Monday, February 27, 2017

When he knows that he lives by a bounty not his own

The life updates are perhaps of limited interest, but in-between jobs I finished reading The Memory of Old Jack, by Wendell Berry. Old Jack's life was a tragedy, but this is an excellent book. Here is a fine and lovely example:
He lost his life – fifteen years that he had thought would be, and ought to have been, the best and the most abundant; those are gone from the earth, lost in disappointment and grief and darkness and work without hope, and now he is only where he was when he began. But that is enough, and more. He is returning home – not only to the place but to the possibility and the promise that he once saw in it, and now, as not before, to the understanding that that is enough. After such grievous spending, enough, more than enough, remains. There is more. He lost his life, and now he has found it again.

Words come to him: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ... Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” – the words of the old Psalm that Nancy made him repeat when he was a boy until he would remember it all his life. He had always been able to see through those words to what they were about. He could see the green pastures and the still waters and the shepherd bringing the sheep down out of the hills in the evening to drink. It comes to him that he never understood them before, but that he does now. The man who first spoke the psalm had been driven to the limit, he had seen his ruin, he had felt in the weight of his own flesh the substantiality of his death and the measure of his despair. He knew that his origin was in nothing that he or any man had done, and that he could do nothing sufficient to his needs. And he looked finally beyond those limits and saw the world still there, potent and abounding, as it would be whether he lived or died, worthy of his life and work and faith. He saw that he would be distinguished not by what he was or anything that he might become but by what he served. Beyond him was the peace and rest and joy that he desired. Beyond the limits of a man’s strength or intelligence or desire or hope of faith, there is more. The cup runs over. While a man lies asleep in exhaustion and despair, helpless as a child, the soft rain falls, the tree leaf, the seed sprouts in a planted field. And when he knows that he lives by a bounty not his own, though his ruin lies behind him and again ahead of him, he will be at peace, for he has seen what is worthy.

1 comment:

Margaret Meandering said...

What a wonderful title! In the haste of the recent transitions, I've missed your blogs but just caught up with them. Warm congratulations on the new job. Looking forward to our time together!