“Everything human is an overflow from contemplation… We so rarely grant contemplation its proper place. Yet it cannot overflow unless it has this place. Nevertheless, everything derives from its fulness…”
Pierre T. Dehau, O.P.
The waters of reality run deep. Contemplation is a kind of plumbing of these depths, even a drinking of the waters. It is not easy. There has always been a temptation to give up or to stop short, or, to see it as pointless, a waste of time. We have so many other things that we need to do.
In one of his most potent lines Aristotle asserts:
Happiness extends, then, just so far as contemplation does, and those to whom contemplation more fully belongs are more truly happy, not as a mere concomitant but in virtue of the contemplation; for this is in itself precious.
The implications are many. For some people it is fitting to commit their whole lives to contemplation (how dramatic!); and these should have a special role in giving insight and direction to others. For all of us, it means that contemplation should have a unique and irreplaceable part in our every day.
Everything human depends on and is an overflow of contemplation. Everything human.
In perhaps the greatest paradox of human life, the activity whose worth is beyond all practicality is at the same time the very grounding for all true practicality. The person who contemplates well will know who he is and where he is going; and he will be able to find his way. Daily.
Aristotle says the contemplative life is divine, in a sense too high for man. But at the same time, he insists it is most human. Herein is the essence of our life: for it to be what it should—for it to be truly human—we must be in contact with and fed by the divine. In a contemplative mode. Consistently, even if briefly.
For those of who are not yet well practiced in contemplation it is easy to be discouraged and disillusioned. Is there really so much worth seeing? At such an effort and cost?
Perhaps we ourselves are not sure just what the contemplatives see. We have not yet seen well enough. But we can know that they see. And we can want to do follow in their steps, and choose to make it our priority. Herein can be the beginning of our putting first things first, each day, for the sake of all things human.
Pierre-Thomas Dehau (1870-1956) was a French priest and a friar of the Dominican Order. This quotation is from his book Eve and Mary. Another book, The Living Water, is the text of a retreat he gave.
Join the Community.
Become a LifeCraft Member and gain access to our online courses and exclusive content. It's FREE of charge. Period.
If you join as a contributing member, you will help make this content available to an increasing audience and enable me to spend more time in this work. I thank you in advance.
Join the LifeCraft community today and get access to:
- Man of the Household (Course)
- Woman of the Household (Course)
- Concepts Made Clear (Mini-course)
- Dinner at Home (Mini-course)
Friendship and the Conversations that Really Matter
“One must always tell what one sees.” Charles Peguy So many great conversations never happen. There is nothing like sharing insights with a friend into things that matter, and even things that don’t matter so much. But why is it so difficult? One of the great...
What Makes Home a Home
The words ‘home at last’ are uniquely powerful. The desire to be at home is so deeply rooted in us that we don’t question it. If we see these words on a tombstone we scarcely notice; or we smile and think, of course. In the end where else would one want to be? It is...
Hospitality: Finding Our Way Home
It is perhaps a sign of our times that we speak of a hospitality ‘industry.’ Rooms-for-the-night and meals away from home can certainly be bought and sold. But hospitality is something no exchange of money will ever effect. Hospitality is intimately tied with being...
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”
A bit overstated, perhaps, but like Dehau and Aristotle, he was onto something.
I certainly agree, and I like how he puts it in layman’s terms! Thanks Tom.
I wish there was more substance to this particular post. You don’t explain what contemplation is and how it should be practiced. It might be obvious to philosophers but many people need to know what it is, how to practice it, and where to start. Also, what resources can you suggest to further develop contemplation. Finally, how and why it is related to the divine. I don’t disagree with you, but I’d like to see the connection made explicit.
I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Roger, Thank you very much for this. All of your questions are very appropriate. I pledge to answer them some time soon–either here, or in a completely new post–probably the latter. Thank you again.