Thursday, July 03, 2008

Eternity in our Hearts

I always enjoyed the Sunday mornings when when I was given the eternal privilege of seeing the crazy path that Jeffy from Family Circus had traveled over the course of one day of play. In my imagination, this path has always been a sort of thread that trails behind every human being as we make our way through life in the world. We unwittingly cross over and under millions of other threads, pull them taut or let them go slack. It is as if we are an extremely complex loom, with our lives shuttling back and forth, up and down, and even on the diagonal. We are born, die, plant, uproot, kill, heal, break down, build up, weep, laugh, mourn, dance, cast away stones, gather stones together, embrace, refrain from embracing, seek, lose, keep, cast away, keep silent, speak, love, hate, make war, make peace....tear apart and sew.

We are kept blissfully unaware of this weighty fact most of the time, as it would probably hurt our brains beyond repair. But we do get flashes of understanding from time to time, through Scripture and sometimes the poets:

"Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time". (T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton)

For our own sanity, the Eternal One keeps us occupied from the dizzying thought that with every word and deed we are weaving an intricate tapestry "I have seen the business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man's mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." (Ecclesiastes). We feel it, but we cannot fully comprehend it. As T.S. Eliot says earlier: "human kind cannot bear very much reality." We are allowed glimpses, but not the whole thing until our minds and bodies are made new, able to bear up under such glory.

Besides a madman, a poet, or both, I suppose it is those who live the longest that also begin to see patterns in the weave. I have one last, slim chapter left to read of the incomparable 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think of Pilar Ternera, a wizened centenarian fortuneteller, who slowly gives up her use of cards to tell the future, and relies rather on her experience as time goes on and histories in the same old town cross over one another and repeat themselves. Sometimes we call this wisdom. Maybe this is why God limits us to 100-some years of life on this earth - any longer, and perhaps the seeds of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil still lodged in our stomaches would sprout and grow and overcome us.

There's also something about movement in space that makes one curiously aware of the eternal. Like Jeffy, we are wandering around yet again without a fixed address this summer. The uprooting of everyday life has become an annual ritual for us - throwing away things to make the suitcases lighter, boarding trains and planes, landing somewhere old and somewhere new. I think also of dear friends of ours who are moving from Minnesota to New York this fall. It is a challenging lifestyle, but it is one that I am increasingly fond of, because it reminds me that what is most significant in life is not a place, or material things, but relationships with people. This is where the threads cross, tangle, knot, or fix into place, so we remember where to return after our wanderings, and the overall picture is made all the more beautiful for the returning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Breathtaking reflections. Dad