“A Short History of Judaic Thought in the Twentieth Century”

Jörg Dickmann, “The Western Wall I”

The rabbis wrote:

although it is forbidden

to touch a dying person,

nevertheless, if the house

catches fire

he must be removed

from the house.

Barbaric!

I say,

and whom may we touch then,

aren’t we all

dying?

You smile

your old negotiator’s smile

and ask:

but aren’t all our houses

burning?

Linda Pastan, “A Short History of Judaic Thought in the Twentieth Century”
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“Shelley”

When I was twenty the one true
free spirit I had heard of was Shelley,
Shelley, who wrote tracts advocating
atheism, free love, the emancipation
of women, the abolition of wealth and class,
and poems on the bliss of romantic love,
Shelley, who, I learned later, perhaps
almost too late, remarried Harriet,
then pregnant with their second child,
and a few months later ran off with Mary,
already pregnant herself, bringing
with them Mary’s stepsister Claire,
who very likely also became his lover,

and in this malaise à trois, which Shelley
had imagined would be “a paradise of exiles,”
they lived, along with the spectre of Harriet,
who drowned herself in the Serpentine,
and of Mary’s half sister Fanny,
who killed herself, maybe for unrequited
love of Shelley, and with the spirits
of adored but often neglected
children conceived incidentally
in the pursuit of Eros—Harriet’s
Ianthe and Charles, denied to Shelley
and consigned to foster parents; Mary’s
Clara, dead at one; her Willmouse,
Shelley’s favorite, dead at three; Elena,
the baby in Naples, almost surely
Shelley’s own, whom he “adopted”
and then left behind, dead at one and a half;
Allegra, Claire’s daughter by Byron,
whom Byron sent off to the convent
at Bagnacavallo at four, dead at five—

and in those days, before I knew
any of this, I thought I followed Shelley,
who thought he was following radiant desire.

Galway Kinnell, “Shelley”

Somewhere Else There Must Be More of It

Rachel Telian, “where all the beauty comes from”

“Oh cruel, cruel!” I wailed. “Is it nothing to you that you leave me here alone? Psyche; did you ever love me at all?”

“Love you? Why, Maia, what have I ever had to love save you and our grandfather the Fox?” (But I did not want her to bring even the Fox in now.) “But, Sister, you will follow me soon. You don’t think any mortal life seems a long thing to me tonight? And how would it be better if I had lived? I suppose I should have been given to some king in the end—perhaps such another as our father. … Indeed, indeed, Orual, I am not sure that this which I go to is not the best.”

“This!”

“Yes. What had I to look for if I lived? Is the world—this palace, this father—so much to lose? We have already had what would have been the best of our time. I must tell you something, Orual, which I never told to anyone, not even you.” 

I know now that this must be so even between the lovingest hearts. But her saying it that night was like stabbing me.

“What is it?” said I, looking down at her lap where our four hands were joined.

“This,” she said, “I have always—at least, ever since I can remember—had a kind of longing for death.”

“Ah, Psyche,” I said, “have I made you so little happy as that?”

“No, no, no,” she said. “You don’t understand. Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine…where you couldn’t see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The colour and the smell, and looking across at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn’t (not yet) come and I didn’t know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home.” 

She kissed both my hands, flung them free, and stood up. She had her father’s trick of walking to and fro when she talked of something that moved her. And from now till the end I felt (and this horribly) that I was losing her already, that the sacrifice tomorrow would only finish something that had already begun. She was (how long had she been, and I not to know?) out of my reach, in some place of her own. 

CS Lewis, Till We Have Faces

They Love All Men

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. … But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

The Epistle of Diognetus

We Are Not Bound for Ever to the Circles of the World

“Nay, lady, I am the last of the Númenóreans and the latest King of the Elder Days; and to me has been given not only a span thrice that of Men of Middle-earth, but also the grace to go at my will, and give back the gift. Now, therefore, I will sleep.

“I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men.”

“Nay, dear lord,” she said, “that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear me hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Númenóreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.”

“So it seems,” he said. “But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!”

JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Breaking Forth in Infinite Flames

Gill Fox, “As kingfishers catch fire…”

For God is Love, yea, all Love, and so all Love, that nothing but Love can come from him; and the Christian Religion, is nothing else but an openfull Manifestation of his universal Love towards all Mankind. As the Light of the Sun has only one common Nature towards all Objects that can receive it, so God has only one common Nature of Goodness, towards all created Nature, breaking forth in infinite Flames of Loves, upon every Part of the Creation, and calling everything to the highest Happiness it is capable of. God so loved Man, when his Fall was foreseen, that he chose him to Salvation in Christ Jesus, before the Foundation of the World. When Man was actually fallen, God was so without all Wrath towards him, so full of Love for him, that he sent his only begotten Son into the world to redeem him. Therefore God has no Nature towards Man, but Love, and all that he does to Man, is Love.

