A quote

In today’s Writer’s Almanac email, it was noted that it’s the birthday of one Forrest Gander, a poet, and this was quoted from him:

“I have lost the consolation of faith / though not the ambition to worship.”


21 Thoughts on “A quote

  1. (Let’s take a gander at this… find our way through the forest…)

    I second the poet’s sentiment.

  2. My first response was to make it personal by reversing: I have lost the ambition to worship/ though not the consolation of faith. More later.

  3. I am not being flip. This juxtaposition seems even more personal: I have lost the ambition of faith/ though not the consolation of worship.

  4. I likes, Mr. Honea, I likes.

  5. Indeed, the quote seems to work either way in terms of discussion.

  6. In other words, I don’t flip to be flip.

  7. As true to our creed as Lichtenbergians we discussed discussing without ever getting around to actually discussing.

  8. I’ve been meaning to get back to this quote. It appealed to me as an extension of our non-topic for the Annual Meeting, and I appreciate the efforts of others to whup up on it.

    As I set the Presbyterian Book of Confessions on the fire, it occurred to me that I should return to this post and confess.

    I have lost it all. Consolation of faith—ambition to worship—ambition of faith—consolation of worship. It’s all gone. It’s not there.

    I should however say that the word lost implies regret on my part. I have no regrets. It would be more accurate to say I have resigned it all. I no longer seek—nor seem to need—faith or worship.

    Have I achieved some kind of Nirvana, one-ness with God? I am not that arrogant. Do I know who/what God is? No. Nor am I possessed of the emptiness that all the great theologians assure me I must have if I “know not God.” It’s just not there.

    What is there? A satisfaction with my life and with my living of it. An appreciation of the “one-ness” of the universe and my part in it, as well as a gratitude for my particular part in it. A feeling that I am a definite article. A feeling that I am one small part of something huge. [viz: Pan-Dimensional Mice.]

    I am still so much a recovering Baptist that I allow myself to think that if God wanted me—and here I am talking in the pure evangelical “Hound of Heaven” sense—he would take steps to make me need him. Or that his human representatives would do a compelling job of making his case for him.

    But no. God as I understand it does not need to “wind me in” or crush me to make me need him/her/us. He/she/we know that we are one already. And as for human conviction—I am enough of an emergent Quaker to know that’s a crock.

    So there’s my response to this quote. Sorry it took so long.

  9. My response to this was going to be a page from my abandoned graphic novel. But I never have figured out how to post a jpeg on this forum. Which is unfortunate, because such a thing should not be so difficult.

  10. Talk to me tonight. I’ll bring my laptop to show you.

  11. How do I find myself a part of this gathering? I mean this in the sense that if this were one of those Sesame Street “One of these things…” segments, kids everywhere would throw their hands up with a collective, “well, duh.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I am exceptionally grateful for this group and my membership among it. It’s just that sometimes I feel as if I am the sole representative of the thing several of you seem most intent on rejecting/fleeing/experiencing “freedom” from. (note: I don’t mean the quotes as sarcastic, but rather as indicative of yet another difference in our perspectives)

    Perhaps the most ironic thing is that as you (Dale) ardently pursue beauty and meaning (in a stack of cds, a labyrinth or a coffee cup) and expression (in blog posts, a tat, comments, paintings and symphonies) you reaffirm (for me) the seeing in the mirror dimly, the groaning of creation, and the reflection of the creator in all of it. I would argue (for the defense, if any was needed) that though you lack the ambition to worship (as per the quote), in these acts you inadvertently continue to do so.

    Faith, on the other hand, has never quite worked out to “consolation” to me in the first place. I suppose its a hangover from my Baptist (piling on, of course) upbringing.
    Faith is present for me, and real, but my foolish addiction to legalism (I’m getting better, its only a flesh wound) makes embrace of anything like consolation elusive.

    I, too, have been lax in sharing my thoughts on the quote. I suppose in a roundabout way, I just did.

  12. It is not ironic or inadvertent that the things I do to pursue/create meaning resemble worship. That is one less item of concern for you, my beloved friend.

    For my part, at least, I am not rejecting or escaping the religion of my youth. I am very consciously working to include parts of life that the religion of my youth rejected. This means a redefinition of God/universe/self that, alas, no longer includes sitting in pews on a Sunday morning with large numbers of people who have in no way considered the same things I have. That would lead to pride on my part—not that I’ve escaped it, you will have already noticed—and I don’t want to go there. I did that for years at First Baptist, and I will never do it again, for my immortal soul.

    As for your not being “one of those things,” yes, you are one of us. You just said you pursue the same things we do. You have a different framework for doing so.

  13. Jeff, you can’t post images in comments, just links to images. If you want to post the actual jpg, you can create a brand new post. Let me know if you need/want further instruction.

  14. Rummaging through my box of stuff to find some appropriate material.

    Here’s one. Sketch of an idea I lived with for a while. Inspired by the construction of St. Paul’s new sanctuary.

    Once the space was completed and we moved in, those of us in the choir were perched in the loft in the back of the sanctuary. We didn’t have raised seating up there (still don’t), so unless you sat right up front and peered over the iron railing, you couldn’t really follow what was going on with the congregation or at the altar. I spent a good deal of time looking directly across the space at the opposing wall behind the altar area. It shot up to an apex higher even than our loft perch, and situated in the space below the apex was a large circular window.

