Friday, February 06, 2009

That Which Cannot Forget

"There are times....when we are in the midst of life - moments of confrontation with birth or death, or moments of beauty when nature or love is fully revealed, or moments of terrible loneliness - times when an awesome awareness comes upon us. It may come as deep inner stillness or as a rush of overflowing emotion. It may seem to come from beyond us, without any provocation, or from within us, evoked by music, or a sleeping child. If we open our hearts at such moments, creation reveals itself to us in all its unity and fullness. And when we return from such a moment of awareness, our hearts long to find some way to capture it in worlds forever, so that we can remain faithful to its higher truth... When my people search for a name to give to the truth we feel at those moments, we call it God, and when we capture that understanding in timeless poetry we call it praying..."

"There's an old Jewish story that says in the beginning God was everywhere and everything, a totality. But to make creation, God had to remove Himself from some part of the universe, so something besides himself could exist. He breathed in, and in the places where God withdrew, there creation exists. ... He watches. He rejoices. He weeps. He observes the moral drama of human life and gives meaning to it by caring passionately about us, and remembering."

"In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God."

- from
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. italics my own.

i'm not sure to whom i'd recommend
The Sparrow... no... i would be cautious... the closing chapter made me feel (literally) faint with horror and i had to lie down...
but i will be thinking about it for much time to come... it's not the kind of story one will shake off easily...

perhaps wisdom is another name for remembering, or not forgetting... perhaps that is all God is, that which bears eternal witness to the beauty of love and the horror of brutality... i don't know if i find that comforting or awful... and perhaps that's the point... we can choose meaning, or not... either way, moments of love and moments of pain persist... and somehow we have to find a way to reconcile ourselves to that... and keep on keeping on...

the latest offering from Helios, Caesura (seehear at Boomkat) made for a good accompaniment to reading. (also available on iTunes.)


also recommended, Stephen Fry presents Oscar Wilde's short stories



  1. Anonymous7:14 am

    like mr fry dear sister.... you are a national treasure!

  2. yes, The Sparrow will knock one for a loop...but it rings rather true to the experience of living, I think. looking forward to hearing what the rest of the story does for you. those were a couple of the best books I'd read in a long time.

    the interview after each was quite rewarding too.
    "We seem to believe that if we act in accordance with our understanding of God's will, we ought to be rewarded. But in doing so we're making a deal that God didn't sign onto... In our world, if people believe at all, they believe that God is love, God is hearts and flowers, and that God will send you theological candy all the time. But if you read Torah, you realize that God has a lot to answer for. God is a complex personality...God gives us rules, but those rules are for us, not for God..."

    Got to see her at one of Calvin's Faith & Writing fests, just after reading them both, and she wasn't anything like I was expecting, to say the least. had a hard time believing that this person actually wrote those books.

  3. i have only just now seen on your blog the same Aeschylus line... i had missed it...
    as Julie Lee would say, "coincidence? i *don't* think so..."

    i was moved by your post, In a Dark use a phrase from Krista Tippet, i've been wondering if God is that which 'remembers forward'...
    a thought which seemed to slip well between the lines of that post. as always your writing makes me smile and tear up all at once.

    you're in my prayers, soul brother.


  4. Brook
    you can hear her interviewed also at

    and i am so with you on the, is this the same person? i felt that even having heard her speak before reading the books...the darker the book got the more i thought it...

    i woke this morning thinking they are two conversations between Anne and Jimmy about human love that i read as two dark realities of the human experience of unknowing...

    first in San Juan, when she comforts him, thinking,

    "that nobody can make anyone else love them, that half the world's misery was wanting someone that didn't want you...

    'Jesus Anne', he whispered above her. 'He's a priest. it isn't fair.'

    'No, my darling, it never is', she assured him. 'It never, ever is.'"

    and then on the Stella Maris...

    "She shivered and slumped suddenly. 'But Jimmy! What unnatural words. Always and forever! Those aren't human words, Jim. Not even stones are always and forever.'"


    something in those lines seem linked for me... perhaps the pain and temporal nature of mortality... the seeking of the divine, is to seek something neither disappointing or temporal... a desire that there is more to life than loss and death... a kind of deep longing...for something the human heart can make sense of...

    and yet the worst thing about longing for the divine, as in loving, (which Anne also touches on elsewhere) is that the only thing that makes it bearable is the hope/risk that the (divine) other longs for or loves us too...

    to be human is not to see all things. and in that limitation, not being able to see or remember forward, we are resigned to the unfairness of it all.

    and if God is what we call that which sees or is 'always and forever', sees all things, even the sparrow as it falls, then i take comfort in that. wisdom has a long eye on the truth... an 'awesome awareness'. it comforts, if only because it takes the pressure of me to get it right. to feel the humility of being merely human...seeing very little, with only two single irises to see this world through...


  5. Brook,

    you should also treat yourself to the hilarity of her conversation about music...the interviewer (Mitch Hanley) barely holds it together quoting big hair rock lines...

    (with unashamed love of Hysteria)

  6. judgemental ass that I am, if I had heard her speak BEFORE reading, I have to say I probably never would have given those books the time of day. If feeling like I had suddenly been caught on the set of The View or Oprah wasn't enough, I think the lap-dog would have cinched it. that, or her schoolgirl drooling over the possiblity of Brad Pitt playing the lead role in a Sparrow movie...I'll have to give those interviews a listen as time permits. curious how one of my favourite albums of my youth fits into this picture... :-)