An insight of incalculable value

Here is an insight of incalculable value, suggested by T.S. Eliot in his Four Quartets, Chapter 2 (“Little Gidding”):

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all of our exploring
Will be to arrive at where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

Eliot reminds us that one of the greatest benefits of exploration is to increase one’s knowledge, of course, but also to gain new perspectives on the knowledge we already possess. We must trust our curiosity to drive that relentless process of strategic inquiry.

We will continue following the Love, the Voice, and the Calling that draws us toward spiritual renewal. Even when we get old, we won’t stop looking for new experiences (“shall not cease from exploration”). And at the end of our exploring, we will look upon the same life we’ve always known and see it as though for the first time.

For the speaker, our spiritual quest should make unfamiliar things familiar to us; but even more importantly, it should make familiar things unfamiliar. We need to not take things for granted, and the only way to do this is to keep looking at our world through fresh eyes and to avoid the numbing effects of our routines and habits.

Eliot’s insight calls to my mind the conclusion of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses:

“The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

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