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Monthly Archives: May 2015

hope in the ruins. where else?

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How rich and varied, how lofty and challenging, Greco-Roman culture was when fused with the convictions derived from Jewish and Christian sources! And how truly regal man is when like Augustine he strips from himself all that is mortal in life for the sake of the radiance of immortality, keeping about him all the while a warmth which heartens and cleanses! It was, alas, true that he and those who were in some measure like him could not keep the walls and towers of Rome from tottering. Too much of the human substance of the Empire was gone. No new youth could be made to rise from its streets. The barbarian outsider, driving with his hordes against the ramparts like a mighty and incessant storm, would after his victory sit in darkness amidst the holy places. When Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, died on August 28, 430, the Vandals were laying siege to the city. But after a while the children who were born to them would begin to think of what treasure might be gleaned not from the shrines and palaces of Rome but from the memorials of its mind and heart. Then random sentences Augustine had written became texts used in schools. More and more were added until his doctrine was once more available. In particular, texts of the Confessions were found – imperfect, sometimes garbled, but rich in meaning. Therewith the time in which we now live had properly begun…

George N. Shuster, Preface to Augustine’s Confessions 

Okay. Two thoughts. No, three.

One. What a word for our time. “Too much of the substance of the Empire was gone. No new youth could be made to rise from its streets.” All that was left now was the future youth of the “barbarian outsider” to sit in the ruins and contemplate not the monuments but the meaning of the “mind and heart” of a civilization that had passed, and to see it reborn among them in what would hopefully be more redeeming ways.

barbarian joe

barbarian joe

This isn’t apocalyptic remorse or handwringing. There’s enough of that going around and I don’t need to add to it. Just a marvelous seed of hope however things turn in our world.

Two. Of course the Vandals would lay siege to the city (a throwaway for BSU fans, of course).

Three. I am the child of barbarians, and I have been privileged to sit “in darkness amidst the holy places.” Well, not literally. Haven’t been to Rome, to Italy, unlike some people I know who shall remain unnamed. Scotland and the highlands, aye, Italy, not so much. But in the journey of Greek and Hebrew, and the dabbling in Latin, and the tasting of ancient philosophers, theologians, poets, muses “in their random sentences,” I have sat amidst the ruins and have breathed deeply the meaning.

And “therewith the time in which I now live had properly begun…”

ahhhhhhh

ahhhhhhh

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in haverings, Quotations

 

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what is mine to do

ὃ ἔσχεν ἐποίησεν.
ha es-kin eh-poy-ay-sen.

“What she had, she did.”

So said Christ of the woman scorned by the rest of the room, the woman who had wasted her dowry-sized investment in one extravagant moment of devotion. The men counted the zeroes on the deposit slip that would never be for something that was never theirs. Christ countered with his own calculation: What she had, she did.

It’s said that near the end of his life, Saint Francis said, “I have done what was mine to do; now you must go do what is yours to do.”

I must do what is mine to do.

Such wisdom, this. So crucial for us to know and do that which is ours to do.

Oskar Schindler couldn’t stop the trains, but he could get a firehose and water down the cars. He could turn his factory into a refuge for 1100 Jews. What were 1100 out of so many millions – as is so powerfully captured at the end of Schindler’s List:

Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d just… I could have got more.

Stern:  Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Schindler: If I’d made more money… I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just…

Stern:  There will be generations because of what you did.

Schindler: I didn’t do enough!

Stern: You did so much.

[Schindler looks at his car]

Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car?
Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.

[removing Nazi pin from lapel]

Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.

[sobbing]

Schindler: I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t! And I… I didn’t!

What he had, he did.

It’s my new prayer through each day:

I must do that which is mine to do.

And maybe, just maybe, at the end of my days, I’ll warrant the epitaph on my tomb:

ὃ ἔσχεν ἐποίησεν.

SchindlrWatr2

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2015 in haverings

 

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Fury Road and faith healing

The tiny silver crucifix she woreScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 12.12.11 AM
enacted what it seemed we did to her.

She rested in the bed, not at peace yet,
she said, but trying to forgive. The dead

moved quietly around the room, unseen:
last week, a man with liver cancer keened

where she did now, before he passed; then
another woman whose lymphoma drenched

her in cold sweats, her lymph nodes thick and massed
wherever I had pressed. “Dear Lord,” I said,

attempting what I thought was prayer, “—Lord
forgive me for not healing them.” Unsaid,

the words of her forgiveness came to me
like kindness, like a sudden memory.

The tiny crucifix refused to bleed;
instead, it shone there like a misplaced need,

a way to understand the blameless night.
Adjusting my ophthalmoscope’s light,

I peered inside her, seeking what we may
of pain. I saw what she had tried to say:

the pulse of blood, the silence of my heart;
forgiveness, not impossible, but hard.

~ Rafael Campo from Alternative Medicine

Few poems have stopped me in my tracks.
Physically. Emotionally. Viscerally.
This one did. does.
What a fascinating juxtapose.
Campos and Rockatansky.
Fury Road and Faith Healing.
Max haunted by the faces of family he could not save
The haunting driving him to keep moving moving moving
to ultimately at least save
someone.
I know this.
I’ve never successfully left the room
still there
still seeing the serene face
of the Girl.
Lips now still that should be pursed in a taunt.
Now they just haunt.
You didn’t save me.
You didn’t say the words.
Could I have said them?
And he came and touched the bier
But I let it pass
The bag not yet sealed
But I let it pass
The body now dust on the shelf, waiting
But the face, it haunts, it tauntsmad-max-fury-road-trailer-343x215
You didn’t save me
The face driving me
keeping me moving moving moving
to ultimately save

someone.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in haverings, Poetry

 

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