Sunday, September 11, 2016

A shell, dishabited

This blog is named after a book by Madeleine L'Engle, one of my favorite authors and, as I have written about elsewhere, a great comfort to me in my childhood onwards. In one of her books, Meet the Austins, she quotes a poem by Thomas Brown (no, not Thomas Browne, the riveting author of Religio Medici, but a more obscure poet) called "Indwelling":

If thou couldst empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say — "This is not dead," —
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says — "This is enow
Unto itself — 'Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me."

The poem made an impact on me all those years ago, and now as my sabbatical begins and my Camino stretches out before me, I am drawn back to this poem again. I have been "all replete with very thou." A busyness, an urgency of the immediate, has had me in thrall lo, these many months.

Could possibly the Camino, whose symbol is (an empty!) scallop shell, be the vehicle by which I might, at least in moments, "empty all myself of self" and lose this "shrewd activity" that has gripped me of late? I hope so. The internal monologue is not easily turned off. It may be the meditative weariness of the pilgrim's road can produce the needed atmosphere. Desiderandumst!

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