When May Sarton, in company with other contemplatives, orators and poets, reflects on “the end of …” – a flower, perhaps, or a person, or a poem, or the theatre, she’s thinking not just of the finale, or the last stanza, or of expiration, or of wilting and composting, of conclusion. “The end of …” might sometimes be rendered “the purpose of …” – albeit that this may, or may not, include a conclusion to some activity, or to some thing, or for someone.
There’s something of purpose intertwined with all of life’s beginnings and endings. And this is the subject material in Austin Farrer’s collection of university sermons The End of Man. Both purpose and ultimate end, both end and ultimate purpose. So Farrer often brings poets to mind, and poets often make me think of Farrer.
Of the Church, rather as another might of poetry, Austin Farrer writes:
We may begin by making a fuss about the Church, as a clever boy may make a fuss about a telescope, admiring its mechanism of tubes and lenses, and fiddling with the gadgets. But the purpose of the telescope is to eliminate itself and leave us face to face with the object of vision. So long as you are aware of the telescope you do not see the planet. But look, suddenly the focus is perfect; there is the hard ball of silver light, there are the sloping vaporous rings, and there the clear points, the satellites. And where is the telescope? It is no more to us than the window-pane through which we look into our garden.
The End of Man, page 52
Poet and prophet alike ask of humankind, “What is your end? What is your purpose?”. And just every once in a while, for all of us, for a fleeting moment, “suddenly the focus is perfect”. That’s why we need prophets and poets. That’s why we need to be poets and prophets.