It’s Not the Time

It’s not the time, for patient thought
Or compromise or friendship bought
O’er tedious hours of making up
Or bringing up what might have sour’d

The time is for winning, breaking rank
To move to action, for tearing down
Why move slow? We might have won?
When strength is strength, and weakness too

For bluster, bombast, circumvent
Elude, allude, and obfuscate
He knew to little, arrived too late
Motives are clear, it must be hate

It’s not the time for bonds of trust
For making space, for listening
To yearn to see what we have missed
To love to bear to wait with hope

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Charles Hodge’s Criticism of Jonathan Edwards

“First, the word will itself is one of those ambiguous terms. It is sometimes used in a wide sense, so as to include all the desires, affections, and even emotions. It has this comprehensive sense when all the faculties of the soul are said to be included under the two categories of understanding and will. Everything, therefore, pertaining to the soul, that does not belong to the former, is said to belong to the latter. All liking and disliking, all preferring, all inclination and disinclination, are in this sense acts of the will. At other times, the word is used for the power of self-determination, or for that faculty by which we decide on our acts. In this sense only purposes and imperative volitions are acts of the will. It is obvious that if a writer affirms the liberty of the will in the latter sense, and his reader takes the word in the former, the one can never understand the other. Or if the same writer sometimes uses the word in its wide and sometimes in its narrow sense, he will inevitably mislead himself and others. To say that we have power over our volitions, and to say that we have power over our desires are entirely different things. One of these propositions may be affirmed and the other denied; but if will and desire are confounded the distinction between these propositions is obliterated. It has often been remarked that the confusion of these two meanings of the word will is the great defect of President Edwards’s celebrated work. He starts with a definition of the term, which makes it include all preferring, choosing, being pleased or displeased with, liking and disliking, and advocates a theory which is true, and applicable only to the will in the restricted sense of the word.”

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. II, 288-89.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”

Hopkins_TackGlory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Joseph Ratzinger on Suffering

“Pain and disease can paralyze one as a human being. They can shatter one to pieces, not only physically, but also psychologically and spiritually. However, they can also smash down complacency and spiritual lethargy and lead one to find oneself for the first time. The struggle with suffering is the place of human decision-making par excellence. Here the human project becomes flesh and blood. Here man is forced to face the fact that existence is not at his disposal, nor is his life his own property. Man may snap back defiantly that he will nevertheless try to acquire the power that will make it so. But in so doing, he makes a desperate anger his basic attitude to life. There is a second possibility: man can respond by seeking to trust this strange power to whom he is subject. He can allow himself to be led, unafraid, by the hand, without Angst-ridden concern for his situation. And in this second case, the human attitude towards pain, towards the presence of death within living, merges with the attitude we call love.”

Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology, 95-96.

Henri Nouwen on Loneliness

“Boredom, resentment, and depression are all sentiments of disconnectedness. They pre sent life to us as a broken connection. They give us a sense of not-belonging. In interpersonal relations, this disconnectedness is experienced as loneliness. When we are lonely we perceive ourselves as isolated individuals surrounded, perhaps, by many people, but not really part of any supporting or nurturing community. Loneliness is without doubt one of the most widespread diseases of our time. It affects not only retired life but also family life, neighborhood life, school life, and business life. It causes suffering not only in elderly people but also in children, teenagers, and adults. It enters not only prisons but also private homes, office buildings, and hospitals. It is even visible in the diminishing interaction between people on the streets of our cities. Out of all this pervading loneliness many cry, ‘Is there anyone who really cares? Is there anyone who can take away my inner sense of isolation? Is there anyone with whom I can feel at home?’

“It is this paralyzing sense of separation that constitutes the core of much human suffer ing. We can take a lot of physical and even mental pain when we know that it truly makes us a part of the life we live together in this world. But when we feel cut off from the human family, we quickly lose heart. As long as we believe that our pains and struggles connect us with our fellow men and women and thus make us part of the common human struggle for a better future, we are quite willing to accept a demanding task. But when we think of ourselves as passive bystanders who have no contribution to make to the story of life, our pains are no longer growing pains and our struggles no longer offer new life, because then we have a sense that our lives die out behind us and do not lead us any where. Sometimes, indeed, we have to say that the only thing we remember of our re cent past is that we were very busy, that everything seemed very urgent, and that we could hardly get it all done. What we were doing we have forgotten. This shows how isolated we have become. The past no longer carries us to the future; it simply leaves us worried, without any promise that things will be different.

“Our urge to be set free from this isolation can become so strong that it bursts forth in violence. Then our need for an intimate relationship—for a friend, a lover, or an appreciative community—turns into a desperate grabbing for anyone who offers some immediate satisfaction, some release of tension, or some temporary feeling of at-oneness. Then our need for each other degenerates into a dangerous aggression that causes much harm and only intensifies our feelings of loneliness.”

– Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New, pp. 32-35.

“Husbands, love your wives”

It’s relatively easy to entertain and please a woman over a cup of coffee on a relaxing Friday afternoon. It’s much more difficult to do it consistently for fifteen years. The former takes a sacrifice of $2.05 and your best stories in exchange for a beautiful smile. The latter takes the willingness to encounter your worst self—the part of your way-of-being that causes her pain—and to expose it regularly to examination. For the latter we get not just beautiful smiles but also her must painful sacrifices, perhaps, her body for children, friends, family, vocation, dreams.
 
In my experience, women are much more inclined to self-giving sacrifice than men. But this is not an inexhaustible resource; women must be loved. The greatest mistakes men regularly make are taking this devotion for granted as ego-building (she loves me vs. she loves me) and failing to cultivate the glory of the the woman’s self-giving love by committed loving in return. My worst self is a loveless, self-consumed egoist.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”
– Ephesians 5:25

A Lament of Online Falsity

There are some problems that are as apparent as daylight, but as hard to describe as utter darkness. That there is something off is obvious. Just what are the contours and complexities is less evident. In the absence of pure clarity, I wish to register a lament about online life.

I hate that it makes personal correspondence public.
I hate its inability to foster trust, which is the glue of society.
I hate its ability to inspire fear and rage.
I hate its false pretenses about local, regional, and global problems.
I hate its cheap moralizing without personal consequences (only political).
I hate that it fosters posing and posturing.
I hate that it makes us cowards.
I hate that it makes us brands.
I hate that it inspires very little love.
I hate that it cannot communicate what an embrace does.
I hate its false problems, its merely online problems.
I hate its false promises for dialogue.
I hate its speed, its generalizing, its inability to linger for three hours.
I hate that it gives us only other people’s best and worst moments.
I hate its loneliness.

Here’s to real life, and theology that is content with local presence as it’s platform.
Here’s to caring for people who are in front of you and signing off.
All of the best conversations I have ever had have been face to face, and some of them with people I might not have “followed” if they weren’t near me.

“I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.”