How could she know what he had sanctified to that child’s mind with his stories, sad stories that had made them laugh. …As if all that saving and keeping their father had done was providence indeed, and new love would transform all the old love and make its relics wonderful.
From Home by Marilynne Robinson.
That’s the most interesting question in the world. How big is big enough? The Amish pretty much have solved it. Industrialism doesn’t propose a limit. David Kline, my friend, went to a Mennonite meeting. They were asking what community meant. And he said, “When my son and I are plowing in the spring, we rest our teams at the highest point on our farm. And from there we can see 13 teams at work. And I know that if I got sick or died those 13 teams would be at work on my farm.” Rightness of scale, you see, permits obedience to the Gospel’s Second Law.
…I like my physical life. I mean, I’m committed to live my physical life. I want to live my actual life, my body’s life, and die my body’s death with as little interference as possible. But I think that life for most people is getting less physical all the time. There’s a sort of death wish now operating among us. The future is eating us alive. If you’re obsessed with the future you can’t live in the present, and the present is the only time you’re alive. If you’re alive in the present, however bad the world is, goodwill still has scope to operate. You still can do a little something to make it better. Now is when the butterﬂies are ﬂying and the ﬂowers are blooming and the people who love you are putting their hands on you. That’s where it’s happening.
…If the teacher thinks that the place she’s teaching in is a good and worthy place then certain things are going to be communicated. “I’m teaching you things that could make you a powerful person. I don’t want you to start from here and get an education and come back here and desecrate this place.” Now most teaching has been done by people who think, “Coming from here is no advantage. I’m trying to give you something that will help you go to a better place.” Nowadays we easily forget that education makes bad people worse. But if you’re teaching for homecoming you can’t forget it.
Wendell Berry in this interview.
How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K. A. Smith:
Not only were things invested with signiﬁcance in the premodem imaginary, but the social bond itself was enchanted, sacred. “Living in the enchanted, porous world of our ancestors was inherently living socially” (p. 42). The good of a common weal is a collective good, dependent upon the social rituals of the community. “So we’re all in this together.” As a result, a premium is placed on consensus, and “turning ‘heretic’” is “not just a personal matter.” That is, there is no room for these matters to be ones of “private” preference. “This is somethingwe constantly tend to forget,” Taylor notes, “when we look back condescendingly on the intolerance of earlier ages. As long as the common weal is bound up in collectives rites, devotions, allegiances, it couldn’t be seen just as an individual’s own business that he break ranks, even less that he blaspheme or try to desecrate the rite. There was immense common motivation to bring him back into line” (p. 42). Individual disbelief is not a private option we can grant to heretics to pursue on weekends; to the contrary, disbelief has communal repercussions.
How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K. A. Smith:
To sense the force of this shift, we need to appreciate how this differs from the “enchanted” premodern imaginary where all kinds of nonhuman things mean — are loaded and charged with meaning — independent of human perception or attribution. In this premodern, enchanted universe, it was also assumed that power resided in things, which is precisely why things like relics or the Host could be invested with spiritual power. As a result, “in the enchanted world, the line between personal agency and impersonal force was not at all clearly drawn” (p. 32). There is a kind of blurring of boundaries so that it is not only personal agents that have causal power (p. 35). Things can do stuff.
At this point Taylor introduces a key concept to describe the premodern self: prior to this disenchantment and the retreat of meaning into an interior “mind,” the human agent was seen as porous (p. 35). Just as premodern nature is always already intermixed with its beyond, and just as things are intermixed with mind and meaning, so the premodern self’s porosity means the self is essentially vulnerable (and hence also “healable”). To be human is to be essentially open to an outside (whether benevolent or malevolent), open to blessing or curse, possession or grace. “This sense of vulnerability,” Taylor concludes, “is one of the principal features which have gone with disenchantment” (p. 36)
Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship (1.20-26):
AELRED: It is proper for my friend to be the guardian of mutual love or of my very soul, that he may in loyal silence protect all the secrets of my spirit and may bear and endure according to his ability anything wicked he sees in my soul. For the friend will rejoice with my soul rejoicing, grieve with it grieving, and feel that everything that belongs to a friend belongs to himself…
IVO: Since there is so much perfection in true friendship, no wonder those whom the ancients praised as true friends were so few. From so many centuries past, as Cicero says, legend extols only three or four pairs of friends! But if in our own Christian times friends are so few, I seem to be slaving in vain to acquire this virtue, for I am terrified now by its astonishing height, and I almost despair of reaching it.
AELRED: As a wise man once said, “for great achievements, the effort is great in itself.”
Day by day, God presents us with a time to work, a time to eat, a time to sleep, a time to read our children stories before bed. The working, the eating, the sleeping, the reading… from day to day, tradition, fate, family, society, and the Church have already determined for us what we should do. If a man is willing to be common and to live a common life filled with times, seasons, and rituals which God makes common to all, he will submit himself to a mysterious, transcendent reality. The infinite Word entered finite history through a finite body; as a finite creature, through finite means, the common man enters the infinite. The man who is ever looking to make himself unique, to distinguish himself from others, to discern and seize the special things of the world— such a man will always isolate himself further and further until he is bereft of companions, bereft of comforters, heroes, and lovers.
Posted by Joshua Gibbs on his Facebook page yesterday (presumably from CiRCE’s Atrium lecture that he gave yesterday). Brings to mind maxim 18 of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s “55 Maxims of the Christian Life.” That is: “Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.”
“He has not yet learned that the day begins with sleep!” said the woman, turning to her husband. “Tell him he must rest before he can do anything!”
“…It was a glorious resurrection-morning. The night had been spent in preparing it!”
George MacDonald (Lilith)