Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What we believe we disbelieve

Liked this article about W.H. Auden. I am pondering this description of his Christianity. I did not know that he came back to the Anglican church in later age.

Auden’s sense of his divided motives was inseparable from his idiosyncratic Christianity. He had no literal belief in miracles or deities and thought that all religious statements about God must be false in a literal sense but might be true in metaphoric ones. He felt himself commanded to an absolute obligation—which he knew he could never fulfill—to love his neighbor as himself, and he alluded to that commandment in a late haiku: “He has never seen God/but, once or twice, he believes/he has heard Him.” He took communion every Sunday and valued ancient liturgy, not for its magic or beauty, but because its timeless language and ritual was a “link between the dead and the unborn,” a stay against the complacent egoism that favors whatever is contemporary with ourselves. The book he wrote while returning in 1940 to the Anglican Communion of his childhood was titled The Double Man. It had an epigraph from Montaigne: “We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.” He felt obliged to reveal to his neighbor what he condemned in himself.

I like the idea of religion as a connection to the past, the words symbols and rituals changed a bit and handed down. It works for me on a metaphoric basis too. I won't be going to get ashed today because I have no current need to grieve. But I am glad it's going on. The wheel of the church calendar is a comforting presence to me.

1 comment:

Zhoen said...

I consider going for the ashes every year, but after the last time, when the traditional words were slid past in exchange for an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus, I have recoiled. The one ritual I could still get my head around, subverted and changed.

I am at peace with Death, and my own mortality. Not feeling the need to understand my own compost-abilty.