Friday, December 31, 2021

Where and what is the image of God?

The intention is not to identify “the image and likeness” with a particular quality or attribute of man, such as reason, speech, power, or skill. It does not refer to something which in later systems was called “the best in man," “the divine spark,” “the eternal spirit,” or “the immortal element" in man. It is the whole man and every man who was made in the image and likeness of God. It is both body and soul, sage and tool, saint and sinner, man in his joy and in his grief, in his righteousness and wickedness. The image is not in man; it is man.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 369

Thought for the year

But if someone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but refuses to help—how can the love of God dwell in a person like that?

Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence. 1 John 3:17–19 CEB

<idle musing>
A good thought to start the year. Love isn't a feeling; it's a verb.

See you next year!
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 30, 2021

The starting point matters

Man is man not because of what he has in common with the earth but because of what he has in common with God. The Greek thinkers sought to understand man as a part of the universe: the prophets sought to understand man as a partner of God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 369

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

But which god?

In many religions, man is regarded as an image of a god. Yet the meaning of such regard depends on the meaning of the god whom man resembles. If the god is regarded as a man magnified, if the gods are conceived of in the image of man, then such regard tells us little about the nature and destiny of man. Where God is one among many gods, where the word “divine” is used as mere hyperbolic expression, where the difference between God and man is but a difference in degree, then an expression such as “the divine image of man” is equal in meaning to the idea of the supreme in man. It is only in the light of what the biblical man thinks of God—namely, a Being who created heaven and earth, the God of justice and compassion, the master of nature and history who transcends nature and history—that the idea of man having been created in the image of God refers to the supreme mystery of man, of his nature and existence.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 368

Tuesday, December 28, 2021


The creation of man, however, is preceded by a forecast. “And God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The act of man’s creation is preceded by an utterance of His intention; God’s knowledge of man precedes man’s coming into being. God knows him before He creates him. Man’s being is rooted in his being known about. It is the creation of man that opens a glimpse into the thought of God, into the meaning beyond the mystery.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 367

Monday, December 27, 2021


Do souls become dust? Does spirit turn to ashes? How can souls, capable of creating immortal words, immortal works of thought and art, be completely dissolved, vanish forever?

Others may counter: The belief that man may have a share in eternal life is not only beyond proof; it is even presumptuous. Who could seriously maintain that members of the human species, a class of mammals, will attain eternity? What image of humanity is presupposed by the belief in immortality?

Indeed, man's hope for eternal life presupposes that there is something about man that is worthy of eternity, that has some affinity to what is divine, that is made in the likeness of the divine.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 367

Thursday, December 23, 2021

What is death?

A valid question in a year where Covid has claimed nearly a million victims in the US alone. Abraham Joshua Heschel looks at death in the final essay in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays:
Death is grim, harsh, cruel, a source of infinite grief. Our first reaction is consternation. We are stunned and distraught. Slowly, our sense of dismay is followed by a sense of mystery. Suddenly a whole life has veiled itself in secrecy. Our speech stops, our understanding fails. In the presence of death there is only silence, and a sense of awe.

Is death nothing but an obliteration, an absolute negation? The view of death is affected by our understanding of life. If life is sensed as a surprise, as a gift, defying explanation, then death ceases to be a radical, absolute negation of what life stands for. For both life and death are aspects of a greater mystery, the mystery of being, the mystery of creation. Over and above the preciousness of particular existence stands the marvel of its being related to the infinite mystery of being or creation.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 366

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The wonder of it all!

There is no word in biblical Hebrew for doubt; there are many words for wonder. Just as in dealing with judgments our starting point is doubt, so in dealing with reality our starting point is wonder. The biblical man never questions the reality of the world around him. He never asks whether the rivers, mountains, and stars are only apparitions. His sense of the mind-surpassing grandeur of reality prevented the power of doubt from setting up its own independent dynasty. Doubt is an act in which the mind confronts its own ideas; wonder is an act in which the mind confronts the mystery of the universe. Radical skepticism is the outgrowth of conceit and subtle arrogance. Yet there was no conceit in the prophets and no arrogance in the psalmist.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 363–64

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Worthy of adoration? Hardly!

Is the cosmos an object worthy of our adoration? The Bible's answer is: No! The whole world utters adoration; the whole world worships Him. Join all things in their song to Him. The world’s beauty and power are as naught compared to Him. The mystery is only the beginning.

Beyond the mystery is God.

The biblical man sees nature not in isolation but in relation to God. “At the beginning God created heaven and earth.” These few words set forth the contingency and absolute dependence of all of reality. What, then, is reality? To the Western man, it is a thing in itself; to the biblical man, it is a thing through God. Looking at a thing his eyes see not so much form, color, force, and motion as an act of God. It is a way of seeing which has fortunately not vanished from the world.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 361–62 (emphasis original)

Monday, December 20, 2021

Here and now

What is so wondrous about the world? What is there in reality that evokes supreme awe in the hearts of men? In his great vision Isaiah perceives the voice of the seraphim even before he hears the voice of the Lord. What is it that the seraphim reveal to Isaiah? “The whole earth is full of His glory” (6:3). It is proclaimed not as a messianic promise but as a present fact. Man may not sense it, but the seraphim announce it. It is not to Isaiah only that this fact is the essential part of his revelation. Ezekiel, too, when the heavens were opened by the river Chebar, hears the voice of a great rushing, while cherubim cry, “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place” (3:12).—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 359

Saturday, December 18, 2021

It's coming…

1 Hey, powerful person!
Why do you brag about evil?
God’s faithful love lasts all day long.
2 Your tongue devises destruction:
it’s like a sharpened razor, causing deception.
3 You love evil more than good;
you love lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
4 You love all destructive words;
you love the deceiving tongue.

5 But God will take you down permanently;
he will snatch you up,
tear you out of your tent,
and uproot you from the land of the living! Selah
6 The righteous will see and be in awe;
they will laugh at those people:
7 “Look at them! They didn’t make God their refuge.
Instead, they trusted in their own great wealth.
They sought refuge in it—to their own destruction!” Ps 52 (CEB)

Let the reader understand!

Friday, December 17, 2021

The world and what we see

What have Job, Agur, Ecclesiastes discovered in their search? They have discovered that the existence of the world is a most mysterious fact. Referring not to miracles, to startling phenomena, but to the natural order of things, they insist that the world of the known is a world unknown, of hiddenness, of mystery. Not the apparent but the hidden is the apparent; not the order but the mystery of the order that prevails in the universe is what man is called upon to behold. The prophet [Isaiah], like Job and Agur, alludes to a reality that discredits our wisdom, that shatters our knowledge.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 358

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Power, Loveliness, or Grandeur. Which will it be?

There are three aspects of nature that command man’s attention: power, loveliness, grandeur. Power he exploits, loveliness he enjoys, grandeur fills him with awe. It is according to how deeply man is drawn to one of these aspects that his particular way of knowledge is developed. Western knowledge of the last four centuries may be characterized by the famous principle of Bacon: Knowledge is power. The goal of that knowledge is neither to portray the beauty nor to convey the grandeur of the world, but to exploit its resources. Man, proud to be Homo faber, regards the world as a source of satisfaction of his needs. He is willing to define his essence as “a seeker after the greatest degree of comfort for the least necessary expenditure of energy.” His hero is the technician rather than the artist, the philosopher, or the prophet. Out of such a system of knowledge it is hard to find a way to the reality of God. Nature as power is a world that does not point beyond itself. It is when nature is sensed as mystery and grandeur that it calls upon us to look beyond it. Similarly, when nature is sensed as beauty, we become infatuated by her grace and look to her for answers to problems she is incapable of giving. It is when nature is sensed as mystery and grandeur that we discover that nature herself is the problem.

Significantly, the theme of biblical poetry is not the charm or beauty of nature; it is the sublime aspect of nature which is constantly referred to.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 355–56 (emphasis original)

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Let's put first things first for a change

The dogmas are merely a catalogue, an indispensable index [of religion]. For religion is more than a creed or an ideology and cannot be understood when detached from actual living. It comes to light in moments in which one’s soul is shaken with unmitigated concern about the meaning of all meaning, about one’s ultimate commitment, which is integrated with one’s very existence; in moments in which all foregone conclusions, all life-stilling trivialities are suspended, in which the soul is starved for an inkling of eternal reality; in moments of discerning the indestructibly sudden within the perishably constant.