William Law

And the Egyptians Lived Happily Ever After

JMW Turner, The Fifth Plague of Egypt

If anyone’s the evil oppressor in the Bible, it’s the Egyptians, right? So the moral of the Story is that the Egyptians will get what’s coming to them, right?

Thus, after all, saith Isaiah:

The burden of Egypt. Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. … And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts. And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up. … In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which He shaketh over it. And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts, which He hath determined against it.

Isaiah 19.1-2, 4-5, 16-17

But then comes what poets call the volta—the turn:

In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and He shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and He shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it. And the Lord shall smite Egypt: He shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and He shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance.

Isaiah 19.19-25

The masters become the slaves. The taskmasters are given over into the hand of a cruel lord. Justice is served. End of Story. Right?

Not quite. “Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” The Lord shall smite Egypt, yes: The Lord shall smite and heal Egypt. Because the people of Egypt—like the people of every other nation—are the Lord’s and the work of the Lord’s hands.

The Winsomeness of Jesus

Manuscript Study: Sermon on the Mount — Resurrection Philadelphia

Our Master was his own Gospel. Men came to Him one by one attracted by the winsomeness of Jesus. He spake, of course, as never man spake, and He was as never man was, and … he reversed our ordinary experience about our human ideals. The nearer we draw to an individual, as a rule the more plainly we see the flaws and the crevices in his character; but the nearer men drew to Jesus the more His faultless excellence declared itself; they were drawn to Him, they hardly knew why, with a reverence and a devotion unexampled in the history of the world.

RJ Campbell, City Temple Sermons

Haint Blue Sunday

Beautiful old porch swing! | Porch swing, Country porch ...

If my Pappy had known, he’d have sat me down

out on the porch that haint blue Sunday

(not on the swing—in the slatback chair) and said,

“You are not a snail, young man.

You are a human being.

You won’t ever reach Bethlehem

by slouching sluggishly towards it—

you gotta run, son, till you’re good

and dead, and then Bethlehem will come to you.

The carpetbaggers will enter the kingdom

of God before the footdraggers”—

or a walk through the crooked churchyard

where the red cedars and the little ones sleep:

“Son, you are not a woman

or a child. You are a young man,

the heir of a granite yeomanry

which carved a nation out of wilderness

and ate blue fire. Be not afraid—

cowardice is the only eternal sin,

and the only way out is through”—

or kneeling at my bedside

and whispering through my doldrum dreams:

“You are a darling child of God

and you are a darling child of mine

and you are loved clean through”—

But I never did tell him.

There Is No Such Thing as a Waste of Time

Janus and Public-Sector Innovation - The Atlantic

We liked wasting time, but almost nothing was more annoying than having our wasted time wasted on something not worth wasting it on.

Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Colossians 3.17

Many things feel like a waste of time. My, uh, housemates expect me to do certain chores which in my view are obvious wastes of time. (Which chores, you ask? Ha!) But I had a realization the other day: Nothing is a waste of time unless I allow it to become one.

Why? Because literally anything can be an opportunity to become more Christlike—more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful, self-controlled—and becoming more Christlike is never a waste of time. Even (and perhaps especially!) life’s annoyances are opportunities to grow, because it is precisely life’s annoyances that teach us patience and every other virtue. Anything that comes our way can refine and strengthen us. So no life experience has to be useless.

For better or for worse, it’s not physically possible to work towards any earthly goal literally all the time. We can’t work out or study for the MCAT or [insert earthly goal here] 24/7. But we can become more like Jesus 24/7 (though of course it’s hardly natural or easy to do so). And the more we look at annoyances, inconveniences, obstacles, trials, and tribulations as opportunities to become more like Jesus, the happier, healthier, and holier we’ll be.

No doubt, the change in mindset from “This is a waste of time” to “This is an opportunity for me to grow and become more like Jesus” is not one I’ve mastered. (The art of living is hard to master!) But it is one I’ve been keeping in mind the past few days, and it’s already started to pay tiny dividends in who I am.

And what could be more valuable than that? If I have love, joy, peace, and all the other virtues—all the other qualities of Jesus—what more could I want or need?

Happy New Year, readers! I’m thankful for all of you. My 2022 thought: There is no such thing as a waste of time.