Wasn’t it Augustine who said, evil is matter out of place? He kisses his love as he pivots from the brothel gate, his ardent heart already gritty with guilt. I imagine the big A trying to shake sin from himself as I haul our red rug out and shake it. Dear God, what we track in, how sin sifts like fine silt into our deepest grooves! And once inside, the dirt forgets that it’s our backyard. We keep tracking the outside in, sweeping it out again.
Or that’s what I get from The Confessions. How love, like soil, is out of place for, maybe, half its orbit. How sinning and repentance follow one another like all the circles on this fickle earth, rain taken up by clouds, then falling on us again. Maples spinning whiffs that grow to seedlings. Children begetting children. And every insult you bestow whirring like graying underwear in some dryer of regret.
Way back in Christianity’s kindergarten, Augustine had it figured out. He guessed our remorse and longing as he closed the brothel door, seeing a woman gaze at the sooty outline on her white sheet of a tall blacksmith the morning after.
God saw everything that he made, and indeed, it was very good. . . . And God rested on the seventh day. Genesis 1:31
I can rest any place, dear friend, although I have my preferences, lairs
much visited. I rest in Seamus Heaney, bog lover, prodigal who remembers home,
chaste as the pope in a pub, language lush crowned king. In that miser
Emily Dickinson, who counts the night’s small coins to see no word is overspent,
each berry pinched until it bleeds. In Robert Hass soliloquizing on
swans, cats and blackberries, caressing vowels for the long embrace.
In Die Meistersinger—six hours of Germanic glory—a lot of culture
in sausage, beer, bony knees, lederhosen and busty maids.
In Joe Turner, who invented light, splashed it across the channel ships.
—I never knew the sun could breathe. But I rest best in wild canaries
outside my monastery window, tiny fallen suns, frantic out of orbit, flashing
a wilder yellow in search of their gods.
Study war no more
Mar 18, 2011
Michael Izbicki grew up in a nondenominational church in California. A National Merit Scholarship finalist, he chose to go to the U.S. Naval Academy out of a sense of duty to his country during a time of war. At the naval academy he began to doubt whether the career to which he had committed himself could be squared with the tenets of just war doctrine. He got in trouble when he responded no to this exam question: "If given the order, would you launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?" After a four-year legal battle, the navy discharged him as a conscientious objector. Izbicki may have to reimburse the service for part or all of his education (New York Times, February 22).