Friday, May 12, 2017

Peace: Strife

Poet, author, lawyer William Alexander Percy (1885-1942) of Greenville, Mississippi wrote about life and growing up on the Mississippi Delta. His autobiography Lanterns on the Delta has been reviewed as “a slow read allowing time for contemplation. Perfect reading in a chair beside the fireplace, a bed placed near a window, or just recovering from whatever life has thrown at you.” My connection to Percy is loving his poem "The Peace of God" in our hymnal #661, though I preferred the more moving tune we sang from the Lutheran hymnal when I was at seminary decades ago. 

The peace of God is a haunting notion. All Thursday afternoon and evening, indeed thrown at by life, I searched my mind in vain for a time of peace to refuge in for a while. Percy’s hymn came to mind and, googling him online, I discovered his book, read a review, and ordered it (very good, $5.99 free shipping Amazon 1-click) for the hope of peace somewhere in his nostalgia. And wondering where peace might be for me short of walking down the street to My Laughing Place, where my house, the old homestead, is still for sale. 
Peace would only be a memory, a place where life was neither hurtful nor threatening nor worrisome, and perhaps young. But peace didn't come. Perhaps it never was even in dreams or daydreams. 
They cast their nets in Galilee
Just off the hills of brown
Such happy simple fisherfolk
Before the Lord came down

Contented peaceful fishermen
Before they ever knew
The peace of God That fill’d their hearts
Brimful and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
Homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
Head-down was crucified.

The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod,
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing–
The marvelous peace of God.

This morning to, during, and from the walk I contemplated on. And peace comes. Peace comes after all. Peace comes only in tiny bits, segments, short bursts, the last and smallest but nevertheless slice of coconut cream pie, but it comes if I am compassionate with myself and patient. Peace: 3:16 p.m. walking home from Cove School, along Hamilton Avenue, a dirt road, and no homework. The last minutes of the last day of school before summer vacation. Autumn Saturday morning in New England, riding the ferry across Narragansett Bay to Jamestown where the old green Dodge waits parked at the Landing. Afternoon at the jetties lying on the beach with a girl after my last final exam at Bay High. A morning early in third grade, walking the other way, toward school with my second grade teacher Mrs. Riggell and telling her, "We're doing something new in arithmetic." "Multiplication?" she asks me. "No mam," says I, correcting her innocently, "multiply." She was special, grandmotherly not witchly. And Mrs. Watson and Miss Virginia Parker. Peace: first thing after lunch, Miss Parker opening Gone With the Wind  to read a chapter aloud to us. Michigan professor distributes graded term papers that morning, asking, "Thomas Weller?" he hands me mine marked A+. It was a different day and age and I'd constructed Senator John Stennis and Governor Ross Barnett taking their oft vaunted and boasted "sovereign state of Mississippi" out of the Union to become an independent nation. Homiletics professor in the severe critique after my preached sermon, "It was extraordinary." Bill Weeks returning graded exams that afternoon in World History, saying as he hands me mine, "A stomp down good'un." Saturday morning sailing on Guantanamo Bay with Don Senese and a washtub of iced down Heineken. Poems and dreams haunting, and peace, fleeting, peace that may only come longer than an instant when there is no more waking.

Sunset at PB407. Moonset at 7H.


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