Today is Good Friday. The candles in the sanctuary are snuffed out. And the president of St. Bernard Parish went through his office today washing the feet of his employees. He said he did it because he ought to be “as humbled as any other sinner in the world.” Apart from these gothic pockets in our strange swamp, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to know that today is meant to be spent in solemn contemplation of the greatest sacrifice. The parks are filled with joyous dogs and kids freed from school.
Someone drove their car into the Bayou this morning. Again. Another early morning jaunt gone awry. It always happens at the same bend in Moss Street. I wonder if the people who live across from this fateful turn in the bayou have documented each wreckage. It’s comical to everyone except the driver of the car. Fortunately the water is shallow so you can walk out.
The birds are going nuts in the trees and beyond my house. Gulls are screaming. They tend to come inland when we have weather coming in from the lake. The air smells like rain.
For Good Friday, Emily sends a thought:
#861, c. 1864
Split the Lark — and you’ll find the Music —
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled —
Scantily dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear when Lutes be old.
Loose the Flood — you’ll find it patent —
Gush after Gush, reserved for you —
Scarlet Experiment ! Sceptic Thomas!
Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?
She likes to write about Doubting Thomas. He was the disciple who would not believe that Christ had risen from the dead until Christ took Thomas’s hand and placed it in the wound in his side. Only that literal touch of flesh upon flesh could move Thomas’s mind and heart to accept the truth of this miracle.
As a story, it’s interesting. Particularly so since it engages Emily. She is the sublime doubter, making her altar on the windowsill of her house in the church of her garden. Here she draws an image of someone looking for the Lark’s music by splitting open the bird. The music must be in there, right? The lark opens its beak and music comes out, so naturally the most literal and precise way to locate the music is the cut the bird open. This “scarlet experiment” of course, will only kill the lark and the music. She uses Thomas and all his doubts to describe the destructive force of literalism. A search for proof—whether proof of love or the divine—will yield nothing. The search itself will in fact destroy the source of that precious ephemeral thing.
Here is something else to know about Thomas. He did not have real faith because that does not require proof. In the story, Christ the magician, performs another one of his famous parlor tricks to amaze and astound the onlookers. It was meant as a one-time shocker to become a story that we would read and believe. He can’t keep doing that for everyone.
The real purpose of the story, as I and Emily see it, is to show the inadequacy of literalism. How paltry is this proof, really. In the end, doesn’t this proving do more harm than good to faith, splitting the lark to find the music? To break open the mystery at the center of existence and render it as something prosaic doesn’t serve the action of faith. The doubter, who wants to have faith and strives for it, hungers to crack the code, find the God gene, split the lark, so that we’ll understand everything. Well, maybe we’ll understand, but the thing we seek will die. Only the cold light of an autopsy can fully expose how a thing works. Under that precise scrutiny, the essential part most devoutly hoped for has escaped.
Augustine said: Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe
I say analysis annihilates.
Emily says: Better not to demand proof. Learn to love the uncertainty.
One response to “Love the Uncertainty”
Thank you for this, Constance! It’s been the lesson of my lifetime to even accept uncertainty, let alone embrace and love it. Voltaire would agree with Emily: “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” My dad was an atheist and a scientist, so “facts” were the thing with him. I think I “split the Lark” when I rebelled and allowed myself to be influenced by a toxic, dogmatic religion. Finally rebelled against and escaped that situation, too. I had to laugh when you mentioned finding the God gene. One thing that helped me was the book “Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief” by Andrew Newberg. Being raised by a scientist the helped me to see that science and spirit need not be exclusive of each other. I’ve visited Emily’s house in Amherst and now I can picture her sitting at her desk and windowsill and garden. It was kind of a pilgrimage for me, going there, finally feeling at home with a spiritual connection. You write with much insight and awareness. Thanks again!