Day off, 8.30 on Monday morning, day off, on a cold day with rain likely later. I just listened to J Alfred Prufrock and The Wasteland, courtesy of Youtube, and remembered what major poems they are and what a great poet Eliot is. I first read them in 1968, 42 years ago, and they were life-changers; incantatory openings to an awareness of the narrow way of doubt and faith together, not an easy piety or a master plan, but a living mystery that felt both threatening and welcoming.
That was the year after I was baptized and confirmed, discovering (the year after the summer of love in the Haight-Ashbury - which I missed entirely) something about sex, drugs, rock and roll (I still like the early Jefferson Airplane) and a horizon of possibilities that was bigger than anything I had known before. So I smoked grass, made love, and got lost in the bigness of things. I dropped out towards the end of the year and went back to my parents house, worked a bit around my uncle’s ranch, took a couple of classes at the local junior college and read, several time, cherishing each chapter as a kind of song sung to me, Walden’s Thoreau; another milestone that I still carry in my heart. Not a millstone, not at all.
This week I started reading a book about Americans writers in Paris in the 1920s. In my teens and later at University I specialized in that era: Pound and Eliot, Hemingway, Stein, Sherwood Anderson, especially F. Scott Fitzgerald were all considered: the poetics of exile and pilgrimage in an era that had lost its faith. The Wasteland came from that time as well: Eliot around Paris and London and Switzerland hammering the jazz rhythms of disbelief and hope with the old classics into a composition that would be a standard of the age.
Over 80 years since the poem was written, over 40 since I read it in a survey course at the University of Oregon, in a season with too much rain where flowers grew and fell over in saturated ground, and I was changed forever.
Early that year I told a guy in my dorms that I was going to be a priest; and it took over 40 years to get there. Is that when I started the path that brought me here; or was there ever another path? Who knows? Misquoting Peter Berger, “Reflection and projection may be part of the same motion.”
I will try to make this a Sabbath day. Rest, read, pray, write, cook and clean a bit too. (I might also work on the brochure for the Fair, maybe a second one for the Bishop’s Certificate? Maybe not)
On Saturday I sat in a Mazda RX8, very sexy seat and dashboard, it felt great to be that close to the ground, ‘though it was a little tough to climb out. Face it, I am besotted with sports cars! Lord won’t you buy me (though I wouldn’t say no to a Mercedes) an MX5?
I am also besotted with priesthood (and I am aware that this juxtaposition shows me as a fairly superficial creature - which may be true!) but both show up with a young energy, a boy’s delight. Yesterday celebrating the Eucharist in Wodonga was such a measured joy. My hands are starting to feel like they know what to do and where to go, I feeling like I can lean on the text and say the words and move through the service without getting unfocused or off-centre, I can follow the path and mediate it for others without getting in the way, for me or them. And I really love it!