Tongued with fire
January 9, 2016 3 Comments
While Neo is recovering from whatever fell bacteria have felled him a bit this week, I said I’d do one for today to allow him more time to recover – but first, I am sure you will all join me in wishing him a speedy and full restoration to good health.
We’ve been doing a lot on politics this week, and much of it has been pretty gloomy in tone; that’s the thing about a conservative disposition, it means you don’t get to indulge in ‘happy think’ and delude yourself into confusing your wishes with reality. If we’re gloomy, it’s because there’s plenty about which to feel less than pleased. Partisans apart, I’m not seeing anyone over enthusiastic about the candidates for the Presidency. We’ve seen what has happened on the international stage when the World’s Sheriff decided he had better things to do, and that’s going to leave a legacy which may not be possible to clean up.
Those of us with religious faith are sometimes accused of going to our ‘imaginary friend’ for consolation, but that shows an incomprehension of what religion is about. Everyone of us takes on trust certain assumptions, every one of us tries to find a narrative that makes sense of this world. Science is only one mode by which we try to understand things, and it is not its province to answer the thing that puzzles us most – is there a purpose to our being here? If it is just to continue the gene pool, then whatever way we do that is the best life, and yet, in our era, we have tested to destruction the limits of hedonism without finding in it a place where we can rest. Like St Augustine of Hippo, we too are restless; for the Christians among us we find rest in one place only – God.
That is easier experienced in transit than in permanency. In this fallen world our broken and marred selves interact in ways which might be designed at times to maximise pain as much as pleasure. We find it hard to hold on to the calm places. Across the last year I have spent a lot of time in those silences and found there a calmness that made me want to stay; but in me there is a restlessness which has made that impossible. But we can, perhaps, try to take those moments of transcendence with us into the wider world. My beloved TS Eliot caught something of that in Little Gidding here:
If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Reason and will can take us only so far, and that is never far enough for our soul – kneeling where prayer is valid can take us further – if we have the courage, or desperation, to entrust ourselves to it. In the end, the things which politics can deal with matter, but there are more things in heaven and earth than are contained in their philosophies.