Shabby equipment

February 20, 2009

My friend James sent me a link to an article where I read this:

“And what drew me back, some time later, toward the possibility of faith? Poetry. George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins and T. S. Eliot. One night, I was reading the last lines of “Little Gidding” to a friend, my voice thick with emotion, and when I looked up he was staring at me with kindly amusement. “So,” he said. ‘You really like that stuff?’”

Tobias Wolff talks about seeing Berman’s ”Winter Light” for the first time. The film pierced his heart, but the bad art the preacher showed at the end hardened it. Later, good art had the opposite effect, softening him.

Man oh man, have I been there. 

I remember sitting on Bison Square on Lipscomb University’s campus. It was Spring. I know because the fragrance of Bradford Pear trees was in the air—part fish, part clean laundry. Someone had carried a scarred wooden desk outside and set it underneath a dogwood in bloom, its white and pink buds opening like hands.

I was reading T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets for the first time. When I came to these lines in the second section of “East Coker“:

The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

I knew that was true. I didn’t started crying though until I read these lines in the fifth section:

For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion.

Ache filled me: the desire to know a truth beyond language and words.