Worn, I long for the simplicity of desert,
for Abba Poemen’s knee to rest my sleeping head.
I call to heart the peace of silent communion,
of neighbour and myself in essential speech.
But mind is Baroque in its impulse.
Chiaroscuro in substance, it curlicues toward ceilings,
rhizomatic and elaborate,
frantic in its downward and upward questing.
The finger outstretched, God to man,
is lost in my musing. Does it reach, nonetheless?
I seize this moment; possibility yawns.
At the foot of the morning’s cave, I listen.
The fact that a work of such unperturbed objectivity and such deep, radiating peace could grow from a life which, far from being untroubled, consumed itself in strife, gives us an insight into the special quality of the man.
(Josef Pieper, The Silence of St Thomas)
The branch is not the root system.
When you see the grandness of the oak,
the stateur of the pine, the fir, do you
also know the deep
tangling that grows beneath?
And rhizomes too
defy our linear longings
to simply be a trunk, a branch.
They entwine, enfold, arise in grace, out of abyss,
Aquinas, it is said, was never
led by spirit but by thought.
“He contemplates…with pen in hand”*,
as though the pen were like a fence-post
constraining the grace of higher thought.
When, twenty-three, I took graceless aim
at shots fired over tea against my faith,
my sparring partner only said,
You know what you remind me of?
The scholastic period. The scholastics, man.
An insult? Perhaps. I did not speak
of the nights I’d spent in faithless fear.
All I am, and was, is straw. Yet pen
takes roots beneath the page,
and rhizomes grow within the nib.
Only grace that minds can ever take wings;
grace that pens can gather thought.
All grace that straw can speak.
*Adrienne von Speyr, The Book of All Saints
You say I see the world as monochrome –
No texture and without tonality.
The truth for you grows wild: reality
Springs forth, connected, plural, as rhizome.
Perhaps it’s true; I’d rather be at home
Within the comfort of fixed certainty,
For here amidst truth’s many pleats I see
The wholeness seen across each moving zone.
Life’s essence, irreducibly complex,
Must stretch and test the bounds of our abode.
To each their own; we all have our penchants
And you, it’s true, leave space for life to flex.
But threefold truth converges at one road
And that, for me, has made the différence.
Do not mistake the fold for where we live:
It overlaps the outside and the in,
Suturing together, and it binds
What otherwise would float and duck and dive
In nexus-waves of incompleteness. Yes:
It’s true that we are nothing if our minds
Are not caught up in Being’s dance. The less
We live to others, then the less we live.
Still, there’s an Other who directs the dance:
He holds it, total, in its flux and flow;
It moves and waves and changes ever more.
The being that is truest and most sure
Yet many-pleated – life par excellence –
Dwells in the folds of His eternal now.
What churches, prisons, feudal pyramids
Possess in common is Authority.
Only the state's power, not the State, exists,
And power is exchanged through you and me.
Our eyes, transfixed by prison walls, confuse
The institution with the power it holds
Mixing correct use up with the abuse
And sovereign love with the despot who scolds.
The immanent passes always before
Unseeing eyes; it moves within our spheres
Yet renders false our thoughts of love and law.
For complexity is not as it appears;
We see only power and lines of flight,
But curving through it all, the living Light.
No root, no trunk, no stem, only these weeds;
No path to travel, only lines of flight.
No start, no finish, unity or seed,
Only these thoughts that twist and turn, alight.
And when the course is twisted and the root
Cannot be simplified, then who are we?
We are creators and Creation's fruit,
We are this complex multiplicity.
We are the thoughts inside the Maker's mind
Yet we are circling where we do not know.
We are towards Him, and in space and time,
We are eternal in the finite Now.
The truth is tangled and we cannot see
Yet in the complex mass, the sovereign He.