Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Carpe Diem with e.e.cummings

This morning brought brilliant sunshine but, I suspect, a temperature barely above freezing. Globs of white remain on most high points, although some trickles of water have been running off higher surfaces around the Abbey. Sam, visiting from Australia, seizes the day, and produces a monastery snowman. Towards the end of Mass, a quiet holy moment was shattered by coalman’s gloop of snow clattering off the roof of the Church. Which way, I wonder is this thing going? Thaw, or a night freeze, followed by a fresh wave of snow? Only time will tell, but the sky is now a dirty grey, tinged with hues of mushroom and even pea soup. I doubt we’ve seen the last of this...

The six of us have thrown an extra element into our programme, taking a few hours to compare notes together on spiritual movement or lack of it, in the year. One experience emerging for all of us was that, different as we are, we are finding the way to God is not so much grand theory, but rather cutivating ways to be wholly present and attentive in the here and now, with its opportunities.

The truth is not some abstract thing out there, to describe, package or market, but rather something that reveals itself enigmatically around me when I hollow out space and make myself radically available to others. That’s when the Word speaks, including through Scripture, the whole world becomes Eucharistic, the angels sing, and suddenly, almost by surprise, I am praying.

So, grasping this morning’s bright sunshine, and the glory of the present moment, here’s a poem by e.e.cummings (one of the few with any capital letters):
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any — lifted from the no
of all nothing — human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


Erp said...

It last snowed where I live now before I moved here which was some 30 years ago. Sometimes I miss the snow I had as a child. The silence of being outside as the snow came down. The melting and then freezing and then a bright sunrise which turned the woods into a glittering crystal landscape. The snow forts and sledding.

So did you join in building the snowman?

Geoff Colmer said...

Hi Alan!
You must hear Eric Whitacre's setting of the cummings on Cloudbursts, sung by Polyphony. If fact it is such a 'must' that if you purchase the CD, or download the iTune, and don't like it, I will buy the CD or refund the iTune for you!! I really don't think you will be disappointed and the whole CD is wondrous. Whenever I've played it to friends or in the context of a Quiet Day it's had a rave reception.

Dave Perry said...

A truly delightful post Alan. Amen to living in the present moment and to the wonderful poetry of e.e. cummings. Many thanks.

Eden said...

Bishop Alan,

I wokr at Church HOuse London and was wondering if you would like to take part in a user testing of our current website either next week or the week after. It should only take an hour to do the testing, but it would be really beneficial to have a Bishop's point of view.



Eden said...

Sorry should have said my email address is



Mr Gnome said...

Thank you for reminding me of this GREAT poem, right up there with G M Hopkins in terms of sould-lifting ecstatic utterance.

The community choir I'm in sings a fab version of the final two lines!

I shall download the setting recommended above!

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