Sometimes the Days are Filled with Gods

Collage built around Melville Woodcut Print

Collage built around Melville Woodcut Print

If ever I lay me on a bed of sloth in peace,

That instant let for me existence cease!

If ever with lying flattery you can rule me

So that contented with myself I stay,

If with enjoyment you can fool me,

Be that for me the final day!

Goethe, Faust

Being unsure of the source of energy, I am nevertheless abundantly appreciative for this opportunity to complete a long and fruitful day tidying rooms in my house and laboring long hours over logic lesson plans for the online course this fall.  I have nearly half of my fall semester laid out, and still have three good working days ahead of me before having to return to the second semester of summer school.  This feels good, real good.  I found myself looking over a text from Goethe that I read over ten years ago that somehow has stayed with me.

The quiet lull of the evening has yielded delicious moments in the comfy chair, reading further into Moby Dick and feeling stirred by some of his religious themes.  The chapel sermon in New Bedford compelled me to lay aside the volume and do some reading from the New Testament, both from its Greek and Latin Vulgate texts.  But before I get to that, please allow me to try and express why this day of unbridled energy feels so darned good right now, even at this late hour.  A passage from Moby Dick describing the aged chaplain, Father Mapple, went straight to my core:

At the time I now write of, Father Mapple was in the hardy winter of a healthy old age; that sort of old age which seems merging into a second flowering youth, for among all the fissures of his wrinkles, there shone certain mild gleams of a newly developing bloom–the spring verdure peeping forth even beneath February’s snow.

I don’t wish to dwell on this, but I’ll at least publish this sentiment–turning sixty earlier this year bothered me.  I didn’t feel such regrets at forty or fifty, but for some reason sixty hurt.  And since that day I have been more faithful to sleep, diet, and exercise issues, but just could not seem to find any energy.  The ebbtide of life has bothered me, to put it very succinctly.  But these past three days have been different, with some measure of “newly developing bloom” and I am ebulliently grateful for that difference.  I feel more energy, more purpose, and more fulfilment in what I do, and am profoundly happy to feel that way, hoping the feeling continues.  For now, I will accept that Gift.  My soul feels the exultant cry from Melville’s text: 

Beat on, beat on, thou noble ship, and bear a hardy helm; for lo! the sun is breaking through; the clouds are rolling off–serenest azure is at hand.

For years I have been fascinated with the Prologue to The Gospel of St. John in the New Testament.  The opening verse, “In the beginning was the word” has always made me linger, taking seriously the sentiment expressed by Goethe in Faust:

‘Tis written: In the beginning was the Thought!

Consider well that line, the first you see,

That your pen may not write too hastily!

Is it then Thought that works, creative, hour by hour?

Thus should it stand: In the beginning was the Power!

Yet even while I write this word, I falter,

For something warns me, this too I shall alter.

The Spirit’s helping me!  I see now what I need

And write assured: In the beginning was the Deed!

Years ago, I was taught that the ancient Hebrews did not separate “word” from “act”, particularly in the writings of their Torah.  With that in mind, I enjoy Goethe’s meditation, connecting those two words intimately, and I have tried to apply that idea to my own personal day-to-day life of late–the word is power, because it is also act.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.




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2 Responses to “Sometimes the Days are Filled with Gods”

  1. Stephen Kirkpatrick Says:

    I very much enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing it.


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