Thus the issue which must be discussed first is not belief, ritual, or the religious experience but the source of these phenomena: the total situation of man; not what or how he experiences the supernatural, but why he experiences and accepts it. What necessitates religion in my life and yours.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 354

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

To dream in league with God

At the beginning of all action is an inner vision in which things to be are experienced as real. Prayer, too, is frequently an inner vision, an intense dreaming for God—the reflection of the divine intentions in the soul of man. We dream of a time “when the world will be perfected under the Kingdom of God, and all the children of flesh will call upon Thy name, when Thou wilt turn unto Thyself all the wicked of the earth." We anticipate the fulfillment of the hope shared by both God and man. To pray is to dream in league with God, to envision His holy visions.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 353

<idle musing>
I've spent a good deal of time in this essay; I've probably posted two-thirds or more of it online. I hope it moved you as much as it has me. In my opinion, this essay shows Heschel at his best. He exemplifies the deep yearning of humanity for intimacy with God, yet he also reflects the hesitancy we feel to approach the throne of grace.

Because he wasn't a Christian, he didn't have the same assurances that Christians have, but I daresay he knew God better than most Christians do! We have the assurance that we can "boldly approach the throne of grace," as Hebrews puts it. Yet, we rarely do it. We're too enamored by the mere triffles of living in the twenty-first century post-modern, social media-saturated, materialistic (in the metaphysical as well as physical senses) world. We are practicing atheists.

May we repent and believe the good news of God's presence before it is too late!
</idle musing>

Monday, December 13, 2021

What is prayer? (part 2)

Prayer is spiritual ecstasy. It is as if all our vital thoughts in fierce ardor should burst the mind to stream toward God. A keen single force draws our yearning for the utmost out of the seclusion of the soul. We try to see our visions in His light, to feel our life as His affair. We begin by letting the thought of Him engage our minds, by realizing His name and entering into a reverie which leads through beauty and stillness, from feeling to thought, and from understanding to devotion. For the coins of prayer bear the image of God's dreams and wishes for fear-haunted man.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 353

Friday, December 10, 2021

What is prayer?

The main ends of prayer are to move God, to let Him participate in our lives, and to interest ourselves in Him. What is the meaning of praise if not to make His concern our own? Worship is an act of inner agreement with God. We can petition Him for things we need only when we are sure of His sympathy for us. To praise is to feel God’s concern; to petition is to let Him feel our concern. In prayer we establish a living contact with God, between our concern and His will, between despair and promise, want and abundance. We affirm our adherence by invoking His love.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 353

Thursday, December 09, 2021

The dignity of humanity

The privilege of praying is man’s greatest distinction. For what is there in man to induce reverence, to make his life sacred and his rights inalienable? The possession of knowledge, wealth, or skill does not compose the dignity of man. A person possessing none of these gifts may still lay claim to dignity. Our reverence for man is aroused by something in him beyond his own and our reach, something that no one can deprive him of. It is his right to pray, his ability to worship, to utter the cry that can reach God: “If they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry.”—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 352–53

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

The folly of life

What is pride worth if it does not add to the glory of God? We forfeit our dignity when we abandon loyalty to what is sacred; our existence dwindles to trifles. We barter life for oblivion and pay the price of toil and pain in the pursuit of aimlessness. Only concern for our inalienable share in the unknown holds our inner life together. It enables us to grasp the utopia of faith, to divine what is desirable to God, aspiring to be, not only a part of nature, but a partner of God. The sacred is a necessity in our lives, and prayer is born of this necessity. Through prayer we sanctify ourselves, our feelings, our ideas. Everyday things become sacred when prayed for to God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 352

<idle musing>
In keeping with yesterday's comment about why we don't pray, Heschel addresses it today. And truly, we have bartered our lives away for mere bobbles and trifles. Believing the lie that material wealth is a satisfactory substitute for spiritual wealth. Yet, God still calls us to participate in a life full of meaning when lived with him. Indeed, "Everyday things become sacred when prayed for to God."
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Loneliness that leads to prayer

The thirst for companionship, which drives us so often into error and adventure, indicates the intense loneliness from which we suffer. We are alone even with our friends. The smattering of understanding which a human being has to offer is not enough to satisfy our need of sympathy. Human eyes can see the foam, but not the seething at the bottom. In the hour of greatest agony we are alone. It is such a sense of solitude which prompts the heart to seek the companionship of God. He alone can know the motives of our actions; He alone can be truly trusted. Prayer is confidence, unbosoming oneself to God. For man is incapable of being alone. His incurable, inconsolable loneliness forces him to look for things yet unattained, for people yet unknown. He often runs after a sop, but soon retires discontented from all false or feeble companionship. Prayer may follow such retirement.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 352

<idle musing>
He sure pegged modern society, didn't he? We're surrounded by social media, yet we have a flood of loneliness and depression. But we won't turn to God in prayer. Why? Pride? Ignorance? Sense of unworthiness?

Yet, if we cast aside all those, we find that God welcomes us with open arms. That's Good News!
</idle musing>

Monday, December 06, 2021

Prayer, again/still

[A story] told in Sefer Hasidim, concerns a young shepherd who was unable to read the Hebrew prayers. The only way in which he worshipped God was to say: “O Lord, I should like to pray, but I cannot read Hebrew. There is only one thing I can do for you——if you would give me your sheep, I would take care of them for nothing." One day a learned man passing by heard the shepherd pronounce his offer and shouted at him: “You are blasphemous!” He told the boy that he should read the daily Hebrew prayers instead of uttering irreverent words. When the shepherd told him that he could not read Hebrew, he took him to his house and began to teach him to read the prayerbook. One night the learned man had a dream in which he was told that there was great sadness in heaven because the young shepherd had ceased to say his usual prayer. He was commanded to advise the boy to return to his old way of praying.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 351

Saturday, December 04, 2021


Just read an interesting essay by William J. Abraham, discussing his four-volume work, Divine Agency and Divine Action (Oxford University Press, 2017–2021). This statement jumped out at me:
Theologians in the modern period have fussed at length about the justification of their commitments. Hence, the long sections on divine revelation and authority of scripture that detain them at the beginning. As a result, God can become sidelined. We are so preoccupied with knowing how we know God that we cease to know God for ourselves.
YMMV on the rest of the essay; it is interesting, but something I have to admit I'm not terribly interested in right now...

Friday, December 03, 2021

The form matters not

Is it the outburst of eloquence which makes the Infinite listen to our feeble voice? Prayer is not a sermon delivered to God. Essential in prayer is the intention, not the technical skill. ln oratory, as in any other work of art, we endeavor to lend an adequate form to an idea; we apply all our care to adjusting the form to the content. But prayer is almost pure content; the form is unimportant. It makes no difference whether we stammer or are eloquent. We can concentrate entirely on our inner devotion.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 351

Thursday, December 02, 2021

In praise of liturgical prayers

The ability to express what is hidden in the heart is a rare gift and cannot be counted upon by all men. What, then, makes it possible for us to pray is our ability to affiliate our own minds with the pattern of fixed texts, to unlock our hearts to the words, and to surrender to their meanings. For words are not dead tools but living entities full of spiritual power. The power of words often surpasses the power of our minds. The word is often the giver, and man the recipient. Thus man submits to the words. They inspire his mind and awaken his heart. We do not turn the light of prayer on and off at will, as we control sober speculation; we are seized by the overwhelming spell of His name. It is amazement, not understanding; awe, not reasoning; a challenge, a sweep of emotion, the tide of a mood, an identification of our wills with the living will of God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 350

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Take the invitation

Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives, to let His will prevail in our affairs; it is the opening of a window to Him in our will, an effort to make Him the Lord of our soul. We submit our interests to His concern and seek to be allied with what is ultimately right. Our approach to the holy is not an intrusion but an answer. Between the dawn of childhood and the door of death, man encounters things and events out of which comes a whisper of truth, not much louder than stillness, but exhorting and persistent. Yet man listens to his fears and his whims, rather than to the soft petitions of God. The Lord of the universe is suing for the favor of man, but man fails to realize his own importance. It is the disentanglement of our heart from cant, bias, and ambition, the staying in of the bulk of stupid conceit, the cracking of hollow self-reliance, that enables us to respond to this request for our service.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 349

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Strive for that one instant!

