That washed vision

TS Eliot began his long poem The Waste Land,

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain…

There is something reassuring about pain, and immobility. You know where you are with things like that; and a few dried tubers, as Eliot points out, will keep something like life going a long while. New life is difficult, though. It hurts to come back in springtime.

Selfishness can be a defence against a deep lack of self-esteem, and inaction a response to what the heart perceives as just penalty – penance, or karma.

Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;

And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap…

(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)

Cause and effect are not always what they seem, as CG Jung pointed out:

How are we to recognize acausal combinations of events, since it is obviously impossible to examine all chance happenings for their causality? The answer to this is that acausal events may be expected most readily where, on closer reflection, a causal connection appears to be inconceivable…

…it is impossible, with our present resources, to explain ESP, or the fact of meaningful coincidence, as a phenomenon of energy. This makes an end of the causal explanation as well, for “effect” cannot be understood as anything except a phenomenon of energy. Therefore it cannot be a question of cause and effect, but of a falling together in time, a kind of simultaneity. Because of this quality of simultaneity, I have picked on the term “synchronicity” to designate a hypothetical factor equal in rank to causality as a principle of explanation.

It may be that the planet whose life we share has a finite lifespan. In fact it would be most surprising if it did not. Yet each spring comes as a renewal – like the one before, but quite unlike, as well, never seen before:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

(Isaiah 43.19)

There seems to be something like balance, or a returning equilibrium, in the affairs of the living, on however micro- or macrocosmic a scale. Once the debt is paid, the karma exhausted, the months of winter turned, spring does come again. Or it comes anew, since it is not the same as the last one, nor will next year’s be this year’s come again.

This morning’s meeting was quite silent, except that at the last moment, before we shook hands, one of our oldest members stood, and spoke to the spring, and hens with new chicks, the opening of the narcissi, and the blackbirds singing early, when it was barely dawn. It could too easily be his last spring with us, and yet his joy was as clean and fresh as the morning itself, and it had hurt him to stand after an hour’s sitting. To see, and to speak with that washed vision near the end of a long life – that must be hope, or as Wendell Berry wrote:

This is no paradisal dream. Its hardship is its possibility.

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