Entries tagged with “time”.

As of late, my mind is an awful lot like a bowl of pudding. Seriously. As the end of this semester bears down upon me, I realize how much there is to do and how little time I have left in which to complete it all. A fifteen page paper on John Donne, a 20 minute presentation on 20th Century uses of Donne, a fifteen page paper on Henry James, and a ten page report for my “Language Awareness” class (that one I’m far less concerned about). And did I mention that tomorrow I’ve a 20 minute presentation to give on the morphology of Classical Sumerian, as well as a midterm to write? Pudding – there’s no other word to describe the state of my mind these days.

So don’t be expecting any truly insightful post for a bit (assuming that you’ve found any of the previous at least slightly intelligent in nature). I’ve no time to record such thoughts. Instead, as I’ve been reading the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, I thought I’d share a favourite of mine – albeit with no exegesis or interpretation. I find the poems richly rewarding, both as literary pieces and as devotional material. As to why I have chosen this particular one, I suppose it reminds me to keep my priorities straight. After all, if Christ were to return this very night, what good would my worrying about future papers be? It’s a reminder to make time for God – no matter how busy I am.

So here it is (according to the Westmoreland MS). Oh, and ignore the “…..” It’s just there to provide the proper indentation.

Holy Sonnet 15

What yf this present were the worlds last night?
…..Looke in my Hart, O Soule, where thou dost dwell
…..The picture of Christ crucifyde and tell
Whether that countenance can thee affright?
Teares in his eyes quench the amazing Light,
…..Blood fills his frowns which from his pierc’d head fell.
…..And can that toung adiudge thee vnto hell
Which prayed forgiuenes for his foes ranck spight?
No, No; but as in myne idolatree
…..I sayd to all my prophane Mistressis
…..Bewty of pity, foulness only is
A Signe of rigor; So I say to thee
…..To wicked Sprights are horrid Shapes assignd,
…..This bewteous forme assures a piteous mind.

I have often felt that I was born in the wrong time. Too late, in specific, for my sensibilities place me in an era long since past. And so I grieve my forbears, my deceased friends, though I never knew them save in their writings. It is not that I mourn their passings per se – they have reached what reward was their’s to gain. Rather, I hold this against them: that they have left me here alone, an alien in a foreign land.

It is a trying thing to be the survivor of some great tragedy. You become an object of curiosity, some oddity to be scrutinized upon a stage. You become some other Oedipus whose tragedy continuously unfolds for the viewing pleasure of others. You are many things. But you are not a “real” person. You are not a character whom the audience understands. They may pity you. But they cannot empathize with you. The Playwright has not written your part in that way.

To be fair, I am not the sole person afflicted with time-displacement. I have been so blessed as to chance upon a rather pleasant Mediaeval fellow and a charming Victorian gentleman as well. We are not all the same – I am more inclined, for example, to believe I hail from the days of the Reformation. But we three share an appreciation of each other, a recognition of the importance of history in the present, and a concern for matters of substance: the relationship of reality to language, the underlying meaning of literary discourse, the nature of the soul and Scripture and life and morality. We have asked whether a flower on some unknown planet is in danger of being eaten by an unmuzzled sheep, and we have stood in silence at the heaviness of the thought. We do not always agree on the answers to such questions; representatives of different times seldom do. But we are in accordance that the questions are important, if only because they remind us that there are things beyond ourselves and that despite this, we paradoxically still somehow share in their meaning as members of the same creation.

We are philosophers. We are poets. We are princes of great nations. But we are in exile. Our treasure and our peoples were lost generations before we took our thrones. And we remain stranded in this desperate world of the 21st century.

The major decline of kingdoms such as our own began ages past, but it reached its crisis point in the 1900s. As the West gained wealth and technology unlike that ever before known, it began to be avaricious and slothful. And where two deadly sins burrow their way into the flesh of a society, they leave the sore gaping for the other five parasites to join them.

Today’s western world has devolved into a “country” of total individualism. People stress over personal fulfillment, seeking only to bring pleasure to themselves. And yet they somehow miss the only virtue to be found in an individualistic ideology – that of personal reflection and testing. On this front, they instead adopt the primary failings of communal ideology – that of mass ignorance. The West feels that certain questions, questions of substance, are better left unasked. Contemplating these issues would inevitably require them to evaluate their personal allegiances towards Hedonism. Not that they could name such a thing. To do so would already be to reflect, and that again brings up those needling, unsettling questions. “If I do not think about it,” they would contemplate (if they could contemplate), “then surely the concern cannot exist.” non cogito ergo non sunt.

I used to wonder whether my presence in this time was a bit of a divine joke, inflicted upon me by a well-meaning but unaware God. Of course, as a Reformation-era man, I could not entertain such heresy for long. Instead, I have seen my mind tuned from without to consider the purpose of the time-displaced in light of the concept of dignitarial visits. We are sent as ambassadors, to promote the interests of our nations to a people who do not know of them. We are emissaries bringing good news over time and space. We bring gifts for these people, if they will but receive them. And though I could not fathom so at the first, I have learned that the nation of the 20th-21st century also bears treasures of its own. For no country has been so forsaken by God as to be utterly barren. He has given us abundantly more than we could ever ask, and we are called to share amongst each other the blessings of our heavenly Father.

Hence my friendships with the Mediaevalist and the Victorian. We three desire to learn from each other. And we desire to share those good things God has given us with this world. But when people are so unwilling to remove the stoppers from their ears and the blockers from their eyes, the diplomatic mission we are on stands little chance of success.

You see, they have already declared war on the Past. And that leaves those of us who are time-displaced little more than their enemies.