The Prison of Limitlessness

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Fear of the smallness of our world and its life may lead to a kind of claustrophobia and thence, with apparent reasonableness, to a desire for the “freedom” of limitlessness. But this desire, paradoxically, reduces everything. The life of this world is small to those who think it is, and the desire to enlarge it makes it smaller, and can reduce it finally to nothing.

... In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define “freedom,” for example, as an escape from all restraint. But, as my friend Bert Hornback has explained in his book The Wisdom in Words, “free” is etymologically related to “friend.” These words come from the same Indo-European root, which carries the sense of “dear” or “beloved.” We set our friends free by our love for them, with the implied restraints of faithfulness or loyalty. And this suggests that our “identity” is located not in the impulse of selfhood but in deliberately maintained connections.
Wendell Berry, Harper's Magazine, May 2008

It takes wisdom and faith to enter into the life that goes even smaller than small. It feels like death. It is death. And then it is life/death/life. What opens out the other end is as vast as the entire universe, contained in a grain of sand.

God seems to be the only limitless resource I have found so far. Love. Not coal, not the economy. How childish a concept, a continually growing economy. It is blinder than faith in an unseen God. Especially when the latest economic growth figure report on Lateline dovetails into the report about the climate falling apart. The spiritual vistas are limitless; our economic vision makes us blind. The coal will last another hundred years.

Lord, we are blind and tired and have lost our way. Hear our prayer.



    I am sorry I have not been here. I need to catch up. I've been messed up big time and it hurts to sit, stand or lie down. But when I am better my top priority in the blog world is to catch up here.

  2. Yey, sweetnesss! No need to apologise. You've been away and otherwise occupied, or else you've been in intense pain. That damn sciatica :( I'm sorry you're feeling so crappy :(

  3. Great Wendell Berry quote, great observations.

  4. I'm in need of sitting down tonight with Wendell Berry and having a conversation.

  5. Ahh Wendell Berry . . . . fresh air for the soul!

  6. Very fine post, Sue. Thank you. Reminds me of the end of Psalm 119!

  7. Hat tip to Kent for the link to this article, BTW. Good stuff.

    Tess - he is a bit of a national treasure, isn't he. He just gets to the crux of things. Knows what's important.

    Kent - I'm sorry to hear that. There is a lot going on in your country at the moment, isn't there? So much fear, I'm tempted to believe I can feel it from here.

    Lola - hi there, and thanks for commenting :) Yes, people like him make you realise you've been holding your stomach in and not breathing deep, doesn't he.

    Mike - thanks for that! The psalms are some of my favourite parts of the bible.

    "I long for your salvation, O LORD,
    and your law is my delight.
    Let me live that I may praise you,
    and may your laws sustain me.
    I have strayed like a lost sheep.
    Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands."

    I listened to people on the television tonight talk about Christianity and how it is a religion of fear and you know my criticisms of Christianity but we both know that the fear that comes from us being who we are is only the very beginning of what follows. Everyone is so tired, I wish more people would give up the fight and turn and be healed

  8. Whoa, what happened? Discombobula has new clothes!

  9. Yeah, Erin, it's sort of like a seasonal ritual for me now. Observe the changes in the seasons, feel them in my body, see them in the changing clothes I'm wearing, change my blog's clothes :)


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