The liberation of saying ‘No’

It may be that vice, depravity, and crime are nearly always, or perhaps even always, in their essence, attempts to eat beauty, to eat what we should only look at.

Thus Simone Weil in Waiting for God. Quoting Weil in an interview with The Other Journal, Barbara Brown Taylor comments:

To learn to look at things instead of devouring them is to discover how quickly the feeling of deprivation can turn to liberation instead. Every time I say no – to more stuff, more speed, more activity, more food – this great big space opens up in my life. … If the church is meant to embody an alternative way of life, then what better witness could there be than a community that decided to live on less in order to live more richly? That sounds like the kind of truth that could make people free.

On beauty and writing

These thoughts by Elisabeth Pike on beauty and writing resonated with me. They’re from an article entitled ‘Space to create’, which appeared in Third Way, April 2014.

I have heard it said that writing is as much about staring at the empty page as it is about writing. I love that. It takes the pressure off; it gives permission to dream. As Nabokov said in Lectures on Literature, the words will arrive when they are ready: ‘the pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamouring to become visible.’

Pike then quotes some lines from Virginia Woolf’s In a Room of One’s Own on idling and comments:

To idle! Did you hear that? There is always beauty to be found, whether we are at home looking after toddlers, or paying the rent with a day job.

And again:

The beauty is always there … you just have to take the time, open your eyes and perceive it.

And she quotes from Raymond Carver’s essay ‘On Writing’, published in Fires:

A writer sometimes needs to be able to stand and gape at this or that thing – a sunset or an old shoe – in absolute and simple amazement.

This, as Pike concludes, is what it’s about:

To live, to see, to idle, to communicate wonder!

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Cornfields

In Deventer … there was contact with God and with every person I met …. There were cornfields I shall never forget, whose beauty nearly brought me to my knees …. And the sun, which I drank in through all my pores. And back here each day is a thousand fragments, … and God, too, has departed.

An Interrupted Life: The Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum 1941–43

More and more

I move more slowly than I used to because I don’t want to miss anything.
I find more and more beauty and meaning in everyday, average moments that I would have missed before.
I need fewer answers because I see more.
I find more people more fascinating than ever because I’m more and more used to being surprised by the mystery that a human being is.
I’ve discovered more and more events are less about the events themselves and more about me being open to whatever it is that’s going on just below the surface

Once again this is from Rob Bell’s What We Talk about When We Talk about God.

Taking up the cross

‘Taking up the cross’ in costly discipleship means a willingness to struggle against evil, for the sake of fullness of life, for the ‘bringing back of beauty’. It does not mean the passive acceptance of imposed suffering. Rather it means resistance to any pain or violence unjustly inflicted and an affirmation of abundant life for all. It means prioritizing love and justice inseparably intertwined.

Mary Grey, To Rwanda and Back: Liberation, Spirituality and Reconciliation

The story held you together

Some random thoughts from Mark Haddon’s The Red House. They spoke to me for a variety of reasons, I suppose.

The beauty kept slipping through her fingers. The world was so far away and the mind kept saying, Me, me, me. … But the valley … wasn’t this amazing? Look, you had to say to yourself, Look.

A failure to engage properly with the world. … Nothing mattered enough.

He occupies, still, a little circle of attention, no more than eight metres in diameter at most. If stuff happens beyond this perimeter he simply doesn’t notice unless it involves explosions or his name being yelled angrily. At home, in school, on the streets between and around the two, the world is constantly catching him by surprise, teachers, older boys, drunk people on the street all suddenly appearing in front of him so that his most-used facial expression is one of puzzled shock.

He had always seen his self-sufficiency as an admirable quality, a way of not imposing upon other people, but he could see now that it was an insult to those close to you.

It was the story that mattered, the story that held you together …. Saying, This happenedThen that happened … Saying This is me. But what is her story? Losing the plot. The deep truths hidden in the throw-away phrase.