“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.
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