Monday, March 15, 2010

While the world moves in appetancy

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.

Descend lower, descend only
Into the world of perpetual solitude,
World not world, but that which is not world,
Internal darkness, deprivation
And destitution of all property,
Desiccation of the world of sense,
Evacuation of the world of fancy,
Inoperancy of the world of spirit;
This is the one way, and the other
Is the same, not in movement
But abstention from movement; while the world moves
In appetency, on its metalled ways
Of time past and time future.
--T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Eliot takes us to the via purgativa, the purgative way, the way of loss, the way of nothingness. How shall we let go of that to which we cling, of that which keeps us distracted, of that which numbs us? Can we be still and experience any permanence that transcends the impermanence of all things? What, if anything abides? Can we be liberated from dukkha?

I love this section:
Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration

Does it not speak to much of our contemporary experience? Are our minds not filled with fancies empty of meaning? So many distractions that we need a distraction to distract us from them? Perhaps a divine intervention? A holy 2x4 upside the head?

Corruption and unwholesomeness, gloom in "this twittering world." (Heavens! Eliot is prescient, no?) But this gloom is not yet the true darkness, the darkness of utter deprivation, the shining darkness of mystic experience, the emptiness from which all things spring, the stillness at the heart of all movement.

Beyond, below, far above, deep within the motions of our desiring, the restlessness of our appetancy, there is a death in which the seed of life may be found.

Are we willing to face that death? Our death?

Georges de La Tour
The Repentant Magdalene

--the BB


author said...

Thank you Paul. Recently it has been on my mind, this great split between "the world" and, essentially, myself in Christianity and as a Christian believer. In my life it takes the form of not really being able to talk about being a Christian - or not feeling comfortable - with so many people who I call friends. I wonder why this is. It's not just about their prejudices, or the pablum they are fed by public appearances of Christianity in the media. It's more than that, I think. We just don't relate on that level which includes this spiritual side of me very often. And that is troublesome.

I realize we live in a fallen world, one that is separate, and this indeed is Christ's stated purpose for his being in the world, a reconciliation. But I wish we could take it one step forward after 20 centuries. I suppose it is the same old problem, just seen through *my* eyes. But I'm tired of the worship of popular culture among the educated and intellectual, the seeming worship of appearances - or the latest this or the latest that which is followed with such unquestioning faith in what is often fashion, or just who gets published. Where does humility come into it all? There has to be a way to communicate the authentic value of such ideas without hitting people over the head with what they don't want to hear. I guess I would like to find a way to more deeply unify things in some way. But maybe we are stuck with the split, we have to make choices.

I'm blabbing, but I trust that you will understand on some level.

Ellie Finlay said...

Mmm. I have loved this painting for a long time.