"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature...Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world."
Ezra Taft Benson
This is one of the first of my favorite poems I guess some people could say parts are cheesy...but writing is a vulnerable thing. So I'll take it :)
Touched by an Angel--Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage,
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train comes ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light.
We dare to be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
Tis a tiny little book, very quick read--I recommend it :)
(Tiny background: he wrote this book after his wife died. This is a collection of thoughts and pains he jotted down in a notebook after that.)
I was intrigued by the book for the simple reason that human experiences--thoughts and emotions--always attract me. His journey of grief and grapple with faith are so human!
His relationship with his wife is described so sweetly and painfully...as this kind of pain is not something I'm currently experiencing, this post is gonna focus on some astute observations Lewis had about grief in general.
(Hahahaha that just reminded me...sometimes my mind wanders in random directions. The other day in the middle of a run I was having an internal dialogue about the advantages of an author saying "smart" versus "intellectually astute." Obviously one sounds more descriptive, but perhaps also a tad pretentious. "Smart" might be a little common, but it's more concise. Yeah...Anyhoo...)
Allow me to share, first some parts that stood out to me (good un's), and second, three metaphors that developed in the book that I quite liked.
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear."
"...this is one of the miracles of love;
it gives...a power of seeing through its own enchantments
and yet not being disenchanted."
"I never believed before--I thought it immensely improbable--that the faithfulest soul could leap straight into perfection and peace the moment death has rattled in the throat...I know there are not only tears to be dried but stains to be scoured. The sword will be made even brighter. But oh God, tenderly, tenderly."
"We don't really want grief, in its first agonies, to be prolonged: nobody could.
But we want something else of which grief is a frequent symptom."
"...in grief nothing 'stays put.' One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?"
"Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude or praise, you will be--or so it feels--welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate when other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?"
"I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can't give it...Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear. On the other hand, 'Knock and it shall be opened.' But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can't give. Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity."
"Turned to God, my mind no longer meets that locked door...When I lay these questions to God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of 'No answer.' It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate gaze. As though He shook His head no in refusal but in waiving the question. Like, 'Peace, child; you don't understand.'"
"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?...Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief."
"I thought I trusted the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters, and I find I didn't."
House of Cards
"We were even promised sufferings. They were part of the programme. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accepted it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not in imagination. Yes; but should it, for a sane man, make quite such a difference as this? No. And it wouldn't for a man whose faith had been real faith and whose concern for other people's sorrows had been real concern. The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which 'took these things into account' was not faith but imagination. The taking them into account was not real sympathy. If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about he sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came."
"And I surely must admit...that, if my house was a house of cards, the sooner it was knocked down the better. And only suffering could do it....Is this last note a sign that I'm incurable, that when reality smashes my dream to bits, I mope and snarl while the first shock lasts, and then patiently, idiotically, start putting it together again? And so always? However often the house of cards falls, shall I set about rebuilding it? Is that what I'm doing now?
Indeed it's likely enough that what I shall call, if it happens, a 'restoration of faith' will turn out to be only one more house of cards. And I shan't know whether it is or not until the next blow comes--when, say, fatal disease is diagnosed in my body too, or war breaks out, or I have ruined myself by some ghastly mistake in my work. But there are two questions here. In which sense may it be a house of cards? Because the thing I am believing are only a dream, or because I only dream that I believe them?"
(I had to read that last line twice ha)
"I begin to see....Whether there was anything but imagination in the faith, or anything but egoism in the love, God knows. I don't. There may have been a little more...but neither was the thing I thought it was. A good deal of card-castle about both."
"God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down."
Some Final Thoughts....
"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."
"I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history..."
I think this last thought is why the "consolation of religion" is difficult to let inside.
Sometimes we just need to shake ourselves off and be happy, but for real sorrow, it is something that we have to work through. We have to experience it and eventually conquer it.
But there is hope! :) All things will work together for the good of those that believe.
We just have to make it to that point.
Reading this book both made me appreciate the sorrow of others more, and made me want to fortify my faith.
I understand closed doors more than I used to, I trust the rope more than I have, and my house of cards has been knocked down hard enough that I built it stronger this time.
