Quamdiu nam vixeris, mutabilitati subjectus eris, etiam nolens: ut modo lætus, modo tristis, modo pacatus, modo turbatus, nunc devotus, nunc indevotus, nunc studiosus, nunc acidiosus, nunc gravi, nunc levis inveniaris. Sed stat super hæc mutabilia sapiens et bene doctus in spiritu, non attendens quid in se sentiat nec qua parte flet ventus instabilitatis, sed ut tota intentio mentis ejus ad debitum et ad optimum proficiat finem.
From The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. Latin version from The Latin Library http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/kempis/kempis3.shtml
I have had a bit of a social media fast over the past few holiday weeks, trying to focus more on the change going on outside (of which you will here more anon in the next post) and, without sounding too precious, inside in a spiritual sense, as this end-of-year holiday pause is often wont to make me do. This has meant much reading: In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro (Everywhere I have sought peace and not found it, except in a corner with a book.)
In other words, Thomas a Kempis and The Imitation of Christ.
(or actually turn the pages at https://archive.org/details/TheImitationOfChristDated1498InLatinByThomasAKempisAlsoKnownAs)
Thomas a Kempis, or Thomas of Kempen, referring to his place of birth in Germany, was a 15th century clergyman and copyist, said to have copied the Bible out in its entirety at least four times. The above quoted passage on change has many echoes in the Bible as well as in Eastern philosophy. There are also expressions currently in parlance which are from the Imitation of Christ (did you know?). These include:
For man proposes, but God disposes
Wherever you go, there you are. (the basis of at least one title of a book on Zen Buddhism)
All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.
The one that challenges me most of all because I am so guilty of it:
Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
However, you do not have leave to call me on this when I am trying to make Packham et al. (Spring and what ever season Watch) into what I wish them to be…
Philosophy is Religion is Science
Watch any of the recent TV shows on quantum physics, and indeed the new film about Stephen Hawking, as well as the BBC4 AN Wilson docu on CS Lewis (no not Narnia C Lewis, but medievalist and Christian apologist CS Lewis). Each deals with subjects reflective of the Christian philosophy found in The Imitation of Christ, each trying to know what is unknown:
Leave off that excessive desire of knowing; therein is found much distraction There are many things the knowledge of which is of little or no profit to the soul.
Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears it ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of the mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility of the meaning of such a comparison.
Why must beyond our abilities mean beyond rational thought?
Which is Thomas a Kempis? Albert Einstein? or from The Dancing Wu Li Masters, a 1979 attempt to explain what was then considered ‘new physics’?
Just a few New Year’s thoughts.
Business as usual resumed with next post… (rats and frogs and bees and birds, oh my!)
As long as thou livest thou art subject to change, howsoever unwilling; so that thou art found now joyful, now sad; now at peace, now disquieted; now devout, now indevout; now studious, now careless; now sad, now cheerful. But the wise man, and he who is truly learned in spirit, standeth above these changeable things, attentive not to what he may feel in himself or from what quarter the wind may blow, but that the whole intent of his mind may carry him on to the due and much-desired end.
Reproduced in translation by Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/1653/pg1653.html
The cover shot at the beginning of the post was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Claude Pistilli and is in the public domain http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_a_Kempis_(1379-1471).jpg
The second photo of the open book is also from Wikimedia Commons, uploaded by Aleichem and in the public domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_%C3%A0_Kempis_-_De_Imitatione_Christi.gif