We, too, dull our understandings with trifles, fill the heavenly spaces with phantoms, waste the heavenly time with hurry. When I trouble myself over a trifle, even a trifle confessed–the loss of some little article, say–spurring my memory, and hunting the house, not from an immediate need, but from dislike of loss; when a book has been borrowed of me and not returned, and I have forgotten the borrower, and fret over the missing volume…is it not time I lost a few things when I care for them so unreasonably? This losing of things is of the mercy of God: it comes to teach us to let them go. Or have I forgotten a thought that came to me, which seemed of the truth?…I keep trying and trying to call it back, feeling a poor man till that thought be recovered–to be far more lost, perhaps, in a notebook, into which I shall never look again to find it! I forgot that it is live things which God cares about.
Here’s an important reminder from George MacDonald:
There is no massing of men with God. When he speaks of gathered men, it is as a spiritual body, not a mass.
I have Orthodox friends who attack Kierkegaard’s individualism. Perhaps there is something to attack there, perhaps not, but all too often their attack is that Kierkegaard’s overemphasis on the individual obscures our ties to one another and makes nonsense of Christian ecclesiology. But I say, briefly, bearing MacDonald in mind, that Kierkegaard is not making nonsense of ecclesiology, but rather preparing the way for it, by making sure that we understand that there is no massing of men with God–and that the church is not a mass, but a spiritual body: a qualitatively different thing.
The deep similarities between MacDonald and Kierkegaard deserve study.
There are in whose notion education would seem to consist in the production of a certain repose through the development of this and that faculty, and the depression, if not eradication, of this and that other faculty. But if mere repose were the end in view, an unsparing depression of all the faculties would be the surest means of approaching it, provided always the animal instincts could be depressed likewise, or, better still, kept in a state of constant repletion. Happily, however, for the human race, it possesses in the passion of hunger even, a more immediate saviour than in the wisest selection and treatment of its faculties. For repose is not the end of education; its end is a noble unrest, an ever renewed awakening from the dead, a ceaseless questioning of the past for the interpretation of the future, an urging of the motions of life, which had better far be accelerated into fever, than retarded into lethargy.
We have here, I think, something like the contrast between the way students see (have been taught to see) their education and what they should see. What they want is unsparing depression of their faculties and constant repletion of their animal instincts, a kind of upside-down ascesis. What they should want is noble unrest, hunger, wakefulness–a fever that urges them from their beds rather than keeping them abed.