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“He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, The Faith of Art”. Written in 2018 by Christian Wiman – a poet who teaches religion and literature at Yale. It is a masterpiece – a shock of beauty that invites you to read and re-read every well-crafted page.
Poetry itself—like life, like love, like any spiritual hunger—thrives on longings that can never be fulfilled, and dies when the poet thinks they have been. And what is true for the poem is true for the poet: … no respite from the calling that comes in the form of a question, no ultimate arrival at an answer that every arrangement of words is trying to be.
The Mystery of Longing
Wiman plays with this holy longing, and asks a recurrent question:
What is it we want when we can’t stop wanting?
‘Lord,’ prays a character in Ilya Kaminsky’s Dancing in Odessa, ‘give us what you have already given’…
I don’t mean to sound mystical, except inasmuch as there is a persistent, insistent mystery at the centre of our existence, which art both derives from and sustains.
All That I Cannot Say
In his persistent poetic approach, Wiman calls love “one of those edge-of-experience abstractions” in which we ought to enter with fear and humility,
And rightly so, too because [love] often enters a poem the way God enters a poem, apologetically almost, or, worse, automatically, in any event with an air of failure to it, a big sign posted next to a big abyss that says ‘This Way to All That I Cannot Say.’
Grace & Pain Conspires to Create
He held radical light – the light of The Radical Gospel is both a clear and a poetic mystery – the mystery of God’s nature, the mystery of His gospel, and the mystery of our worth to the One who made us for Himself.
I will leave you finally with what most artist (humans?) experience with/in/through their art:
… one day readers may happen upon certain words that grace and pain conspired to create, and may feel a flash of pastness enlivening their very nerves.
Isn’t this what good art – good literature does for us? Makes us feel a flash of pastness that enlivens our very nerves?
The Unfurling Mystery
Mystery draws a ribbon in space, as Annie Dillard writes,
… a ribbon whose end unravels in memory while its beginning unfurls as surprise.
It invites us to the grand terrain of a great expanse, and I wonder when the journey ends. It remains more enigma than dogma.