Some years ago as she was moving to a smaller home, my friend gave me several books. They were written by a person we mutually admired, Carlyle Marney.
Dr. Marney was a pastor and a Southerner and a Baptist and a liberal. He drank and smoke and admired the classicists and put up with little bullshit. He believed in ecumenism and preached in favor of integration long before Brown v Board of Education. He preached like a prophet and a poet and a scholar, and his liturgical druthers leaned high church.
When I got word of my friend's death, I took several of Dr. Marney's books off the shelves and flipped through them, pausing over this phrase or that, and thinking.
In the middle of my mulling, I came across these words...
“We are outrunning life….
For example, we have outrun a really concerned and informed citizenry….
We have outrun a vital valid religious faith; we simply sandwich in our religious lives between runnings here and yon….
We have outrun the world of literature and music and drama and art. We saturate ourselves with quick doses; we buy little condensations of important new writing in order that in our bridge clubs and other places we can say with that animated expression peculiar to literary discussions: “Oh yes, I read it last week.” We didn’t read it last week; we read somebody’s hashed up version of it last week.
I am saying we have outrun the fundamental verities of our culture.
We have outrun true education and—tragedy of tragedies—we have outrun the highest and deepest of personal relations. A person’s own family goes by so fast that they become a blur…
We have outrun personalized Christian service by canning up what we do for our neighbors under the name of great worth-while projects. We have lost the tremendous spiritual impetus of one person doing for the person who is nearest to them.
And perhaps most tragic of all, we have outrun the meaning of work and what work ought to be and mean in a person’s life. The work that is made by integrity, character, and honest to goodness stick-to-it-iveness—the creativeness that ought to come out of a person’s personality….
What are we outrunning? Life itself. Everything important.
I can’t tell you how to stop. I am not sure I can find out how I can stop; but I am becoming more and more concerned with what I am going to miss if I don’t learn how to quit outrunning myself.” *
Dear God, I thought... (and I meant that phrase both in the sense of sacred prayer and of profane curse...) Dear God, I thought, he wrote that in 1960. (It was actually probably earlier; that's just when the book was published.)
In 1960, Dr. Marney thought we were outrunning ourselves. Sweet Lord, what would he say about us now?
Requiesce in pace. Rest in peace, I say to my newly deceased friend who gave me her Marney books. But really I say it to us all, Rest in peace. Requiesce. Rest.
* Quotation is from "Outrunning Ourselves," found in Beggars in Velvet, published by Abingdon Press, 1960. I have altered the language in paragraph's 6 and 8 for gender inclusivity, changing "man" to "person." I like to think that Marney would approve of my minor edits.