Curations: The destruction of certainty
Another poem shared by the SALT Project - this one by E. E. Cummings...
when god decided to invent everything he took one breath bigger than a circustent and everything began
when man determined to destroy himself he picked the was of shall and finding only why smashed it into because
If you're like me, you had to re-read this a couple of times. (I even googled what a "circustent" was before realizing it meant "circus tent.")
I love how the two stanzas contrast God and humanity: God's expansive creation, and human beings' reductive destruction. It speaks to the very human inclination to focus on the past ("the was / of shall"), and our discomfort with unknowns and uncertainty ("and finding only why / smashed it into because").
So often, we look to a certain past - even if that past is filled with regrets and mistakes, or guilt and fear that continue to plague us, or "the way things have always been / the way we've always done it" (even if that way is not faithful or good or working!) - instead of allowing for the questions and mystery of God's future, and what God is creating. We are much less comfortable with mystery, and so we take the questions of Why? and look to nail down answers with Because...
And I wonder what God is doing in us and around us that we are missing because we have already decided on the Because.
Saint John of the Cross wrote,
The generous heart does not collapse into the easy things, but rises up in adversity. It settles for nothing. Faith lifts it higher and higher.
Such a heart savors an I-don’t-know-what found only in the heart of the Mystery.
If nothing else, this poem offers us a choice between these two stanzas - to step into the mystery God and God's open-ended, expansive creative work...or to reduce that mystery and creativity to certainty and answers. Perhaps we can cultivate the "I-don't-know-what" within ourselves, lifted by a faith (a trust) in the goodness of God, even when we aren't sure of answers.
My challenge to you these next couple of weeks is to resist the impulse to rush to certainty or provide quick and easy answers. Let yourself sit with the anxiety of uncertainty. Hold on to the why and lean into the Mystery. My guess is, you might just experience the presence of God in a surprising, new, and unexpected way.
P. S. Composer Joshua Shank set Cummings' poem to music to create the four-minute choral piece below...