"There are more important things to do than hurry. If the prophets of automation and cybernation are right, leisure, not labor, is going to be the normal condition of man. Men will become philosophers, artists, and poets just to stay sane: Contemplation will be the only defense against drowning in our own spare time. Even now, the doctrine of justification by work is difficult to defend. Jobs are shorter and more boring than they used to be. It's hard to believe that five hours of a day button-pushing and paper-shuffling are the heart and soul of human existence. The grim old religion of salvation by rushing will go bankrupt altogether, and we shall go straight out of our minds - unless we learn to sit still.
The habit of contemplation, therefore - the ability to sit down in front of something and care enough to let it speak for itself - cannot be acquired soon enough. Accordingly, I invite you, too, to put your feet up o the stove. If some true believer in the gospel of haste comes along and asks us why we are wasting time, we shall tell him we are busy getting the seats of our pants properly shined up for the millenium."
- The Supper of the Lamb by Fr. Robert Farrar Capon
"And for a moment, I understand that I have friends on this lonely path, that sometimes your place is not something you find, but something you have when you need it." - Libba Bray, Rebel Angels
I love school, but sometimes it's exhausting. Wednesday was one of those days that had a beautiful start, but towards the end of the day, I could barely keep myself together. I felt hedged in by the heat, overwhelmed by the crowds of unknown faces, and rather lost and disoriented. My own weakness scared me. I almost went home, even though I still had a huge assignment for my three-hour class.
Then, just ten minutes later, I found myself with three friends, talking about prayers and plays. And then another friend joined us, and another, and another. We all sat there and talked about everything and anything from Plato to Indiana Jones. People drifted in and out of the conversation, and sometimes we just sat there with nothing to say. Still, we were there.
Somehow, in that room with its uneven lighting and strange assortment of tables and chairs, with the friends who came and the friends who left, I felt place. I still felt exhausted, yet the sharp feeling of displacement had left, and instead there was a quiet joy. It's strange how strong I feel during those moments of place, even when I'm at my weakest. Strange and absolutely beautiful.
I came and sat underneath the sycamore trees. The larger-than-life sculpture towered over me. Strange, but I first noticed the cobwebs between the figures' massive hands. The webs, so light and fragile against the bronze matter, caught light and held it, but only for an instant. A blink of the eye or quick turn of head, and the light fled. It settled on the figures, sinking deep into the folds of their garments, the furrows on their brows.
I stayed there for an hour, watching the light fall all around. Such beauty.
(The sculpture is Rodin's Burghers of Calais at the Norton Simon Museum. Highly, highly, highly recommended, if you're ever in the area.)