BELIEF: Life by Christian Wiman

Meditation of a Modern Believer

Life by Christian Wiman

From My Bright Abyss

Yes, but… the waking and the sleeping, the sludge of emails and appointments, the low-temperature life that is, for the most part, life: even if there are moments of intensity that seem to release us from this, surely any spiritual maturity demands an acknowledgment that there is not going to be some miraculous, transfiguring intrusion into reality.  The sky will not darken and the dead will not speak; no voice from Heaven is going to boom you back to a pre-reflective faith, nor will you feel, unless in death, a purifying fire that scalds all of consciousness like fog from the raw face of God.  Is faith, then – assuming it isn’t merely a form of resignation or denial – some sort of reconciliation with the implacable fact of matter, or is it a deep, ultimate resistance to it?  Both.  Neither.  To have faith is to acknowledge the absolute materiality of existence while acknowledging at the same time the compulsion toward transfiguring order that seems not outside of things but within them, and within you – not an idea imposed upon the world, but a vital, answering instinct.  Heading home from work, irritated by my busyness and the sense of wasted days, shouldering through the strangers who merge and flow together on Michigan Avenue, merge and flow in the mirrored facades, I flash past the rapt eyes and undecayed face of my grandmother, lit and lost at once.  In a board meeting, bored to oblivion, I hear a pen scrape like a fingernail on a cell wall, watch the glasses sweat as if even water wanted out, when suddenly, at the center of the long table, light makes of a bell-shaped pitcher a bell that rings in no place on this Earth.  Moments, only, and I am aware even with them, and thus am outside of them, yet something in the very act of such attention has troubled the tyranny of the ordinary, as if the world at which I gazed, gazed at me, as if the lost face and the living crowd, the soundless bell and the mind in which it rings, all hankered toward – expressed some undeniable hope for – one end.

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