from this body
and pain (a condition
Clothed now in light
clothed in abyss, at the prow
of the desert
Mercy on us all
For as much burn as we’ve given David Foster Wallace on this site, I was surprised and a bit embarrassed to realize that we’ve never quoted from his opus Infinite Jest. Well, no longer! Here’s a favorite: the stunning passage where Wallace recounts one of his “protagonists”, Don Gately, praying for the first time. It doubles as a memorable description of what it looks like for a person to turn to God in a meaningful way (in something resembling our context). Gately spends much of the narrative as a resident and employee of Ennet House, a halfway house in Boston,…
From the wonderful play The Cocktail Party, well into the poet’s Christian phase. A man’s wife leaves him and an Unidentified Guest – who is almost a bona fide theophany (Eliot’s God prefers gin) – gives the man, Edward, some advice on how to handle his crisis:
Most of the time we take ourselves for granted,
As we have to, and live on a little knowledge
About ourselves as we were. Who are you now?
You don’t know any more than I do,
But rather less. You are nothing but a set
Of obsolete responses. The one thing to do
Is to do nothing. Wait.
But waiting is the one thing impossible.
Besides, don’t you see that it makes me look ridiculous?
Guest: It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
That is the best advice I can give you.
“Waiting is the one thing impossible” – in Eliot’s spirituality, activity and self-righteousness and pretension must be cleared from the minds of those who know only “a heap of broken images”, who are only that, and cannot be otherwise. For a man as attuned to grace and broken on the wheels of life as he, the one genuine spiritual vocation is the desperate plea, “teach us to care and not to care/ teach us to sit still.”
Dear God, I am so discouraged about my work. I have the feeling of discouragement that is. I realize I don’t know what I realize. Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted. That is so far from what I deserve, of course, that I am naturally struck with the nerve of it. Contrition in me is largely imperfect. I don’t know if I’ve ever been sorry for a sin because it hurt You. That kind of contrition is better than none but it is selfish. To have the other kind, it is necessary to have knowledge, faith extraordinary. All boils down to grace, I suppose. Again asking God to help us be sorry for having hurt him. I am afraid of pain and I suppose that is what we have to have to get grace. Give me the courage to stand the pain to get the grace, Oh Lord. Help me with this life that seems so treacherous, so disappointing.
Francis Spufford on the horizontal power of prayer, known uniquely to Christianity (from Unapologetic):
Christians too, of course, draw consolation from the patterns faith makes as it repeats in time. For us too there’s an important wisdom in not leading a life whose only measure is the impulse of the moment. But our main comfort in the face of unjustifiable suffering is very different. It’s not an investment in order we’re asked to make; it’s a gamble on change. Our hope in not in time cycling on predictably and benevolently under an almighty hand. Our hope is in time interrupted, disrupted,…
Anthropologist and author T. M. Luhrmann has written a guest column for The New York Times this week called “Addicted to Prayer.” Luhrmann, who has spent time studying the American evangelical community and written a book on “the evangelical relationship with God”, discusses the benefits of any kind of prayer (including secular meditation) on health. She also, however, distinguishes the idea of spiritual warfare from other forms of prayer, and warns that any practice too “imaginative” can actually be detrimental. Luhrmann describes her wariness like this:
I was most struck by the dangers of prayer when people got deeply involved with…
I’ve written about my travails in community softball before, and here’s another dispatch from the front lines.
This year, I’ve been playing on church-league softball team (not my church…I’m a scab, a ringer, brought in for my ability to ensure that they have enough people to field a team), which is a different experience than the “town” league I played in last year. This league has prayers before and after the games and its players keep our anger and competitiveness jailed beneath our surfaces. So, you know, Christian.
The other day, as we all gathered at home plate…
The hits just keep on coming! In lieu of our usual bi-weekly Monday devotion, here’s four for the price of one, all of Drew Rollins’ wise, funny, and deeply pastoral words from the NYC Conference in one video. They are far less conference-specific than they may initially appear–each one is about 10 minutes long:
As powerful as it possibly gets from the new Archbishop of Canterbury. I defy you not to feel:
The world is a more interesting place when David Bowie is in the news. Anything could happen. A pope could be appointed, the Veronica Mars movie could finally get a Kickstarter campaign, you name it. Reading about the Zigster last night, I came across the Wikipedia entry on his 1976 record Station to Station. I’d always enjoyed its icy euro-funk vibe but never counted it among my favorites. I certainly never listened to the words very closely; I figured they were nothing but the cocaine-fueled nightmares that critics seemed obliged to mention when talking about the album and its tour….
Episode 133: Brandy Station
This one is about the creative process, the listening to God, as I would put it; and also about the Peace of God, to bring about the reconciling of opposites in the healing of the world.
I was thinking about “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens, which put me in touch with Looking Glass, “Brandy”, not to mention “Brandy’s” follow-up (It’s wonderful, as you will hear.); not to mention the memorable garment worn by the lead singer of Looking Glass and that comfort-food voice which calmed all fear.
Why is it the music for PZ’s podcast that’s almost the most…