The focus of prayer is not the self. A man may spend hours meditating about himself, or be stirred by the deepest sympathy for his fellow man, and no prayer will come to pass. Prayer comes to pass in a complete turning of the heart toward God, toward His goodness and power. It is the momentary disregard of our personal concerns, the absence of self-centered thoughts, which constitute the act of prayer. Feeling becomes prayer in the moment in which we forget ourselves and become aware of God. When we analyze the consciousness of a supplicant, we discover that it is not concentrated upon his own interests but on something beyond the self. The thought of personal need is absent, and the thought of divine grace alone is present in his mind. Thus, in beseeching Him for bread, there is one instant, at least, in which our mind is directed neither to our hunger nor to food but to His mercy. This instant is prayer.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 348–49 (emphasis original)

Friday, November 26, 2021

Thoughts on the "metaverse"

So Facebook has renamed itself Meta and is dumping vast amounts of money into the metaverse. I'm reminded of the 1909 short story "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster. You can read a plot summary on the wiki here. Because it is out of copyright, you can read the complete short story here. It's a mere 25 pages and well worth your time.

Here's a portion of the last couple of pages, which is loaded with good theology as a mother and son are faced with the collapse of everything they know:

They wept for humanity, those two, not for themselves. They could not bear that this should be the end. Ere silence was completed their hearts were opened, and they knew what had been important on the earth. Man, the flower of all flesh, the noblest of all creatures visible, man who had once made god in his image, and had mirrored his strength on the constellations, beautiful naked man was dying, strangled in the garments that he had woven. Century after century had he toiled, and here was his reward. Truly the garment had seemed heavenly at first, shot with colours of culture, sewn with the threads of self-denial. And heavenly it had been so long as it was a garment and no more, man could shed it at will and live by the essence that is his soul, and the essence, equally divine, that is his body. The sin against the body—it was for that they wept in chief; the centuries of wrong against the muscles and the nerves, and those five portals by which we can alone apprehend—glozing it over with talk of evolution, until the body was white pap, the home of ideas as colourless, last sloshy stirrings of a spirit that had grasped the stars.
Dystopian? Yes, but with a nice snippet of hope in there, too. Read the whole thing to find the hope I'm talking about.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

It might start there, but…

For neither the lips nor the brain is the limit of the scene on which prayer takes place. Speech and devotion are functions auxiliary to a metaphysical process. Common to all men who pray is the certainty that prayer is an act which makes the heart audible to God. Who would pour his most precious hopes into a deaf abyss? Essential is the metaphysical rather than the psychical dimension of prayer. Prayer is not a thought that rambles alone in the world but an event that starts in man and ends in God. What goes on in our heart is a humble preliminary to an event in God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 347

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

Monday, November 22, 2021

It's more than the will…

But prayer goes beyond the scope of emotion; it is the approach of the human to the transcendent. Prayer makes man a relative to the sublime, initiating him into the mystery. The will, at times, is an outsider to the sanctuary of the soul. It ushers in great things, but does not always control them. The will to pray opens the gates, but what enters is not its product. The will is not a creative but an auxiliary power, the servant of the soul. Creative forces may be discharged, but not engendered, by the will. Thus, inclination to pray is not prayer. Deeper forces and qualities of the soul must be mobilized before prayer can be accomplished. To pray is to pull oneself together, to pour our perception, volition, memory, thought, hope, feeling, dreams, all that is moving in us, into one tone. Not the words we utter, the service of the lips, but the way in which it is performed, the devotion of the heart to what the words contain, the consciousness of speaking under His eyes, is the pith of prayer.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 347

<idle musing>
And that's why just saying "my thoughts and prayers are with you" falls short. That's the will to prayer, but not the actual substance. The actual substance is throwing the whole body, mind, and soul into it. And that can be hard at times. It's easier to go through the motions, but far less rewarding and satisfying, as tomorrow's excerpt will talk about.
</idle musing>

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Persian Inscriptions: Abbreviations

I thought I had bookmarked a site with a listing of Persian inscription abbreviations, but alas, no.

Anyway, here's the basic rule: "The standard siglum for Old Persian royal inscriptions is by initial letter of the king’s name, letter for the location, and lowercase letter for the order of its discovery; thus, DNa stands for Darius (I), Naqš-ī Rustam, first inscription." (Political Memory in and after the Persian Empire, vii). While this is good information, is doesn't help much, does it?

But, has a nice listing, which is the one I thought I had bookmarked.

Table of contents for copyediting stuff.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Prayer without works is…

To most people, thinking is a thing that grows in the hothouse of logic, separated from the atmosphere of character and of everyday living. They consider it possible for a man to be unscrupulous and yet to write well about righteousness. Others may disagree with this view. However, all of us, mindful of the ancient distinction between lip service and the service of the heart, agree that prayer is not a hothouse plant of temples but a shoot that grows in the soil of life, springing from widespread roots hidden in all our needs and deeds. Vicious needs, wicked deeds, felt or committed today, are like rot cankering the roots of tomorrow's prayer. A hand used in crime is an ax laid to the roots of worship.» It is as Isaiah said: “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; Yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.” Life is fashioned by prayer, and prayer is the quintessence of life.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 346–47

Thursday, November 18, 2021

What's the purpose of prayer

Prayer is not thinking. To the thinker, God is an object; to the man who prays, He is the subject. Awaking in the presence of God, our aim is not to acquire objective knowledge but to deepen the mutual allegiance of man and God. What we want is not to know Him but to be known to Him; not to form judgments about Him but to be judged by Him; not to make the world an object of our mind but to let it come to His attention, to augment His, rather than our knowledge. We endeavor to disclose ourselves to the Sustainer of all, rather than to enclose the world in ourselves.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 346

<idle musing>
Sorry for the hiatus; I'm a trifle busy right now and don't have a lot of time for leisurely reading. But, I decided to carve out a few minutes every day for Heschel.

While I might quibble with some of what he says here, I think that on the whole, he is correct. Prayer isn't about us! It's about God. I read somewhere the other day that Mother Theresa was once asked how she prayed. She replied, "I listen." The questioner then asked what God said. She replied, "He listens." After a pause, she continued, "And if you don't understand what that means, I can't explain it." Yep.
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The order of the elements in a bibliography

I don't know about anybody else—well, that's not quite true—but I never was very clear about what order stuff is supposed to appear in the bibliography. Does the edition precede the editor (I've seen it that way)? Does the edition precede the translator (I've seen it that way)? Where does the series name/number go?

I asked a fellow copyeditor one time, and they replied that my question made their head swim! That was encouraging, because I thought I was alone in it.

In cases like that, I turn to the basics: CMS17 and SBLHS2. Being lazy, I perused all the examples—multiple times. I should have been rereading the text, because the answer was right in front of me, in SBLHS2 §6.1.1. Sequence of Information. Can't get much clearer than that, can it?

So, what is that sequence (remember, for bibliographies; footnotes play fast and loose with the page number location and only list all the authors/editors if they are 3 or fewer; otherwise, et al.)?

Author/Editor (last, first, Author2 [first last], Author3 [first last], etc.). "Title of article." Pages xx–xx in Title of book. Edited by Editor 1 (and Editor 2, etc.). Translated by Person. X ed. x vols. Series Name x/xx. City (State): Publisher, xxxx.
If there is more than one publisher, then a semicolon separates them:
Fribourg; Presses Universitaires; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, xxxx.

Some are more complicated, but you get the idea. Perusing the examples with this as a foundation will hopefully keep you (and me) from getting too confused.

We're all libertarians now

Have you noticed lately how many people are claiming, "It's my body!" in answer to why they are or aren't doing something, be it vaccines or abortions?

Isn't it ironic that both left and right are claiming the same thing—but for different things?

The right claims "It's my body!" when they don't want to wear a mask or get a vaccine.

The left claims "It's my body!" when it comes to abortion rights.

But what if they are both wrong?

I know that's sounds like heresy in our culture, where individual rights are sacrosanct. But, think for a minute. What if the body politic has a say? What if we consider the common good for a minute?

When was the last time you heard someone talk about the common good?

Yep, we are all libertarians now...

Just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Managing bibliographies, part 1

After a bit of a hiatus, more on copyediting. In this post, I'm showing you a system that works for me. Others use other systems, but I found this to be the simplest and haven't found it necessary to modify in over five years now.

Bibliographies are the one area where the style guides diverge the most. For this post, I'm assuming SBLHS2, with the amendments from their blog as necessary.

For the example here, I am using a bibliography from a collection of essays, so the bibliography is only for one chapter. That both simplifies and complicates things, but the principles are the same.

I always start with the bibliography when I edit. It makes sense to get that checked and fixed first. Otherwise, if you edit the chapter first, any errors you find in the bibliography will need to be corrected on stuff you've already done. When you are paid by the page, which I usually am, that's costing you money—and causing more stress to hit the deadline.

