Pearl

I had a pearl of great worth.

I put it in a box– hid it away.

Too dangerous to let anyone know about it.

It was worth too much.

I lived a mundane life,

only I knew the secret of this pearl.

Still hidden, I hid it from friends, family, all who knew me.

Years went by and I forgot about the pearl.

Loss and death overwhelmed me with grief.

I forgot about the pearl of great price.

The pearl forgotten,

studies and a shaky purpose took its place.

Something I thought I wanted.

That too burned — went up in flames. Burning down the house.

In the ashes I found the pearl.

But blamed all upon the perfect milky sphere.

I gave it away– to the depths of the earth.

A weight lifted.

I was free.

I met another to share joy with.

But became a slave.

Though I gave the pearl away, all I ever sought was that very same perfect milky sphere.

So went on a quest to find what I gave away.

Everywhere I looked I saw a glimpse of the perfect milky sphere.

But none of it was the pearl itself.

It wasn’t in the cloud cover;

wasn’t in the mountains;

not the ocean;

not in the sand or the sea;

neither the grassy valley nor the country field.

Not in the eyes of the beauty.

Or in all the knowledge in the world.

A man of wisdom told me, it was nearer to me than my very heartbeat, but farther than the furthest star.

I looked to the heavens, to the darkest star–

within myself.

But it wasn’t there either.

I looked everywhere.

I never found it again.

Until one evening, on my deathbed–

I saw it.

And I lived again.

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untitled

22 stars

22 lies

eye following trail of luminous stars.

to the heavens.

to crash to earth

to dust

careening

not slowing–

no parachute

only heat and fire and gravity

pulling.

“Follow your star,” they say.

Words from the Pit.

Gustav Stickley: Art Nouveau

A return to simpler times. Back to the earth. Back to the simple, quiet things in life. Back to nature. Back to how things used to be. These are all themes of every age. In Gustav Stickley’s time, it was the height of the industrial age. Items were mass produced and usually resulted in poor quality. Gustav wanted to return his production of things to craftsmanship, quality, beauty and the earthen tones and natural beauty. To make things out of what was available to you immediately from the woods around you, the stone in the earth, the metals and minerals of the earth.

This movement became art nouveau or the arts and crafts movement. Gustav used a medieval style of adjoining pieces of wood to make furniture. Frank Loyd Wright would also continue this movement.

Gustav had an estate of 650 acres, with a two acre garden of vegetables and flowers. An orchard. A pasture with cows. He had a sustainable homestead and also sold his products locally and shipped them to the restaurant he owned in New York City. He lived in the Parsippany, NJ homestead for six years until he went bankrupt and had to sell off his businesses and land.

He either overstretched his assets or wasn’t the best businessman. I may be pulling out of left field, but it shows that nothing is purely self-sustaining. The dream we may have, to have land and be self-sufficient–there may be a time for it, but only God knows how long. All that we do, have, are given is really God’s. To God we must give the glory, whether we are prosperous or not. He is our provider.  (I know, random comment).

Nonetheless, I love the idea of building with old techniques from the material that is on the land that you own. I love art that uses earth tones and depicts images of nature. Nature has so much beauty. Its beauty pointing to God. I love the serenity being in nature brings. I don’t like utilitarianism and all things being mass and overproduced. I don’t like the loss of beauty and uniqueness that industry can bring. There is also a purpose in industry that isn’t always evil. It’s not really a matter of either or. Because either movement can become worship–worship of the machine or nature-worship.

What is the purpose of our creativity whether it is making machines or machines that make machines or a bent toward more natural things and quiet in God’s creation? It is to do all things to the glory of God. (Yes, this entry is a tangent and seemingly unrelated and whatever other word the reader wants to throw in there … it is Sunday and this is what I did today–church then this really neat museum).

Personally, this is how I’d like to live. In nature, with land, nice (real) wood furniture, fireplace, open spaces, possibly a garden. But in reality I neither have the means nor the energy. Unless I were to inherit it like Gregory of Nazianzus did in his twilight years (an ideal I’d like, but probably unrealistic.) Only God knows. To Him be the glory of the present and the future.

Canto 23 Paradise: triumph of Christ

Dante is in the eighth sphere, the fixed stars where he witnesses the triumph of Christ and the blessing of the souls in His light.

In the sphere of the contemplatives, Anthony Esolen reminds us that Dante was not able to see the full glory of Beatrice’s smile — the transfiguration of the human person. But in the light of the fixed stars, Dante’s mind is prepared to see such glory. The glory of Christ and Mary and the glory of the human being in the light of God.

“‘Open your eyes, behold now I’ve become, for by the power of the things you’ve seen you now may bear the glory of my smile.’ And I was as a man who feels again a trace of a lost dream, and strains to ply his powers to bring it back to mind …”

Dante witnesses the glory of the human being in the person of Beatrice. But she chastises him, I think: “She said to me, ‘Why does my face hold you so bound in love that you don’t turn to see the lovely garden, the flowers the rays of Christ have brought to bloom? Here is the rose wherein the Word divine was made incarnate, here the lilies blow whose fragrance leads men on the righteous way.'”

Beatrice tells him to behold the light who illuminates all beings–Christ himself. The rose is Mary, the lilies the apostles. It was Mary who bore Christ. She, the Theotokos: God bearer. It is Christ who brings the apostles to fullness in goodness and beauty. The apostles carry on the teachings of Christ and start the church. Our light is Christ and He is the one who glorifies us and transforms us into His likeness.

