Spring 2024 Letter

Spring 2024 Letter

As spring flowers begin to emerge from their abode deep in the earth, I’d like to share with you some thoughts about the meaning of emerging, about surface and depth, about what it means to reveal and to hide, to disclose and to conceal.

Winter is a time of concealment. Here in the mid-Atlantic, the gray and brown forests sway for months in the quiet howling of the cold wind. Damp soil and occasional blankets of snow cover the land in stillness. Waves of starlings sweep across the sky, forming patterns like strange heralds from another world. The beauty of winter is a silent, harsh beauty that whispers, covers, and suggests.

Spring is a time of disclosure. Color and scent burst forward with the first snowdrops, crocuses, and forsythias. The life deep within the soil begins to reveal itself. Vines that seemed like dead sticks in the mud begin to swell in furry buds until they break open into green leaves that will capture the sun all summer long. But things can only be disclosed because they are present in concealment. Indeed, in the most important way, the plump cluster of grapes is already present in the seemingly dead winter vine.

To be a person is to grasp this process and to understand its meaning. This is why T.S. Eliot wrote in The Waste Land that “April is the cruellest month”—because it mixes “memory and desire.” It stirs “dull roots with spring rain.” And there is certainly a certain cruelty to this, though not because of any poetic indulgence or intentional malice but because April is a mirror and mirrors are always cruel. April is an image that reflects our condition, our existence between the past and the future: the past has already passed, and the future is not here, yet the present we cannot capture as it escapes us second by second, running like water through our fingers.

Furthermore, even time itself is not our domain. We don’t merely float down its stream like the vine, the bud, the leaf, the flower, and the grape. We live in time, but we also think about the meaning of its passing. We experience nostalgia for the winter that “kept us warm” and anxiety for what is to come. We anticipate the arrival of the future and lament the passing of the past. We are, in a fundamental way, always beyond time, yet we are not quite outside of it either, as we are always its subject.

This is why we have such little control over our lives: because to be a person is to live in this process, oscillating between concealment and disclosure, between memory – which looks to the past – and desire – which looks to the future. And this is also why the happiest among us are those who accept this mysterious condition rather than those who wage war against it by striving for a control that they will never achieve.

Indeed, in this world, as Eliot insists later in the poem, we can only know “a heap of broken images.” All those images are intimations, little bits of concealment that always suggest a depth beyond the surface. But what that depth is, we can discover not in a flash but in a deep and enduring relationship. This is why in order to truly know the world and one another, we must first love the world and one another. If we don’t, we are bound to remain on the surface, in a world of mirrors and cruelty. For the surface to reveal its depth, we must enter into an unconditional relationship with it. We must sacrifice and devote our life to the world in order to know it, and this requires great courage and humility.

So, I would like to raise a glass, friends, to this world so full of broken images, to the bird and the bud that are heralds of another world, to April and its cruelty, that we may live in a loving relationship with the world and one another, with enough courage and humility to always see what lies beyond the surface.



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