Mel’s Meme: Oh, Prisons of Finitude!

In my defence, I did not mean these memes to be quite as romantic as they sound. (Also, no one would help me make them up! You guys do it next time!)

Yes, I know, they sound ridiculously mushy. But I was trying to find specific, earthy examples of abstract, philosophical questions. And the questions that I do tend to lean on the side of are usually things like;

“Literature, the sharing of words, stories, and experience, presupposes a community in which to do the sharing. So, what role do books have in creating, fostering, and renewing community? What – if anything – do books have to do with being  Human? Being Human in a community? Love, or the need for another person, is the basic instinct that draws human being together into a community. Can books facilitate that function? How? Why? Which books?” ~Melpomene, Musings in the Witching Hour*

Ahem. Et cetera.

In this instance, what I was trying to question was not so much a problem of romantic love. Rather, I wanted to know if there were books so dear, so crucial, so formative to my own Being and understanding of the world that it would be impossible to share a life with another person without likewise sharing this work of literature.

Le sigh.

As usual, my scope is too wide and my example too narrow.

My sad choice of phrasing does place some practical limitations on this week’s challenge. I am quite sure there will be other things I will want to be doing on my Honeymoon. But as it is, I must carefully select a work that fosters this very select community of two, preferably with the opportunity for discussions, enjoyment of the words and story, and probably give some of the epic, sacramental scope of matrimonial love.

Heart of the World:
by Hans Urs Von Balthasar

This is a very beautiful, delicate, odd little book. (It is short, sweet, and can be picked up and put down easily. The reading it aloud only increases the delight. The perfect honeymoon book!) Von Balthasar is known as a theologian, but this book – even in translation! – marks him as a poet. Oh, it is written in prose form, but the exquisite sentences, graceful imagery, and meandering unfolding of ideas marks this a work of Poetry.

It feels like an old man musing on the nature of the world and the meaning of living (emphasis on the act of living, as well as the more abstract concept of life) and allowing his ideas to flow forth in the sweetest, most beautiful expressions possible. It is a work which invites the readers into contemplation, stillness, beauty, grace, and, (most deeply) love. This work has been describes as the ” pure serenity of a volcano under snow”. And as poetry, it shares the experience between souls, the most hidden and holy expressions of the Heart.

He begins by describing the drift in the River of Time, gently opening with the idea of the Self and the Other, the precious individuality that as yet leaves us each alone; ideas I have thought about, but for which I have never been able to find the proper articulation.

“Prisons of finitude!

Like every other being, man is born in many prison. Soul, body, thought, intuition, endeavor: everything about him has a limit, is itself tangible limitation; everything is a This and a That, different from other things and shunned by them. From  the grilled windows of the senses each person looks out to the alien things which he will never be . . .  How far it is from one being to its closest neighbor! And even if they love each other and wave to one another from island to island, even if they attempt to exchange solitudes and pretend they have unity, how much more painfully does disappointment then fall upon them when they touch invisible bars . . . Being are alien to one another, even if they do stand beautifully by one another and complement one another colors, like water and stone, like sun and fog: even if they do communally perfect the resounding harmony of the universe. Variegation pays the price of separation . . . The limpid mirror has been shattered . . . but every single splinter remains precious, and from each fragment there flashes a ray of the mystery of its origin.” ~ Chapter One: The Flowing Stream

And so he continues on, finding words fit to picture, at least in part, a mystery of the World. And the main image centering, (anchoring, cohering,) the book is the image of the cross as an embrace. The world as full of significance and meaning and tremendous splendor. The unity of beings is only possible in the Union of Christ to His bride, the Church. And this the example we have on which to model out marriages.

The second half of the book shifts slightly to address the church as the beloved bride, at the same time gracefully makes it clear that reader who has been addressed from the start of the book is the church, the bride. And despite all flaws, failures, mistakes and stumbles, is still greatly loved. The entire book is, essentially, a love letter from Christ to each person in the world. It is a wild, wild, love.

And so after all, it is a romantic book. It celebrates the highest Romance in the history of the World. Hopefully, it should remind this newly married couple of their place in echoing, entering, and living this Great Mystery.

“Everything hearkens back to your throbbing Heart. Time and the seasons still hammer away and create, and your Heart still drives the world and all its happenings forward with great, painful blows. It is the unrest of the clock and your Heart is restless until we rest in you, once time and eternity have become interfused. But: be at peace! I have overcome the world. The torment of sin had already been submerged in the stillness of love. The experience of what the world is has made love darker, more fiery, more ardent. The shallower abyss of rebellion has been swallowed up in unfathomable mercy, and throbbing majestically reigns serene the Heart of God.” ~ Chapter 13: Love – A Wilderness

Christ as Bridegroom

* “The Witching Hour” is three in the morning, when daimons prefer to visit their mortal instruments.

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3 thoughts on “Mel’s Meme: Oh, Prisons of Finitude!

  1. “Rather, I wanted to know if there were books so dear, so crucial, so formative to my own Being and understanding of the world that it would be impossible to share a life with another person without likewise sharing this work of literature.”

    This is what I took from the question even without your explanation. I do not think you need apologize for the phrasing. It is quite clear!

    Also, those quoted passages gave me chills.

    • Yay! I am glad I was not too mystifying. But still help with suggestions for next time!

      And I highly recommend this book. It is stunning in its graceful (by which I mean FULL of GRACE) simplicity and beauty. Which is pretty much the only things I would WANT to read on my honeymoon!

  2. Pingback: Conclusion « Egotist's Club

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