Tag Archives: Christian Wiman

Putting life in perspective

The endless, useless urge to look on life comprehensively, to take a bird’s-eye view of ourselves and judge the dimensions of what we have or have not done: this is life as landscape, or life as a résumé. But life is incremental, and though a worthwhile life is a gathering together of all that one is, good and bad, successful and not, the paradox is that we can never really see this one thing that all of our increments (and decrements, I suppose) add up to. “Early we receive a call,” writes Czeslaw Milosz, “yet it remains incomprehensible, and only late do we discover how obedient we were.”

Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer 


Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The restlessness of transition

William James said that our inner lives are fluid and restless and always in transition, and that our experience “lives in the transitions”. . . . it is only a short  step from saying that our experience  “lives in the transitions” to saying that one ought to seek our and even provoke these transitions: if I am closest to God when I am most in crisis, then bring on the whirlwind; if I am most alive when love is beginning or ending, then let this marriage die, let this affair take flame, let me let myself go.

The truth in James’s idea inheres in that “always.” If our inner lives are always in transition, then our goal should be to acquire and refine a consciousness that is capable of registering the most minute changes in sensation, feeling, faith, self. Unless we become aware of the transitions that are occurring all the time within us, unless we learn to let experience play upon our inner lives as on a finely tuned instrument, we will try to manufacture inner intensity from the outside, we will bang our very bones to roust our own souls. We crave radical ruptures when we have allowed the nerves of our inner lives to go numb. But after those ruptures — the excitement or the tragedy, the pleasure or the pain—the mind returns to what it was, the soul quicksilvers off from the pierce of experience and the kingdom of boredom, which could be the kingdom of God, begins the clock-tick toward its next collapse.

 

Christian Wiman, My Bright  Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sorrow is so woven through us

Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color. This is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is. But they still burn.

Christian Wiman,  My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer(Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013)

We are no longer the same, you wiser but not sadder, and I sadder but not wiser, for wiser I could hardly become without grave personal inconvenience, whereas sorrow is a thing you can keep adding to all your life long, is it not, like a stamp or an egg collection, without feeling very much the worse for it, is it not.

Samuel Beckett, Watt

Comments Off on Sorrow is so woven through us

Filed under memories

The necessity of space to think

“What incensed him the most was the blatant jokes of the ones that passed it all off as a jest, pretending to understand everything and in reality not knowing their own minds.”

James Joyce, Ulysses

The greatness of Ulysses is partly in the way it reveals the interior chaos of a single mind during a single day, and partly in the way it makes that idiosyncratic clamor universal . However different the textures of our own lives may be, Bloom’s mind is our mind; the welter of impressions he suffers and savors is a storm we all know. And that is the book’s horror, too: some form of this same fury of trivia is going on in the mind of every sentient person on the planet. How much cruelty is occasioned simply because of the noise that is within us: the din is too great to realize exactly what we are doing to others, or what is being done to others in our name. Thus an offhand remark, which leaves us as easily as a breath and which we think no more of than a breath, cuts a friend to the quick. And thus a whole country can be organized toward some collective insanity because there is no space in individuals to think.

~ Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014).

Comments Off on The necessity of space to think

Filed under Uncategorized

Finding a little inner space

 . . . . the world seems to be going faster and faster, and our attention seems to be more and more fragmented on these various, in various ways. And threatening the inner life. And what I would say is that poetry is a bulwark against these things. That I think people will realize, in the midst of all this, that they need some way of putting up resistance to it. And reading a poem can be an act of resistance, because it can be an act of individual consciousness in this onslaught of information that’s coming at us.

Christian Wiman, interview with Bill Myers, (from here)

Comments Off on Finding a little inner space

Filed under the unknown

Echoes of questioning and indecision

“What you must realize, what you must even come to praise, is the fact that there is no right way that is going to become apparent to you once and for all. The most blinding illumination that strikes and perhaps radically changes your life will be so attenuated and obscured by doubts and dailiness that you may one day come to suspect the truth of that moment at all. The calling that seemed so clear will be lost in echoes of questionings and indecision; the church that seemed to save you will fester with egos, complacencies, banalities; the deepest love of your life will work itself like a thorn in your heart until all you can think of is plucking it out. Wisdom is accepting the truth of this. Courage is persisting with life in spite of it. And faith is finding yourself, in the deepest part of your soul, in the very heart of who you are, moved to praise it.”
― Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

Comments Off on Echoes of questioning and indecision

Filed under the unknown

sorrow and joy

“Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or
at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain,
that every experience is dyed with its colour. This is why, even
in moment of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are
our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy,
and they make joy the complete experience that it is. But they still burn.”
Christian Wiman, Mt Bright Abyss

Comments Off on sorrow and joy

Filed under Uncategorized