The Patience of Ordinary Things: Everyday Objects as a Kind of Love
We humans are as dependent on order as we are on novelty, on repetition as on newness, on the patience of ordinary things as on the joys of experimentation.
Sometimes order gets a bad reputation because it connotes something that limits our freedom, and we humans like our freedom. But when order is understood as the patience of ordinary things, it is a kind of love. It is the order of how the cup holds the tea and the chair stands sturdy; how the dry towels drink the wet off our backs and how soap dries quietly in a dish. This is not the order of law and order. It is the order of dependability, of faithfulness, of dependable and supportive presence.
One of the gifts of the soul of the universe, of God, is the gift of ordered love. This gift is not imposed upon the world in a forceful way; it is given in a loving way. It requires the cooperation of the world to have its effects. Order emerges through a combination of the creativity of the universe and the creativity of God, neither complete without the other. The effects of co-creativity include gravity, atoms, molecules, stars, cycles, and many states of matter. They also include furniture and buildings, rituals and recipes, families and friendships. The things we depend on. All are forms of love.
There is no need to limit "love" to the intentions of sentient beings. It is too wonderful for that. Objects can be love, too.
The philosopher Whitehead speaks of God's love as infinitely patient. By contrast, the things of this world are patient in a finite way. All forms of worldly order are subject to the perpetual perishing of time. None last forever. But in their dependability they participate for a time in the infinite patience, in a larger field of love. They touch and are touched by the Deep. When we say our prayers, we need not thank God alone. We can also thank the towels, the soap, the windows, and the chairs.
- Jay McDaniel, 2/22/23
The Patience of Ordinary Things
It is a kind of love, is it not? How the cup holds the tea, How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare, How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes Or toes. How soles of feet know Where they’re supposed to be. I’ve been thinking about the patience Of ordinary things, how clothes Wait respectfully in closets And soap dries quietly in the dish, And towels drink the wet From the skin of the back. And the lovely repetition of stairs. And what is more generous than a window?
From Another River: New and Selected Poems (Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2005). Used with the author’s permission.