Why does God’s love feel so much like death?

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
Adown titanic glooms of chasmèd fears
From those strong feet that followed, followed after
But with unhurrying chase and unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
‘All things betray thee who betrayest me.’

The author of this poem spends a lifetime fleeing, feeling desperate, raw terror. In the poem, he knows all along it is the love of God from which he flees.

What am I running from? Why is it uncomfortable to sit still? Why do feel always that I’m waiting for the next thing?

In the end, he loses the chase and feels the enveloping feeling of love together with an overpowering humility.  Perhaps it is the humility from which am fleeing…

‘Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest me.’

Perhaps Francis Thompson sensed his life would be cut short.  Unable to support himself as a young writer, he battled mental dissolution and addiction, was picked up off the street and sheltered for a time by a prostitute.  After three years homeless on the streets of London, he was discovered by a literary magazine, and cared for while his health returned.

How many other geniuses have had equally poignant lives?  Poe, Schumann, Coleridge, George Price, Steve Jobs…  How many more whose genius was never ‘discovered’, and lived out lives of silent desperation to the end?

Read the full poem, or listen.



A Strange, Wild Song

He thought he saw an Elephant
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
‘At length I realize,’ he said,
‘The bitterness of life!’

An elephant practising on a fife

He thought he saw a Buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His Sister’s Husband’s Niece.
‘Unless you leave this house,’ he said,
‘I’ll send for the police!’

he thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The Middle of Next Week.
‘The one thing I regret,’ he said,
‘Is that it cannot speak!’

He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A Hippopotamus.
‘If this should stay to dine,’ he said,
‘There won’t be much for us!’

He thought he saw a Kangaroo
That worked a Coffee-mill:
He looked again, and found it was
A Vegetable-Pill.
‘Were I to swallow this,’ he said,
‘I should be very ill!’

He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
That stood beside his bed:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bear without a Head.
‘Poor thing,’ he said, ‘poor silly thing!
It’s waiting to be fed!’

He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again, and found it was
A Penny-Postage Stamp.
‘You’d best be getting home,’ he said:
‘The nights are very damp!’

He thought he saw a Garden-Door
That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
A Double Rule of Three:
‘And all its mystery,’ he said,
‘Is clear as day to me!’

He thought he saw a Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
‘A fact so dread,’ he faintly said,
‘Extinguishes all hope!’

Lewis Carroll, born this day in 1832

Science in its place

___________________________Science then
Shall be a precious visitant; and then,
And only then, be worthy of her name:
For then her heart shall kindle; her dull eye,
Dull and inanimate, no more shall hang
Chained to its object in brute slavery;
But taught with patient interest to watch
The processes of things, and serve the cause
Of order and distinctness, not for this
Shall it forget that its most noble use,
Its most illustrious province, must be found
In furnishing clear guidance, a support
Not treacherous, to the mind’s ‘excursive’ power.
—So build we up the Being that we are;
Thus deeply drinking-in the soul of things
We shall be wise perforce; and, while inspired
By choice, and conscious that the Will is free,
Shall move unswerving, even as if impelled
By strict necessity, along the path
Of order and of good. Whate’er we see,
Or feel, shall tend to quicken and refine;
Shall fix, in calmer seats of moral strength,
Earthly desires; and raise, to loftier heights
Of divine love, our intellectual soul.

— Wordsworth (Excursion bk 4)



Intersubjective bootstrap

If all life is a dream, is it your dream or mine?
And why should our two worlds agree?
An answer avails if we’re both The Divine,
At our source, I am you and you’re me.
Though it seems that we’re separate (I trust you’ll concur)
It’s a stretch to conceive “one great soul”–
Still, we sense there are times when our boundaries blur
Our designs coalesce as one whole.
If together we’ve dreamed up this life, with its flaws
And its numberless wonders untold,
Might we harness the power of resonant thought,
Who can say what new worlds will unfold?
We might rein back our species to mind Nature’s laws,
We might dream exploitation to cease.
Once we own all the battles that e’er man has fought,
Are we ready to co-create peace?

— Josh Mitteldorf

Regnum Caelorum Vim Patitur

WHEN our five-angled spears, that pierced the world
And drew its life-blood, faint before the wall
Which hems its secret splendour—when we fall,
Lance broken, banner furled,
Before that calm invincible defence
Whereon our folly hurled
The piteous armies of intelligence—
Then, often-times, we know
How conquering mercy to the battle field
Comes through the darkness, freely to bestow
The prize for which we fought
Not knowing what we sought,
And salve the wounds of those who would not yield.


And did you think, he saith
As to and fro he goes the trenches through,
My heart impregnable, that you must bring
The ballisters of faith
Their burning bolts to fling,
And all the cunning intricate device
Of human wit,
One little breach to make
That so you might attain to enter it?
Nay, on the other side
Love’s undefended postern is set wide:
But thus it is I woo
My dearest sons, that an ignoble ease
Shall never please,
Nor any smooth and open way entice.
Armed would I have them come
Against the mighty bastions of their home;
Out of high failure win
Their way within,
And from my conquering hand their birthright take.

— Evelyn Underhill

On Water

‘Furough’ is inexact:
No ship could be
converted to a plow
traveling this vitreous ebony.

seal it in sea-caves and
you cannot still it:
image on image bends
where half-lights fill it

with illegible depths
and lucid passages
bestiary of stones,
book without pages:

and yet it confers
as much as it denies
we are orphaned and fathered
by such solid vacancies:

— Charles Tomlinson, born this day in 1927


Hide all your snares, vain town
Gilded with cross and crown,
Lest your foul streams deter
The day’s new worshiper.

Break in my heart, O chains,
Your self-inflicted pains,
And every shackle fall
From me for good and all.

Let the grey dawn propose
Conjunction with the rose,
And the blue noon fulfill
indolently its will.

Where the warm vales repeat
The ecstasy of heat,
And the slow forest heaves
in transport all its leaves,

i can uplift my eyes
To th’enduring paradise,
And cast white flames in the air
Of proud unsecret prayer.

A E Coppard, born this day in 1878