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All Present or Nothing

I am a sparse book-underliner, but this one is marked up, because Hall—best known as a poet; he was the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2006 and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2010—drops lovely wise nuggets throughout that make you stop and pay attention. Just a small bit from near the end:

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Topics: Religion
All Present or Nothing August 29, 2011  |  By Alissa Wilkinson
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I read Donald Hall's extraordinary memoir-of-sorts Life Work last week, in which Hall performs feats of narrative in a mere 124 pages by telling the story of his work and his ancestors' work, and the work habits of many others, and also battles cancer and rejoices in his marriage, and—well, you should just read it.

I am a sparse book-underliner, but this one is marked up, because Hall—best known as a poet; he was the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2006 and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2010—drops lovely wise nuggets throughout that make you stop and pay attention. Just a small bit from near the end:

To read what I have just written, you would not know that I am Christian . . . Meister Eckhart is my favorite heretic . . . Meister Eckhart's energy centers on God not on Jesus—I cherish the figure of Jesus as Jack Jensen [Hall's late pastor] did—and he reminds me of my inability to love God as much as I love his intercessor. The cloud of unknowing remains thick over my head.

But why, when I write about my work and my day, do I not speak of the spirit? Maybe for several reasons, most of them discreditable: (1) I am afraid of ridicule; most of my friends are embarrassed by my Christianity, my Deaconhood at the South Danbury Church, and explain it away. (2) I am skeptical, always looking for material explanations; then at times my skepticism is overwhelmed by a spiritual light, strobe more than nightlight. (3) What I hope: Like the juggler of Our Lady, my work is my devotion. Thus, to write Life Work as I walk (temporarily) from the tomb is my devotion.

. . . I have read everything I could about the historical Jesus . . . When he raises the dead he raises my materialist skepticism at the same time. When he withers a fig tree with an impulsive petulance, I take the story as scribal interpolation. But when Jesus feeds multitudes; when he routs the money-changers; when he despairs and when he thirsts; when he tells parables and explains them; when he tells the crowd, about to stone a woman to death, that the man without sin should throw the first stone; when he eats with his friends the tax collectors; when he dies crucified—then I believe that he rises again . . .

It is all present or it is nothing.

There's more right after this but I don't have space for it. Just read the book.

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