How softly the dreamer breathes almost peacefully in her sleep! See the vague motion of a smile upon her lips. And yet it is only sleep. And it seems — strange to say — an act of love to awaken the dreamer to a real world, a world with sorrow and war. Is it enough to justify the waking that we say, “But this, my love, is real?” If so, then it seems beauty must be sacrificed to truth.
Perhaps, however, the purpose of truth is to lead us back to beauty, as if those who awaken discover that smiles and love are real as war and sorrow, indeed that love is sorrow’s precondition. So let us not say beauty is sacrificed; let us say beauty hides and truth needs to be poured into our condition for our redeeming. Thus says Truth: “No one comes to Beauty but by me.”
The Imam once told me that we shall be held responsible for every penny and every second we spend. “Consider,” he said, “the noble recorders” (sura 82:10-12). But to be held accountable for every penny and every second is to live hopelessly, for there is no human accounting that can defend hope. Who can blame us then if we are temped to deny the Law? For the law kills, yet I am alive, and I cannot even choose to die. Therefore the Law must die.
And so there must be grace. We may wonder if it is arbitrary grace, if it is universal and unquestioning grace, or if it is costly grace. Perhaps there are other kinds of grace to promise freedom. We needn’t move — yet — to the assertion of Christian grace, but sooner or later we must find grace. As inevitably as Descartes, in all his doubt, found he could not deny his own mind, so the pondering of uncertainty returns me certainly to grace. Grace and freedom.
I heard a story of a transcendent glory that bowed down, strayed into dirt, not accidentally, but for love. I heard how the vastness of space was crushed into a jar of clay, how the infinite echo of exploding stars became a baby’s whimper. I heard the baby grew to be a man and told grave stories to the inattentive. I heard he wept when children wandered and when wise men locked themselves into windowless rooms because they could. I heard he put aside even the trappings of a teacher and, almost naked, washed the grime from dirty feet. And I heard the man of endless space and boundless thunder died of cruelty, and no one ran to his defense. I heard that I should strive to be like him.
This is new territory for me, but perhaps this will be a place where I can present the work I couldn’t avoid doing. No doubt traditional publishing of words and music has saved the world from being subjected to a great deal of trash, and no doubt the internet has given free space for the words of many people who have nothing to say. But perhaps the man of but one talent should go ahead and invest it, lest what little we have also be taken away.
The blaring, deafening frenzy of the hockey game on the 5 (or 6, or 7) screens finally stops as the game goes between periods, and so the frenetic noise of the game is replace by the blare and pound of popular music. This is the world, a vacuum of sense and the crazed pound and scream for something to distract us from the emptiness. And if the hockey and the music don’t appeal to you, well, there are a thousand other options, some even more benign, many a bare step above insanity and death.
Meanwhile all the fullness and glory of life are undeniable, the reality of a glorious sunrise that illumines a shattered world. Were it not for the warmth and light — let us indulge this metaphor — if it weren’t for the sunlight and its beauty, we would not see the ugliness nor be able to watch the sucking vacuum’s vain distractions. I feel the sunlight’s warmth on my face, even as I feel the cold shadow on my back.
“…the grotesques and misfits that drift into teaching … are so often the most educative influences a boy meets in school. If a boy can’t have a good teacher, give him a psychological cripple or an exotic failure to cope with; don’t just give him a bad, dull teacher. This is where the private schools score over state-run schools; they can accommodate a few cultured madmen on the staff without having to offer explanations.” – Robertson Davies