Before I start, I create a separate file with the bibliography and name it Chapter# Working Bibliography, so in this example, the file is 20_Working_Bibliography.docx. For chapters below ten, I use a leading zero to keep them sorted properly, so 07_Working_Bibliography.docx, etc.

I check every bibliography entry for accuracy using WorldCat for books, and Google search for articles. When WorldCat results seem contradictory, I try to find the publisher's website. Whatever you do, don't rely on Amazon's listings; they are notoriously error-ridden, just ask any publisher!

For articles, a Google search will usually show you an or some other web despository, which is really nice, because they usually have the original document. Barring that, another gold is a book reference. If the Google book reference disagrees with your entry, try a different book. In cases of disagreement, if I can't find the original, I go with the best two out of three or three out of four. If it is a mess everywhere, I put an author query on it for them to check.

The next problem is how to keep track of short forms and to prevent a full entry twice or only a short entry. And, most importantly, when an author has been referenced in the body text, so you don't use their first name twice. The following example is what works for me. Your mileage may vary! Note that for this bibliography, I had to create it from the footnotes, so their are no em-dashes for multiple entries of the same author. When I copy it into the chapter at the end, I fix that. But it is handy for creating a sorted combined bibliography (I'll talk about that in a future post—consistency in multiple author volumes is a big concern).

This is from chapter 20. The "20." at the beginning of an entry means it has been referenced once. The underlined portion means that it has been referenced by that short form later in the chapter. The asterisk means that they have been referenced by first name in the body text.

After editing the chapter, I always check to make sure everything in the bibliography has been referenced. Because there is the chapter number at the beginning of the entry, it is easy to scan down the page. I usually enter it as a search term to highlight it, making it easier to see.

If an entry doesn't have a number in front, I do a search on the chapter to confirm it is missing. If it is, I either mark it with a query, or if instructed by the publisher, delete it from the chapter bibliography. I always leave it in my working bibliography! Very few publishers allow uncited entries in the bibliography, but sometimes they will allow a "Related Works" or "Further Reading" section, which is why I keep the original intact. (It's also fun to see how much an author "pads" their bibliography—expecially if it is a revised dissertation. The highest percentage I've ever seen is 25 percent. Most come in around 2–3 percent.)

Here's the table of contents for all the copyediting stuff.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Musings on clicking through on a link

The other day, I chased a Tech Radar link on how much sleep you need. I know that they say your sleep needs change as you get older—and I've experienced that several different times in my life. So, I was wondering what the latest research was.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post; I might come back to that some other time. The point of this one is that the link didn't really say much of anything; it was more a glorified advertisement, with the whole thing building up to the products they were plugging at the end, and for which I'm sure they get a nice commission.

No surprises there; that's only too common these days. Gotta keep the lights (and servers) on somehow!

But how they did it was what I found interesting. First graphic: An older Asian couple sleeping in a bed. Second graphic: A thirty-something guy w/longish hair and the short, neatly trimmed beard that is stylish. Third graphic: A lesbian couple sleeping together. Fourth graphic: A thirty-something woman walking along a paved path with fall-colored leaves.

It was almost like they were keeping a checklist of things to cover. They know their main clientele will be somewhat "woke" middle-to-upper-middle class thirty-something, white people, so they want to cover the bases. I suspect the Asian couple was chosen instead of a POC couple to show they were against the anti-Asian attitudes that Covid caused to rise to the surface. The lesbian couple was to show that they are not homophobic. And we have to have the good-looking white guy and the woman walking outside to glue it together for their clientele.

Am I being overly cynical here? Maybe. But I doubt it. To paraphrase Jesus in John, "He didn't need anyone to tell him what goes on in a marketer's mind, for he knew." I've worked in marketing a long time. Rule one: Know your clientele. Rule two: Don't piss them off. Rule three: Show that you sympathize with their concerns (or at least pretend that you do!). Rule four: Get them to buy.

Just an
</idle musing>

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Theology affects politics

Today’s David French column contained these two sentences that, to me anyway, show why people have decided that “the other side” isn’t just wrong, but is sinfully wrong:
“Rulers can be actively malevolent, but they can also simply be wrong. Our fallibility is part of our fallen nature.”
No! No! No! A thousand times No! Fallibility is part of our createdness. We could be wrong without any fall (whatever that means). Being wrong simply means we aren’t omniscient! Now, add our sinful tendencies into that wrongness, and you have a problem. But, to assume that the wrongness in and of itself is sinful, well, that’s imputing to the other side guilt—and allowing you to feel you have the right to correct them mercilessly… Or at least that’s how I see it this Sunday morning.

Of course, I could be wrong, but if so, is that sinful? Or simply the result of being a created being? I say it is only sinful/fallen if I malevolently hang onto it in the face of evidence otherwise. Mark the word malevolently in bold in your mind.

Just an
</idle musing>

Friday, October 29, 2021


God is not alone when discarded by man. But man is alone. To avoid prayer constantly is to dig a gap between man and God which can widen into an abyss. But sometimes, awakening on the edge of despair to weep, and arising from forgetfulness, we feel how yearning moves in softly to become the lord of a restless breast, and we pass over the gap with the lightness of a dream.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 346

<idle musing>
Funny how that works, isn't it? We let go and cease striving, letting God do it and voila! It happens.

Scary and yet reassuring thought—at least to me. I like to have my ducks in a row, even though I know I can't get everything right. But when things go totally haywire, and in my despair cry out to God, suddenly things change. Maybe they don't get better the way I wanted them to be, but by crying out to God, I acknowledge my own limitedness and find release. I'm not God, and wasn't created to be God. I'm not supposed to bear all that strain. By acknowledging that, I release myself to him, and " pass over the gap with the lightness of a dream."
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

A shadow of a person

The man who betrays Him day after day, drunk with vanity, resentment, or reckless ambition, lives in a ghostly mist of misgivings. Having ruined love with greed, he is still wondering about the lack of tenderness. His soul contains a hiding place for an escaping conscienee. He has torn his ties to God into shreds of shrieking dread, and his ear is dull and callous. Spoiler of his own lot, he walks the earth a skeleton of a soul, raving about missed delight.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 345-46

<idle musing>
He missed a line: "And he blames God for it." Other than that, right on the money.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A career worth having!

Prayer is like the light from a burning glass in which all the rays that emanate from the soul are gathered to a focus. There are hours when we are resplendent with the glowing awareness of our share in His secret interests on earth. We pray. We are carried forward to Him who is coming close to us. We endeavor to divine His will, not merely His command. Prayer is an answer to God: “Here am I. And this is the record of my days. Look into my heart, into my hopes and my regrets.” We depart in shame and joy. Yet prayer never ends, for faith endows us with a bold craving that He draw near to us and approach us as a father—not only as a ruler, not only through our walking in His ways, but through His entering into our ways. The purpose of prayer is to be brought to His attention, to be listened to, to be understood by Him; not to know Him, but to be known to Him. To pray is to behold life not only as a result of His power but as a concern of His will, or to strive to make it a divine concern. For the ultimate aspiration of man is to be not a master but an object of His knowledge. To live “in the light of His countenance,” to become a thought of God—this is the true career of man.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 345

Monday, October 25, 2021

Affliction and prayer

In those souls in which prayer is a rare flower, enchanting, surprising, and scarce, it seems to come to pass by the lucky chance of misfortune, as an inevitable or adventitious by-product of affliction. But suffering is not the source of prayer. A motive does not bring about an act as a cause produces an effect; it merely stimulates the potential into becoming the actual. Peril or want may clear the ground for its growth, stubbing up the weeds of self—assurance, ridding the heart of the hard and obdurate, but it can never raise prayer.

To a farmer about to prepare a seedbed, the prerequisite for his undertaking is not the accidental need of a crop. His need of food does not endow him with skill in cultivating the earth; it merely affords the stimulus and purpose for his undertaking. It is his knowledge, his possession of the idea of tillage, which enables him to raise crops. The same principle applies to prayer. The natural loyalty of living, fertilized by faith saved through a lifetime, is the soil on which prayer can grow. Laden with secret fertility, and patient discreetness concerning things to be and things forever unknown, the soil of the soul nourishes and holds the roots of prayer. But the soil by itself does not produce crops. There must also be the idea of prayer to make the soul yield its amazing fruit.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 344

Friday, October 22, 2021


We had our first frost of the year last night, about two weeks later than normal—and it was a hard frost. I didn't cover anything because it was so late. The daytime temperatures aren't going to stay warm enough for any meaningful growth for tomatoes, peppers, or squash.

