Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal
--T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton"
In the middle of a busy morning, which had already been dusty from much traveling and from busy thoughts, I read a bit of Thomas Merton. Merton's clear, clean words, infused with the fresh air of monasteries, the taste of the medieval lingering in his modern phrases, washed my day in light, leaving me with a new, clean slate of peace.
I have taken for granted the power of good words to touch our heart and refresh our minds. Beauty, it seems, is necessary for our imaginations. If we don't expose our imaginations to beauty each day, how will we make it? How will we be trained in it, if we do not seek it out, exposing ourselves to its rays, letting our skin be burnt in its warmth?
Similarly, I was at mass with my friend in the warm Jesuit church in Ann Arbor, with Christmas decorations garlanding the rafters, and I felt my entire soul scrubbed clean again. No wonder we are enjoined to weekly mass attendance, we are being chiseled into images, and the liturgy is a sharp refining tool.
She was the ultimate and necessary source of the lover's good, a 'shock of beauty' that reoriented his mind to a new life and outlook.
--Andrew Frisardi, Introduction to Dante's Vita Nova
Poetry and prayer must be daily rituals, because the power of poetry and prayer is the transfiguring force they exert on our imaginations, our minds, and our hearts. They transfigure our desires into things more transcendent, they transform our minds into open receptacles for the divine. They influence the way we live each day. They bring our minds to a higher awareness.
They mold our lives into models of themselves. They push us to find the beauty in the mundane, the smoldering presence of the divine in all our daily lives: the woman sniffling into her tissue, the men laughing together in Burberry scarves, the man sleeping in the airport chair, the sparrows frantically flying through the terminal, and the little boy dancing with his mother. All such marvelous creations we learn to reverence by the practice of seeing. Poetry and prayer push us to see the world beyond just our own small vision.
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning.
--T.S. Eliot, "The Dry Salvages"