Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment . . .
(T. S. Eliot)
THOSE WHOSE LIVES ARE THE RICHEST ARE THOSE WHO ARE INTENSE. Their powers of concentration are great, and they bring those powers to bear on an object of singular importance. They are, to use a phrase by William Butler Yeats, “full of passionate intensity.”
Most people have no sharp focus on anything. They may have many interests (even “avid” interests), but that is precisely the problem. Unwilling to let go of any of those, they are like a kid in a candy store who can’t make up his mind. Or to change the metaphor, they are like the man described by one writer: “He got up each morning, jumped on his horse, and rode off in all directions at once.”
It is one of life’s most profound ironies that those who live this way impoverish themselves. When I said above that those who are intensely focused have the “richest” lives, I meant exactly that. It sounds contradictory, I know, but it is true: by holding on to so many activities, we lose what could be a richer life. Unwilling to sacrifice, we lose the things we hold onto and also the higher pursuit that was calling to us. Jesus of Nazareth frequently made the point and made it bluntly: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.”
“The degree of fullness in any life,” wrote A. W. Tozer, “accords perfectly with the intensity of true desire.” This “intensity of true desire” makes us vulnerable to suffering, obviously. But doing away with it leads to nothing that could be called life. In fact, it leads to death.
Life does not stay the same for very long. So as our lives unfold, it is to be expected that our intensity will change. But passion and focus have no mandatory retirement age. These are things that must not be allowed to fade away. Elevated and enhanced by the passage of time, our intensity must always be “moving into another intensity . . .”
Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity . . .
(T. S. Eliot)