We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Eliot became a Christian in his late thirties and his poetry and plays were infused with his beliefs about faith and how that faith should impact a person. This poem which I quote above is obviously about a person finding a relationship with Jesus, and therefore, “in the end,” finding themselves for the first time.
For me, Eliot’s poetry has a haunting feature about it, because every now and then he states something in a sublime and thoughtful manner, which makes you…well…think about what he said. As Johan Bergstrom-Allen wrote, “Christian artists and writers have often had much to teach Christians about the world around them. They express the mysteries of faith in a more concise and beautiful way than many traditional theologians.” For me, this defines T.S. Eliot as a writer and as a Christian.
Here are some selections from “The Choruses from the Rock” (you can google the title if you would like to read the entire poem); read some of these verses that speak in a proverbial and profound way. In some ways, this selection might remind you of the book of Ecclesiastes–verses that you need to read a couple of times through to understand what he is attempting to say. In this sense, you can also think of Jesus speaking in parables. He wants you to really listen and not just quickly read over the words. He wants you to hear the message he is trying to speak. As the poem ends, a good question to ask yourself: Who do you think Eliot was referring to as “the Stranger?” Who is this person who knows how to ask the best questions?
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is not life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor
Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore
Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.
There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.
In: Christian Faith
Tags: Christianity, Faith, Jesus, Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot