What is always marking things on a calendar and taking up projects? It is everyone’s life and I should be happy to have it as mine, but I realize it is also a reduction to the basics and offers nothing in the way of longing or joy.
There are some who say “live in the moment.” I appreciate this, but then I am of the age and station in life where the moment offers little in the way of timelessness and “longing.” I am at the point in Donne’s The Mystic Road of Love where he takes up “longing.” In my last post I contrasted Donne’s thought to that of Paul Tillich’s idea of alone-ness. Now I’m at the place where Donne speaks of love and there is little in the way of contrast with Tillich here.
I look at my calendar and see deadlines or when things are supposed to happen. There is a clear sense of time and in my work when these things are done, they are said to be “fulfilled.” There is in these matters a sense of achievement and accomplishment. My vocation is very time dependent.
That is the way of the world, but, unlike my day to day living, love is not something of the world. Tillich makes it a thing unto itself which drives us to a longing to become united with whom we belong. This sort of thing cannot be about time in the ordinary sense of the word and Donne agrees.
Like mystical experience, love is something that is in part outside of ourselves. It not so much about calendar time as a timeless time, that is it is both momentary and eternal. For this reason it is very joyous, but because it operates outside of our normal senses and points to the eternal, it is also disquieting and can only be had in momentary ways for a limited being can only handle the infinite in finite ways. Besides we do have our day to day living to contend with and that is very much about finite time.
Love is infinite, however. We know this because it seems very unreal much of the time and nothing brings us closer to perplexity. We dare not believe in it for until we open up to it, it is unreal. Yet there is something in love that makes us long to believe in the thing and to view the longing as a type of ascent. This belief can only come from outside of ourselves and the role of the mystic is to be open to such a thing.
Upon continuing my reading of Donne, I hope to delve into this idea further. I am already drawing comparisons to Otto’s The Idea of the Holy, though I doubt Donne will take it to the same places as Otto’s work reads more like theology than reflection. I am also curious as to how one who must be in the world and has others to whom they tend deals with Donne’s mystical road. I hope to reflect on that soon.