Thursday, July 17, 2008


Idle time,
time with self,
self-destructing pride

pride of life
life of death
death from sin inside.

~Tim Sprankle

Picture yourself sitting in a dark room, at night. Sitting on an old, antique wooden chair, you shift from time to time to ease the rigidity and produce some ease. You stare out the window and glaze over nothing. Your mind is idle. But then, thoughts come....

You are in idle time. And what will happen to you now, now that you are all alone? Stuck here for a while, your mind wanders around what fantasies you desire, or what revenge you'd like to take, or where your driven passions travel...

This poem strikes the reader for many reasons: each line, after the 1st line, begins with the same word with which the prior line finishes. In its simplicity, the poem transcends the bounds of beauty by means of rhythm, meter, and rhyme.

However, the words themselves are most important: they provide a profundity that captures the reader with a call to introspection: the poem speaks to me. It is when we are all alone "idol time" (1st line) that we often come to grips with our own naked reality. The 2nd line is congruent in meaning with the 1st, "time with self," and carries the picture of the lone person sitting in contemplation, perhaps with an accusing conscious, a doubtful mind, or a playful, meandering, desire.

But it is after this "idle time" that we as humans tend to get bored. "Idle hands are the devil's playpen," your grandma used to say. This motif carries through the rest of the poem to lare bare our deepest disease, that of sinful pride and the resultant death from it. The intends to tell us that left all alone, we humans, are indeed unable to be "idle" ontologically, or even existentially. Rather, left alone and looking only to the "self" is the essence of pride, and this is self-destructive. Why is pride self-destructive? What is it about life, and our place in this world that results in death because of our pride? We have to finish the poem to discover the essence of pride and its resultant death.

Man, all alone and by himself in this world, while existing in a closed system is nothing but mere idleness, and his life wastes away. Moreover, the cause of this solitude and death is not from sources outside himself, but from the inside, "death from sin inside." This poem recalls the clear message of Jesus, that it is not the things outside of us that make us "unlcean," but rather it is that which is inherent to our nature, that which is one in essence with our being--ontology--that makes us unclean. He says in Matthew 15: 17-20, while explaining to his disciples to watch out for the hypocritical Pharisees,

"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean'. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean'."

St. Paul and St. Augustine picked up on this theme, and Christians call this problem of inherent unlceanness Orginal Sin. That is to say, our natures are like a finely woven fabric used for special occasions, but are now stained with irremovable blemishes. John Calvin's followers call this "total depravity," (not to be confused with "utter" depravity).

The 2nd stanza of the poem, "pride of life, life of death, death from sin inside" recalls that no matter if our thoughts are lofty and beautific, or if they are dark and insane, it is pride--a life of self-exhaltation and egoism--that results in death. Pride is the essence of what is contrary to what Jesus teaches concerning our life before God. He says earlier in Matthew that the "poor in spirit" are blessed (happy), not the haughty and prideful. A life of pride is focused on the self, but a life that is poor in spirit is humble concerning self, before others and enjoys the presence of God and his favor. "Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7: 24b-25).

Great poem Tim!


Jonathan Erdman said...

Does TS blog or anything?

chris van allsburg said...

yes, he has a blog that is through his church. i said hello on it, but he hasn't responded.