Searching the other day, not for anything lost, but for something I could not find, I slowed enough to allow clarity to answer my search. I’ve done my best to remind myself as age intrudes I do not have a memory problem. I have a retrieval problem. On this day, retrieval seemed more problematic than usual.
This strain to retrieve imitates the sense one has having heard of a far off country, but not having visited, and can only imagine its described splendor through magazines and pictures. There might be some similarity to familiar surroundings, but without the local language and culture, the smells and sounds, the “joie de vivre” one gets by being there is lost.
Poetry drives a similar curiosity. A well-constructed poem elicits for the reader all those relatable shared memories and experiences. A good poet by elevating the mundane brings to mind tangible and intimate truth and says it through careful construction. But for all the good words on the page, a good poem comes to life not for what’s printed, but for the words erased, discarded and left to evaporate in the poet’s mind. The real truth is between the words, the wondering of meaning emanating from the void. We can never fully comprehend, only surmise.
Bringing the idea closer, I would rather be in the kitchen with spaghetti sauce simmering and the noodles boiling, seeing the table set and the bread coming out of the oven, than looking at a picture or watching a cooking show describing the process.
To this simple Southern boy, it just ain’t the same. Just let me eat.
Not lost to me, in my search I could not find the right word. The sense of it all was there, but I needed a word to transpose that sense into conciseness. Looking for the right one can be difficult, especially to a diction-challenged writer.
Sometimes the Word has to come when not looking, when quiet and unsuspecting, rising into consciousness as though suddenly tapped on the shoulder from behind. And then, all is clear.
When the Word came, my burden lifted, the air freshened, the sun burned away the fog and everything appeared as if it had always been that way. In a burst of light, my angst faded.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1: 1-5).
Maybe the Word was looking for me.
Maybe the sense I felt reflected that Word all along.
Maybe the Word I needed was there all the time.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).