This week, I have been sharing my thoughts about Frederick Buechner‘s recent book, The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life (2017). I have also been sharing some highlights from the text, including quotations from remarkable–and remarkably ordinary–authors. As Buechner wants to draw out how the transformational moments are not always astounding miracles, but the attention to the details, the anticipation of the predictable, and astonished reflection upon the ordinary, he turns to George MacDonald.
George MacDonald was a Scottish minister, lecturer, novelist, essayist, and fantasy writer. MacDonald was tremendously influential to C.S. Lewis and the Inklings, and is really a writer recovered in the last generation or so. He also, apparently, had quite an impact on Frederick Buechner‘s work. While the context of Buechner’s use of the following quotation is interesting, it is the strident and determined nature of the text’s voice that I want to highlight. Buechner captures a speech that MacDonald’s protagonist of Thomas Wingfold, Curate, speaks in the novel. I have always been uncomfortable with the all-in nature of this kind of comment–a speech that Puddleglum echoes in The Silver Chair. But I admire this commitment to the deepest rhythms of truth in the universe, even if it haunts me:
“Whatever energies I may or may not have, I know one thing for certain, that I could not devote them to anything else I should think entirely worth doing. Indeed nothing else seems interesting enough—nothing to repay the labour, but the telling of my fellow-men about the one man who is the truth, and to know whom is the life. Even if there be no hereafter, I would live my time believing in a grand thing that ought to be true if it is not. No facts can take the place of truths, and if these be not truths, then is the loftiest part of our nature a waste. Let me hold by the better than the actual, and fall into nothingness off the same precipice with Jesus and John and Paul and a thousand more, who were lovely in their lives, and with their death make even the nothingness into which they have passed like the garden of the Lord. I will go further … and say, I would rather die for evermore believing as Jesus believed, than live for evermore believing as those that deny him….”