Sunday, September 22, 2013

Letting go of the good

September 22, 2013

Dear Friends, 

Last week in thinking about entropy I referred to a bit of Tennyson that I planned to share further this week. The book containing the portion of Morte d’Arthur I referred to has yet to surface, however.

This seems to me a bit of a mystery. How could a book approximately eleven by thirteen inches, three inches thick, and weighing a full four pounds go missing in the small space of my house? The cover is red with a black back binding. I share this description so that if it turns up at your house you will recognize it and call me and I will come for it and bring it home at once.

On her part, Annie swears she has not seen the book and expresses no interest in helping me find it. From her point of view this object has little or no value, serving at best as an inferior scratching pad. At times like this, affection for Annie does not blind me to the obvious fact that she has distinctly narcissistic tendencies.

This leaves us dependent on my memory of the relevant passage.

You are likely to remember this scene from the musical Camelot: the battle is lost, the Knights of the Round Table killed or lost and scattered, and Sir Bedevere is alone with the dying King Arthur at the edge of the Lake. Sir Bedevere frantically resists Arthur’s approaching death, insisting that the good flowing from the Round Table is so significant that Arthur must not die, but must live and rebuild the Round Table to serve the common good.

In response, the dying king recalls in a bitter-sweet soliloquy  the splendor of the vision upon which the Round Table had been founded and the great deeds of its Knights. Then Arthur says, as much to himself as to Sir Bedevere, 

“The old order changes, yielding place to new, and God fulfills himself in many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world.” 

Arthur’s insight expresses powerfully the value and purpose of entropy that I am wanting us to consider together.

Change—cruelty to kindness, want to plenty, ugly to beautiful—this pattern of change we readily embrace. But change—loss of the Round Table, the death of its Knights and the chaos that came with the fall of Camelot—the change of good to apparent disintegration and destruction—this pattern of change is less easy to accept, its meaning much less straightforward for most of us. 

How is it that change of good itself is in some way necessary for good to continue? How can good unchanged "corrupt the world"?

Thinking with you that holding life—the good and the bad—with open hands is not simply necessity—it’s wisdom.

See you next week.



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