Friday, July 22, 2011
I just finished reading "The Cloud of Unknowing" by an anonymous author - they think an English country parson from the 14th century. It is an engaging read. At certain points the emphasis sounds odd to my ears. Or not. As with many self-help-for- contemplatives manuals, the author is very concerned that you understand the difference between God-given graces and sometimes similarly-clothed temptations that come from the Devil. Of course along with that the author is preoccupied with the dichotomy between good and evil. Seems to me this distinction is odd and unworkable in practice but beautiful in theory, in image. It is beautiful and emotional; I can understand relishing it. This whole obsession with distinguishing good from evil, on an objective level, must happen for aesthetic reasons. People think the image is ravishing. The two sides, the gaping chasm between them - the borderline drawn sharply, or hazily, the inherent dangers of misconstruing. It is so pleasing to spend time on either side, or contemplating both.
What I come out of the book most astonished by is the emphasis that everything - everything in the contemplative life - is based on holy longing. The author insists that all you need to do is desire.