“Divided by a deep narrow chasm”

I return.

I largely gave up blogging for Lent. The choice was deliberate, but brought on by near necessity—I have had much to deal with of late, both personally and professionally, and while I had many thoughts on matters spiritual in general and things Anglican in particular, the prospect of writing them down and editing them for clarity filled me with dread. I was, if not exhausted, then very, very tired of pondering the slow train wreck of the Anglican Communion. It was not ennui, but something closer to a kind of blogging accidia; not writer’s block, but a need for rest and perspective that only comes from enforced quietude.

I confess I was not consistent in my discipline. I commented on other blogs on a few occasions. But I rarely read the various Anglican news outlets that I had previously followed obsessively, such as Stand Firm. Also, I started following the political news very closely. It may seems strange to some that I would trade the ups and downs of the church for the daily back and forth of Republicans and Democrats, to exchange Titusonenine for First Read. But there was something refreshing in reading about the contests between Huckabee, Romney and McCain, or between Hillary and Barack. In the end, it is easier, at least for me, to treat politics like beanbag (pace Mr. Dooley) than the church.

But now I find that I have accumulated some things I want to say, as well as a bit of energy to continue with some earlier lines of thought. Heeding the warnings of The New York Times, I will try to pace myself. I will also continue to alternate my own comments with pieces from my reading. Right now, I have begun a long forgotten book by a mostly forgotten writer, The Good Pagan’s Failure by Rosalind Murray. The author was the daughter of Gilbert Murray, and her famous father is clearly the good pagan of the title, while she herself was an adult convert to Roman Catholicism. I plan to write more about the Murrays in the future. For now, consider this passage, which though written sixty years ago sounds quite contemporary . . .

The contemporary world is atomic in its outlook; dissociated ideas, emotions, sense impressions, are almost deliberately cultivated at the expense of continuous or long-distance considerations; cause and effect, dependence and relation are at a discount, and to the atomic mind the realization of such underlying unity is alien and distasteful.

In attemtpting to explain to ourselves and to each other the differences of which we are both aware, we find that we are handicapped at the outset by lack of common ground from which to start, a common language in which to speak; and yet we want to communicate with each other. It seems at times as though we were divide by a deep narrow chasm across which there is no bridge, by a thick veil through which we partly see, but through which we can never touch each other. That we should not be so separate and divided, we both in varying degrees agree, yet how to meet we neither of us know.

How strange that, in the sixty years since Rosalind Murray wrote those words, they no longer describe simply the gulf between the secular and sacred, but between those within the church as well.


3 Responses to ““Divided by a deep narrow chasm””

  1. Katherine Says:

    Welcome back to the web, Professor. Best wishes on the various things which have troubled you.

    An excellent quotation, indeed. The two sides of the church debates are no longer communicating at all. Lots of shouting and yammering, but no communication; and should communication occur, it will produce the split which is happening anyhow.

  2. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    “The contemporary world is atomic in its outlook; dissociated ideas, emotions, sense impressions, are almost deliberately cultivated at the expense of continuous or long-distance considerations…”

    Boy, is that the truth! This is called compartmentalizing. When leaders do this, they get into trouble because they are able to justify different ethical standards in different areas of their lives. So you have the CEO who is meticulous in business practices but cheating on his wife. Or the manager who is known for fairness in the workplace but abuses her spouse.

  3. Christopher Witmer Says:

    This rock-ribbed Calvinist is a big fan of Rosalind Murray, so I greatly look forward to your continued blogging about her in the future.

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