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… those worlds grand in their complexity
Known by their lesser names of you and me,
For all their flair and depth and hankerings
Hold less dimension in the scheme of things
It is now almost a commonplace that
‘there are more stars in the Universe than there are grains of sand upon earth, and more atoms in a grain of sand than there are stars in the Universe’.
With a click of a computer mouse one can begin to have a sense of dimensions. Earth, with its diameter of 8000 miles; Betelgeuse, inspiring the poet, the second star in the constellation of Orion, with its diameter of 850 million miles. And there’s more. Infinitely more – whether we’re looking out, or in.
There’s tenderness in Vikram Seth’s Far from the City Tonight. Recognised need for proper perspective. And tenderness and perspective too in the heart of one Jesus of Nazareth, both within the walls of Jerusalem (which name, ironically, describes a vision of wholeness, completeness and unbrokenness) and – crucified – without.
They don’t know what they are doing …
We don’t. But through all the ages nonetheless, humankind has cried ‘Hosanna!’ – ‘Save us’. Always on the lookout for Messiah, Christos, Caesar, King, Lord, powerful one, magician.
Someone – anyone, even – save us from living death.
Someone lead us to a new life, a better life, a resurrection already! – If it’s even possible. Though we’ve had so many ‘messiahs’ through the ages we’ve become both sceptical and fickle. Wall building everywhere – because we’re desperate to hang on to what we’ve got, while simultaneously grumbling ‘Where’s the good life? Is there good life? Where’s the – is there – resurrection?’
Resurrection? Yes: of course, in the vast and alive depths of a grain of sand, of a star, of a person, of many persons, of an immeasurably infinite universe.
Resurrection? Yes: of course, in out of the ordinary Silence.
Resurrection? Yes: of course, where there’s no desire for lordship, or kingship, or national boundaries, or magic, or allowed and ignored starvation, thirst or war, or human aggrandisement and greed, or prioritised religious or secular traditions and sophistries taking precedence over prioritised loving.
Resurrection? Yes: of course, just so, said the Nazarene, for any and all who will enter into their chamber, little space, room, or tomb – setting aside (or crucifying) their too easy literalisms, their flair and depth and hankerings – reaching inwards, and outwards, to a fuller perspective, to the Heartbeat, to the Energy of the heavens, of the heights and in the depths.
Far from the City Tonight. Yes: yet in such a room, or tomb, unknowing humanity may yet encounter Jerusalem here and near – and thereby the quiet dawn, height, breadth, delight and depth of a universal resurrection.
It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on :
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed ; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back ; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.
R S Thomas
Collected Poems, 1945-1990, page 233