A Glass Darkly, a Riddle and a Toothache

In our previous post The Broken Mirror on the Road of Life we looked at life’s journey on the road of life with side attractions, especially mirrors. As we know, mirrors are part of our daily life no matter where we journey on this planet traversing the cosmos.

In the enigmatic poem This World Is Not Conclusion Emily Dickinson ponders on the meaning of life and its eventuality.  Her words are graphic as she strolls along the path of question and belief.

From Evergreens, her family home, she saw the world differently than most.  With a vast correspondence she kept in touch with her contemporaries as they wrestled with the cares and concerns of the day.

Amherst, her home town, was a beehive of activity as two trains of thought raced toward each other—Calvinism and Unitarianism.  Emily’s father was as conservative as they came in the New England mold of its Puritan heritage.

However, Emily found these religious pillars stoic and sterile.  Her embrace of religion was more of an appreciation of the Creator as expressed in nature and her inward commune which gave her moments of joy.  The harbingers of her religious heritage would steal into her innermost thoughts with a lingering tenaciousness about what her life would be after her earthen vessel had run its course.

For Emily her poetry was an outlet for the expression of her thoughts, emotions and ponderings.  What she wrote would become part of the American heritage of poetry, even though she wanted everything she wrote destroyed after her death.

When her poetry was published posthumously, her immortality was assured.  This quiet, shy, very intelligent and private woman would have a lasting impression on society.

Here’s her poem This World Is Not Conclusion:

A Species stands beyond —

Invisible, as Music —

But positive, as Sound —

It beckons, and it baffles —

Philosophy — don’t know —

And through a Riddle, at the last —

Sagacity, must go —

To guess it, puzzles scholars —

To gain it, Men have borne

Contempt of Generations

And Crucifixion, shown —

Faith slips — and laughs, and rallies —

Blushes, if any see —

Plucks at a twig of Evidence —

And asks a Vane, the way —

Much Gesture, from the Pulpit —

Strong Hallelujahs roll —

Narcotics cannot still the Tooth

That nibbles at the soul –

What does it actually mean? That, dear reader, is for you to decide for yourself.

Now, let’s turn our attention to a Roman tentmaker of the first century.  His writings have survived, been debated, accepted, rejected and questioned.

His molding of The Way added an ecclesiastical structure and systematic theology to a small but dedicated Jewish sect.  His influence on the Christian church has lasted two thousand years.

Going from a Jewish zealot for orthodoxy to the main apologist for the very cause he had persecuted, Saul, or Paul as he would come to be known, walked his road of life with the future based on a certainty which could not be proved logically or scientifically.  Paul, the Roman tentmaker, stitched his beliefs on his call, heritage and learning.

In First Corinthians 13 which is referred to as the love chapter, Paul wrote near the end

When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.

Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.”  The New Jerusalem Bible, verses 11 and 12.

For this tentmaker with poor eyesight his hope was to see the true reality, not a reflection in a glass darkly like the old translations have it.  Riddles may be good mental exercises to tackle, but for a weary soul whose trek on the road of life is near its terminus, riddles and mere reflections are only things to leave behind as one enters the cosmic ocean.

An old tentmaker and a young woman embraced their destiny long ago.  They left behind words to inspire the seeker and the traveller who stop at their attraction along the road of life.  Were they right to cling to the out there after their journey ends here?

When your final day on this earth comes, what will you leave behind?  What do you hope to find out there among the star clusters of the myriad of suns, planets, comets and mysteries?  Just an endless sleep or a place where you sing your star song as one of the lost children of the stars?

G. D. Williams       © 2013

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Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886)