It was a good, if dry, summer for gardens. The strawberries were small and few because of the heat and dryness, even though I watered them. But other than that, the rest of the garden has done well. I have three 50-gallon rain barrels, and I emptied them twice because of the drought. I even had to augment that with city water by filling one of the barrels twice. And when it did rain, it was sometimes too much—one week we received seven inches of rain in five days! Because I have raised beds, they were able to absorb it, but it sure made a mess elsewhere.

I haven't posted much on activities this summer, either because of laziness or being too busy doing other things. The truth is, blogging isn't the attraction to me it once was. Part of that is the community that blogging used to represent has moved to social media. That happened about eight to ten years ago, but I resisted. And part of it is that other things take up the time that I used to spend blogging.

Being a contract employee has its benefits, such as flexible hours. But it also has the downside of seeing too much of life as billable hours. Work tends to creep into every corner. After almost ten years of doing this, I'm still learning (or maybe not learning) to balance that. And the amount of time I don't spend reading nonbillable stuff or blogging is a direct reflection of that.

That being said, this summer did contain a couple of trips to see my parents. The first trip, Ryan (our son) and I intended to take my 89-year-old dad on a canoe ride down the Red Cedar River. I had called the outfitter a couple of weeks before, but the water was too low, but it had rained that week and the water level looked good. But once we got there, they had closed because the water was too high! So, instead, we talked and visited—and rescheduled.

The second trip, we managed to get the canoe ride in, going from Riverside Park in Menomonie to Downsville, but the water was definitely low. I had to get out a few times for a push-over, and Ryan had to get out once, but dad was able to stay in the whole time. And because the water was so low, we scraped more times than I would like to admit as an experienced canoeist. When we got to the end, the outfitter said that the water had dropped six inches since we had put in two and a half hours earlier. We wouldn't have been able to do it if we had delayed a day. But we had a grand time. The weather was beautiful and dad enjoyed it, as did Ryan and I!

Ryan and I had decided to turn the rest of the weekend into a bike trip, so from there we headed over to Eau Claire to ride the Chippewa Valley Trail down to Durand, stay the night, and then ride back up the Red Cedar Trail to Menomonie on Sunday. My parents would then shuttle us to where we left our cars (neither of us have a bike rack, or a car big enough for two bikes, a bike trailer, and gear).

That worked like a charm. The campground in Durand is very nice—and cheap! Only $5.00/night for a tent with no electrical hookup. It's right on the Chippewa Valley Trail. We had an issue with our gas stoves, but they worked enough to make supper. The next day, a surprise was to find that some friends of Ryan's were staying there, too, attending a wedding. They generously cooked our oatmeal for us. We had a good visit with them and then rode back to Menomonie and then home again.

Below are a few pictures.

Ready to go.
On the water
The campsite
Ready to go on Sunday. Note the trailer vs. panniers.

These are from the garden

Theodore the toad amidst the squash
The marigolds did great this year!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Prayer, the essence of spiritual living

Prayer is the essence of spiritual living. Its spell is present in every spiritual experience. Its drive enables us to delve into what is beneath our beliefs and desires, and to emerge with a renewed taste for the endless simplicity of the good. On the globe of the microcosm the flow of prayer is like the Gulf Stream, imparting warmth to all that is cold, melting all that is hard in our life. For even loyalties may freeze to indifference if detached from the stream which carries the strength to be loyal. How often does justice lapse into cruelty and righteousness into hypocrisy. Prayer revives and keeps alive the rare greatness of some past experience in which things glowed with meaning and blessing. It remains important, even when we ignore it for a while, like a candlestick set aside for the day. Night will come, and we shall again gather round its tiny flame. Our affection for the trifles of living will be mixed with longing for the comfort of all men.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 343

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Looking beyond the self

Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God. Prayer is a way to master what is inferior in us, to discern between the signal and the trivial, between the vital and the futile, by taking counsel with what we know about the will of God, by seeing our fate in proportion to God. Prayer clarifies our hopes and intentions. It helps us discover our true aspirations, the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget. It is an act of self—purification, a quarantine for the soul. It gives us the opportunity to be honest, to say what we believe, and to stand for what we say. For the accord of assertion and conviction, of thought and conscience, is the basis of all prayer.

Prayer teaches us what to aspire for. So often we do not know what to cling to. Prayer implants in us the ideals we ought to cherish. Salvation, purity of mind and tongue, or willingness to help may hover as ideas before our mind, but the idea becomes a concern, something to long for, a goal to be reached, when we pray: “Guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile; and in the face of those who curse me, let my soul be silent.”—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 343

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

We need this ladder!

Prayer is our attachment to the utmost. Without God in sight, we are like the scattered rungs of a broken ladder. To pray is to become a ladder on which thoughts mount to God to join the movement toward Him which surges unnoticed throughout the entire universe. We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting. The self is not the hub, but the spoke of the revolving wheel. In prayer we shift the center of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender. God is the center toward which all forces tend. He is the source, and we are the flowing of His force, the ebb and How of His tides.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 342–43

Monday, October 18, 2021

Nope, not even a guru or saint will do

As a tree torn from the soil, as a river separated from its source, the human soul wanes when detached from what is greater than itself. Without the ideal, the real turns chaotic; without the universal, the individual becomes accidental. It is the pattern of the impeccable which makes the average possible. It is the attachment to what is spiritually superior: loyalty to a sacred person or idea, devotion to a noble friend or teacher, love for a people or for mankind, which holds our inner life together. But any ideal, human, social, or artistic, if it forms a roof over all of life, shuts us off from the light. Even the palm of one hand may bar the light of the entire sun. Indeed, we must be open to the remote in order to perceive the near. Unless we aspire to the utmost, we shrink to inferiority.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 342

Monday, October 11, 2021

Thoughts triggered by a review essay

The following thoughts were triggered by a review essay of Along Came Google.

I’m an idealist, somewhat tempered with age, but I suspect that with our society’s fixation on dollar-value, we will never, ever value knowledge at its true worth simply because we can’t monetize it.

We have billions, nay trillions of dollars to blow up the world, but we can’t spare a few million for education. We have endowments in the billions at universities, but university presses go hungry for funding and fold. Granted, not everything published is worth the paper it is printed on, but that is partially the result of the rewards system: publish or perish, which results in what they call baloney slicing the results: get as many articles out of an research project as you can. That, in turn, discourages synthesis, which we desperately need.

Eli Goldratt, back in 1990, published a book entitled The Haystack Syndrome, which argued we are drowning in data, but seriously short of knowledge. He offered some tools—very useful ones (systemically oriented) in a business setting—for extracting knowledge. The situation has only gotten worse. And very few people are fighting for a systemic look at things; that seems to be a business fad that died back in the early 2000s, sadly. Deming, with Total Quality Management, the Toyota Production System, Constraints Management (Goldratt), all fell before the push for the almighty penny of profit. Toyota pivoted from wanting to be the best car manufacturer to being the biggest; quality fell, but they are the biggest. Granted, their cars are still better than most, but that is probably just residual and the quality will continue to fall—tell me how you will reward me, and I’ll show you how I will perform. Reward profit, everything becomes subservient to it.

Just an
</idle musing>

Friday, October 08, 2021

The way of escape

We often lack the strength to be grateful, the courage to answer, the ability to pray. To escape from the mean and penurious, from calculating and scheming, is at times the parching desire of man. Tired of discord, he longs to escape from his own mind—and for the peace of prayer. How good it is to wrap oneself in prayer, spinning a deep softness of gratitude to God around all thoughts, enveloping oneself in the silk of a song! But how can man draw songs out of his heart if his consciousness is a woeful turmoil of fear and ambition? He has nothing to offer but disgust, and the weariness of wasting the soul. Accustomed to winding strands of thoughts, to twisting phrases in order to reap praise, he is incapable of finding simple, straight words. His language abounds in traps and decoys, in shams and tricks, in gibes and sneers. In the teeth of such powerful distractions he has to focus all the powers of his mind on one concern. In the midst of universal agitation how can there be tranquillity?

Trembling in the realization that we are a blend of modesty and insolence, of self-denial and bias, we beseech God for rescue, for help in the control of our thoughts, words, and deeds. We lay all our forces before Him. Prayer is arrival at the border. “The dominion is Thine. Take away from me all that may not enter Thy realm.”—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 342

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Gratefulness and the soul

To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain the sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time? Amid the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers—wiser than all alphabets—clouds that die constantly for the sake of beauty, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit greatness in nature. It is so embarrassing to live! How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 341–42

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Wasting our souls

Is not listening to the pulse of wonder worth silence and abstinence from self-assertion? Why do we not set apart an hour of living for devotion to God by surrendering to stillness? We dwell on the edge of mystery and ignore it, wasting our souls, risking our stake in God. We constantly pour our inner light away from Him, setting up the thick screen of self between Him and us, adding more shadows to the darkness that already hovers between Him and our wayward reason. Accepting surmises as dogmas and prejudices as solutions, we ridicule the evidence of life for what is more than life. Our mind has ceased to be sensitive to the wonder. Deprived of the power of devotion to what is more important than our individual fate, steeped in passionate anxiety to survive, we lose sight of what fate is, of what living is. Rushing through the ecstasies of ambition, we awake only when plunged into dread or grief. In darkness, then, we grope for solace, for meaning, for prayer.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 341

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Weighing friendship—and faith

Actually, trust is the core of human relationships, of gregariousness among men. Friendship, a puzzle to the syllogistic and critical mentality, is not based on experiments or tests of another person’s qualities but on trust. It is not critical knowledge but a risk of the heart which initiates affection and preserves loyalty to our fellow men.

Faith does not spring out of nothing. It comes with the discovery of the holy dimension of our existence. Suddenly we become aware that our lips touch the veil that hangs before the Holy of Holies. Our face is lit up for a time with the light from behind the Veil. Faith opens our hearts for the entrance of the holy. It is almost as though God were thinking for us.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 339

Monday, October 04, 2021


Faith is not an act of thinking logically and consecutively. Its ripe fruit is not a cold judgment, valid and correct when estimated from any point of view. There may be a great deal of vagueness in faith, lacking both distinctness and precision. Its body is too fine to be retained in the logician’s sieve when sifted for formulas. Rational terms in which faith is expressed as a creed remain a varnish and do not render its essence.

The perceivable and temporal we grasp with our reason, the sacred and everlasting we approach through faith. It belongs to the genius of man to believe, to look up to what transcends his faculty to know, to perceive the things in their relation to the ultimate, to the eternally valid. However, since there is no borderline that keeps apart the temporal from the everlasting, the scope of faith can hardly be circumscribed. 337

Friday, October 01, 2021

More than logic

The force that inspires the heart to believe is not identical with the impulse that stimulates the mind to reason. The thoughts that breed beauty in the songs of faith may fashion shackles around the reckless wrists of scholars. The purity of which we never cease to dream, the untold things we so insatiably love, the vision of the good for which we either die or perish alive—no reason can hold. It is faith from which we draw the sweetness of life, the taste of the sacred, the joy of the imperishably clear. It is faith that offers us a share in eternity. It is faith in which the great things occur.

We rarely manage to cross the gulf between heart’s believing and minds plain knowing. There is no common basis for comparing religion and science. It is impossible to render the visions of faith in terms of speculation, and its truth cannot be proved by logical arguments. Its certainty is intuitive, not speculative. Its apparent demonstration has often resulted in its frustration. Unlike knowledge, which is a quiet possession of the intellect, faith is an overwhelming force that enables man to perceive the reality of the transcendent. It is not only the assent to a proposition but the staking of the whole life on the truth of an invisible reality.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 336

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Thought for today

8 The Lord’s word came to Zechariah:
9 The Lord of heavenly forces proclaims:

Make just and faithful decisions; show kindness and compassion to each other! 10 Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other! 11 But they refused to pay attention. They turned a cold shoulder and stopped listening.

12 They steeled their hearts against hearing the Instruction and the words that the Lord of heavenly forces sent by his spirit through the earlier prophets. As a result, the Lord of heavenly forces became enraged.

13 So just as he called and they didn’t listen, when they called, I didn’t listen, says the Lord of heavenly forces. 14 I scattered them throughout the nations whom they didn’t know. The land was devastated behind them, with no one leaving or returning. They turned a delightful land into a wasteland. Zech 7:8–14 (CEB)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A different fast

Some men go wIthout knowing on a hunger strike in the prison of the mind, starving for God. There is joy, ancient and sudden, in this starving. There is reward, grasp of the intangible, in the flaming reverie breaking through the latticework of notions.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 335

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Faith as humility

Faith is an act of spirit. The spirit can afford to acknowledge the superiority of the divine: it has the fortitude to realize the greatness of the transcendent, to love its superiority. The man of faith is not enticed by the ostensible. He abstains from intellectual arrogance and spurns the triumph of the merely obvious. He knows that possession of truth is devotion to it. He rejoices more in giving than in acquiring, more in believing than in perceiving. He can afford to disregard the deficiencies of reason. This is the secret of the spirit which is not disclosed to reason: the adaptation of the mind to the sacred. The spirit surrenders to the mystery of the spirit, not in resignation or despair, but with honor and in love. Exposing its destiny to the Ultimate, it enters into an intimate relation with God. Faith is intellectual humility, devotion of the mind, a true offering, the finest feat the heart can perform.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 335

Monday, September 27, 2021

More than meets the brain!

The realm toward which faith is directed can be approached, but not penetrated; approximated, but not entered; aspired to, but not grasped; sensed, but not understood. For to believe is to abide rationally outside, while spiritually within the mystery.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 335

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Thought for the day

εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· ὁρᾶτε καὶ φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν τινὶ ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτῷ. Luke 12:15

Friday, September 24, 2021


Faith is not a stagnant pool. It is, rather, a fountain that rises with the influx of personal experience. Personal faith flows out of an experience and 3 pledge. For faith is not a thing that comes into being out Of nothlng. It originates in an event. In the spiritual vacancy of life something may suddenly occur that is like lifting the veil at the horizon of knowledge. A simple episode may open a sight of the eternal. A shift of conceptions, boisterous like a tempest or soft as a breeze, may swerve the mind for an instant or forever. For God is not wholly silent and man is not always deaf. God’s willingness to call men to His service and man’s responsiveness to the divine indications in things and events are for faith what sun and soil are for the plant.

That experience survives as a recollection of how we have once been blessed by the manifestation of divine presence in our life. The remembrance of that experience and the loyalty to the pledge given at that moment are the forces that sustain us in our faith. For the riches of a soul are stored up in its memory. This is the test of character, not whether a man follows the daily fashion, but whether the past is alive in his present. If we want to understand ourselves, to find out what is most precious in our lives, we should search into our memory.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 333

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Faith? Yes, but

Faith implies no denial of evil, no disregard of danger, no whitewashing of the abominable. He whose heart is given to faith is mindful of the obstructive and awry, of the sinister and pernicious. It is God's strange dominion over both good and evil on which he relies. But even this reliance is not an indefeasible bridge across ravines and precipices, a viaduct over the valley of death. To rely only on our faith would be idol worship. We have only the right to rely on God, on His love and mercy. Faith is not a mechanical insurance but a dynamic, personal act, flowing between the heart of man and the love of God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 333

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

But it requires vigilance…

Faith is always exposed to failure. We often submit to the forces that draw us down to where a small desire seems to outweigh the noblest aspiration. There is the network of the false into which we easily slip. There is the enjoyment of the vile that vitiates the taste for the true. We must not cease to be vigilant, careful and anxious to keep our inner ear open to the holy.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 332

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The nature of faith

Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but the endless, tameless pilgrimage of hearts. Audacious longing, calling, calling, burning songs, daring thoughts, an impulse overwhelming the heart, usurping the mind—it is all a stalwart driving to the precious serving of Him who rings our hearts like a bell, wishing to enter our empty perishing life. What others call readiness to suffer, willingness to relinquish, is felt here as bestowal of joy, as granting of greatness. Is it a surrender to confide? Is it a sacrifice to believe? True, beliefs are not secured by demonstration nor impregnable to objection. But does goodness mean serving only as long as rewarding lasts? Towers are more apt to be shaken than graves. Insistent doubt, contest, and frustration may stultify the trustworthy mind, may turn temples into shambles. But those of faith who plant sacred thoughts in the uplands of time, the secret gardeners of the Lord in mankind’s desolate hopes, may slacken and tarry but rarely betray their vocation.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 332

Friday, September 17, 2021

You can't miss it … if you are looking for it, that is

Forgoing beauty for goodness, power for love, grief for gratitude, entreating the Lord for help to understand our hopes, for strength to resist our fears, we shall receive a gentle sense for the holiness that permeates the air like a strangeness that cannot be removed. Crying out of the pitfall of our selfishness for purity of devotion will usher in the dawn of faith in the mist of honest tears. For those who are open to the wonder will not miss it. Faith is found in solicitude for faith, in an inner care for the wonder that is everywhere.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 331

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Open yours eyes that you might see!

