Posts Tagged 'personal profiles'

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.

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About the Samaritan Woman…

and her meeting with Jesus at the well, where she was drawing water.
There is a moment I would like to hold up,
A point of light that has pierced the eye of my heart.
I know that I will have to be satisfied with walking around it,
as it is not the kind of thing that can be pinned down.
Here it is:
That Jesus saw her,
and when that dawned on her,
she was never the same.
In the light of His countenance she was undone,
unwound from her syndrome, wounded with eternity.
In a moment her desire was turned inside out, transfigured.
What possessed her now could no longer be her fragmented,
meandering and wandering ways,
but His seeing of her, and beyond all that she had been,
His showing her and freely offering her
what He knew she had always desired,
beyond her own knowing.
He was not looking at her askance to cast her down.
He was not rebuking her or taunting her,
not dwelling on her miserable failures.
In His knowing, He was turning a light on in her,
springing her out of prison.
The miracle is that she saw HIM,
and so, extricated from her shame,
shot full of wonder and expectation,
she bounded with joy into the town to share this news,
that she had found a man–the seventh one–
that knew her as she had never been known.

Christ God, my Lord and Savior,
I see that you come to me as to that woman,
that you can open my eyes and my heart as you did hers.
You offer me yourself even today
in the cup of Your Life.
As I approach and partake, may the light of Your Presence
pour into the dark well of my confused passions,
a provision of the Living Water
now and unto the ages of ages. Amen

May 6, 2007, The Fifth Sunday of PASCHA, the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman


Note: According to the tradition of the Orthodox Church, the Samaritan woman, who is commemorated on this day, bears the name of Photini: light. She is counted as the first missionary.