually practiced in Jesus’s day. But it remained in the scriptures as a reminder that God’s time was being marked out week by week, seven years by seven years, half century by half century. Matthew hints at all this in his own way, right at the start of his gospel, by arranging Jesus’s genealogy in three groups of fourteen generations (that is, six sevens), so that Jesus appears at the start of the sabbath-of-sabbaths moment. And, as we have seen, people in Jesus’s day were pondering, calculating, and longing for the greatest superjubilee of them all, the “seventy weeks” (that is, seventy times seven years) of Daniel 9:24.

…Now, and only now, do we see what Jesus meant when he said the time is fulfilled. That was part of his announcement right at the start of his public career (Mark 1:15). Only this, I believe, will enable us to understand his extraordinary behavior immediately afterwards. He seems to have gone out of his way to flout the normal sabbath regulations. Most people in the modern church have imagined that this was because the sabbath had become “legalistic,” a kind of observance designed to boost one’s sense of moral achievement, and that Jesus had come to sweep all that away in a burst of libertarian, antilegalistic enthusiasm. That, though commonplace, is a trivial misunderstanding. It is too “modern” by half.

…In particular, Jesus came to Nazareth and announced the jubilee. This was the time—the time!—when all the sevens, all the sabbaths, would rush together. This was the moment Israel and the world had been waiting for. When you reach your destination, you don’t expect to see signposts anymore. …It was completely consistent with Jesus’s vision of his own vocation that he would do things that said, again and again from one angle after another, that the time had arrived, that the future, the new creation, was already here, and that one no longer needed the sabbath. The sabbath law was not, then, a stupid rule that could now be abolished (though some of the detailed sabbath regulations, as Jesus pointed out, had led to absurd extremes, so that you were allowed to pull a donkey out of a well on the sabbath, but not to heal the sick). It was a signpost whose purpose had now been accomplished

…If Jesus is a walking, living, breathing Temple, he is also the walking, celebrating, victorious sabbath. But this means that the time of Jesus’s public career, taken as a whole, also acquires a special significance. He spoke about this special significance when he insisted that the wedding guests can’t fast while the bridegroom is still at the party. Something new is happening; a new time has been launched; different things are now appropriate. Jesus has a sense of a rhythm to his work, a short rhythm in which he will launch God’s kingdom, the God’s-in-charge project, and complete it in the most shocking and dramatic symbolic act of all.

….In a solemn warning that resonates with many similar ones, Jesus warns his hearers that they may one day see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets—and people from east and west, from north and south!—sitting down to eat in the kingdom of God, while they themselves will be thrown out (Luke 13:18–30). The time of Jesus’s public career is the time of fulfillment, the time through which God’s new creation, his earth-as-in-heaven new reality, is being launched, up close and personal. But this means it is possible to miss the boat, to lose the one chance. That is the warning that goes with the note of fulfillment.

Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N. T. Wright

June 18, 2011

tame as canaries

Jan Luyken etching, Parable of the mustard seed from the Bowyer Bible

When posting about the Bible as “a cornucopia of scenes and images” yesterday, this poem came to mind (much thanks to Christine Perrin for introducing it to my class and me). It recalls the burning bush as well as the tree of life, the great tree of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the prophet Daniel, and the mighty mustard tree full of nesting birds in Christ’s parable (Matthew 13:31–32, Mark 4:30–32 and Luke 13:18–19). It is by contemporary Russian poet Elena Shvarts.

The Book on the Windowsill

Like a lamb in a storm, or two and two crammed in a crate
I sit in these teeming branches, and tremble with fear.

A mighty tree is the word of God,
A laurel with leaves that whisper and rustle;
The prophets hang on it like thorn-apples,
Or fish on an angler’s line (jump hop!).
Confusion, darkness and beauty dwell in its shade,
Branches, fruit, a chorus of angels all singing,
Singing and weaving — what? Purple brocade.
Whales in the foliage spout fountains;
Birds fix predatory eyes on the berries,
Longing to cram their craws to the brim;
But down they go plummeting on scorched wings,
And sit caged in the branches, tame as canaries.
I cannot approach the tree in its thickets;
Yet you’re there in the heart-wood, the smouldering trunk.
The birds bob in the swirling leaves like bathers;
Jonah lies in the Whale at night, in the morning the Whale lies in him.
Down thuds an apple, and splits to show peacocks inside;
Eve wearing harlequin colours, and Adam with gilded feathers —
There’s Abraham, bright as a lemon. The hollows hold luminous spirits,
And on each calyx gazelles and fallow-deer graze.
Judith flies through the air, cracking nuts like a squirrel,
‘Holofernes!’ she cries, and preens her blue fur.
Noah is chanting and caulking a mighty barrel:
‘Lord, hear my cry when the water is high’ runs the song;
And Elijah wraps up the tree in golden ribbons of lightning.

They say you can’t read every word. If you do, you go mad.
It seems to be true: I can feel that my own mind is shaking.
Reason’s as ready to burst as an over-ripe pumpkin,
Just as the smug, stout-walled town of Jericho learnt.
So let me walk in my strange, light sleep, half-waking
And pass through the waterfalls of shades.
O Moses, when you came at last to the Promised Land
Did you ever feel you were something she’d dreamt?

June 13, 2011

she remembered them years later

As this whole life is a kind of journey or exile, exercising the office of priesthood often involves a deliberate, steadying or arresting of time (cycles such as weeks, months, anniversaries and festivals help in this regard):

They were now in the palace garden which sloped down in terraces to the city wall. The moon shone brightly. One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them; so that Aravis (though she remembered them years later) had only a vague impression of grey lawns, quietly bubbling fountains, and the long black shadows of cypress trees.

Lewis is always interested in light and it’s transformational effects, especially sun light. Our whole world begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation under the light of God himself. Exercising the eyes of a priest often involves noticing these hints at what the world might truly look like.

Then suddenly the sun rose and everything changed in a moment. The grey sand turned yellow and twinkled as if it was strewn with diamonds. On their left the shadows of Shasta and Hwin and Bree and Aravis, enormously long, raced beside them. The double peak of Mount Pire, far ahead, flashed in the sunlight and Shasta saw they were a little out of the course. “A bit left, a bit left,” he sang out. Best of all, when you looked back, Tashbaan was already small and remote. The Tombs were quite invisible: swallowed up in that single, jagged-edged hump which was the city of the Tisroc. Everyone felt better.

(Both from The Horse and His Boy, chapter 9.)

%d bloggers like this: