Every writer, I dare say, is in search for the perfect sentence—words stringed with meaning and laced with beauty. It is a sentence that creates a certain mystical air by words both written and implied.
To a reader, such a sentence arrests the attention and halts, for a moment, the process of reading. To a writer, the same incites jealousy and admiration simultaneously. In either case, a pause is deserved.
Though elusive, the perfect sentence is captured by the most brilliant of writers. James Salter, whom I, regrettably, was unacquainted with before his recent passing, was one. His essay, The Paradise of the Library, is to me an extraordinary piece.
The love of books, the possession of them, can be thought of as an extension of one’s self or being, not separate from a love of life but rather as an extra dimension of it, and even of what comes after. “Paradise is a library,” as Borges said.
Salter’s sentences, which he was known for, like the one above, were…magical. That essay charmed me. What bibliophile could resist giddiness in reading “the promise of solitude and discovery” in books, or the “disinclination to part with a book after it was acquired,” or “reading has the power not only to demolish time and span the ages, but also the capacity to make one feel more human—human meaning at with humanity—and possibly less savage.”
Abraham J. Heschel is another one of my favorites. I could never forget the first time I came across this sentence—I had to stop reading, jaw dropped, literally.
To become aware of the ineffable is to part company with words. The essence, the tangent to the curve of human experience, lies beyond the limits of language.Man Is Not Alone, p. 16
The entire book Man Is Not Alone is filled with stunning and solemn sentences like the one above.
I am, in fact, a happier person because these sentences exist in the world. I am perfectly pleased that part of life’s joy is to take pleasure in other people’s creation. At the same time, I, too, am in search for my own perfect sentence. And if we can all delight in each other’s words, then paradise must be a library.
Philosophy objectifies its themes. Imagination creates an image, reason coins a concept. All conceptualization is limitation, restriction, reduction. In the question, What is the cause of being? the ultimate has been restricted to one aspect, to one category. “Cause” is one concept among many; “what” does not mean “who.” There is an anticipation of a “who” in the question of religion, as there is an anticipation of a “what” in the question of speculation…
The argument that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” only provides temporary satisfaction to the craving for causal explanation and is insufficient to even answer the child’s question, “Who made God?” – rests upon the assumption that to the biblical mind the supreme question is, “Who made the world?” and that the essential idea of creation is the answer, “God made it.” However, the Bible does not begin by saying, “God created heaven and earth”; it begins by saying, “In the beginning.” The essential message is not that the world had a cause, but rather that the world is not the ultimate. The phrase “in the beginning” is decisive. It sets a limit to being, as it sets a limit to the mind.
The supreme question is not, “Who made the world?” but rather, “Who transcends the world?” The biblical answer is, “He Who created heaven and earth transcends the world.” Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, pg 340-341.
…is the view I get when I head home from campus. I have come to associate it with the peace of homecoming, the quietness of a day’s end, and the coming rest. It is especially precious on Fridays. On this particular Friday, this certain poem seems to match the mood of my day, my week.
From word to word I roam, from dawn to dusk.
Dream in, dream out — I pass myself and towns,
A human satellite.
I wait, am hopeful, as one who waits at the rock
For the spring to well forth and ever well on.
I feel as bright as if I tented somewhere in the Milky Way.
To urge the world to feel I walk through lonesome solitudes.
All around me lightning explodes sparks from my glance
To reveal all light, unveil faces everywhere.
Godward, onward to the final weighing
overcoming heavy weight with thirst.
Constantly, the longings of all born call out, “Is anyone around?”
I know each one is HE, but in my heart there writhes a tear;
When of men and rocks and trees I hear;
All plead “Feel us”
All beg “See us”
God! Lend me your eyes!
I came to be, to sow the seed of sight in the world,
To unmask the God who disguised Himself as world–
And yes, I wait to be the first to announce “The Dawn.”
– from “Human, God’s Ineffable Name,” by Abraham Joshua Heschel
It is a strange experience when you realize that you don’t really know someone who has been around in your life for a while. Somehow, familiarity substitutes for intimacy. Because the person is around, you don’t feel the need to get to know him/her well or to spend effort to understand his/her psyche. The name is familiar, your friends are friends with the same person, and so you kind of just know him/her through the network and not have a genuine personal connection with the said person.
This happens to me recently (or at least, this one particular case is recent). I’m realizing that I have been familiar with someone for a long time, but largely ignorant about his personality, work, preferences, and everything pertaining to his personhood. In fact, I think some of my conceptions of him are simply misguided. His name is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead.
I’ve seen glimpses of the Holy Spirit’s work; I’ve experienced His presence. But if someone were to ask me to describe who the Holy Spirit is, I wouldn’t know what to say. As a follow up to GYC, which was all about the Holy Spirit, I started reading The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit by R. A. Torrey (free on Amazon Kindle), and it has been very eye opening.
The author first introduces the Holy Spirit, much like introducing a friend, by simply stating a simple fact that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not an inanimate power, who has a will, reason, emotions, and all the attributes of a Divine Being. Just this point alone changes the way one relates to the Holy Spirit.
It is of the highest importance from the standpoint of worship that we decide whether the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, worthy to receive our adoration, our faith, our love, and our entire surrender to Himself, or whether it is simply an influence emanating from God or a power or an illumination that God imparts to us. If the Holy Spirit is a person, and a Divine Person, and we do not know Him as such, then we are robbing a Divine Being of the worship and the faith and the love and the surrender to Himself which are His due.
In the past, I think my conception of the Holy Spirit has been somewhere between an inanimate power and a Person. Of course theoretically I would say the Holy Spirit is a Person, but experientially, I don’t really understand what that means. For most times, I probably don’t even think He’s around!
If we think of the Holy Spirit as so many do as merely a power or influence, our constant thought will be, “How can I get more of the Holy Spirit,” but if we think of Him in the Biblical way as a Divine Person, our thought will rather be, “How can the Holy Spirit have more of me?”
Ever since GYC, regarding the Holy Spirit, I found myself asking the question, “Who are You, Lord?”
So I’ve embarked on a personal journey to get to know the Holy Spirit better. I think I’ve missed out a lot in my relationship with God due to my ignorance of the Holy Spirit and what He can do in my life, and as the quote says, I’ve robbed Him of the worship, adoration, and love that is due to Him.
“Some folks look with dread upon the thought of having to wage a continual warfare with self and worldly lusts. That is because they do not as yet know anything about the joy of victory; they have experienced only defeat. But it isn’t so doleful a thing to battle constantly, when there is continual victory. The old veteran of a hundred battles, who has been victorious in every fight, longs to be at the scene of conflict. Alexander’s [the Great] soldiers, who under his command never knew defeat, were always impatient to be led into the fray. Each victory increased their strength, which was born only of courage, and correspondingly diminished that of the vanquished foe… Here is the secret of strength. It is Christ, the Son of God, the one to whom all power in Heaven and earth is given, who does the work.” (E. J. Waggoner in Lessons on Faith, p. 3-4)