Last week I watched the movie Amazing Grace, a film about the life of William Wilberforce. I thoroughly enjoyed its portrayal of the combination of deep faith and a passion for changing the world. I also appreciated the Francis Bacon quote.
It is a sad fate for a man to die too well-known to everybody else, and still unknown to himself.
I recalled it well-enough from the movie, but wanted to make sure I had it just right, so I typed “Francis Bacon” into a search engine and came up with a number of wonderful Francis Bacon quotes, including the following:
The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.
Then I discovered that there is more than one Francis Bacon. The Francis Bacon quoted in Amazing Grace was a British philosopher, person of letters, politician who lived from 1561-1626. The Francis Bacon who wrote about the artist was an Irish painter from the twentieth century. A sample of his work is found below.
While having my Francis Bacon squared this week, I also found my way to a William James essay from 1898, “Philosophical Concepts and Practical Results.” In it James wrote:
Philosophers are after all like poets. They are path-finders. What everyone else can feel, what everyone can know in the bone and marrow of him, they sometimes can find words for and express.
At our best, perhaps pastors are like that, too. We give words to what can be felt and experienced in the bone and marrow of human lives. We point a way forward into a richer life and a deeper experience of self, others, the world, God. We aid the journey of self-discovery, for we, too, consider it tragic that a person should die too well-known to others and unknown to herself. Yet though we put words to experience, serve as path-finders, encourage self-knowledge, we do that within the wondrous mystery that is life as a human being.
James also wrote in his essay, “Philosophers, let them be as queer as they will, still are men in the secret recesses of their hearts.” Queer often means something different than what James meant, and he did not use inclusive language. Taking these into account, I hope what he says here is also true of pastors – be as odd as we will, we are still human in the secret recesses of our hearts.
With Faith And With Feathers (and deep in the mystery),