avoiding the artificial

A saint is capable of loving created things and enjoying the use of them and dealing with them in a perfectly simple, natural manner, making no formal references to God, drawing no attention to his own piety, and acting without any artificial rigidity at all. His gentleness and his sweetness are not pressed through his pores by the crushing restraint of a spiritual strait-jacket. They come from his direct docility to the light of truth and to the will of God. Hence a saint is capable of talking about the world without any explicit reference to God, in such a way that his statement gives greater glory to God than the observations of someone less holy, who has to strain himself to make an arbitrary connection between creatures and God through the medium of hackneyed analogies and metaphors that are so feeble that they make you think there is something the matter with religion.     – Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

on imagination

To say that a work of imagination is subject to correction is, of course, to imply that there is no “world of imagination” as distinct from or opposed to the “real world.” The imagination is in the world, is at work in it, is necessary to it, and is correctable by it. This correcting of imagination by experience is inescapable, necessary, and endless, as is the correcting of experience by imagination…. One of the most profound of human needs is for the truth of imagination to prove itself in every life and place in the world, and for the truth of the world’s lives and places to be proved in imagination.

– Wendell Berry, The Loss of the University

not worthy of human considerations

As a person of First Nations ancestry I cannot help but wonder if the failure of Caucasian Americans and Canadians to reveal and teach about the horrors their ancestors carried out against North American First Nations Peoples during and after colonial times is a deliberate cover-up or an indication that they hold within their minds a notion that the life of a First Nations person is valueless – not worthy of human considerations. The latter is probably the more plausible, because it is an unchallengeable fact that the crimes against humanity that were committed against our Peoples over the centuries by people of European descent are not viewed with the same abhorrence by Caucasians that such crimes against other races of people are viewed. If such were the case there would be unconditional condemnation of it, and the knowledge would be readily available and taught in schools.

  • Daniel N. Paul, We Were Not the Savages: Collision between European and Native American Civilizations (2006)

(These sobering words are a reminder of the changes that we are needing and wanting to make in terms of education. They come from a well-documented history of the treatment of the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples in the Maritimes by European colonizers. This work, along with many others, is part of our library’s new Indigenous Studies Collection, which was in turn part of our Education for Reconciliation project made possible by a grant from Stronger Together.)

where words are clarified

Two believers in conflict about their doctrines are concerned with the execution of divine will, not with a fleeting personal agreement. For the man who is so related to his faith that he is able to die or slay for it there can be no realm where the law of the faith ceases to hold. It is laid on him to help truth to victory, he does not let himself be misled by sentiments. The man holding a different, that is false, belief must be converted, or at least instructed … The thesis of religious disputation cannot be allowed to “go.”

[In contrast, I have only this confession] We expect a theophany of which we know nothing but the place, and the place is called community. In the public catacombs of this expectation there is no single God’s word which can be clearly known and advocated, but the words delivered are clarified for us in our human situation of being turned toward one another. There is no obedience to the coming one without loyalty to his creature. To have experienced this is our way.

  • Martin Buber, Between Man and Man

[inspired by Englewood Review of Books and their celebration of the birthday of Martin Buber]

light and bread?

[I usually avoid re-posting something that I read on Inward/Outward – excellent as it is, too many people receive both emails – but with last week focusing on Martin Luther King, Jr, I couldn’t find anything better and more apt than this quote]:

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause [people] everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of [humanity] and fire the souls of men [and women], imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. [People] far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.

Martin Luther King Jr.
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