resemblance in straw
hat, of man who went beyond
there, woman's birthday
It's ok to break down
Just be willing to be built up.
To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak.
-- Ecclesiastes ch.3, v.3 and v. 7.
And the leaves of the tree?
These are pages on which those who inquire write their journeys and findings to share with us.
And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
-- Revelations ch. 22, v.2.
Until you speak.
Then, listen to your own voice.
Sounding through what is longing to be heard.
The name Sertillange popped up. Some fifty years ago I'd read his book (in translation), La Vie Intellectuelle, son Esprit, ses Conditions, ses Méthodes. (1934)
For Sertillanges, the intellectual vocation is a calling to discover, articulate, and transmit truth. How far this is from the understanding and practice of the intellectual life in contemporary academia, in which one’s soul becomes grist for the collective academic mill, the function of which is to recuperate a perpetually dying, artificial, stillborn “intellectual life” of truth-indifferent and jargon-ridden journals, ruthless career-worship, status-quo opportunism, and inner-circle gossip-mongering. Try to live a genuinely intellectual life in the midst of that!
But there is hope, for Sertillanges notes more than once that the intellectual’s best and most essential friend is solitude, though isolation is to be avoided: “The man with too much solitude, “grows timid, abstracted, a little odd: he stumbles along amid realities like a sailor who has just come off his ship; he has lost the sense of the human lot; he seems to look on you as if you were a ‘proposition’ to be inserted in a syllogism, or an example to be put down in a notebook” (59). The intellectual’s worst and most dangerous associate is the world, especially a world like contemporary academia!
When the world does not like you it takes its revenge on you; if it happens to like you, it takes its revenge still by corrupting you. Your only resource is to work far from the world, as indifferent to its judgments as you are ready to serve it. . . . Do not busy yourself with the sayings and doings of the world, that is with such that have no moral and intellectual bearing; avoid useless comings and goings which waste hours and fill the mind with wandering thoughts. These are the conditions of that sacred thing, quiet recollection (xxiii, 47).
Of course, most of us have no choice but to dwell in the vengeful, worldly and wordy halls of academia, where much thought is “wandering,” and where bureaucratic “useless comings and goings” are endless. What Sertillanges counsels is not a flight from the world but, simply, balance. For example, the intellectual desperately needs the support of a robust and authentic community of fellow intellectuals, but sometimes it is enough, he says, just to know there are others laboring at the same task, whether or not there is face-to-face or close proximity to such a community. Perhaps blog communities fulfill this purpose in our community-starved day!
With regard to solitude, specifically, the amount of concentrated intellectual work that is required in the intellectual vocation, Sertillanges’ prescription is quite surprising:
Have you two hours a day? Can you undertake to guard them jealously, to use them ardently, and then, being of those who have authority in the Kingdom of God, can you drink the chalice of which these pages would wish you to make you savor the exquisite and bitter taste? If so, have confidence. Nay, rest in quiet certainty (11).
Two hours a day, when one thinks of it, is not an inconsiderable amount, especially when we consider the difficulty of engaging in even a few minutes of genuine, contemplative intellectual activity in a culture “distracted from distraction by distraction” to use T.S. Eliot’s incredibly apt phrase. For Sertillanges, the fundamental virtue required of the intellectual is attention, and two hours a day of it is plenty. Here he is in accord with Simone Weil in her fantastic essay, “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God”: “Although people seem to be unaware of it today, the development of the faculty of attention forms the real object and almost the sole interest of studies.”
(--from, On the Intellectual Life, by Sertillange, Scribd, Uploaded by tjkozinski on Dec 03, 2013)
I have two hours a day.
The distraction of it!
Hallucinations aren’t at all what they appear to be.
In fact, they’re more than appearance.
They’re what sanity used to be before socially collective amnesia and apprehension forced people to pretend there’s a singular reality and our best interests reside in agreeing and affirming we all dwell within its protective custody.
“There is no trustworthy standard by which we can separate the 'real' from the 'unreal' aspects of phenomena. Such standards as exist are conventional: and correspond to convenience, not to truth. It is no argument to say that most men see the world in much the same way, and that this “way” is the true standard of reality: though for practical purposes we have agreed that sanity consists in sharing the hallucinations of our neighbors.”
(― Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, 1911)
That’s the thing about both democracy and authentic spirituality — their expression is diverse and multivalent.
Do not buy into nor share your neighbor’s hallucinations.
Have, or be, your own.
When this week started, I was a hermit.
Before that I was an idiorhythmic monastic.
Now I am a recluse without anything resembling what a neighbor might recognize as kith, kin, or kindred.
Still, I water plants, spray the garden, feed the cats, seed the birds, and listen to all that sounds in my surround.
This arrived in email box at 1:41AM:
I remember a meeting in which a friend asked a strange and unexpected question: “What do you think is the most valuable land in the world?”
Several people threw out guesses, such as Manhattan, the oil fields of the Middle East, and the gold mines of South Africa, before our friend indicated that we were way off track. He paused for a moment, and said, “You’re all wrong. The most valuable land in the world is the graveyard. In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, unreconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow.’ One day, however, their tomorrows ran out.”
That day I went back to my office and I wrote down two words in my notebook and on the wall of my office that have been my primary operating ethic for the last several years: Die Empty.
I want to know that if I lay my head down tonight and don’t wake up tomorrow, I have emptied myself of whatever creativity is lingering inside, with minimal regrets about how I spent my focus, time, and energy. This doesn’t happen by accident; it takes intentional and sustained effort. But I can say with confidence from my own experience and the experiences of others I’ve worked with that the effort is well worth it.
(—Die Empty, by Todd Henry, Nipun Mehta)
It’s a good day for that.
The birds are in their nave.
Noctem quietam et finem perfectum
concedat nobis Dominus omnipotens.
There is a constant undermining of the American tradition of democracy and justice.
It’s been a fragile construct based on privilege and race. But now that white America is experiencing the increase of multi-racial growth of population there is an intentional movement to slow down the vote and disadvantage those neither white nor rich from having too much say over electoral choice and candidates.
The strategy is to take control of elections and reserve power to a ruling elite benefitting from suppression of the vote.
There’s a consequent ignorance afoot.
Consequent ignorance is when we choose, for sinful reasons, to remain ignorant of things we can and ought to know. (D.Q. McInerny, A Course in Thomistic Ethics, 1997, pp. 40-42.)
The opposition to full and fair democracy is rabid and fierce. Who can blame the fear? Fear is where love goes when unable to control everything.
It is the continual decision we have to make — love or fear?
I’m not interested in fear.
I’d rather know love.
Why whisper into the night silhouette of trees at first light of matins?
Because, you might say, that is the transitional space of time where transformation takes place.
Praise, they chant praise, over and over while the rest of us sleep.
Rilke wrote, “Sie sagt für dich, ich bin.”
Someone says for you, I am.
Evelyn Underhill, considering mysticism, wondered, “I am, but who else is?”
Who else, indeed.
The earth turns.
I, alone, hear the first bird’s awakening song with glance toward east, the slow lighting its song awakens.
It’s not that we’re all alone that is significant. It’s that noticing such a thing, such haecceity — the thisness of this moment, this noticing, this one noticing, this bird having performed the introit, the opening antiphon of awareness — presumes the inquiry “who else is?” as primary quest and immediate koan of first light.
The statement and the question — I am! (and) Who else is? — becomes foundational realization and inquiry this early Sunday prayer without ceasing.
This is my body.
No one else is.
The astounding, and stark, haecceity of it!
Who, or what, is that “someone” saying for you...