Morning light

Materialism, a wise Dominican once wrote (it was Walter Farrell, O.P., of River Forest, Illinois) invites a man to let himself go, to pieces. I would add that he will let go, in time, even of materialism, for it offers a kind of sticky, annoying discipline. It is the road forward, as this Dominican explained, while introducing John of St Thomas, the 17th century Portuguese philosopher; sanity and sanctity are the road back.

That is how we should test our political opinions. If they are practical, and can be realized, they are on the road forward, and on “the right side of history” as it were. But we should be looking for the other way. An initial test is that one’s views should be whimsical and useless. They should, with courage, frankly acknowledge a cul-de-sac. (The medical effects of my stroke, two years ago, are my principal advantage, in better equipping me for this journey backward.)

Newman said, that is the way to Heaven. “There¬†is,” according to the sainted Cardinal, “a very much closer connexion between the state of Adam in Paradise and our state in childhood.” Nostalgia for the deeper past has a spiritual, not material, significance, and is the source of our (motionless) growth. In time we must anyway return, to seedlings.

Of course, the journey back should not be arrested, at the age of twelve, as I was hinting last week. For that would be like moving forward, with all the ignorant enthusiasm of youth. Rather, as Margaret Avison suggested, we should aspire to be like the delphineal poplar: trembling with morning light.