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Robinson Jeffers, burnout and beauty

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My friend Honestpoet Robinson Jeffersencouraged me to look into the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. I looked for him in Wikipedia, and found some pretty compelling comments:

…Jeffers continued to explore the questions of how human beings could find their proper relationship (free of human egocentrism) with the divinity of the beauty of things.

Mankind was too self-centered, he complained, and too indifferent to the “astonishing beauty of things”.

In January of 2002 I had what we used to call a “nervous breakdown.” Utterly disabled, off work for months, I could feel almost nothing but loss.

Beauty was the path that opened the possibility of healing. It started with a counselor’s suggestion that I learn about delight (which, in those parched beginnings, meant a cup of coffee and a newspaper at the health-food co-op).  Eventually, I came to agree with Joan Chittister, who wrote, “A loss of commitment to beauty is the surest sign that we have lost our way to God.” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of God).

Much has happened since then. But as I read this poem of Jeffers this morning, I felt called again to the life of healing-by-beauty, thus permitting (what seems to me to be) one gentle, feather’s-weight sensitization to its inventor’s whispers.

Thanks, HP – you have helped me.

Love The Wild Swan
“I hate my verses, every line, every word.
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
One grass-blade’s curve, or the throat of one bird
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
One color, one glinting
Hash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,
The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings.”
–This wild swan of a world is no hunter’s game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self?
At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.
Robinson Jeffers

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Written by Monte

April 18, 2007 at 12:16 pm

Just a quote: beauty

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More on this“A loss of commitment to beauty may be the clearest sign we have that we have lost our way to God.”

Joan Chittister: Illuminated Life, Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of God, p26

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Written by Monte

December 29, 2006 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Art, Beauty

Joan Chittister on “Speaking of Faith”

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Joan Chittister’s writing has moved me to love God more than that of almost any other modern writer. I keep coming back to her little book entitled Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light.

She’s interviewed on Krista Tippett’s excellent public radio program in the U.S. this week – and, if you like, you could stream the audio from the Speaking of Faith website or download the podcast. Below is an excerpt-

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Written by Monte

June 30, 2006 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Discipleship, Women

Get Me Out of This… Not!

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"Boy howdy!" as my friend Georgann says. Watching Jesus gives you to some amazing sights!

I want my faith to be about knowing and becoming like Jesus rather than acting religious. And in these examples, the difference between Jesus and religion is breath-taking.

What comes to your mind as you imagine these interactions? You'll bump into some of mine along the way.

John 12:20-33
A Grain of Wheat Must Die

20There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. 21They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: "Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?"

22Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. 23Jesus answered, "Time's up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Huh? What kind of an answer is that?

24"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. 25In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life.

Reminds me of admiring a lily in bloom and yanking it up by the roots to take it home.

But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal. 26"If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you'll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment's notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

27"Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? "Father, get me out of this'? No, this is why I came in the first place. 28I'll say, "Father, put your glory on display.'"

My, oh, my! Could it be that when I find myself in a mess, "Get me out of this!" might not be the brightest path? Could it be that there, in the mess, is where God hopes to place a servant who will display his glory? If God healed all his followers' messes, how would the world ever know what God in humans-under-pressure looks like?

Could it be that the mess of the moment is the Providential answer to my "Use me, Lord!" prayers? And that learning to live in his glory, now, this moment, in whatever is happening around me is "why I [am here] in the first place"?

I'm reminded of Joan Chittister's comment in Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light:

To the contemplative, faith is not about having lights turn green before we get to the stop light at the corner or even about having cancerous tumors disappear on command. . . . Having the faith to take life one piece at a time – to live it in the knowledge that there is something of God in this for me now, here, at this moment – is of the essence of happiness. . . *

Happiness! Perhaps, in other words, happiness comes not from "Get me out of this!" but realizing "This is why I am here."

A voice came out of the sky: "I have glorified it, and I'll glorify it again." 29The listening crowd said, "Thunder!" Others said, "An angel spoke to him!"

Immense and omnipotent, God speaks. Humans respond from the depths of their spiritual perception:

"Think it'll rain?"

I love it!

30Jesus said, "The voice didn't come for me but for you. 31At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. 32And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me." 33He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.

And once again, the lectionary writers give us a beautifully connected epistle passage:

Hebrews 5:5-10

5Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, "You're my Son; today I celebrate you!" 6In another place God declares, "You're a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek."

7While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. 8Though he was God's Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. 9Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity . . .

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Jesus learned trusting-obedience? He grew in maturity?

I have often caught myself thinking "Well, sure, it was easy for him, he was God, after all!" Perhaps it was no easier for him than for me!

And check this out – he learned trust/obedience by what he suffered and (worse yet!) just like we do. Sounds like those messes I was talking about up in John are exactly what I need. Guess it challenges what I really want, doesn't it? Do I want to grow up into Christ, even if it means never getting my problem fixed? Eeeyow. This is not religion!

and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, 10he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.

So, how's it strike you? Click on "Comments" just below, to see what others have thought and to leave a snippet of your own. Great, immeasureable, wonderful – isn't it?
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

* Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light by Joan Chittister, pages 48 and 47. Published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York. Highly recommended!

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Written by Monte

March 29, 2006 at 9:39 pm

2.12.06 worship gathering

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Veeeeery different than I expected earlier in the week! Thanks, commentors!

I’ve come a little further since I gave this on Sunday. I think if I were doing it now, I’d spend a little time thinking about what a stellar success Naaman was.

Naaman’s egotism and expectations almost kept him from enjoying the healing that God had for him. But that isn’t the point! The point is (drum roll): they didn’t!. God has no words of rebuke for Naaman – quite the contrary. Naaman becomes a pretty bold and pretty humble servant of God.

Sometimes I get hung up on how I almost didn’t do X or Y, so I must be a pretty lousy follower of Jesus. But I have a hunch Jesus’ view on it is, “Wow, Monte, you could have turned off completely there, and you didn’t! You’re still here! I’m so proud of you!”

Maybe a little hard to take. But might be how reality is. Think?

10:30 Monte: Good morning – [CUE PSALM 30]

Let’s start by reading a Psalm together. This is Psalm 30 – King David tells how God rescued him. Maybe you can identify with David’s feelings.

Sharon reads responsively:

Psalm 30 [CUE AS WE READ]

A David psalm

1I give you all the credit, GOD-

you got me out of that mess,

you didn’t let my foes gloat.

2GOD, my God, I yelled for help

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Written by Monte

February 12, 2006 at 3:57 pm