(corrected–thanks Dr. Moser)

 

Why I write

Thank you to all who read this blog.

Why do I write it? Well, it started as a memoir. Then that got derailed and I started using it as a platform to write poetry. Then I started a focused study on Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The reason I write is so I don’t lose myself. It’s a creative way to put to words some of the things I am dealing with. It’s like conversation, pouring out what is inside your head and heart. It’s not the only thing that I must do, but it’s one thing. Sometimes the writing is rambling, sometimes incoherent, other times, hopefully right on.

I don’t claim to know more than anyone else. After all, I am gleaning from the wisdom of Anthony Esolen, conversations with a professor, some of the readings I had from seminary and others I studied on my own. So I am not pulling things from the air. I just hope some have found good things and possibly helped expand their worldview or gotten some angry so they can study and read to refute or confirm. Nonetheless, the whole point of learning is to love what is being taught. To gain some truth, goodness and beauty.

So if things don’t make sense sometimes, I’m sorry. I mainly write to share some things that I am thinking about (I don’t have all the answers and I’m not doing a comprehensive study). I only have pieces. I write mainly so I don’t end up in a dark place. I could refer to Dante’s Inferno, but I won’t mention specifically.

I’m not quite finished with Dante’s Divine Comedy, but I’m almost at the end. Journeying with Dante again has been painful, joyful, has caused me to understand more things philosophically and theologically. Learned a lot more about determinism and the free will. The painful destruction of sin and how egregious the sins of the mind are compared to those of the body. Nonetheless, both destructive. But it has also been a beautiful journey of understanding God’s mercy toward those who are sincere in their repentance. The importance of the prayers of others and of the communion of saints. The immensity and amazing grace and love of God.

In part, this is why I write. I journey with Dante in humility. He knows far more than me, as do all the saints. It’s good to learn from his work and from those who teach Dante.

Walker Percy and mental illness

Walker Percy’s family had many suicides. He was tempted many times to commit suicide himself. I would think the depressive, manic character Thomas More in Love in the Ruins is based on himself or at least many he has known in his family line.

Thomas More talks about how he is supposed to be in the mental hospital though he is out trying to save his parish town of Paradise from certain doom. He speaks of his dissolving marriage and how his wife left him for a Buddhist Englishman. How he sought consolation in his work and three women. All the while, knowing his fault and knowing it could only lead to jealousy and destruction. He is a “bad catholic” as Percy puts it in the opening chapter.

There is a chapter where he talks about his breakdown. His wife leaving. His consolation in Lola and his suicidal attempt. He goes to a fellow surgeon who sews his wrists up, he says, “we love those who know the worst about us and don’t turn their face away.” He also vows not to lie anymore after getting out of the hospital.

After his suicide attempt and he saw the blood gush from his veins, he wanted to live. Even watching the sparrows on the front porch is life enough he says. It seems what brings us to a crisis point are many hurtful things that leave us broken. We want someone or something to fill that empty hole in us. To mend our brokenness. Someone said that the hole is never filled, it just shrinks as a person cares for themselves and finds a purpose for their life.

This seems true. But I also wonder if this comes with age. In our 20s and 30s maybe even 40s we’re working on finding out who we are what our purpose is. Groping in the dark. Seeking some wisdom. Or just lost and confused. Going from one thing to another. The bottom line, always longing for something that is never fulfilled. When we reach our twilight years, 50s, 60s, 70s usually we know who we are and have done what we want to do or are planning to do these things in retirement.

But does that empty hole completely go away? I think there’s really only One who can completely fill that hole. And it may not be fulfilled until after death. When the search goes on and on, sometimes it’s fun, you see different things, meet different people, travel places. But sometimes all this searching leads to depression and despair, which can lead to attempting suicide with some people. A lot of loss leads to depression. Which leads to other things.

I don’t have a complete answer. Just rambling about some things I’m thinking about as I read Love in the Ruins for the second time.

Canto 23 Purgatory: gluttons and the tree of life

As Anthony Esolen says in his commentary, the sin of gluttony is when one allows food and drink to “break the bonds of charity with God or neighbor.”
The punishment of the gluttonous in Purgatory is an emaciated body. They did not care for their bodies in their life.

There is a tree that sprays a droplet of a fruity liquid (although suggests a fruit) on this ledge in Purgatory. It is what refreshes these souls. It makes them hunger and thirst for life. Anthony Esolen expands: “now hunger for life itself, a food to be plucked from the Tree of Life … none other than the cross.”

Bonaventure from his Tree of Life: “This is the fruit that took its origin from the Virgin’s womb and reached maturity on the tree of the cross … In the garden of the heavenly paradise–God’s table–this fruit is served to those who desire it.”

Esolen continues, “Therefore we can say that the sufferers here in Purgatory are longing, with real hunger, for Christ–the Christ who suffered upon the Cross, the Tree of Life to all who believe.”

Like any object of our desires, it can become an idol. Food and drink can overshadow our love for God and neighbor. The virtue of temperance is usually considered when it comes to our appetites of the stomach, but also the appetite of the flesh–our lust. I can’t help but think that anorexia and bulimia would be in the same category as gluttony. Lust isn’t too far behind. These are the indulgent sins of the flesh. Clouding our love for God and using others for our pleasure. The ledge of lust is coming up in the next few cantos. I will write more on this topic at that point.