Notebook

Where Have I Been?

Whitsun makes me think of a scene from the last act of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt in which Solveig, on the Eve of Pentecost, sits in her hut and sings. Her life has been one of waiting for the man she loves, who left her, promising to return. Years have passed, yet her confidence in him has not wavered. She sings: ‘If you have much to carry, give yourself time. I shall wait: I promised you that.’ As for Peer, he roams, having all but forgotten her. He is forced, however, to reflect on what has become of his life when a messenger of God confronts him, saying: ‘There’s nothing left of you, only unfulfilled promise.’ He challenges Peer to summon positive proof of personal integrity; else, he warns, he will be melted down and repurposed. He does not even have the mettle for damnation — there’s simply nothing there. That’s when Peer stumbles on Solveig’s hut. Meeting her again, he asks her, genuinely moved, and appalled by the threat of annihilation: ‘Can you tell me where I have been since last we met, where I have been myself, whole and true?’ She answers: ‘That riddle is easily answered. You have been in my faith, my hope, and my love.’ To bear one another’s burdens is not just about helping others; it is about holding their truth before God in love, even when they are lost to themselves. Such is life in the Spirit.