I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about life and death and what it means to be mortal.
live the life that unfolds before you. love goodness more than you fear evil. ~ Jonathan Rogers
It’s not a new thing for me to be thinking about. I read The Bark of the Bog Owl when I was a young teenager, and its message about accepting the situation you’re put in and living with grace and a love for good things struck me. Hard. I am not good at contentment.
I also read N.D. Wilson’s Outlaws of Time books when I was that age.
fear no evil, and may evil fear you ~ N.D. Wilson
Nate’s stories taught me to be fearsome and strong and terrifying — a modern-day Moses, who would turn the rivers to blood and send the demons running. I wanted to be like Glory, like Cyrus, like Henry. I wanted to be the sort of girl that Satan would flee.
But I wasn’t. I was an ordinary, boring, homeschooled teenager in Michigan, with a lot of chores and plenty of schoolwork and a yard to mow.
Did I mention I am not good at contentment?
the men signed of the cross of Christ / go gaily in the dark ~ G.K. Chesterton
I first encountered Chesterton when I was fourteen or so. I didn’t understand much of what I read (I stumbled through Orthodoxy far too fast for me to comprehend it properly), but what I did understand, I cherished. I have returned to his writing in the past year and find it compelling. I think I have found my real philosophy of living in his Heretics, but the above quote (from The Ballad of the White Horse) begins to get at what I am trying to say.
Go gaily in the dark.
Because there will be darkness. It might be grand and horrifying and demonic, and you shall stand against it like Aragorn at the Black Gate or like Antigone at Ashtown —
Or it might just be that you have to do the dishes.
when we are diligent, even our mundane daily tasks can be offered up to God as gifts of love and sacrifice ~ Sarah Mackenzie
I read Teaching from Rest when I was not even in high school. I’m glad I was the kind of child to enjoy such nonfiction. I don’t know why I was; I haven’t read a book about homeschool pedagogy in years, and am not planning to do so again until I have children of my own. But I read a lot of them in middle school.
How beautiful, that like St. Augustine says, God was working in my life and I didn’t even know it. But all the things I am trying to say now, I knew when I was thirteen. I just didn’t know I knew them.
to love is to be selfless. to be selfless is to be fearless. to be fearless is to strip your enemies of their greatest weapon. even if they break our bodies and drain our blood, we are unvanquished. our goal was never to live; our goal is to love. it is the goal of all truly noble men and women. give all that can be given. give even life itself. ~ N.D. Wilson
I do seek to live by the words of the wise young monk Niffy, even now. To give my life for those around me, by prayer and chore-doing and self-sacrifice. It’s very hard. I’m not good at it.
I pray God will increase my joy in these things.
May I learn to be contented in the everyday.
the world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
I am not an Epicurean. I have concluded this after much thought, a great deal of Horace, and several conversations with friends.
Nor am I a Romantic. The Romantics certainly wrote good poetry, and they were reaching for something true, but they failed. The goal of life is not to live only for the grand, the great, the soul-thrilling moments.
We are to live for the humble everyday gifts God has given us. They will become to us prizes far greater than renown and pleasure.
The love is mingled with grief, and that makes it sweeter.
may my living be grace to those behind me ~ N.D. Wilson
I set out to write this blog post in a rambly sort of way, and I’m content with that. I do want to write an actual essay about this idea — the reason I reject the carpe diem mentality of Odes 1.11 and 1.4 (and of Dead Poets Society). The reason I plan to shout Helheimr! into the sky until the day I die, and die knowing I lived well.
But for now, this will serve. This small collection of thoughts. These quotes from men far wiser than I, who have sent me on this journey to learn how to live.
drink your wine. laugh from your gut. burden your moments with thankfulness. be as empty as you can be when that clock winds down. spend your life. and if time is a river, may you leave a wake. ~ N.D. Wilson
It’s no wonder they call N.D. Wilson the modern-day Chesterton. (Don’t they? Well if they don’t, I hereby christen him as such.) For the sentiments that pour out of Death By Living like a river of cool water in a parched desert come, in the end, from everyone’s favorite ornery British cheese connoisseur.
Go read this whole chapter of Heretics if you have time, but if you haven’t, here’s a quote:
at the high altar of Christianity stands another figure, in whose hand also is the cup of the vine. “drink,” he says, “for the whole world is as red as this wine, with the crimson of the love and wrath of God. drink, for the trumpets are blowing for battle and this is the stirrup-cup. drink, for this my blood of the new testament that is shed for you. drink, for I know of whence you come and why. drink, for I know of when you go and where.” ~ G.K. Chesterton
So I’m going to live the life that unfolds before me, fearing no evil, for I know that I am greater than the demons will ever hope to be. I am signed of the cross of Christ, so I will go gaily in the dark, and offer up my everyday tasks to His service. Even if I am broken, I am unvanquished, for my goal is not to live, but to love, and to seek and share the beauty mingled in the grief. To make my life a gift to those who will come after me.
So I will drink my wine (yes, I’m not yet twenty; this is a metaphor, people). I will burden my moments with thankfulness. I will trust the One who shed his blood for me, and drink it (not a metaphor ;)).
I will live in the grace I have been given.
As David C. Downing might say, I will seize eternity.
~ reading list ~
// The Ballad of the White Horse
David C. Downing
// Looking for the King
// The Abolition of Man
// Wilderking trilogy
// Ashtown Burials series
// Death by Living
// Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl
// Outlaws of Time trilogy