Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Love is itself unmoving, Only the cause and end of movement

The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.
T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Perhaps you have heard of the yoga class where, at some point, the instructor asks the class, "What time is it?" A newcomer might be puzzled as to how one should answer since there is no clock in sight but the regulars all respond in unison, "Now."

The question and the answer - or, as we say in liturgical circles, the versicle and the response - challenge our usual way of thinking. We are clock watchers or, increasingly, prone to take out our cell phones many times a day to check the time. Nonetheless, our divisions and expressions of time are all artificial constructs. The true answer is always "now."

Now, after all, is the only moment we have. From within time, commonly conceptualized, the past has passed by and future is yet to come. We draw breath, act, hold still only in the moment.

Eliot calls us away from memory and anticipation into the present moment, like a zen master recalling us to pure awareness in the present, free of interpretation (and misinterpretation), free of desire and regret.

And so this Lent we try, if only fitfully, to enter the moment. To let go of everything but God, even our desire for God, and enter the cloud of unknowing, with no guarantees. Our expectations are inevitably disappointed, our illusions all fail us.

If lucky, we will discern a pattern, an eternal pattern of grace that is the ground and goal of all movement. The only desire we can keep is the desire for God and that, stripped of all idols and false rewards holds nothing desirable in any ordinary sense. We do not really come to the still point; we realize that is where we have always been. We were simply unaware amid the "shrieking, scolding, mocking, or merely chattering." [Good heavens, Eliot has prophesied our current situation, has he not?]

Last Sunday we sang "Just as I am" at church. Just as we are, stripped of everything in the course of this poem, we are in danger of not even being. Yet we are held in the Ground of becoming, thus caught "between un-being and being."

There in that place that is no place and everyplace, the moment that is always and never, the eternal here and now, we have our epiphany, our illumination, "sudden in a shaft of sunlight." The sound - a vibration, a movement within time - that first led us to transcend our ordinary timebound perception calls us once more to awareness.
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage

Startled (how very zen) we are called: "Quick now, here, now, always."

We see our constructs as not terribly helpful. "Ridiculous the waste sad time/ Stretching before and after."

Where are you?


What time is it?


...behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
--2 Corinthians 6:2b

--the BB

1 comment:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Lovely Lenten meditation, m'dear.

Eliot was, indeed, a prophet.