18 September 2006

Without Why (The Rose) II

Lifetime is a child at play; moving pieces in a game.
Kingship belongs to the child.

Heraclitus, Fragment 52

The child at play never asks itself why it plays. The child just plays; and if it could, it will play as long as possible, it will play throughout its life. See its delight and witness its smile.

If it would never go hungry or if the sun would never set it too will never leave its playmates and playthings. Time flies at play because it stops or suspends time. Time -- as we grownups only know too well -- is the culprit for order, schedules and priorities; yet for the child, there is no time, there is only bottomless play. It is we who impose that this or that should be done at this or that time. We stop the absurd and supposedly endless play ("He does nothing but play") because we insist that discipline, order and priorities be instilled in the child at an early age ("He needs to learn other things beside playing"). So that the child will become like
us one day, purpose-driven in that it knows when it is time to work and when it is time to play. Yet does everything need a schedule ('playtime') or a purpose ('play therapy') in order to have any worth or value?

The Cherubinic Wanderer, Angelus Silesius (1624-1677), a mystical poet who influenced Leibniz (1646-1716), Hegel (1770-1831) and Heidegger (1889-1976), meditates on Meister Eckhart's (c. 1260-1327) notion of living without reason or purpose. He says in an often quoted poem entitled "Without Why":
The rose is without why, it blooms because it blooms,
It pays no attention to itself, asks not whether it is seen.

Here, Angelus Silesius (whose real name was Johann Sheffler) tells us of a privileged example of an unfolding or revelation that is uncaused and without ground or reason, that of the blooming of the rose. The rose "blooms because it blooms", that is, it blooms 'without why' for it does not effectuate its blooming because of a this or that, for this reason or that purpose. It just blooms as its blooming just 'happens' (
Ereignen). Of course, the scientifically-trained mind will explain the blooming of the rose through a rigorous system of botanical and natural causes. No doubt, it shall be discovered that the rose's self-unfolding could be reduced to the necessity of the rose to bloom in order to fulfill its end (telos) to reproduce.

Yet that would always only miss the beauty of an immaculate white rose in bloom to our height and might, that is, the rose would be reduced to something
we can understand. The rose "pays no attention to itself." It does not care if the one who gazes at it praises its beauty or if the one who examines it explains its activity. It "asks not whether it is seen." It will bloom away anyway -- with or without anyone to witness it. That is precisely why roses bloom when we do not attend to it or watch it. See the rose already in full bloom. It is as if it hid its blooming in the darkness of the night when no one was watching.


To live 'without why' according to Meister Eckhart is to live without reasons and without purpose. The Dominican who was himself a very busy man said that life itself was not grounded upon something other than itself: it springs forth on its own ground, it lives from its own living. That is why, when asked by perhaps a bemused and confused brother "Why are you living?", he answered: "I do not know, but I am happy to live."

And this childlike answer to life, this life 'without why' also brings about the greatest of happiness, a constant joy:
When it happens that the child is born in you, you have so great a joy by all good deeds done in this world that your joy reaches the greatest evenness; it never alters. Therefore he says: "No one can take your joy from you" (Sermon on "See what love," 1 Jn 3:1).

Again, one only needs to see the delight in the child's eyes and witness its smile -- a knowing smile that knows something no one else knows, a smile that hides a joy that can never be taken away from it. For the child, like the mystic and the rose or a mystical rose, hides a secret that we can never ever know.

To be continued.

1 comment

  1. Anonymous10/26/2010

    La rosa è senza perchè,
    perchè è.


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