Why ‘Calm and Distressed”?

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged egale stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

TS Eliot, Ash Wednesday

Why the Name?

The name Calm and Distressed comes from further along in this poem, Ash Wednesday by TS Eliot. I love it — I don’t claim to understand it— but I love it. Not to worry, Eliot himself said that “genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” When I came to choose a name I thought of this poem and originally chose to call it Only the Wind, from this line: “Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only the wind will listen.” I was fearful of anyone except the metaphorical wind reading C&D; breath is a bit like wind and a fleeting thing; the Holy Spirit is like a wind, who blows where He will; I hoped that the ‘wind’ would lift away from the memory any chaff in what is spoken here and leave just good wheat.

However, it didn’t feel quite right. So when my husband asked me if I had chosen a name for my blog and I told him I had. “But where’s it from? he asked me, picking up our copy of TS Eliot’s poetry and randomly flipping it open: “Is it calm and distressed” he said, “Torn and most whole?”, “Exhausted and life-giving”? Right poet, right poem, right page: much better names for what I wanted to express. Over the next few days I fixed on Calm & Distressed, because it better fits with my hopes for this space. I do want it to be read (and not just by the wind). “Calm and distressed” somehow expresses how I feel so much of the time: it is well with my soul, but it doesn’t necessarily feel well with everything else.

Paul shares something similar in 2 Corinthians 6:9-10. A paradoxical list to describe how he and his fellow believers are feeling in the light of future hope and present trouble: “known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

So much of the Christian life is like this as we contend with the fact that we are exiles heading home, not yet fully possessing our inheritance.

Why the blog?

At the end of last year I found myself in one of the lowest places I’d been in a long time: struggling with post-natal depression, personal tragedy, job loss and the global pandemic. I was stressed and crippled with self-doubt and loathing, whilst still clinging on to the hope that Jesus had a hold on me. One of the worst things was that I had no energy to do any of my usual creative endeavours and was unwilling to do anything that might make more mess. So I turned back to writing.

Only this time I wanted to do something public. Being in lockdown on and off for so many months had taught me that actually wanting to share thoughts out loud and have some kind of audience for your creative endeavours isn’t vanity; it’s a legitimate human need, and a valid motivator to think better and deeper.

As I’ve gone, on my dream has expanded. As much as I need the motivation of an audience to force me to meditate and dwell on a topic or passage, the same could be true for others. I have had many interesting conversations with people whose unique thread of wisdom has been enormously beneficial, but so often those people don’t have an obvious platform or forum. Here I want to mend that a little. My vision is this: a diverse orthodoxy in everyday theology.

Then I got excited and added a poetry section for shy poets (and not so shy). And finally we added Roots//church history because, really, where else is my mum going to have the chance to share her knowledge about medieval poetry? (On her own blog actually.)

So, go on – what’s your thing? What would you write about? What’s your heart passion? What blog post have you already composed and saved to Evernote? Come and join the fun…

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