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From the Heights





Another year, yet another place, another beginning--another kind of life.

I've written about what I understood about Camus' words before, "divine availability." I've often found those two words curious. That openness and readiness for what may come, I thought, was inspiring, if not relevant to me. Since you are not bound to one thing, not held back by this commitment or answerable to that promise, you are able to respond to a summons or call which may come from anywhere or anyone. Like a reserve who can be called upon by queen and country, the man who could be availed of is paradoxically unnecessary and forgotten for the most part, yet at the same time it is this disposability which makes him necessary. The reserve, like the 8th or 9th to even the 12th man on the bench, is unseen for the most part; but this very invisibility paradoxically grants him phenomenality, that is, he is seen by not being seen. But you know he is there--like a phantom, a ghost, a master of appearance-disappearance. Half-absent, half-present, what other name befits him except the high name  divine?

In Greek epics gods come and go, enter the human drama in one moment only to disappear the next. Battles are won and lost by mortals, almost never by the whims of the gods.

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Nomads, that's what they call those without permanent settlements. They are the wanderers. It is necessary however to not only portray them as vagabonds or pity them as the homeless due to one unfortunate reason or another. There are those who choose to leave home to behold sun and sky. The desert Fathers, most prominently Anthony the Great, sought wisdom and purification in the harsh deserts of Egypt. The martyr, they say, had on one morning heard the simplest words Christ ever used in answer to a question. This one was posed desperately by a rich young man. Anthony took those words seriously. In the endless sea of sand he swam. Soon enough, after other monks saw how the security of dwellings prevented their faith from reaching the kingdom of God, Anthony would build movable cities in wastelands. Over immovable rocks they chose slippery sand.  

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But now is not the time to do phenomenology, or use as screens martyrs and gods.

How does one truly build a city of sand, a home in the wild? How do you learn how to dwell and rest in transience and uncertainty? What I know about this is little and does not teach anything new: that while it can be terrible, it can also be consoling. But I am lying. These words are not mine.

Or this: When you live in the possible instead of the irreversible, you get used to it, and you find that there's no place you would rather be than no place. Possibilities reside in the no-where, in the same manner that they exist in the not-yet. Whence their grandeur and magnificence: nothing has been lost, everything is clean, as clear as our dreams and as pristine as one's longings. Whence, again, utopias--the non-places (u-topos) of our imagination, of lives lived otherwise. Whence, finally, the happiness they bring--real or imagined, I have forgotten their difference.

Again, I paint instead of saying.

Perhaps, this: What is a home? I do not know what a home means, and that is only because I have never left or have been separated with the ones I love and those who truly love me. (We do not know what something is if you have not seen a thing different from it.) They are a few, to be sure. And no matter where I go, I always go back to them, or they find me. You can build cities even in the sand because you build shelters for those you love wherever you may go.

Time means both to stay for a while and to leave, but these are not mutually exclusive. You stay because you were not there before and you have been welcomed--gratuitously, without the necessity of  return. And you take leave precisely how else can you give gratitude to the gift of a home except by welcoming others who need welcome?

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Chesterton said that there are two ways of discovering the world, one is to leave home, the other is to never leave it. What a beautiful, vast world it is!

The infinite can be found in the finest grain of sand. Each man mirrors the universe. I am in principle all that is and all that can be by the wealth of possibilities.    

Have I finally found a home? Rock by rock, word by word, promise by promise. Day by day I see it rise. And if it towers the sky (and it will), it shall do so because it was built on top of the castle I never left. And we know one sees farther when you stand on higher places.


Gustave Dore, Idylls of the King

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