Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Tuesdays in the chapel

The invitation of our morning gatherings is to consider change. What would you change if you could about any topic you are interested in considering. The intent is to get us all to think about what change suggests and demands of us. It is also an invitation to do something we do not often do here at MIT and that is to pause and reflect.

The readings for the day lay out the spectrum. There is the Psalmist, David, reflecting on the unchanging nature of the Divine. “The Lord is my rock.” (Psalm 18) On another occasion, he declares “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.” (Psalm 118)

The New Hampshire poet, Donald Hall, celebrates change. There are the trees that bud and flower only to repeat the process because ‘frost will strip it raw and barren soon”. A poet who paid attention to the nature of the passions that come with living, Hall offers the insights of experience. Loves brings change and hurt but the process is curative and may be summed up by noting that:

“The young are never robbed of innocence
but given gold of love and memory.
We live in wealth whose bounds exceed our sense
And when we die are full of memory.”

Love makes us whole and the process depends on memory. It may be that is why Alzheimers is such a dreaded specter hanging over our lives for it robs us of that which ties it all together: memory,

If I were to change anything I would ask that memory remain a constant; that the links of memory remain alive and vital. But even as I say it I know that I depend on certain parts of remembering fading with time else the pain of loss and foolishness would be too great to bear. That is why Hall links memory with love:

“yet people are not mended, but go on
accumulating memory and love.
And so the wood we used to know is gone,
Because the years have taught us that we move.”

Fall reminds us that change is the order of the universe and that the dis-ease we experience each year when the days grow shorter and the darkness deepens is bearable because we remember that the tree burning with color will repeat the process come spring and so will we as blood again quickens and life revives.

The words of another New England poet come to mind:

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still….

Robert Frost The Master Speed

That is what we do each Tuesday, pause and stand still recognizing the nature of change yet grounded by a love that surrounds us.

May it always be so.

Robert M Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute