Hints and Guesses



Hints and Guesses

My favorite thought is the Incarnation.

My favorite poet (after Dylan) is T.S. Eliot.

Here is a snippet of T.S. Eliot poetry that touches on Incarnation.


Men’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.

—T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, The Dry Salvages (from stanza V)


A little analysis:

Most of us live in the past and future (memory and imagination); it’s the great saints who have the capacity to live, really live, in the present moment and recognize it for what it is: a slice of infinity. It takes a true contemplative to perceive that mere being brushes against Being (I AM). Heidegger’s Dasein. Moses’ burning bush. But only mystics are fit for that kind of contemplation. Most of us stumble upon this (if at all) through experiences of unanticipated grandeur; a shaft of sunlight, wild thyme, transcendent music. Sensessight, smell, soundevoking something deep within. These are but hints and guesses, yet if followed they can lead to the more spiritually formative observances of prayer, thought, discipline, etc. And who knows, maybe it will generate a half-guessed, half-understood encounter with the greatest wonder of all: Incarnation.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”


P.S. Analysis turns poetry into prose; it strips it of its magic and makes it, well, prosaic. Analysis reduces a poem to how it spoke in a limited way to the analyst. But it can be helpful for learning how poetry “works.” Oh, and by the way, a lot of the Bible is poetry!

The artwork is “Blue (Moby Dick)” by Jason Pollock.
Suggested soundtrack is “Perth” by Bon Iver.