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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Frederick Beuchner and Beyond Time

I have been listening to a series of lectures called "Beyond Time" given by American author/theologian Frederick Beuchner in 1981. My Dad has it on cd. In the lectures, Beuchner talks about his own lifelong quest to "understand it all" and his growing awareness, albeit unconscious, of some greater plot. In particular, he scrutinizes the changing moments in his life, most of them random, moments when, as he puts it, "from beyond time, something too precious to tell has glintered in the dust, always just out of reach, like fireflies."

Beuchner was one of my Dad's theological mentors, a teacher, writer and raconteur first, and a minister second. In fact, the lectures aren't theological, even though he touches on his own beliefs and the journey it took to come to them. His exposition of the passing of time, his celebration of mystery, of ambiguity and of contradiction resonated with me strongly. Beuchner says he was once told, 'you have a way with words'. He has an ability to craft words into beautiful, telling, deep and thoughtful images. It's a very powerful gift. Some of his observations are, to borrow one of his own expressions,"like going away presents from beyond time, to carry with us through time, to lighten our step as we go".

While nothing can substitute listening to the lectures in full, the following passages are ones that spoke to me most directly:

"Listen. Listen. Your life is happening, You are happening... A journey years long has brought each of you through thick and thin to this moment in time... think back on that journey. Listen back to the sounds and sweet airs of your journey that give delight and hurt not, and to those that give no delight and hurt like hell: Be not afeared. The music of your life is subtle and illusive, and like no other, not a song with words, but a song without words, a singing chattering, hammering music, to gladden the heart or bring tears to the eyes, to haunt you perhaps with echoes of a vaster farther music of which it is part... Sometimes you avoid listening for fear of what you may hear, sometimes for fear that you may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of your feet on the pavement. But be not afeared... Be not afraid."

Beuchner ends the lecture with the following paragraph:

"The way we have to go is full of perils from without and from within. And who can say for sure what we will find at the end of our journey... Faith, Hope and Love, those three, our going away presents from beyond time, to carry with us through time, to lighten our step as we go...
Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders... In the long run, nothing, not even a world, not even ourselves, can separate us from that last, and deepest love that glimmers in our dark... like a pearl... like a face."

Spectacular insights. The skillful delivery of a brutal truth that raps at the shell of our existence, threatening to break in and cause havoc.

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