Thursday, July 30, 2020

Joy was important in his creed

Looked into a book that I have owned for a very long time but had not read, Christ the Tiger (1967), by Thomas Howard. It is a kind of spiritual autobiography by the brother of Elisabeth Elliot. It reads very rapidly, or at least did so for me. One excerpt about a friend he made while teaching in England:
.... He was the architect who assessed the cost of repairs for the diocese. He worried me because he loved God and life at the same time. It had always been one or the other for me. When I had tried to pursue God, I had fled from life. When life began to be dazzling, I had let God slip. I would have called his voluptuous zest for life pagan except that it was not only matched by his appetite for God: it was part of it. He loved heraldry and John Donne and St. Benedict and four-centered arches and beer and the Mass and bodies and Bach with none of the usual timidity brought to these things by religious people. I had felt that there was a point at which joy becomes indecorous and that religious categories asked that one not become too enthusiastic about anything short of God, whom I understood to be a spirit. I was jarred to discover that my friend had no dichotomy in his mind between spiritual things and other things. One was to love the world and experience because God did and because one loved God. How else is one to express joy and worship but in merriment and affirmation? Joy was important in his creed. He was not a bacchant, however. He was not trying to attach a divine validity to mere license. He had a rigorous idea of goodness, but it did not seem to be fragile as mine did. It did not make him go tiptoe through life. He saw no reason to be parsimonious about joy. He was not, on the other hand, merely merry. One of his favorite expressions was “bloody hell.” He would often thrust out his jaw and frown into space in perplexity over existence. All I could get from him at these moments would be “Chaos!” ....

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