The way through the world
Is more difficult to find than the way beyond it.
— Wallace Stevens, “Reply To Papini”
“It’s one thing to develop a nostalgia for home while you’re boozing with Yankee writers in Martha’s Vineyard or being chased by the bulls in Pamplona. It’s something else to go home and visit with the folks in Reed’s drugstore on the square and actually listen to them. The reason you can’t go home again is not because the down-home folks are mad at you–they’re not, don’t flatter yourself, they couldn’t care less–but because once you’re in orbit and you return to Reed’s drugstore on the square, you can stand no more than fifteen minutes of the conversation before you head for the woods, head for the liquor store, or head back to Martha’s Vineyard, where at least you can put a tolerable and saving distance between you and home. Home may be where the heart is but it’s no place to spend Wednesday afternoon.”
— Walker Percy, “Lost In The Cosmos”
I’m the guy who can spend all morning thinking about the Beyond — ideas, I mean, and events in world that was or in the world to come. But I have no idea what to do with myself when there’s no book, or somebody to talk to about the things I read in books.
The thing is, for the Christian, Wallace Stevens’ distinction is only apparent; getting to our particular Beyond — heaven, a state of eternal blessedness in the presence of God — depends on how one gets through the Here And Now. Yet Stevens’s distinction is important, even vital, because too often, Christians, especially Christian intellectuals, live as if the faith was about ideas, and how we relate to ideas in our own minds. Thinking about God is not the same thing as being with God, and in God.
This is my problem. Everydayness is my problem. It’s easy to think about what you would do in wartime, or if a hurricane blows through, or if you spent a month in Paris, or if your guy wins the election, or if you won the lottery or bought that thing you really wanted. It’s a lot more difficult to figure out how you’re going to get through today without despair.