Can't sleep tonight. I'm in the mood for poetry. Sometimes I'll just google and browse around til I find another poem or two I love ha.
It is often just as intriguing to find poems that I don't love--trying to imagine or decipher just what the author was thinking when they penned/typed the words.
Interesting how sometimes we give more credence to dead people than living people. (Truth in The Band Perry's song: "Funny when you're dead how people start listening.")
Really though..when there is a particularly hidden metaphor or confusing wording, if the person is a classic poet, or old, I tend to think it is me who has just not quite breached the proper level of understanding.
Others can sound like they are just trying too hard to be deep. Even then I guess I find it intriguing to puzzle toward their message.
Tributes to or commentaries on normal things.
On random things. On important things.
On love and happiness and loss and heartbreak.
Tonight (I guess it is morning now) I've mostly been randomly browsing the poems of Pablo Neruda.
Not necessarily cuz he's the best, or a favorite. Just cuz.
Pablo is from Chile. So his poems were translated to English.
Crazy. Trying to recreate the same meaning, the same pretty words, the same feeling in a whole new language. Think of whole books that are translated!
Some gets lost, some gets added in the process I'm sure. Comparing different translations of Pablo's poems made me want to read the scriptures in a different language ha. Hopefully all arriving at the same meaning, different words strike you in different ways.
On my mind right now....how much we humans change. Further down I have three poems posted, all by Pablo Neruda. One is about the pain of a lost love, one about feeling love, and one that could go either way.
We can feel all sorts of things: powerful feelings, subtle unnameable feelings, troublesome or soothing feelings.
I guess I'm writing to the same tune as I recently did...
That doesn't make what we experience less valid or real. But it is true.
We can be knocked from our comfortable happiness; we can also heal after hurt.
If I could write a letter to my middle school self, I would say that feeling new or different things doesn't make the old feelings less legitimate or important.
I'm not just talking about feelings. Also thoughts and relationships and a million things.
Ha!!!! (Story time: when I lived in California I was a Brownie Scout. And a Daisy Scout. I had a blast, and you can bet I rocked selling Girl Scout cookies ;))
Anyway, there was a song we sang I just remembered...
"Make new friends. But keep the old, some are silver and the others gold."
(You sing it in a round. Lots of fun ha.)
Sure we want to be able to move on to new things in life; we can take parts of the old with us and that will always be important!
Kinda different tangent, but this kinda reminds me of another poem I read last night (also by Pablo). So I guess I'm posting four of his poems ha :)
(We Are Many)
Of the many men who I am, whom we are,
I cannot settle on a single one.
They are lost to me under the cover of clothing
They have departed for another city.
When everything seems to be set
to show me off as a man of intelligence,
the fool I keep concealed on my person
takes over my talk and occupies my mouth.
On other occasions, I am dozing in the midst
of people of some distinction,
and when I summon my courageous self,
a coward completely unknown to me
swaddles my poor skeleton
in a thousand tiny reservations...
All the books I read
lionize dazzling hero figures,
brimming with self-assurance.
I die with envy of them;
and, in films where bullets fly on the wind,
I am left in envy of the cowboys,
left admiring even the horses.
But when I call upon my DASHING BEING,
out comes the same OLD LAZY SELF,
and so I never know just WHO I AM,
nor how many I am, nor WHO WE WILL BE BEING.
I would like to be able to touch a bell
and call up my real self, the truly me,
because if I really need my proper self,
I must not allow myself to disappear.
While I am writing, I am far away;
and when I come back, I have already left.
I should like to see if the same thing happens
to other people as it does to me,
to see if as many people are as I am,
and if they seem the same way to themselves.
When this problem has been thoroughly explored,
I am going to school myself so well in things
that, when I try to explain my problems,
I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.
(Tonight I Can Write)
"Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example, 'The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'
The night revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer, the same.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer lover her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
And these the last verses that I write for her."
(If You Forget Me)
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have fogotten you.
If you you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the hearts where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you will live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
"I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom
but carries the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose,
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you directly, without complexities or pride:
I love you like this because I don't know any other way to love,
Except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams."