to live everything

An Essay By Aisling // 1/6/2009

“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke

I’m sitting in my old familiar place, in a chair at the kitchen window. The room smells deliciously of home-made chicken noodle soup. If everything’s quiet, I can hear the pot on the stove boiling dutifully away. But everything is not quiet. My sister Brianna is giving a piano lesson in the other room. My other sister Siobhan is coming in and out asking after things as she’s trying to pack herself up to go back to school. My little brother Joseph is…being a little boy. Ergo, everything is not quiet. (As I write, he and my third sister, Mamie, are playing with a little cup of cornstarch and water. You should try it sometime. If you look into the cup, the contents appear to be a sort of milky-like liquid, and if you lower your finger in slowly, it will behave according to its appearance; if you plunge your finger in hard and fast, on the other hand, you find yourself stopped by a stubbornly resistant substance. One pointer: I don’t suggest you drop the cup.)
Anyway, the world outside is quiet. The sky is something between white and gray; that dismal, winter color, more like the nearest thing to what no color at all might look like. The grass is faded, sticking up awkwardly between last night’s left-over snow and the long-dead brown-faced leaves. We never manage to get them all raked up before fall ends suddenly and winter takes us by surprise. Oh, life in North-East Ohio… The two pines in our front garden are growing bravely, waiting out the cold with blue-tipped branches, standing silent watch over the little manger where Mary and the baby huddle close in the unwelcoming weather. (St. Joseph is, sadly, incapacitated at the moment, having lost his right hand to an unknown accident). Above the scene, a solitary beech leaf trembles, wrinkled with age, clinging stubbornly to its tiny branch-end. What makes it hold on? A stubborn rejection of the way things are meant to be? Or a an embracing of it? a hope, a brave, lonely hope for the dawn of a better day?
Our world is a lonely world. But our world in winter is loneliest of all. She is silent and still, nursing her age-old secrets. She stands, solemn, almost sad; she stands and she waits. It seems at first she is in mourning, mourning the loss of life. But there’s more to her silence than the sadness. She is awaiting something, gathering something in—all of our questions, all of our loneliness, all of our losses. Somewhere deep within, somewhere in the dark, life is being formed anew. And she knows. She knows there is new life. See, here her creator is doing something new…slowly, oh so slowly it is being formed, almost ready to spring forth. There is a dawn, very much alive, hiding in the dark somewhere beneath the naked winter horizon.
I don’t like to wait. Waiting means I can’t make something happen right when I want it to; something is out of my control, it’s bigger than I am. I don’t like unanswered questions. I don’t like the feeling of not knowing what’s happening, not being able to see what comes next, or when it’s coming. I don’t like having to grow slowly, in little unseen ways, over a long quiet period of time. But by waiting and by calm we shall be saved; in quiet and in trust our strength lies (Isaiah 30:15).
It’s so easy to think we know the way life works. Do we? Do we understand the way things are? the way things should be? Do we know what we’re living for? Could we tell somebody, if they asked us? Would we fight for it, if they tried to take it away from us?
It’s taken me a long while to write this. Too long. I’m in the living room, now, where the wood stove is, trying to soak in some warmth. The hot chocolate on the inside of me is helping. The sky outside has fallen from its washed-out brightness to the dark of night—black at first, but blue really, bluer the longer you look. A deep, deep blue; royal, like the heart of a king. If I stretch my eyes hard I can make out the inky skeleton of the beech tree outside the window, reaching up steadfastly into the dome of the sky. That’s what’s important, really. In the end, that’s what will matter. That we are reaching. That we keep reaching, steadfastly, unwaveringly. That we keep asking the questions. That we never stop holding close the questions. That we remain faithful to the questions, and to their answers as we stumble upon them. The minute we stop asking, we stop advancing toward the answer; we miss the height, the width, the depth of what we’re living on the verge of. More than anything, it is integral that we never stop reaching, reaching out, out of ourselves, out to find the truth that can bring us home to ourselves again and show us who we are. Out to the Truth that is bigger than we are, and can teach us what we’re living for, prove it’s worth fighting for, and show us that, in the end, it’s even worth dying for. Because if it’s not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for, and if it’s not worth living for, why give our lives to it?
Why are we alive? Sometimes—when the world is pale and dead and when there are more questions than we can summon hope for the answers to—life, living really alive, can look like something of a lost cause. We are impatient with all that is unresolved in our hearts, and we hate the questions like forbidden rooms and books we are not allowed to read. We run after the answers, and we miss the point. And the point is simple, in the end…only this: to live. To live everything. To live now. Not to have lived yesterday, when we were younger, or to live tomorrow, when we’ll feel more up to the task. To live now. Not to live when we like it, where and how it pleases us; not to put it on hold, while we work to orchestrate everything, fitting it all into the perfect picture of our ideal life. To live now.
Another year come and gone. Another year at our door, running to meet our unready feet. Another year of questions without answers, of dim places we can’t see into, of silence and stillness and the upending of our schemes. Another year to live. Let’s not lose it to the impatience of a heart unwilling to love the questions and let life be as wild and wonderful as its Giver meant it to.



that was a great essay!

"I told you to eat Cornflakes for breakfast, not The Golden Rod!" Chico/Marc Brothers/

Bernadette | Tue, 01/06/2009


Wow! really good. I love the way you describe things so perfectly, and all the wonderful imagery. I can just see it. Bravo!

** ** ** ** ** **
"If you were to engage in a battle of wits with a sponge, Smee, my money would be on the sponge."
--Black Stache

Hannah W. | Tue, 01/06/2009


Beautiful, Aisling. The last two sentences were the best: "Another year to live. Let's not lose it to the impatience of a heart unwilling to love the questions and let life be as wild and wonderful as its Giver meant it to."
There is a lot of truth in there. I've really been learning lately, just how wild and wonderful my KING can really make my life.
Good essay.


"Let the high praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hand."
~Psalm 149:6

Mary | Wed, 01/07/2009

Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

Wow. ************************


Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you can do it well. -Bruce Hays

Anna | Thu, 01/08/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Hey, 'Shling - I liked these

Hey, 'Shling -
I liked these parts the best: "Our world is a lonely world. But our world in winter is loneliest of all. She is silent and still, nursing her age-old secrets. ...She is awaiting something, gathering something in... Somewhere deep within, somewhere in the dark, life is being formed anew. And she knows. She knows there is new life." And "To live now. Not to live when we like it, where and how it pleases us;"
Those jumped out at me the most. I liked them a lot. Love, S

Anonymous | Fri, 01/09/2009

There is a lot of wisdom

There is a lot of wisdom here. Indeed, it is important to live the days as they are given to us.
Keep writing,

Ezra | Sun, 01/11/2009

"There are no great men of God. There are only pitiful, sorry men whose God is great beyond measure." - Paul Washer [originally Jonathan Edwards]

Wonderful job!

This was really beautiful!

Elizabeth | Fri, 01/16/2009


The Holy Spirit is the quiet guest of our soul." -St. Augustine


This is such a beautiful piece. I love how you wrote it; your description of winter was so wonder-full. I think it's one of your best pieces. At least one of my most favorites.:D

Brianna | Fri, 01/16/2009

"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa

Reading more of your work.

I've just stumbled upon you, as it were. I was writing an email to an unsaved friend and wanted to make sure I had the scripture right and google led me to your article from some time back about "There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend" and your thoughts on sacrifice.

Very touching and on the mark. I've felt the same for years. I don't have time now to read through your other work here, but I will do in the next week or two.

I'm very impressed from what I've read.

Best regards,
Dileas Carraig (Faithful Rock in gaelic)

Anonymous | Thu, 02/12/2009


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