He who chooses a life of utmost striving for the utmost stake, the vital, matchless stake of God, feels as though the spirit of God comes to rest upon his lids—so close to his eyes and yet never seen. He who has ever been confronted with the ultimate and has realized that sun and stars and souls do not ramble in a vacuum will keep his heart in readiness for the hour when the world is entranced, and awaits a soul to breathe in the mystery that all things exhale in their craving for salvation. For things are not mute. The stillness is full of demands. Out of the world comes a behest to instill into the air a rapturous song for God, to incarnate in the stones a message of humble beauty, and to instill a prayer for goodness in the hearts of all children.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 329–30

Tuesday, September 14, 2021


We are impressed by the towering buildings of New York City. Yet not the rock of Manhattan nor the steel of Pittsburgh but the law that came from Sinai is their ultimate foundation. The true foundation upon which our cities stand is a handful of spiritual ideas. All of our life hangs by a thread—the faithfulness of man to the will of God.

The course in which human life moves is, like the orbit of heavenly bodies, an ellipse, not a circle. We are attached to two centers: to the focus of our self and to the focus of what is beyond our self. Even the intelligence is driven by two forces—by a force that comes as an instinct from within and by a force that comes with ideals from without. The inner force generates the impulse to acquire, to enjoy, to possess; the outer force arouses an urge to respond, to yield, to give.

It seems as though we have arrived at a point in history, closest to instincts and remotest from ideals, where the self stands like a wall between God and man. It is the period of a divine eclipse. We sail the seas, we count the stars, we split the atom, but never ask: Is there nothing but a dead universe and our reckless curiosity?

Primitive man's humble ear was alert to the inwardness of the world, while the modern man is presumptuous enough to claim that he has the sole monopoly over soul and spirit, that he is the only thing alive in the universe. A little crust of bread holds so much of goodness, of secret harmony, of tacit submission to purpose. Why should our minds be crowded by so much deceit, folly, and supercilious vanity?—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 328–29

Monday, September 13, 2021

But do we learn?

One of the greatest shocks that we experience in our childhood comes with the discovery that our deeds and desires are not always approved by our fellow men, that the world is not mere food for our delight. The resistance we encounter, the refusals we meet with, open our eyes to the existence of a world outside ourselves. But, growing older and stronger, we gradually recover from that shock, forget its dolorous lesson, and apply most of our ingenuity to enforcing our will on nature and men. No recollection of our past experience is capable of upsetting the arrogance that guides the traffic in our mind. Dazzled by the brilliant achievements of the intellect in science and technique, we have been deluded into believing that we are the masters of the earth and our will the ultimate judge of what is right and wrong. However, the universe is not a waif and life is not a derelict. Man is neither the lord of the universe nor even the master of his own destiny. Our life is not our own property but a possession of God. And it is this divine ownership that makes life a sacred thing.

The world that we have long considered to be ours has exploded in our hands, and a stream of guilt and misery has been unloosed, which leaves no conscience unblemished. Will this flood of wretchedness sweep away our monstrous conceit? Will we comprehend that the sense for the sacred is as vital to us as the light of the sun? The enjoyment of beauty, possession, and safety in civilized society depends on man's sense for the sacredness of life, on his reverence for this spark of light in the darkness of selfishness. Permit this spark to be quenched and the darkness falls upon us like thunder.

<idle musing>
This was written in 1944. How much greater is its relevance now, with the world either burning in drought or drowning in hurricanes and floods—all because of the arrogance of humanity&or perhaps it would be better to say the arrogance of man, because in this case it usually is men. But be that as it may, we are most decidedly not the masters of our destiny. We play at being gods, but the wind that we have sown becomes a whirlwind that we are reaping now.

And it's not just in climate, either. We are reaping the whirlwind of the wind that we have sown in the political realm, in the social realm, and in the medical realm. All our utopias have been shown to be dystopias. And yet we resist turning to the source of life—God.

After all, acknowledging God might mean that we aren't gods and we aren't masters of our destiny. And he might require us to do something we don't want to do! As if we've done such a good job of things on our own!

But what if God isn't the ogre that you think he is? What if he is a forgiving parent? What if, instead of a rod, he has a banquet? What if...
</idle musing>

Friday, September 10, 2021


Man is an animal at heart, carnal, covetous, selfish, and vain; yet spiritual in his destiny: a vision beheld by God in the darkness of flesh and blood. Only eyes vigilant and fortified against the glaring and superficial can still perceive God’s vision in the soul’s horror—stricken night of falsehood, hatred, and malice.

We are prone to be impressed by the ostentatious, the obvious. The strident caterwaul of the animal fills the air, while the still, small voice of the spirit is heard only in the rare hours of prayer and devotion. From the streetcar window we may see the hunt for wealth and pleasure, the onslaught upon the weak, faces expressing suspicion or contempt. On the other hand, the holy lives only in the depths. What is noble retires from sight when exposed to light, humility is extinguished in the awareness of it, and the willingness for martyrdom rests in the secrecy of the things to be. Walking upon clay, we live in nature, surrendering to impulse and passion, to vanity and arrogance, while our eyes reach out to the lasting light of truth. We are subject to terrestrial gravitation, yet we are faced by God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 323

Thursday, September 09, 2021

The very being of humanity

Man does not possess religion; he exists in religion. This religious existence precedes his religious experience. Creed and aspiration are the adjustments of consciousness to the holy dimension. Religion is not an election; it is the destiny of man.

Man can know God only because God knows him. Our love of God is a scant reflection of God’s love for us. For every soul is a wave in the endless stream that flows out of the heart of God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 322 (emphasis original)

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

I have news for you: It's not about you!

The desire of a pious man is not to acquire knowledge of God but to abide by him, to dedicate to him the entire life. How does he conceive the possibility of such devotion? How can man be near to God?

Religion in itself, the state which exists between God and man, is neither produced by man nor dependent upon his belief; it is neither a display of human spirit nor the outgrowth of his conscience. Religion exists even if it is in this moment not realized, perceived, or acknowledged by anybody, and those who reject or betray it do not diminish its validity. Religion is more than a creed or a doctrine, more than faith or piety; it is an everlasting fact in the universe, something that exists outside knowledge and experience, an order of being, the holy dimension of existence. It does not emanate from the affections and moods, aspirations and visions of the soul. It is not a divine force in us, a mere possibility, left to the initiative of man, something that may or may not take place, but an actuality, the inner constitution of the universe, the system of divine values involved in every being and exposed to the activity of man, the ultimate in our reality. As an absolute implication of being, as an ontological entity, not as an adorning veneer for a psychical wish or for a material want, religion cannot be totally described in psychological or sociological terms.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 322 (emphasis original)

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

It's all around you!

To restrict religion to the realm of human endeavor or consciousness would imply that a person who refuses to take notice of God could isolate himself from the Omnipresent. But there is no neutrality before God; to ignore means to defy him. Even the emptiness of indifference breeds a concern, and the bitterness of blasphemy is a perversion of a regard for God. There is no vacuum of religion. Religion is neither the outgrowth of imagination nor the product of will. It is not an inner process, a feeling, or a thought, and should not be looked upon as a bundle of episodes in the life of man. To assume that religion is limited to specific acts of man, that man is religious for the duration of an experience, meditation, or performance of a ritual is absurd. Religion is not a cursory activity. What is going on between God and man is for the duration of life.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 320

Monday, September 06, 2021

Hold it lightly

Thus the pious man realizes, also, that whatever he may have at his disposal has been bestowed upon him as a gift. And there is a difference between a possession and a gift. Possession is loneliness. The very word excludes others from the use of the possessed object without the consent of the possessor, and those who insist on possession ultimately perish in self-excommunication and loneliness. On the contrary, in receiving a gift, the recipient obtains, besides the present, the love of the giver. A gift is thus the vessel that contains the affection, which is destroyed as soon as one begins to look on it as a possession. The pious man avers that he has a perpetual gift from God, for in all that comes to him he feels the love of God. In all the thousand and one experiences that make up a day, he is conscious of that love intervening in his life.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 315

Friday, September 03, 2021

A sense of wonder

In reality man has not unlimited powers over the earth, as he has not over stars or winds. He has not even complete power over himself. In the absolute sense, neither the world nor his own life belongs to him. And of the things he does more-or less control, he controls not the essence but only the appearance, as is evident to anyone who has ever looked with unclouded vision in the face even of a flower or a stone. The question then is, Who is the lord? Who owns all that exists? The universe is not a waif, nor is life a derelict, abandoned and unclaimed. All things belong to God. So the pious man regards the forces of nature, the thoughts of his own mind, life, and destiny as the property of God. This governs his attitude toward all things. He does not grumble when calamities befall him, or lapse into despair, for he knows that all in life is a concern of the divine because all is in the divine possession.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 314–15

