The Still Point
- Zack Thompson
- Nov 20, 2012
- Category: General
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Last week T.S. Eliot’s second wife, Valerie, died. As the New York Times obituary has it, she steadfastly guarded his literary legacy for half a century. Not only did she guard a lifetime of poetry and prose, she also allowed for adaptation of certain works. Most notably permitting her husband’s book of poems for children called, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” to become the wildly successfully musical we all know as “Cats.” Hearing the news of his wife I conjured up one of my very favorite pieces of his writing, which comes from “The Four Quartets.” It goes like this:
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
A helpful way to interpret what you’ve just read comes from Bishop Wright’s sermon last Sunday when he offered up a wonderful image drawn from the year his daughter was a “ballerina star.” He mentioned that her teacher wisely passed on this bit of dancing wherewithal: no matter what elaborate move you are making, despite the body’s contortion, find one fixed place, and make it your center.
Yet one more image that might work is the hinge on a door. You know how it works, you open the door and it conveniently moves but the hinge remains fixed. Our Bishop helpfully recalled us to not lose sight of the center, the hinge, the still point. The still point that is far from static, or as Eliot writes, “do not call it fixity.” This still point is nothing less than the dynamic activity of Trinitarian love. As Advent makes its way, let us ponder what it might mean to trust in this dynamic and radiant still point.