“Teach us to Care and not to Care”

T.S. Elliot careWhat did T.S. Eliot mean by the phrase “Teach us to care and not to care”? It provokes us to think about what it means to care; what it costs; and what is its focus. When we exhaust ourselves with caring, and find it as a mere drop in the ocean of need, we are tempted to become cynical or uncaring.

Eliot seems to know that our condition is rather like having our wings clipped; there is a humble recognition that we need direction about knowing what to care for, how to care, and what not to care about.

Is it exhaustion? Is it wisdom? Is this the first formed prayer of a person who understands Ash Wednesday?  What ever is our condition, may we enter Lent with this prayer to be taught to care and not to care, teach us to be still:

Ash-Wednesday

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

“Written by the famous poet, T.S. Eliot, ‘Ash Wednesday‘ is often referred to as his conversion poem because it’s one of the first long poems he wrote after converting to Anglicanism, the officially established Christian Church of England. The title refers to ‘Ash Wednesday,’ the first of the forty days of Lent, which is a time for self reflection, sacrifice, and repentance in many denominations of Christianity.

The poem is divided into six sections, and it deals with the speaker’s aspiration to move from a sense of spiritual despair to spiritual salvation.

In section I (above), the speaker is set to reject all worldly things. In the first two stanzas, he rejects the hope of any fulfillment in worldly diversions, any potential for joy in existence, and acknowledges that the ‘one veritable transitory power’ is insubstantial, prone to fading away into thin air.”

Content from “study.com

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About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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