Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

It's Saturday 25th of February and the Spring has been well and truly with us for some time now here in Hibernia, the land of Winter as the old Romans called our Emerald Isle.  We were left outside the "Orbis Romanus" as the ancient Romans looked west from the British coastline and saw nothing but winter beyond the Irish Sea.  Coming from a Mediterranean climate one can understand their not going further West, because after all who could survive such winters as there were obviously in Ireland.  Be that as it may, this last month has been excellent weather wise here, with temperatures up to 15 and 16 degrees Centigrade almost daily, together with lovely sunshine.  The first crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils have already peaked their heads above the ground in my front garden.  The last two winters and early spring have been disastrously cold here in Ireland with temperatures dipping down to minus 15 - 19  degrees Centigrade below freezing.  There were never winters any colder than last winter in my life time which now spans some 54 years.  The last time Ireland reached such low temperatures was during the winter of 1947 apparently.  I can remember my late father Thomas Quinlan speaking about those freezing days.

Also I have been engaged upon some spring cleaning of my house and home.  For the last week I have had the painter and decorator in.  The place is beginning to look fresh and new again as it wears the hues of magnolia and brilliant white.  Today, I have spent some two hours going through old books in the attic in search of some books by Martin Buber and Paul Tillich which I need for some current work I have been doing at college.  I found the ones by the Tillich but not the ones by Buber.  However, I discovered many more books of interest, short classics from the pen John A. T. Robinson called Honest to God and But That I Can't BelieveRobinson was a major force in shaping liberal Christian theology, and along with Harvard theologian Harvey Cox, he spearheaded the field of secular theology.   The first of these books named, Honest to God caused controversy, as it called on Christians to view of God as the "Ground of Being" rather than as a supernatural being "out there". In his later books, he championed early dates and apostolic authorship for the gospels, largely without success.  The great Irish theologian Dr Dermot Lane introduced us to this author and happily I still have both books.  I will definitely re-read them when I get a chance.

Other books that I had to sift through in my above mentioned quest were books from the pens of such theologians as Karl Barth, Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx New York Times Obituary (a theologian whose writings I have loved and found  both intellectually stimulating and existentially rewarding), John Henry Newman, Wilfred Harrington, Hans Kung, Bernard Lonergan, Karl Rahner and so on.  These books brought back memories of studying theology back in the 1980s.  I had consigned them to the attic as I had determined they had become somewhat useless to me and somewhat obsolete, given that I had moved on in life and had, somehow, gone beyond theology in my own life, preferring psychology and philosophy as being at once more existentially and cognitively challenging and  gripping.  And, yet still, I realise at once that none of us can deny any period in our lives, and especially any spiritual and intellectual nourishing that that and any other given period may have given us, without doing considerable damage to our identity.

Spring Cleaning as Metaphor

And so, I return to my opening paragraph which recounts a physical and real day-to-day act of cleaning and renewing.  Indeed external acts are always at another and deeper level metaphorical.  We cannot engage in outer cleaning and renewal without, indeed, doing so on an innermost level.  One of the things I am looking forward to is getting my lounge or sitting room refurbished, complete with some in-built bookshelves to house the better books in my collection of some forty or so years.  This will be another journey for me, to select what books from almost forty years of study and reflection to keep and what ones to pass on, or even perhaps to recycle in the green bin.  I remember some thirty or more years ago when I lived at home with my mother that once she remarked that I had far too many books and her fear was that should there be a fire we'd all be burnt up in the flames with those books.  I suppose I must now have several thousand books from courses in Theology, Philosophy, English Literature, Irish Language and Literature, Italian Language and Literature, Scripture, Theology, Mathematics, History, Education, Sociology, Psychology, General Science, Special Education, Psychology of Education and so on and so forth.  Anyway, being an inveterate reader has kept me out of trouble and out of harm's way over all those intervening years.  However, books do have a habit of clogging up the place.  Maybe, as my older brother Gerard always remarks, I should make more use of libraries.  However, I do make use of libraries to some extent.  Unfortunately also, Amazon has become one of my most favourite websites from which I can buy books at my ease.  Long live my pleasant addiction to books.

In short, any physical spring cleaning I have done today has been spiritually and personally enriching, reminding me of the paths I have trodden, the ways I have come and has encouraged me to keep right on being true to myself and to the search for deeper authenticity.  Happy Spring Cleaning to all my readers, and thanks for accompanying me along some the way!  Salve!