I discovered the poem “Burnt Norton” in a recent post from Brain Pickings, a blog I have really found engaging on multiple levels. So many thoughts and literary works it has brought to my attention that I have wanted to pursue. But there is so much to read, so little time, and I DO so love my Sci-Fi & Fantasy escapes.
Anyway, back to the point. Below is a bit of the poem “Burnt Norton” by T. S. Eliot which is all about Time and our perception of it, and a little about writing & poetry, and how the universe and our bit of time in it, does have an order (Logos), and that writing and poetry is our attempts to encapsulate a bit of that order, that bit of time, into our own mutable words. I need to study this poem much more, as there are parts that I don’t quite grasp but “feel”.
However, the part quoted below from the second section really grabbed me. It basically encapsulates for me what meditation is all about: that presence in the “now”, mindful of the past and future, but existing only in the current breath, yet becoming aware of everything. How “only through time time is conquered”.
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.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.
from section II of “Burnt Norton” by T. S. Eliot
And finally, this is where I think I am most of the time. Someone just riding the rails but not really present in the now, too engrossed in thoughts of “time before and time after”…
Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plentitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
from section III of “Burnt Norton” by T. S. Eliot