<idle musing>
I just read the end of Job this morning. Heschel could be channeling God's speech from it here. I'm also reminded of Psalm 8:4:

what are human beings
that you think about them;
what are human beings that you pay attention to them? (CEB)
or Psalm 19:
Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
2 One day gushes the news to the next,
and one night informs another
what needs to be known.
3 Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
their voices can’t be heard—
4 but their soundk extends
throughout the world;
their words reach the ends
of the earth. (CEB)
Or. . . you get the idea. YHWH is truly marvelous and his ways beyond understanding. When we think of that, we can't help but stand—or kneel—in awe!
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 02, 2021


Responsibility implies freedom, and man, who is in bondage to environment, to social ties, to inner disposition, may yet enjoy freedom before God. Only before God is man truly independent and truly free. But freedom in its turn implies responsibility, and man is responsible for the way in which he utilizes nature. It is amazing how thoughtless modern man is of his responsibility in relation to his world. He finds before him a world crammed to overflowing with wonderful materials and forces, and without hesitation or scruple he grasps at whatever is within his range. Omnivorous in his desire, unrestrained in his efforts, tenacious in his purpose, he is gradually changing the face of the earth, and there seems to be none to deny him or challenge his mastery. Deluded by this easy mastery, we give no thought to the question of what basis there is to our assumed right to possess our universe. Our own wayward desires and impulses, however natural they may be, are no title to ownership. Unmindful of this we take our title for granted and grasp at everything, never questioning whether this may be robbery. Powerhouse, factory, and department store make us familiar with the exploitation of nature for our benefit. And lured by familiarity, the invisible trap for the mind, we easily yield to the illusion that these things are rightfully at our disposal, thinking little of the sun, the rainfall, the watercourses, as sources by no means rightfully ours. It is only when we suddenly come up against things obviously beyond the scope of human domination or jurisdiction, such as mountains or oceans, or uncontrollable events like sudden death, earthquake, or other catastrophes, which clearly indicate that man is neither lord of the universe nor master of his own destiny, that we are somewhat shaken out of our illusions.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 314

<idle musing>
An amazing indictment of humanity, all the moreso because it was written in 1942! Long before any environmental movement, long before plastic became the ubiquitous problem it is today. Even back then he perceived the dangers inherent in the ruthless exploitation of the earth. Truly an amazing thinker!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Gratitude or glumness?

The natural man feels a genuine joy at receiving a gift in obtaining something he has not earned. The pious man knows that nothing he has has been earned, not even his perceptions, his thoughts and words, or even his life, are his by desert. He knows that he has no claim to anything with which he is endowed. Knowing, therefore, that he merits little, he never arrogates anything to himself. His thankfulness being stronger than his wants and desires, he can live in joy and with a quiet spirit. Being conscious of the evidences of God’s blessing in nature and in history, he pays tribute to the values of that blessing in all that he receives. The natural man has two attitudes to life, joy and gloom. The pious man has but one, for to him gloom represents an overbearing and presumptuous depreciation of underlying realities. Gloom implies that man thinks he has a right to a better, more pleasing world. Gloom is a refusal, not an offer, a snub not an appreciation, a retreat instead of a pursuit. Gloom’s roots are in pretentiousness, fastidiousness, and a disregard of the good. The gloomy man, living in irritation and a constant quarrel with his destiny, senses hostility everywhere, and seems never to be aware of the illegitimacy of his own complaints. He has a fine sense for the incongruities of life but stubbornly refuses to recognize the delicate grace of existence.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 313

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A different set of lenses

Because of this attitude of reverence, the pious man is at peace with life, in spite of its conflicts. He patiently acquiesces in life’s vicissitudes, because he glimpses spiritually their potential meaning. Every experience opens the door into a temple of new light, although the vestibule may be dark and dismal. The pious man accepts life’s ordeals and its meed of anguish, because he recognizes these as belonging to the totality of life. This does not mean complacency or fatalistic resignation. He is not insensitive. On the contrary, he is keenly sensitive to pain and suffering, to adversity and evil in his own life and in that of others, but he has the inner strength to rise above grief, and with his understanding of what these sorrows really are, grief seems to him a sort of arrogance. We never know the ultimate meaning of things, and so a sharp distinction between what we deem good or bad in experience is unfair. It is a greater thing to love than to grieve, and with love’s awareness of the far-reachingness of all that affects our lives, the pious man will never overestimate the seeming weight of momentary happenings.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 312–13

Monday, August 30, 2021

As in a mirror…

Reverence is a specific attitude toward something that is precious and valuable, toward someone who is superior. It is a salute of the soul, an awareness of value without enjoyment of that value or seeking any personal advantage from it. There is a unique kind of transparence about things and events. The world is seen through, and no veil can conceal God completely. So the pious man is ever alert to see behind the appearance of things a trace of the divine, and thus his attitude toward life is one of expectant reverence.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 312

Friday, August 27, 2021

Don't do this! (editing)

A common mistake, but please, please, please, don't do this. Your copyeditor will thank you!

The Latin abbreviation e.g. means "for example," after which two or more examples occur. Do not, I repeat, do not then end that listing with "etc." Etc. means "and the others," which is an example from the department of redundancy department. You already said you were listing a few/couple of examples!

End of screed. You may now return to your regularly scheduled writing...

For a complete list of editing posts, see here.

The bookstore

"We watch a reader in a bookshop: he picks up a book, leafs through it—and for a short instant he is entirely cut off from the world. He is listening to someone speaking, whom others cannot hear. He gathers random fragments of phrases. He shuts the book, looks at the cover. Then he often takes a brief glance at the cover flap, hoping for some assistance. At that moment, without realizing it, he is opening an envelope: those few lines, external to the text of the book, are like a letter written to a stranger."—Roberto Calasso, The Art of the Publisher, via Shelf Awareness

The presence of God, part 2

Whatever the pious man does is linked to the divine; each smallest trifle is tangential to His course. In breathing he uses His force; in thinking he wields His power. He moves always under the unseen canopy of remembrance, and the wonderful weight of the name of God rests steadily on his mind. The word of God is as vital to him as air or food. He is never alone, never companionless, for God is within reach of his heart. Under affiiction or some sudden shock he may feel temporarily as though he were on a desolate path, but a slight turn of his eyes is sufficient for him to discover that his grief is outflanked by the compassion of God. The pious man needs no miraculous communication to make him aware of God’s presence, nor is a crisis necessary to awaken him to the meaning and appeal of that presence. His awareness may momentarily be overlaid or concealed by some violent shift in consciousness, but it never fades away. It is this awareness of ever living under the watchful eye of God that leads the pious man to see hints of God in the varied things he encounters in his daily walk, so that many a simple event can be accepted by him both for what it is and also as a gentle hint or kindly reminder of things divine. In this mindfulness he eats and drinks, works and plays, talks and thinks, for piety is a life compatible with God’s presence.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 311

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The presence of God

The pious man is possessed by his awareness of the presence and nearness of God. Everywhere and at all times he lives as in His sight, whether he remains always heedful of His proximity or not. He feels embraced by God's mercy as by a vast encircling space. Awareness of God is as close to him as the throbbing of his own heart, often deep and calm, but at times overwhelming, intoxicating, setting the soul afire. The momentous reality of God stands there as peace, power, and endless tranquillity, as an inexhaustible source of help, as boundless compassion, as an open gate awaiting prayer. It sometimes happens that the life of a pious man becomes so involved in God that his heart overflows as though it were a cup in the hand of God. This presence of God is not like the proximity of a mountain or the vicinity of an ocean, the view of which one may relinquish by closing the eyes or removing from the place. Rather is this convergence with God unavoidable, inescapable; like air in space it is always being breathed in, even though one is not at all times aware of continuous respiration.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 310

<idle musing>
Doesn't that thought thrill you? Even take your breath away? Have you ever experienced that kind of closeness to God? Don't you want to?

I have, and I do want it more. I want that to be my daily experience. To walk with God as Enoch did, as others throughout history have. That's why I'm drawn to the mystics; they experienced God and wrote about how it felt, how they obtained that closeness. Practice the Presence of God is one of my favorites, written by a friend of his because he was an illiterate dishwasher in a monastery. Overlooked by the powers of the day, the world has forgotten all of them, but the work of this lowly dishwasher continues to stir people 400 or so years later.
</idle musing>