There is a stack of books in my study catalogued as “books that I want to read.” This stack of books has existed as long as I can remember – as a young girl it was a mental list – over time, the stack of books has steadily increased. After all , the more we read, the more we want to read; the older we become, the more books we collect. I refuse to shelve books that I have not read; so I have resorted to different stacks – fiction and nonfiction for instance. One stack next to the bed, another in the kitchen . . . the neat stacks have grown into piles of books. You see, last year, most of my reading was devoted to rather feeble attempts to understand internet publishing. As the stacks grew, so did my longing to linger with a book. At long last, I have taken the time to rest, relax and read. One of the first books that captured my attention was The Margaret Tarrant Christmas Book. I surmised that I would quickly go through the illustrated treasure and then properly shelve it with Christmas Books. But then I stumbled upon a poem titled, Immanence by Evelyn Underhill. I was taken aback – and then way back to an undergraduate research project on mysticism. You might say, that Evelyn Underhill wrote THE book on mysticism.
I had not thought about that book in a long time . . .but in the long nights of this winter, after reading, writing and contemplating business and life, I have come to realize that the readings for that research project shaped my life . . . good books and great teachers are quite a gift. The research project was directed by Robert Schnucker – then he was a fairly recent graduate with a Ph.D. in theology. His research was, as a matter of fact, groundbreaking. He worked on the sex lives of Puritans. Yes, the standard retort is, I did not know Puritans had sex lives . . . and as he tells the story, in the late sixties, so many students had questions about sex that it seemed important to take the shroud off the subject. Dr. Schnucker was simply the best teacher. He recommended Underhill, which in turn led to the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton, which led my husband to spend time at the monastery in Kentucky. Now that is a lot of influence. Even though I have not spent much time thinking about theological questions like Immanence and Transcendence of late, the quiet life has always appealed to me. This world of blogging (first person singular) and selfies is a million miles away from that world. I laugh at the idea of Thomas Merton taking a selfie! Worlds apart . . But yet, in this new world, I have the pleasure of coming upon a book like this treasure from Margaret Tarrant. I have delved into a little research on Margaret Tarrant. . . . Tarrant was a friend of Evelyn Underhill, which is not so surprising. I was surprised, however, to learn that Underhill was a friend of T.S. Eliot. Books do have their own destiny, like The Margaret Tarrant Christmas Book at the top of the pile in my library. Not long after Dr. Schnucker retired, a book was dedicated in his honor – that book is titled, Books Have their Own Destiny. The circle remains unbroken . . . This book of illustrations by Tarrant is yet another treasure – her angels seem to bridge the gap between the earthly and heavenly spheres reminding us again that there is more than meets the eye. In the winter, it is good to take time to contemplate in the peace and quiet of snowy days.
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/books-their-destiny-20149288316252405.html http://www.evelynunderhill.org/organizational/related_links.shtml http://underhillhouse.org/about-underhill-house http://maddrey.blogspot.com/2013/02/ts-eliot-and-mysticism.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Imitation_of_Christ