    The window was constructed with the aim of it one day framing a circular stained glass piece. It now does–a beautiful rendering of the Chi-Rho with the word peace in various languages, etc. But for many months, until the design was commissioned, realized, funded, you looked at a clear circle of glass. From my position sitting with the choir, I would look out this window at the other end of the cavernous sanctuary space and, because of the angle of my vantage, could see the tops of pine trees entering the bottom of the frame, the tops of the trees finishing as sharp points about a third of the way up into the circle of light and sky.

    I wasted no time making this window symbolic even as I used it also as a fixed point for contemplation, day dreaming, distraction, listening, what have you. And the fact that there was a time window for the existence of this clear window added to the symbolic complexity.

    Symbolic of what? I begin to entertain myself with notions of a story which I would either write or include as part of a film. First of all, I decided I, the person linked to this window, needed to be female. In my mind I equated the feminine with a certain kind of mystical orientation. She arrives with the completion of the sanctuary construction, joins the church and choir. She, too, becomes fond of the circular window. Other stuff happens. She is a bit of a mystery, remote, etc. One of the other members of the choir is one of the grand old ladies of the church. She, in fact, is one of the prime movers behind the whole stained glass window project–its going to be Italian and expensive and thank God she knows the people with the money (she is one) and can coordinate everything.

    The mysterious young woman is a source of great anxiety for the old lady. One of those subtle, inexplicable things. The young woman is not an overt advocate for leaving the circular window clear, but she does manage to share some of her appreciation for the undecorated window with the older woman. The older woman attempts to deal with her anxiety by befriending and “adopting” the young woman, all the while continuing with her efforts to obtain the stained glass. No real surprise in how this ends. The window is installed, the young woman disappears, the old woman is conflicted.

    So even though the stained glass has been put in place at St. Paul’s, I’m still sitting in the choir loft. Or am I? When it comes to the kind of discussion this is, I prefer to offer things to ponder rather than to expound any principles. No, I’m not continuing to hold any cards.

  15. Unlike you Southerners I was raised Catholic. And when I mean raised Catholic I mean 9 years in a Catholic elementary school,(K-8 just in case you thought I was a bit slow),4 years in a Catholic High School and 4 years in a Catholic College. So it wasn’t just a Sunday school or Wednesday night church meeting for me. It was an all day, everyday indoctrination for 16 years. And the result? An intellectual rebellion by me from early High School days accompanied by a great fear which had been instilled by my religious teachings. I knew something wasn’t right long before but I was afraid to challenge it completely because of the consequences that had been drilled into me. I still deal with that fear at times to this day.

    I turned to Eastern religions as soon as I was out of college and began meditation which I continue today. However I didn’t find what I was looking for there either, at least in terms of worship. It was too foreign. The meditation I consider non-dominational, and more of a relaxation or healing technique for me.

    I then entered my “New Age” exploration. I am a child of the 60’s. Still nothing satisfying, although the Joseph Cambell mythology theories were interesting.

    The worship part dropped off first for me but not before I tried almost every type of Christian Church and some of the Eastern variety. Emerson’s idea of worshipping in the woods rather than a church seems right to me.

    As to faith, well Joseph Campbell said it best when talking with Bill Moyers. When Moyers called him a “man of faith”, he replied he didn’t need faith he had experience. And that, plus many other elements pieced together from what I have “experienced” has led me to the insight that faith is more a search for meaning, whereas life is about experience.

    I must add that I have one other element shaping my views on faith in particular, and that is living in a body that doesn’t function like most do. I had to get past the “why does God allow this to exist” or the “why me” questions.

    Turff you are not alone in thinking you are alone, as I often wonder why I am part of this group. My background is unique and I am very limited in my involvement in the group’s activities. Yet that is the greatness of this group as I still feel the acceptance from the members.

    So getting back to the original quote I guess I would say I never had “consolation of faith” but rather faith based on fear, which I am still working on, and to me living is worship.

  16. [placeholder for linking this discussing back to discussion on ‘what is art?’]

  17. marc, when your write your collection of essays and short stories, I want a signed, numbered copy.

  18. Terry, I really appreciate the bare-metal nature of your comments. I think your “faith based on fear” and my “legalism” are close cousins.

    In some ways, I am very much in agreement with your “living is worship” sentiment. I think the difference for me is that it is possible to be “living” (pulse, brain waves, watching sitcoms) without living in a way that constitutes “worship”. For myself, there are definitely times that my living is worship, but not the sort I aim for or are proud of, other times that my living is simply not worship, and still others in which the living I do rings forth in worship through the heavens in a way that defies description. I see some of the latter in creative efforts those in our group produce (if sometimes belatedly). I see still others in the questions that we take the trouble to ask and seek answers to. If sometimes we do not acknowledge the semblance between these activities and the worship of God, that in no way diminishes the similarity.

  19. Turff, I agree with your comments on “living is worship”. I was at the end of what was a long comment for me and didn’t have the stamina to flesh out my final statements.

  20. Dale I want to thank you for persisting in opening this can of worms. While the rest of us were playing kick the can you actually pried it open and look at all the wonderful things that crawled out. I hope you are happy. I am.

    Marc: write on man, write on.

    Jeff: Looking forward to seeing part of your novel.

    And to those we haven’t heard from yet, feel free to jump in any time, especially Bill and Eli. We know you are clever with a good sense of humor, but this might be a thread to provide us with a little more personal info if you feel so inclined.

  21. A final thought from the Dalai Lama:

    “A religious act is performed out of good motivation with sincere thought for the benefit of others. Religion is here and now in our daily lives. If we lead that life for the benefit of the world, this is the hallmark of a religious life.

    This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple: your philosophy is simple kindness.”

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