Frayed Edges


Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind

Cannot bear very much reality.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

TS Eliot – The Four Quartets: Burnt Norton I


There are nights where I get so ripped at the seams that I can’t even scramble for thread to stitch them up. Last night was one of those. I was up late the night before, and spent the better part of the next day swimming in the world of ideas. There’s nothing inherently wrong with ideas, or in exploring the possibilities of the future. But in my own limitations and frailties, nothing can be quite as intoxicating or tyrannical as a good idea. Live long enough in the future and it is easy to destroy the all too important sense of smell in the present and it becomes impossible to tell the difference between the sweet scent of spring tulips and complete bullshit.

Travelling the concourse of my own life – the futures I occupied in the present of days past have stacked up into an enormous amount of baggage filled with the false hopes of what might have been. Our little lives are a mobile nexus of reality – it comes pouring in every moment of every day whether we like it or not. I have found, or better, am trying to find that precious present – the place where God is and I am, where even in the commotion of the urgent, the common pressures of everyday life, I can find that still point. There’s a mindful emptiness, an openness to fullness that Buddha, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and TS Eliot describe, something that Scripture describes in the rhythms of Sabbath rest that I long for – the ability to cease and know God.

I do not live an ascetic life – I cannot retreat  to the desert like St. Anthony, or the monastery as St. John of the Cross. But, there’s a wilderness within and that is the road to Eden rest. I could bemoan the frayed edges, my own frailties and limitations, but in these I am opened up to something more precious that I cannot attain through strife – gift. The grace of God in Christ is the magnetic force that draws me into something Divine. There is simple stillness and limitless act in the life of God, and for the soul that shares in that life. For now, I know of no other way than the wilderness and the frayed edges, and the frailties – that is the road to the cross and to the gift and to the stillness.

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