Let me start off by saying I feel significantly better today, with just a leftover fog from the meds and sleeping a lot. Phew – what a weird siege that was. Yet even a clearer head and lack of pain won’t help me today.
Let me say for the record that I am glad we have a variety of hymns that speak to all theologies, including atheism. But it is also true that all I can come up with this morning is a smart ass thought: namely, I might be more inclined to love these atheist hymns if the tunes were more appealing. I’m finding the melodies discordant, which isn’t helping me embrace the lyrics’ (a)theologies.
I mean, this lyric, from a sonnet by 20th-century poet John Mansfield, isn’t wrong necessarily, but I guess what I find hard to understand (and this is just me talking here) is why we would want to settle for these limits. Here is all that we can know” – where’s curiosity and discovery? And I’m not sure I get how one understands the universal mind when the flesh is all we know…
Here in the flesh is all that we can know,
all beauty, all wonder, all the power,
all the unearthly colors, all the glow,
here in the self which withers like a flower.
Here in the flesh is all that we will find,
swift in the blood and throbbing in the bone,
Beauty herself, the universal mind,
eternal April wandering alone.
I know I have thoughtful atheist friends who will not like that I struggle to understand atheism and one or two who might thing I’m dismissing them. I am trying to understand, and I think I do a good job as a religious professional of making space for them and those who identify with other theologies in my work. As an individual person, just sitting here on the sofa in my pjs with my first cup of coffee, however, I struggle with it.
I also wish to quibble with the phrase “beauty herself” – argh. Beauty isn’t female, it’s a quality. A thing. An it. Grrr….
This is not a hymn I’d use unless I heard that the song, written by STLT hymnal commission member TJ Anderson, was lovely and graceful and reasonable to sing – plunking out the melody on my phone didn’t help one bit.
And because I couldn’t come up with anything for a photo, I’ve chosen a pic of Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye in Scotland (public domain).