Henri Nouwen on Mourning Your Losses

“The question is not whether you have experienced loss, but rather how you live your losses. Are you hiding them? Are you pretending they aren’t real? Are you refusing to share them with your fellow travelers? Are you trying to convince yourself that your losses are little compared with your gains? Are you blaming someone for what you have suffered and lost?

“There is another option—the possibility of mourning. Yes, you can mourn your losses. You cannot talk or act them away, but you can shed tears over them and allow yourself to grieve deeply. You can never get to the joy if you dare not cry, if you do not have the courage to weep, if you don’t take the opportunity to experience the pain. The world says, ‘Just ignore it, be strong, don’t cry, get over it, move on.’ But if you don’t mourn you can become bitter. All your grief can go right into your deepest self and sit there for the rest of your life.

“Better to mourn your losses than to deny them. Dare to feel your losses. Dare to grieve them. Name the pain and say, ‘Yes, I feel real pain, real fear, real loss; and I am going to embrace it. I will take up the cross of my life, and accept it.’ To grieve is to experience the pain of your life and face the dark “abyss where nothing is clear or settled, where everything is shifting and changing. To fully grieve is to allow your losses to tear apart feelings of false security and safety and lead you to the painful truth of your brokenness and dependence upon God alone. Finally, you come to the point where you honestly can say: ‘Yes, yes, yes! This is my life, and I accept it.'”

Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation, 42.

Jean Vanier on the Rhythm of life

“While there is a waxing and then a waning in action and efficiency, growth can be continual at the level of the heart, of wisdom and of communion with God and with people. There are some precise stages in the growth of the heart. Tiny children live by love and presence — the time of childhood is a time of trust. Adolescents live by generosity, utopian ideals and hope. Adults become realistic, commit themselves and assume responsibilities; this is the time of fidelity. Finally, old people refind the time of confidence which is also wisdom. They cannot be very active, so they have time to observe, to contemplate and to forgive. They have a whole sense of the meaning of human life, of acceptance and of realism. They know that living has not just to do with action and running; they know that it is also to do with welcome and loving. They have somehow got past the stage of proving themselves through efficiency.”

Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, 104-05.

Polanyi on the Need for Tradition in Science

Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, 63-64.

“Let me display the inescapable need for a tradi­tional framework first in one example of great mod­ern endeavor, which may then serve as a paradigm for other intellectual and moral progress in a free, dynamic society. My example will be the pursuit of the natural sciences. This may be surprising, for modern science was founded through the violent rejection of authority. Throughout the formative cen­turies of modem science, the revolt against author­ity was its battle cry: it was sounded by Bacon and Descartes, and by the founders of the Royal Society in their device, Nullius in Verba, What these men said was true and important at the time, but once the adversaries they fought had been defeated, the repudiation of all authority or tradition by science became a misleading slogan.

“The popular conception of science teaches that science is a collection of observable facts, which any­ body can verify for himself. We have seen that this is not true in the case of expert knowledge, as in diagnosing a disease. But it is not true either in the physical sciences. In the first place, you cannot pos­sibly get hold of the equipment for testing, for ex­ample, a statement of astronomy or of chemistry. And supposing you could somehow get the use of an observatory or a chemical laboratory, you would probably damage their instruments beyond repair before you ever made an observation. And even if you should succeed in carrying out an observation to check upon a statement of science and you found a result which contradicted it, you would rightly assume that you had made a mistake.

“The acceptance of scientific statements by lay­ men is based on authority, and this is true to nearly the same extent for scientists using results from branches of science other than their own. Scientists must rely heavily for their facts on the authority of fellow scientists.

“This authority is enforced in an even more personal manner in the control exercised by scientists over the channels through which contributions are submitted to all other scientists. Only offerings that are deemed sufficiently plausible are accepted for publication in scientific journals, and what is re­jected will be ignored by science. Such decisions are based on fundamental convictions about the nature of things and about the method which is therefore likely to yield results of scientific merit. These be­liefs and the art of scientific inquiry based on them are hardly codified: they are, in the main, tacitly implied in the traditional pursuit of scientific inquiry.”

Lamentations 2:13-22

This is an continuation of my alliterated Lamentations translation, the rest of which can be found here:

1:1-6 // 1:7-12 // 1:13-22 // 2:1-6 // 2:7-12

The aim of this translation is to produce something like “aesthetic faithfulness” to the original, or at least to get a bit closer. I’m not sure I’ve encountered other English translations that have set out to do this.

Metaphors fail for you, daughter Jerusalem
What does your suffering mean? What can I say?
What could bring comfort do you, virgin Daughter?
Who can heal wounds deeper than the sea?

Nugatory and sham visions the prophets imagined
Not exposing your vice, restoring your fortunes
For you they saw, false fortunes, comforting chimeras

Onlookers mock you with jeering gestures, passing by
Leering heads hiss vicious cuts at Jerusalem, Daughter
Did we call this place Beauty realized? Joy of our land?

Pompous enemies spread yawning jowls jeering
Hissing, whistling, gnashing, baring yellowed ivory
Their cry, “we have swallowed her!”
“For this day we hoped, it came, we taste!”

Resolutely YHWH has done what he purposed
His words, fulfilled, have knifed, threats from long ago
He has no pity on us; the enemy has joy over us
He has exalted the might of those who kill us

Squall and shout from your hearts to YHWH
You broken defenders of daughter Zion
Let your tears run the channels of the river
Day and night, do not stop their flow
Neither allow your eyes relief

Take your place on broken ramparts to sing your grief
During early hours, when watchmen would worry
Pour out your heart like water before the Lord
Lift up your hands to him…over children starving, dying
On every street

Under the gaze of YHWH, these children die, Look! See!
Who have you ever treated this way?
Should women eat their own fruit? The children they love?
Should someone be slain in God’s sanctuary? Priest? Prophet?

Wasted in the dust of the earth
Are the corpses of our men, boys and aged
Virgins and suitors equally emptied by the sword
You slaughtered them in the day of your anger
You butchered them without pity

You summoned as if to a celebration my terrors on every side
Not on this day, the day of YHWH’s anger
No one escaped, no one survived
Children I held in my arms, and raised in hope
My enemy has destroyed

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.

“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 (sometimes) her most painful sacrifices, her body for children, friends, family, vocation, and 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