Awake

“MEN are never more awake to the good in the world than when they are furiously awake to the evil in the world. Men never enjoy so much the blazing sun and the rushing wind as when they are out hunting the Devil. On the other hand, there are no people so dreary as philosophical optimists; and men are never so little happy as when they are constantly reassured. Such men have begun by calling the moon as bright as the sun, but they end only by seeing the sun as pallid as the moon. They have made a shameful treaty with shame; and the mark of it is on them. Everything is good, except their own spirits.”

~G.K. Chesterton: “Daily News,” Dec. 16, 1905.

Advertisements

Room to be Home

For Sunday, from a report of George MacDonald’s sermon in Edinburgh, reprinted in ‘Wingfold’ Spring 2006:

“What human nature needs is the humanity of its fellows. It has not room. You may have all the world your own; you may clear man about you till you dwell alone in the earth, and your soul will have no room. The room, the peace, the sense of well-being, the comfort that a man needs, is when another unseen world, the world of another human soul, has opened up for him to walk abroad in and be at peace, and be at home there.”

World Unfinished

“God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity still in the cloud, the oil still in the earth. How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource. We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”

–George MacDonald

Five Sonnets

I.

You think that we who do not shout and shake

Our first at God when youth or bravery die

Have colder blood or hearts less apt to ache

Than yours who rail. I know you do. Yet why?

You have what sorrow always longs to find,

Someone to blame, some enemy in chief;

Anger’s the anesthetic of the mind,

It does men good, it fumes away their grief.

We feel the stroke like you; so far our fate

Is equal. After that, for us begin

Half-hopeless labours, learning not to hate,

And then to want, and then (perhaps) to win

A high, unearthly comfort, angel’s food,

That seems at first mockery to flesh and blood.

 

II.

There’s a repose, a safety (even a taste

Of something like revenge?) in fixed despair

Which we’re forbidden. We have to rise with haste

And start to climb what seems a crazy stair.

Our Consolation (for we are consoled,

So much of us, I mean, as may be left

After the dreadful process has unrolled)

For one bereavement makes us more bereft.

It asks for all we have, to the last shred;

Read Dante, who had known its best and worst –

He was bereaved and he was comforted

— No one denies it, comforted – but first

Down to the frozen center, up the vast

Mountain of pain, from world to world, he passed.

 

III.

Of this we’re certain; no one who dared knock

At heaven’s door for earthly comfort found

Even a door – only smooth, endless rock,

And save the echo of his cry no sound.

It’s dangerous to listen; you’ll begin

To fancy that those echoes (hope can play

Pitiful tricks) are answers from within;

Far better to turn, grimly sane, away.

Heaven cannot thus, Earth cannot ever, give

The thing we want. We ask what isn’t there

And by our asking water and make live

That very part of love which must despair

And die and go down cold into the earth

Before there’s talk of springtime and rebirth.

 

IV.

Pitch your demand heaven-high and they’ll be met.

Ask for the Morning Star and take (thrown in)

Your earthly love. Why, yes; but how to set

One’s foot on the first rung, how to begin?

The silence of one voice upon our ears

Beats like the waves; the coloured morning seems

A lying brag; the face we loved appears

Fainter each night, or ghastlier, in our dreams.

“that long way round which Dante trod was meant

For mighty saints and mystics not for me,”

So Nature cried. Yet if we once assent

To Nature’s voice, we shall be like the bee

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers.

 

V.

‘If we could speak to her,’ my doctor said,

‘And told her, “Not that way! All, all in vain

You weary out wings and bruise your head,”

Might she not answer, buzzing at the pane,

“Let queens and mystics and religious bees

Talk of such inconceivables as glass;

the blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,

Look there – ahead, ahead – the flowers, the grass!”

We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows

What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)

And shake her out – and gaily out she goes

Where quivering flowers and thick in summer air,

To drink their hearts. But left to her own will

She would have died upon the window-sill.

 

– C.S. Lewis

Trouble

“When Rogers had thanked God, he rose, took my hand, and said:—

“Mr Walton, you WILL preach now. I thank God for the good we shall all get from the trouble you have gone through.”

“I ought to be the better for it,” I answered.

“You WILL be the better for it,” he returned. “I believe I’ve allus been the better for any trouble as ever I had to go through with. I couldn’t quite say the same for every bit of good luck I had; leastways, I consider trouble the best luck a man can have. And I wish you a good night, sir. Thank God! again.”

“But, Rogers, you don’t mean it would be good for us to have bad luck always, do you? You shouldn’t be pleased at what’s come to me now, in that case.”

“No, sir, sartinly not.”

“How can you say, then, that bad luck is the best luck?”

“I mean the bad luck that comes to us—not the bad luck that doesn’t come. But you’re right, sir. Good luck or bad luck’s both best when HE sends ’em, as He allus does. In fac’, sir, there is no bad luck but what comes out o’ the man hisself. The rest’s all good.”

Excerpt From

Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood

George MacDonald

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/annals-of-a-quiet-neighbourhood/id501016131?mt=11

This material may be protected by copyright.

The Only Comfort

God is the only comfort. He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way. . . Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.

From Mere Christianity

Compiled in Words to Live By