[Watch the video first. Then, if curious, scroll through the optional text below.]
“And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Scholars tell us Eliot’s Four Quartets is all about bringing the spiritual and the aesthetic together in a final reconciliation. The fires that both destroy and redeem come together to form a knot, and “the fire and the rose”—divine wrath and mercy—become one.
At least, that’s what I remember jotting down in my notebook while listening to the prancing ‘sage on the stage’ alongside 150 hungover sophomores in a big auditorium.
I feel sure those students didn’t rush back to the dorm to read more T. S. Eliot. The typical lecture hall analysis of passages like this is alienating. No wonder the humanities are universally badmouthed by students as boring and irrelevant.
My own teaching style is to cut through highfalutin’ bullshit and reduce ivory tower ideas to practical insights. I’m willing to err on the side of over-simplistic to compete with Facebook.
Think of the fire as your passion for living and the rose as what you make of your life. Now bring them together so your life and your work become one and the same. Artists who to the consternation of significant others obsessively live to create and create to live need no introduction to this concept. But others might choose to live for (and merge with) their family, their career, their country, their religion. Make you and your life and your life’s work inseparable.
How will you know? When you jump out of bed each morning and kick your heels together with anticipation. When your daily activities (including so-called “work”) tap into and engage the emotional, intellectual, spiritual and creative side of your personality. That’s when, without even having read Maslow, you’ll know (and feel) that “all is well.”
I was thinking how ‘the fire and the rose’ in my life didn’t start coming together until my mid-40s when I first stood up in front of a group of students. Slowly; I had a lot of shyness and self-doubt to overcome. And then when I retired . . .
Well, I didn’t design the above video to explicate a poem, and here I am wandering too far astray. I was simply scrubbing through some stock footage and thought I might string together some of the clips I found interesting. It was only when I saw the woman staring at a burning canvas – which, like the biblical bush, was ablaze without being consumed – that I began to layer on this T. S. Eliot stuff.
2 min 50 sec