Notebook

Rest

The notion of rest is important in ascetic vocabulary. The Greek Fathers designated it as hēsychia, a term rendered in Latin as pax. What the Fathers had in mind was not relaxation, but a state of inward balance in which the composite elements that make up human existence are gradually harmonised, attuned to the Logos, much as the members of an orchestra, before a performance, tune their instruments to the A intoned by the First Violin.

Often enough, we are conscious that this harmony and the beneficent balance it induces are absent from our lives. What to do then? An avenue is indicated by the poet Reiner Kunze, who once wrote that a poem is unrest come to rest: ‘Das gedicht ist zur ruhe gekommene unruhe‘. What if the fundamental human task were poetic, if the chief challenge before us were to make of our lives such a poem?