Saturday, October 01, 2011


I devote the darting, winding hours of each day to the pursuit of that which is true, beautiful and good in this world. I lead students to do the same. "I am all wonder" as Odysseus said, gazing at the intricate dance-steps and whirling color in the palace of his hospitable hosts in Phaiakia. How extraordinary that in our exceedingly imperfect world with all of its pain and evil that we even can perceive as much the former glory of creation as we do. Ruins as they are, they stand in towering, majestic
memory of what it once was - and will again be one day.

As humans, we are a microcosm of the fallen and glorious. We are absurd and inexplicable (or downright evil) one moment; capable of great sacrificial, heroic love the next. (See Carnegie Hero Fund for some examples, or recall Flight 93.) We are the being-restored, if we accept Him Who makes all things new. I snap and lord my pride over another created one. I repent in the dust that I am. Thanks be to God who leads us in His triumph. I love again, and (hopefully) better. Daily the prayer, forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Groaning inward, we wait for the redemption of our bodies in full.

Whether glimpsed in the immensity of creation, or tracked in individual human stories, I have always been amazed by extent to which we are granted grace to see truth, beauty, and goodness. It might take long, patient hours of study - but it is all around us. Speaking about working with Terence Malik on his film Tree of Life, Brad Pitt reportedly said: "He’s like a guy with a butterfly net waiting for the truth to go by.” He seems to expect that kind of patience from his audience as well, and we do not live in an age given to careful and deliberate consideration.
The stunning images of his movie originally stretched over six hours, but he cut it down to a (mere) 139 minutes. This glory-seeing takes a long-staying eye. Though a masterpiece in terms of this kind of deliberate gazing, Tree of Life was booed at Cannes, and many people have walked straight out of the theater.

Whether glimpsing good or reckoning with evil, in the wide world or within myself, I have been given an opportunity to spend the lion's share of my days doing just this. I awake early and
bike to the bus stop with stars above my head (Is that Jupiter? I should ask the physics teacher later...) On the bus, I pull out an article on the sacraments in the church and their aesthetic meaning, which my colleague has asked me to help him translate from French to English (Now, what did Aquinas mean by that? Huh..) Once at school, I pull out Homer's Odyssey and carefully re-consider how to tease and guide the conversation for the first two hours of discussion with my juniors (Would a 16-year-old girl connect with what he's saying here about longing for home? How can I get her to feel this?) Onto the whirlwind of lunch and monitoring, which really means I just get to play chess with junior-high boys and talk about the Vikings (The people group, not the football team, believe it or not).

The rest of the afternoon I swim happily through languages: senior French class and wide-eyed seventh-grade Latin and pretty soon I plop myself in my chair in the faculty room and think about how to prepare for tomorrow. I don't get very far, however. The mind-bending conversation - it might be about prairie grasses, music theory and math, or epistemology (how do we know what we know?) - but it's always something.



Henry said...
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Henry said...

Wonder-full. Well said. Again your words have led me to ache for heaven and the Divine. Beautiful post. Love, Dad