Friday, June 25, 2010

We must give words...

The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word. It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live. We also must give words to what we are living. If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity. When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing. When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting. When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it. When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it!

Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living. The word makes our experience truly human...

The word is always a word for others. Words need to be heard. When we give words to what we are living, these words need to be received and responded to. A speaker needs a listener. A writer needs a reader.

When the flesh - the lived human experience - becomes word, community can develop. When we say, "Let me tell you what we saw. Come and listen to what we did. Sit down and let me explain to you what happened to us. Wait until you hear whom we met," we call people together and make our lives into lives for others. The word brings us together and calls us into community. When the flesh becomes word, our bodies become part of a body of people.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
We are not the kind of creatures who live alone, for ourselves. Solipsism is an illness, not a viable philosophy. As God remarked (Genesis 2:18), it is not good for humankind to be alone. Even those of us who are called to live as solitaries live in, and for, the community that is the Church.

What Nouwen says here reminds me of the poet's vocation. Derek Walcott memorably remarked:
(the) good poet is the proprietor of the experience of the race.... he is and has always been the vessel, vates, rainmaker, the conscience of the king and the embodiment of society, even when society is unable to contain him...

the conceit behind history, the conceit behind art, is its presumption to be able to elevate the ordinary, the common, and therefore the phenomenon. That's the sequence: the ordinary and therefore the phenomenon, not the phenomenon and therefore its cause. But that's what life is really like - and I think the best poets say that... it is the ordinariness, not the astonishment, that is the miracle, that is worth recalling.
Our speaking is deeply embedded in who, what, we are (Genesis 2:19). There is an extent to which we cannot really be said to know something unless we can describe it to ourselves (the study of epistemology is much concerned with this); and personal experience suggests that much of this knowing lies in the very act of attempting to describe something to another. As EM Forster famously said, "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?"

Christ is the living word. It is his life in us (John 17:22-23) is not less than word. Creation itself began with God's word in Christ (John 1:1-3) and all we truly are begins with Christ's word in us, the very image of God.

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