Saturday, November 28, 2009

Random thoughts before going home

Getting ready to head home after a week in Indiana. Hanging with the boys is always a pleasure. And now I'm thinking coming home will be also. As T. S. Eliot quotatiously said:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Well, I hope so anyway. How do you keep seeing the freshness of everyday things, everyday? But that is the problem, isn't it? That though we make such declarations, we find ourselves not doing what we said we'd do, routinely, and without noticing. We declare our will to do this or that (love more, eat less, pray without ceasing), even as we drift into patterns of neglect.

Eliot's words are often cited, and when you see it cited, it's exactly those four lines (as with this example from a quotation website), but the sentence actually begins at the line before, and the omission is significant.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The "drawing of Love" is the dire need of all, at ever moment, if we are to be able to say with even partial honesty, "I will not cease from exploration."

I work in a new building which since its opening has been plagued by an intermittent odor. When the smell is with us, we quickly become inured to it. Olfactory fatigue, they call it. You have to go outside, take a deep breath or two, then come back in again in order to smell the odor all over again.

So then there's the question: how do I leave home, go away, even now, in this moment, every moment, in order to see the moment fresh, as if for the first time. Frederick Buechner wrote:
“Strange things happen. Again and again Christ is present not where, as priests, you would be apt to look for him but precisely where you wouldn’t have thought to look for him in a thousand years. The great preacher, the sunset, the Mozart Requiem can leave you cold, but the child in the doorway, the rain on the roof, the half-remembered dream, can speak of him and for him with an eloquence that turns your knees to water.”
I think sensory fatigue is a huge problem. When it settles in, it becomes the deep-seated ennui or boredom that requires new stimulation always. Which, for some reason, reminds me of this:

We are all so "stimulated," and yet all so dissatisfied. So much of home-life becomes the warding off of boredom. Christmas itself has been debased because it is now only a tool to serve our addictions. Joseph Bottom, at First Things, writes:
Still, the disappearance of Advent seems especially disturbing—for it's injured even the secular Christmas season: opening a hole, from Thanksgiving on, that can be filled only with fiercer, madder, and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas.

More Christmas trees. More Christmas lights. More tinsel, more tassels, more glitter, more glee—until the glut of candies and carols, ornaments and trimmings, has left almost nothing for Christmas Day. For much of America, Christmas itself arrives nearly as an afterthought: not the fulfillment, but only the end, of the long Yule season that has burned without stop since the stores began their Christmas sales.
The American economy rests on this staving off of boredom, this sustaining of a noisy pleasure-seeking in sheer dread of the familiar.

So perhaps this post is really about Advent: a time to re-focus, a time to see anew what has always been in our own backyard.

But I've really got to stop. If you need more stimulation, go read Dan Edelen's related thoughts here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

think i'll step outside for a bit of fresh air sensory fatigue correction.

good post, bob