Waking up after a longer-than-expected lie-in is a truly marvellous feeling. I sleepily stretch out and feel refreshed, well-rested, and so grateful for a comfortable, warm bed and all the time in the world.
It is so good to lay back and breathe slow, to let thoughts ramble and tumble over one another in no particular order.
That sentence is particularly poignant after the last four days spent studying Descartes’ Meditations. Reading that text is anything but relaxing – an hour in his words makes me feel like my brain has turned into a muscle that’s flexing and tensing with every new Cartesian word. At least I don’t have to read him in his original Latin!
Don’t get me wrong – hard thinking is good and learning is most definitely fun. But sometimes, I feel, to stop reading for a moment and instead look and listen to God is just the best thing.
Look. I sat at a window-desk in the English Faculty Library on Thursday afternoon, gazing hard down at the Meditations. At the end of an especially gruelling part on the doctrine of error, I paused, looked up for a moment, gazed out of the window…
…and just look at that tree out there, its winter-bare branches golden and green in low sunlight, outlined with clarity against the infinite blue of God’s sky. That infinite blue expanse, that vast sapphire sky stretches farther than the eye can see before it melts into blackness, the inky starscape of space. There’s all of this wonder and splendour: God, you have set your glory in the heavens and it is wonderfully so good. (Psalm 8; Psalm 19)
Listen. As I listen to my Clare friends’ exquisite music on Friday evening thoughts stir and shift and God’s a pearl of infinite precious price. He’s the treasure and the meaning and the golden light of hearing truly, in each tremulous second and smooth movement of the conductor’s hand. My eyes are tired and my head is tired too, from all the muscular thinking and striving to understand this world.
So give me rest in this moment, and passion too, like this music expanding and filling the space of a concert hall, making the air swell and pulse with the tension and emotion i can hear in the bow across violin strings and in the clarinettists’ deep inhalation before they sound short notes to punctuate the music. You frame this sound and this moment as you do all others.
To tie this all together, a note on Ecclesiastes. ‘Meaningless!’ cries the Teacher – all is vapour, a chasing after the wind. This life is foggy and hard to pin down: we see but we don’t always understand; we live but we don’t always grasp tight hold of why.
So what can we do? One: ‘remember your Creator in the days of your youth’. Enjoy the moments and gifts he gives, and be ready to hear his voice and follow whenever he calls. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth: look, listen.