I’ve been working my way through Christian Wiman’s memoir My Bright Abyss this past month. It was one of those rare random purchases, a book by an author I didn’t know but was willing to take a chance on with my Barnes & Noble gift card. It’s the sort of book you savor slowly… a wandering collection of thoughts on faith, poetry, death, and beauty compiled over a number of years, “a mosaic” more than a narrative, according to the author.
Every time I pick it up I find these little gems of quotes that I don’t want to forget, so I thought why not drop them here? Here are some sentences that have given me pause as I read. I think this is the kind of book I’ll need to take in slowly then revisit someday soon.
“Faith is not some hard, unchanging thing you cling to through the vicissitudes of life. Those who try to make it into this are destined to become brittle, shatterable creatures. Faith never grows harder, never so deviates from its nature and becomes actually destructive, than in the person who refuses to admit that faith is change.” (17)
“Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color. This is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is. But they still burn.” (19)
“The irony is that for the next two decades I would be so consumed with poetry that I would damn near forget the world. One must have devotion to be an artist… But still, just as in religious contexts, there is a kind of devotion that is, at its heart, escape.” (39-40)
“These days I am impatient with poetry that is not steeped in, marred and transfigured by, the world. By that I don’t necessarily mean poetry that has some obvious social concern or is meticulous with its descriptions, but a poetry in which you can feel that the imagination of the poet has been both charged and chastened by a full encounter with the world and other lives.” (46)
“To be innocent is to retain that space in your heart that once heard a still, small voice saying not your name so much as your nature, and the wherewithal to say again and forever your wordless but lucid, your untriumphant but absolute, yes. You must protect this space so that it can protect you.” (64)