Bathed in the silence of God

Without the mystical, we are left without the full understanding or meaning that could exist. We can neither fully see, nor fully hear, the otherness of the divine without a fully developed sense for the mystical.

For the soul to grow beyond the verbal expressions of the mind, it must be bathed in the silence of God, wherein God speaks beyond words to reveal beauty to us.

Brian Kirby, ‘Beauty from Silence’

The world would be desolate

I was struck by these thoughts on perception and the enlargement of the spirit, which I came across in an article in the journal Arts: The Arts in Religious and Theological Studies (vol. 28, no. 1).

The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us.

Thus says Wallace Stevens in his article ‘Relations between Poetry and Painting’. He goes on to challenge us to embrace

the extension of the mind beyond the range of the mind, the projection of reality beyond reality, … the determination not to be confined, the recapture of excitement and intensity of interest, the enlargement of the spirit at every time, in every way.

Paul Klee, in ‘Creative Credo’, reminds us that:

art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.

And Robert Frost, ‘Education by Poetry: A Meditative Monologue’, insists that,

unless you have had your proper poetical education in the metaphor, you are not safe anywhere. Because you are not at ease with figurative values.

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Of astonishment and the necessity of exile

I was struck by these two thoughts of Anne Dufourmantelle today:

  1. Her talking about ‘the audacity that leads a philosophical utterance to make us desert those dwellings of the mind where reason lives as master, when for an instant astonishment makes reason a guest’. That’s just brilliantly put.
  2. Her insight into ‘the necessity of exile in order for “oneself as another” … to come into being’. No experience of exile – no deep transformation; that, too, makes sense to me.

Both thoughts are from Jacques Derrida and Anne Dufourmantelle, Of Hospitality: Anne Dufourmantelle Invites Jacques Derrida to Respond.

The mind and the senses

They had been brought up in a tradition that told them in one way or another that the life of the mind and the life of the senses were separate and, indeed, inimical; they had believed, without ever having really thought about it, that one had to be chosen at some expense of the other. That the one could intensify the other had never occurred to them …

From Stoner by John Williams

Very sad – and, one suspects, all too often so very true.

Perfect rest is an art

Some quotes from Abraham Joshua Heschel’s wonderful and inspiring book The Sabbath, first published in 1951:

There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.

Things, when magnified, are forgeries of happiness, they are a threat to our very lives.

Commenting on the sanctification of time, Heschel notes:

Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.

Six days a week we wrestle with the world, … on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.

… perfect rest is an art. It is the result of an accord of body, mind and imagination.

… the Sabbath is not dedicated exclusively to spiritual goals. It is a day of the soul as well as the body; comfort and pleasure are an integral part of the Sabbath observance.

The seventh day is the armistice of man’s cruel struggle for existence, a truce in all conflicts, personal and social, peace between man and man, man and nature, peace within man …. The seventh day is the exodus from tension, the liberation of man from his own muddiness, the installation of man as a sovereign in the world of time.

I found the following thought particularly remarkable:

One must abstain from toil and strain on the seventh day, even from strain in the service of God.

The Sabbath … is a profound conscious harmony of man and the world, a sympathy for all things and a participation in the spirit that unites what is below and what is above. All that is divine in the world is brought into union with God.

Heschel’s life- and creation-affirming theology is on display in these words as well:

Rabbi Shimeon’s doctrine was: There is only heaven and nothing else; but heaven contradicted him and said: There is heaven and everything else.

One must live and act as if the fate of all of time would depend on a single moment.

One good hour may be worth a lifetime; an instant of returning to God may restore what has been lost in years of escaping from him.

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.