Those who know me personally know that my emails have a rotating signature feature, by which things that I add to the list are randomly selected to be my signature. Normal-thinking people would use one signature or choose between a few with different contact information and leave it at that. I, however, have over a hundred quotes that I like, be they funny, interesting, smart or inspirational. So I thought that might be a good base for getting back into bloggerdom, to post one and a few brief thoughts about it every now and then, as a series called “Sage Sayings.”
“One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak.” – GK Chesterton.
One of the great things about Chesterton is the multi-faceted depth of his writings. Psalm 23 encapsulates the idea of the valley best– “yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Those who have any faith at all know the valleys – times of darkness. But just as one caught in a pit can only look around himself or up, so too are the valleys opportunities for grace – one time when we can truly see what is above us. It is good, of course, to persist in faith, but sometimes it is the struggles that help us best. When climbing on one’s own, it is easy to see only the ground around us, or to see how far we’ve come. In the valleys, I am reminded that no matter how high I climb, I always need to reach out my arms and ask to be lifted up.
The quote is actually from a mystery called “The Hammer of God,” and Fr. Brown is explaining to the guilty party how the murder occurred. Without spoiling it, the peak the murderer found himself upon was both a physical height and a metaphysical one. His anger was understandable, but his vengeance came from a self-made peak, a mountain of judging not only the victim as worse, but himself as better. Just as the valley, while painful, can be a help to faith, a peak, while pleasant, is always a hindrance to it.
There’s a motif in The Lord of the Rings of characters looking upwards, to the stars. In Tolkien’s mythology, the stars preceded all, including day. And if ever there were a novel of constant valleys, that were it. I can’t help but think it is a good model. If I’m honest with myself, about the state of the world (which is nothing new – we souls have always been more battleground than soldier) and my own sins, the peaks are only fabrications of my own ego. But when I’ve known I’m in the valley, I’ve been able to look up and truly see the stars, not the path I’ve “created” (not really) or how far I’ve come (which passage has never been truly my own effort). In short, when I’ve been knocked to my knees, I’ve been reminded that that’s where I belong to begin with — I am capable of seeing the great things, the high mountains and broad sky — a much better view than from my imaginary peaks, where all the truly wondrous things appear as no more than ants to be quashed.
Sorry for the great delay – been overwhelmed and had some technical issues. But trying to get back – have faith and I will try to as well!
-the Rosy Gardener