Tuesday, December 16, 2008

and so

There are more songs in our souls than the tongue is able to utter. When detached from its original insights, the discursive mind becomes a miser, and when we discover that concepts bring no relief to our outraged conscience and thirst for integrity, we turn to the origin of thought, to the endless shore that lies across the logical.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1951. 17

lovely disengagement

If one of the goals of a sabbatical is to work on one's big project, another is salutary disengagement from one's main pursuits. The success of James's year off can be gauged by the fact that among the slender sheaf of his writings for the year is a letter to a newspaper, in French, protesting the miserable, tomb-like conditions of French pigs, and a spirited letter to the editor attacking the new practice of binding periodicals with steel staples instead of the traditional stitching. He was not working on a book, and he turned out roughly a review a month, most of them quite short.
Robert D. Richardson, William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism. New York: Houghton Miflin, 2006. 331

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

toward carmel

We do not know the names of these first Carmelites. But we do know their hearts. From the beginning this tradition rooted itself in the deep hungers of the human heart. These men could only have located themselves on this mountain and begun a life together in response to such hungers, such "deep caverns of feeling," later captured in the poetry of John of The Cross. Why else live where they lived?

We can assume they had tried to feed these hungers with the normal food which nourishes life: relationships, possessions, plans, titles, reputations. They probably found that their efforts and their control brought little peace to their lives. They had not found food sufficient to feed their hunger.

And so they laid their lives down and began again. Perhaps they were escaping more than simply restlessness. Perhaps lives had come apart in deep disappointment; perhaps they experienced unbearable losses; perhaps they were chased from other places, or even were escaping the law.

But it was more than escape that brought them to Mount Carmel. They assembled there because of a call. I would think they were people who were haunted in some ways and who found one another on a mountain which evoked their desires. People today come to this tradition because they, too, experience themselves as pilgrims on this earth, having deep hungers, and haunted by a call.
John Welch, The Carmelite Way: An Ancient Path for Today's Pilgrim. New York: Paulist, 1996. 8-9