Fundamental Ignorance

The following is a kind of polemical poem, written against myself, inspired in part, in edging close to the end of a 25-year career in social care with Hope Mission.

I soliloquized
upon silence,
as though my soul
could cast off its cloak
of flesh and recline
in the skull of a whale,
in the deeps of an ocean.

I philosophized,
about absence,
beating the bushes
with my racket,
as to flush it out,
expose its salubrious
utility for doubt.

No, I was no toad,
croaking as though
I had the key
to break God’s code,
as though God had
a code to break.

I was no zeal-baked,
anvil-eyed sermonizer,
damning amblers
on the broad street to hell,
searing TV-brained literalists
against the leakage
of contextual truths.

And as I rose from my couch,
to take tea with my texts,
there on the sidewalk,
at the edge of my trim lawn,
a neighbour, stooped, gaunt,
pained, at the arm
of a young woman,
helping him to a new address.

As much as I resist both a closed materialistic ontology and a hermetically sealed theology—that sheer off the movement of mystery and the motions of metaphysics; as much as I resist a scientism, or a theology that forgets the beauty and strangeness of an individual soul, as well as the inestimable subjectivity and wonder of minds; as much as I resist a perch, Christian or otherwise, that poses simplistic answers to deep human problems, or refuses to ask the questions, there remains a basic human call, a question: what do I do about my neighbour?

And of course, it is entirely possible, in the middle of pondering the wonders of minds and souls, or in the study and promotion of altruism, or even in the creation of policies and structures that purportedly benefit the poor, to forget the poor, to forget my hurting neighbour—thereby, forgetting the beauty and strangeness of souls.



  1. Your piece is a beautiful, provocative, horrible, deeply sad injection into the mystery and stunning possibility for transformation this newborn spring offers us of the reality of our individual and collective and repeated failures to attend to the small stuff. My Lent this year started with a piece called “Stumbling Mercy” at, which hit me with these home truths: “…[I]t’s those little things that trip me up; it’s exactly those little things that I need to focus on. You can’t build big if you can’t start small — especially when God begins to point at cracks in the foundation. …[W]e’re all on [the] bus together. If we’re hoping to build anything great — the reign of God, for example — we have to start by looking up at our fellow passengers [on the bus], by smiling, by reaching out, extending a hand and walking together.” Your words today bring similar clarity to the end of my Lenten journey, Stephen, like water to the seed of mindfulness at which I hope to be humbly grateful for any greater capacity with which I might be graced to be far more faithful to the small stuff on my doorstep and let the grand plan take care of itself. Thank you the passion with which you till the soil that helps you to not lose sight of that. It helps so many of us on our own journeys. Namaste–

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