"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

28 July 2009

Seeking Peace . . .

This world is certainly broken. Sometimes this is evidenced in minor irritations and annoyances, or what one reads in the papers that doesn't touch one directly. Those days it's easy to shrug and coast a little, maybe rest a little.

But then the brokenness overwhelms. I know four people who have lost a parent in the last two weeks. Illness -- a student with a spinal tumor; the recurrence of bleeding in my daughter's angioma, causing seizures; my own chronic pain suddenly increasing by a hundred-fold or so . . . People I love losing homes, jobs, families . . .

What is one to do in the face of overwhelming brokenness? Pray, I suppose. But I haven't the least idea how to pray. Who am I to presume to know what to ask God in the midst of all this sorrow and pain? He didn't send His Son to die so we could all be happy and well in the darkness of a broken world. But neither, in the face of His sacrifice, is despair an option.

So I turn to Scott Cairns again:

Stillness occurs with the shedding of thoughts. - St. John Klimakos

Of course the mind is more often a roar,
within whose din one is hard pressed to hear
so much as a single word clearly. Prayer?

Not likely. Unless you concede the blur
of confused, compelled, competing desires
the mind brings forth in the posture of prayer.

So, I found myself typically torn,
if lately delivered, brow to the floor,
pressing as far as I could into prayer,

pressing beneath or beyond the roar
that had so long served only to wear
away all good intentions, baffling prayer.

Polished hardwood proves its own kind of mirror,
revealing little, but bringing one near
the margin where one hopes to find prayer --

though even one's weeping is mostly obscured
by the very fact and effect of one's tears,
which, for the time being, must serve.

*"hesychia" means "peace"
Update: Scott Cairns, in a comment below, graciously tells me that "'hesychia' is more nearly translated as 'stillness,' indicating a deep quiet, of body, mind, and spirit."


GrumpyTeacher1 said...

The Woman told me about things this morning. I am so sorry. We're praying.

alaiyo said...

Thank you!

eutychus said...

Adding my prayers to the mix.

alaiyo said...

Thank you, David;

Scott Cairns said...

Zap me a mailing address at cairnss@missouri.edu, eh? I have a new book, The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain. It's not available yet, but I just received my author's copies yesterday, and I'd like to send you one. You'll have my poor prayers as well.


Publius said...

Throw in my prayers too, ma'am.

alaiyo said...

Thank you, Michael.

MamaT said...

Mine, too.

May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Mrs. Lawson said...

How is our girl?

And how is her mother?

alaiyo said...

Hi, LuCindy! I hope to talk with Davina tonight or tomorrow (she's been in the process of moving). I'll let you know when her neurologist appt. is.

I'm hanging in there. Really, really, glad that most of my syllabi-type stuff is done for the fall semester, so that's not hanging over me too.

Lutestring said...

You reminded me of this Michael Card passage on my wall ...

"In any split second, the weight of the sorrow of the world could devastate any of us. The burden of it is enough to make any sane person want to disconnect, turn the TV on, pour another drink, or go to the mall to buy one more thing. The truth is, it is too much. But given the truth that God's Word leaves us no choice but to enter into the suffering of those around us, what are we to do?"

Who is that PHENOMENAL poet? I have never heard of him in my life. That's just wrong.

Is it your knee that's hurting so much? :( I am sorry. And for your daughter too.


alaiyo said...

I recommend Scott Cairns' collection _Philokalia_ to you, Monika. It will be challenging! His poems on prayer have been most helpful to me.

I have fibromyalgia and arthritis -- sometimes they annoy me by both flaring up at the same time!

Love you, dear heart!

Anna said...

Thank you. This is a most beautiful post and something that I have been feeling deeply as of late.

alaiyo said...

Thank you for visiting, Anna -- I'm glad you found some encouragement.

Scott Cairns said...

Just a quick tweak: "hesychia" is more nearly translated as "stillness," indicating a deep quiet, of body, mind, and spirit. Good journey!

alaiyo said...

Thank you for that correction, Scott; I'll note it in the post. I believe you discuss this in _The End of Suffering_ -- I began it, am finding it so encouraging and helpful, but have had to put it aside because of the beginning of the term; I can only read it slowly and thoughtfully.