Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


Souls aspiring

This is my day of reckoning. Or at least, regrouping. Today, after weeks of travel and friends and work galore, my time is my own. Today I will ponder, I will fiercely question the contours of my life. Once in awhile I must stop still to study the habits and rhythms that form myself and presence in this good old earth. I'm always in need of reformation.

Life makes me feel like a tin cup constantly battered out of form. I yearn for quiet and am caught up in internet. I hope for devotions in the morning and wake up too late after yet another unavoidably late night. Busyness is such a battening upon ideals, upon goals for work or hopes for beauty. I want my life to be a clean bowl, smooth and strong for the holding of beauty, and the pouring out of it again.

I'm starting with grace today though. I almost didn't. I woke ready to cut and slice at all my bad habits, reprimand my soul for laxity, scare my weary spirit back into productivity. Thankfully, I started my day by reading Peter Kreeft's book, The God Who Loves You. He writes in a straightforward way and his thesis is simple: God is love. The simplicity though, lies only in the the clarion call the book gives to remember the Love that is the cause of existence. The themes are deep and twined through all creation and all the ways we hope and hunger and work.

Love, I read this morning, is the essence of God and thus, of the universe he created. Nature aspires to completion, artists strive for fuller expression of beauty, atoms dance and attract, and we humans are driven by an insatiable need to find love and believe that there is meaning to our days. Every ounce of that was originated in the love of God and is meant to find fulfillment within it. We separate all these hungers, all this work, all this dancing of the universe into categories of science, or human work, or natural processes. But all of it began because God loved every corner of the world into being.

"See mystically," said Kreeft, "see as the ancients did, learn to percieve each loveliness of earth, each atom and action of nature, each hope of humanity as a manifestation of Divine Love at work in existence."

I thought then of a passage I read in Tobias Wolfe's novel Old School, a fictional scene in which Robert Frost address a roomful of boys:

You boys know what tropism is – its what makes a plant grow toward the light. Everything aspires to the light… We all have that instinct, that aspiration. Science can’t – what was your word? dim? – science can’t dim that. All science can do is turn out the false lights so the true light can get us home.

Perhaps all of life is an aspiration back to the light that created us, a turning of self to the Love from which we came. Our souls reach for light, for wholeness, as surely as the tulips I set on my desk twine themselves undulously toward my window, determined to reach for the sun however far away it may seem. I had a sudden picture of the human race working away, yearning for friendship, decorating our houses, traveling, holding children, looking for beauty, all of us in this ceaseless hunger for a thing we barely know how to name. Love. Created by a goodness we can barely imagine we are all in a constant quest to to attain the wholeness for which we were formed.

No less exhausted little me in my red chair this grey morning. My soul and spirit aspire to health, to clarity of vision, to excellence of work because I was made for wholeness. "Love divine, all loves excelling," is the cause for my existence. Of course I feel pushed to purify my life. I'm reaching for that full, holy self that Love created me to be. But oh how desperately I needed to remember that Love began this work and Love will complete it. I did not begin my own hunger for beauty. I cannot attain health in isolation or by my own effort for the sake of sheer discipline. This push within me to renovate my life is not a drive toward a grey state of disconnected, self-imposed goodness. This drive is my aspiration to light, to the Love that beats at the heart of all things.

I rose up from my chair today with the realization that the work I do today in renovating my time and self is my response to Love. I guess it isn't law or discipline I need to grasp today. I need not make my mind be stern to my heart, or my soul upbraid my body. What I must grasp is God's love, a love that calls me constantly to fuller life, to clearer sight, to wholeness in every atom of my being. What a gentler way to go about this forming of life and habits. What joy, to know I am called to fullness of life rather than driven to a standard I cannot keep.

Love began it, and love will complete it. I'll just keep aspiring.