"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

01 April 2005

Seeking the Vision

I love language, and especially the written word. Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, says of reading: "Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? [. . .] Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?"

Habbakuk received this commission from the Lord: "Write the vision on tables, that he who reads it may run." Reading should give us wings, give us courage to use them. I wrote my tenure paper on the power of the artist, especially the writer, to do this for us. The conclusion reads as follows:

It’s summer, time for some reading I just want to do, and I’ve finally found Charles Williams’ novel The Greater Trumps, one I’ve been wanting to revisit since I became a Christian in college. It rivets me, draws me in, and I lose myself to the story and especially to the character of Sybil, the calm center of difficult and even chaotic circumstances. Suddenly, however, I am pulled out of the imaginative world to intellectual awareness when I read the narrator’s definition of responsibility: “that burden which is only given in order to be relinquished, that task put into the hands of man in order that his own choice may render it back to its creator, that yoke which, once wholly lifted and put on, is immediately no longer to be worn.”

I’ve already decided I want to be Sybil – and here is the reason she is as she is: she has “lifted and relinquished” the yoke of responsibility and thus lives in “the freedom of a love” that is single-minded – focused on only One being, who Himself loves those around her through her,
rather than she trying to love them through her own human efforts.

I know it; it’s in the Scriptures and I’ve read and heard it how many times. But Williams makes it real to me through Sybil, and I know in a way I’ve never known before that it’s possible to live this way. Once again through literature I am given a vision, and a challenge to discover how to
live it out; once again I long to be what I was created to be.

“Write the vision and make it plain upon tables, that he who reads it may run.” May I learn to run, and to write the vision so that others may even outpace me.

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