The Imperative of the Instincts

A constant theme of the poems selected by Mthr Carys for this collection is the importance of waiting, of silence and of seizing those little epiphanies which nature can offer. They are all parts of this beautiful poem, which itself comes towards the end of a long series in Counterpoint which takes us on a journey through the Christian story of Fall and Redemption.

Though we pay lip-service to “reason” – after all which of us wants to seem to be without it? – it is our instincts which can drive us, those deep-seated urges which we share perhaps only with our loved ones, or with the psychiatrist. It may just be me, but I see it in others too, the urge to align the world, and God, with those instincts – there is an imperative there. But Thomas is going to what might happen if we were to still that imperative. What if we were to stop and contemplate?

Any mention of “apple” and “truth’s tree” is bound to create resonances with the Fall and the exile from Eden. The apple here has not been picked, it is ripening as we contemplate it. Refraining from picking it, looking at it, knowing that it is out of reach, heart and mind come together, neither one dominating. It is a precious moment of balance – a state any meditative prayer would be grateful to grasp, even if only for a brief moment. And in that space, what then? Some healing? But what is healing?

Mthr Carys writes that Thomas:

leads us to reflect on the quality of the timeless moment … This fresh, bright, healing place, free from striving or need, is ‘the timeless / place

page 61

As Eliot puts it:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

We strive so hard to keep ourselves going, and work and family press their demands upon us, there is a timetable in our heads – and on our phones. But when the busyness ceases, what then?

Jesus told his followers that the kingdom of God was at hand. Here, in that ‘unaccommodated moment’ we can get a glimpse, a sense. It costs us nothing – except the thing we are most reluctant to give – ourselves in silence. Here we see how it is the the last can be first – the values of this world reversed. If we can stop, if we can make time to listen, we may hear. We may not, of course, but for sure is one thing, if we don’t, we won’t.

Rather than re-enact the instinct to eat of the apple and to be wise as God, the beginning of wisdom. And Eliot captures this at the end of Little Gidding

Quick now, here, now, always–

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flames are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

There is an #adventbookclub using “Frequencies of God” by Carys Walsh and you can support the publisher by buying it here: https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9781786220882/frequencies-of-god. We’ll be running this club on Twitter and Facebook, and you are welcome to join in with thoughts and comments. Other folk doing this are https://grahart.wordpress.com/, and https://becausegodislove.wordpress.com/ so please pop over and read their thoughts too!