Posts Tagged 'Orthodox world view'

Vertigo: An Acquired Taste

On this lazy afternoon I am reading Short Trip to the Edge (HarperSanFrancisco 2007), the Orthodox poet Scott Cairns’ account of his spiritual journey to the mystical Greek peninsula of Mount Athos. The following passage has me reeling. Must share. (You can hear Scott’s poetry readings here.)

I have often startled to a fleeting sense–either within an expanse of landscape or, for that matter, while poring over a written page–that there dwells before me an excess, abysmal, roiling beyond what can be grasped. Such a sense is what first led me, even as a child, to savor the language of the Bible.

It is what first led me to the language of poetry as well.

Along the way, I’ve come to the opinion that the real–whatever that may eventually prove to be–will appear, inevitably, as abysmal.

From what I gather, I’m not alone. The consensus of modern philosophy is that the human circumstance–duly appraised–is unquestionably abysmal. Where I might tweak the consensus view is simply here: I’m guessing that our circumstance–the abyss in which we live and move and have our being–need not be apprehended as an abysmal emptiness so much as an abysmal fullness.

An Enormity, I’d say.

Of which, incidentally, the human person is to become a part, a member. Appalling, yes? And abysmal. Cheerfully so, I think.

Still and in the meantime–however one might choose to speak of the accompanying sensations–our glimpses of the real are pretty much guaranteed to be vertiginous; and any taste one might have for that sensation is admittedly an acquired taste.

I have been working to acquire that taste for a long time now, going on most of thirty years.

Poetry, when it is actually poetry, suits that taste. Sacred texts, when they are pored over and pressed for unexpected and generative meaning, also serve. An expanse of landscape–whether scored and moved by human agency or by more natural activity–can also provide a savory moment availing what cannot be held.