open-gate

The beginning of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets sets the scene for the entire poem. It also reflects our own life’s experience from childhood to old age and beyond. I hesitate to use the word death because “knowing the place for the first time,” anticipates eternity.

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden.

 

“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.”

Most of us probably have those odd moments when we speculate what we might have done…the door we never opened…yet remaining a perpetual possibility.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

There are many interpretations of our Lord’s words,

  “Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

 Reflecting on that saying of Jesus in the light of T.S. Eliot’s poem I’m encouraged to believe that there is a brief moment in our childhood when we become aware of an unknown future. Maybe we were unable to express it, but even so we knew it intuitively.

In adult life looking back is important.  This quote from Kierkegaard is very significant

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

 Looking back on our own childhood is extraordinarily creative. This is especially so when connected with a playmate  we loved.

In my case it was with my first cousin. We were born within seven months of each other.  We didn’t grow apart until after university.  We even read for our degrees at the same college. Our ways parted when she married, but we kept in touch at birthdays and Christmas.

She died only a few days ago, a long way from here and I didn’t know until her daughter sent me a copy of her funeral service. It was a shock initially, but also a source of grace.

“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.”

There are many possible interpretations of the “Rose Garden,” For me it is childhood. Good poetry enables a single line to be interpreted according to one’s individual experience of living.

We cannot re-live our child hood, but we can view it as a journey and pick out moments of grace, joy and love.

Towards the end of the Four Quartets occur these luminous lines that sum up not only the poem but our life’s experience.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

 We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown remembered gate.

 

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