The question of “time,” and the pain we feel at our futile attempts to slow its rapid passage, always reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ observation that our discomfort in the temporal is proof of our reality as eternal beings. He wrote in a letter to Sheldon Vanauken in 1950:
Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures? Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (“How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up and married! I can hardly believe it!”) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something about us that is not temporal.
With that as introduction, here is a guest blog from the Chairman of the Board that expresses the problem of time just beautifully.
Just Another Hour
If I could take the hours
That once I spent with you
And mint them into coins of gold
What would I buy
That equaled their full worth?
Ah, love, another hour with thee.
– Ailene Gilbert Crouse
Lovers measure time by the hours they are apart. When they are together . . . they do not know time.
Mothers and fathers measure time by the brief moments of relief while the baby sleeps, by the treasured fleeting days of a child’s innocence, by the cycle of outgrown shoes, of the school year.
Ailene’s Great-Grandson, and her husband’s namesake. . .
Grandmothers and grandfathers measure time-present by the intervals remembered of time-past. From birth to graduation to marriage, all now yesterday, passed in a moment . . . but, if God be pleased, again from birth to graduation . . .
Humanity measures time by the cycle from Spring to blossoming Spring . . . and from the progress of the grass and trees reclaiming yesterday’s shrieking battlefields and silent cemeteries.
And what of the God of the “eternal now?” The Word compared Him to a father waiting longingly, hopefully, relentlessly, for his wayward son to come to his senses . . . and home to the father’s love.
And now abides faith, hope, and love, which do not know time . . . but the greatest of these is love.
These last few weeks have been ones of death and dying; a month of contemplating the purpose of pain and the meaning of suffering. It is a time for revisiting places of meditation, pondering the spaces man has devised for grappling with the eternal questions of mortality.
The famous chapel on the grounds of the United States Air Force Academy nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains is more truly a cathedral. Outwardly, it is all sleek silver-wing metal, with seventeen external buttresses, knifing severely skyward. Designed to evoke an air-frame, the architecture does not immediately summon spiritual devotion.
Photo credit: Helena Yoest
But cross the threshold, step inside, and one is transported to another plane. The solemn air is bathed in the soft splendor of muted light. While the stern steel silhouette dominates the external view, the interior reveals the fragile panels of stained-glass that the harsh ribs support. The intricate glass panes filter and animate the sunlight, illuminating the sacred space with almost a visual hush.
At the front of the chapel, a single row is roped off. “Reserved” the sign says, for all the United States aviators who are missing in action or prisoners of war. The only occupant of the pew is a single, burning candle.
“Greater love hath no man than this. . .” reads the plaque. The Scripture it alludes to concludes: “that a man lays down his life for his friends.”
My thoughts immediately fly to my boy, my sweet Dude, who wants to be a fighter pilot. And baby Boo, who will almost certainly want to follow his older brother. My heart blanches. How could I bear it? And yet so many other mothers — gold-star mothers — even this very day, must find a way when their sons have given the last measure of devotion.
* * *
The war in heaven, and its reflection that we see through a glass darkly, is one of the great mysteries of human life. The existence of egregious earthly evil is incomprehensible. . . yet for every act of aggressive hatred is its spiritual foe — the love of humans one for another that confronts and overcomes all would-be destroyers.
At the back of the chapel, a Lucite case displays a picture of a little boy who was “Cadet for a Day.” In a series of three pictures, we saw a grinning boy, sitting in a cockpit dressed in a flight-suit, surrounded by a smiling corps of cadets.
My husband was drawn to the display immediately, wanting such a grand experience for the Dude, our own boy.
This just in from the Chairman of the Board, a guest blogger who wishes to remain anonymous. It meant a lot to me, so I share it with you:
This morning I saw a familiar sight walking from the train station to my office: a robin searching for worms. Not just searching, but finding. As I watched the bird pulling a very large worm out of the ground, my first thought was what an amazing feat of hearing by the little bird to be able to detect the worm’s presence.
Then as I continued walking I became aware of all of the ambient noise of city life the robin had to filter out. It was a little past the peak of rush-hour traffic, but still a considerable number of vehicles passed up and down Constitution Avenue, less than 50 yards from where the bird searched for its breakfast. This realization made the robin’s feat seem all the more amazing.
And then . . . then I thought of the awesome inventiveness of the One who created the robin with such incredible hearing.
Like the bird, I have to cope with filtering out a lot of distractions in order to focus on the task God has laid before me. And I have to let go of the empty goals my pride and ambition drive me toward, and instead value the opportunity I have to do the garden-variety, common and ordinary stuff that I do have enough talent to accomplish.
By the time I neared the office, the phrase “consider the lilies of the field” was echoing through my mind.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take you thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
** Editorial note: see here, for interesting discussion of the robin’s ability to hear earthworms! Although the abstract emphasizes sight hunting, the text and conclusion also underscores the importance of hearing.
I recently read the epic poem Gilgamesh for an upcoming Liberty Fund conference, organized by Frederick Turner, in Austin. (Fred is the renowned poet and author of a modern epic, Genesis, about the settlement of Mars.)
In my ongoing attempt to expand the Penta-Posse’s literary horizons beyond the Adventures of Captain Underpants, I snapped up an audio reading of Gilgamesh when I saw one at the library. On our next road-trip to see Jack’s mom, I felt like quite the uber-mom when the Penta-Posse became engrossed in the story of Gilgamesh, the ancient king of Uruk and his friend Enkidu, a wild man who lived among the beasts.
Problem: a key element of the story is Enkidu’s transformation into full humanity . . .through seduction by a harlot.
The print version read that they “lay together” and she “taught him the woman’s art.” That probably would have gone over their heads. The audio version, however, translates her “welcoming” him pretty explicitly. We’re riding along enjoying the story and all of a sudden we hear, “she spread her. . .” Total brain freeze! I looked over at Jack and I could see his brain racing, “Where is the off button, where is the off button?!!?”
Then, that particular phrase turned out to be a refrain in the poem. No, no!Where is the off button??!!
Finally, the story moved on to tamer things.
Total silence in the back. Jack and I were still not quite breathing.
Then, suddenly, we hear the Diva: “EWWW! That’s gross!”
So, it’s official: Gilgamesh is gross. On the other hand, maybe this could be a new, more classic, approach to sex ed in the schools . . .or not.
For the record, the Dude did think that Gilgamesh’s fight with the ferocious Humbaba of the seven terrors, was “tight.”
The Dude (with the help of the Diva) discovered that Gandalf has something to say about audacity on PlayStation 2. They worked very hard to get the quote for mom’s blog. And it’s perfect:
For ourselves there is no hope. This is our final act to give Frodo time — time to end the evil that marshalls before us.
We now give witness that the day of men faces the final test. The eye of Sauron will be upon us, mistaking our audacity for power.
We must hold his gaze long enough for the unthinkable to become real. For hope to conquer all.
At first, the Dude gave me only the part of this quote about audacity — that evil would mistake it for power. And I was disappointed. Where is the inspiration in that?
But it’s all in the context: sometimes we are powerless; sometimes we do confront circumstances and opposition that are overwhelming. I loved Lord of the Rings for the reminder that it is a great honor to give your all on the side of good, standing against evil, even if it costs you everything. And even the weakest among us has a part to play.
You just have to go with Gimli! “Certainty of death! Small chance of success. . .What are we waiting for?” There’s audacity!