What is the Still Point?



Someone asked my why I call my blog and author page The Still Point. The phrase comes from T.S Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton. The full quotation is:

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

The poem is about…well, it is impossible to explain, because it ranges over a variety of topics, but here Eliot is talking about how we can try to move beyond our time bound existence, and come to a place that some call The Eternal Now.

When I taught life-style groups on the behavioral health ward of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital I would often tell patients, “All you have is now. The past is gone, and the future is not here. If you miss the moments you are in, you are missing out on your life.”

The dance of life takes place at this Still Point. It is a place for both reflection and action, but not for busy-work. When you are caught up in a song, and dance like no one is looking (which is about the only way I dance–although the Redhead does occasionally see me strut my arhymatic stuff), when you captured by a luscious landscape, when you lose yourself in the person you love, when you are doing something you love and forget all about time and its passage, you are in the Still Point.

When you worship, and feel connected to God and the Universe, you are in the Still Point.

One of my parishioners asked me if preaching was hard work. “Not when it’s going well,” I answered.

“How do you know when it’s going well,” they asked.

I didn’t use these words for my answer (I think I told that I just know, and they understood that), but I know it is going well when I enter the Still Point.

IMG_1595Today I built a planter box. It was the fourth one I had done, and so I could sit back and enjoy the work. I didn’t have to constantly think about what I was doing–I just did it. That’s the Still Point.

The subtitle for all this, which is the running theme of my life, is connecting faith to popular culture, music and politics. For me faith, which takes many forms, is the overall theme of my life. I can no more live without faith than I can live without oxygen. But faith is a tricky thing. In the movie Serenity, Shepherd Book, who is kind of like a monastic, tells Malcolm that he needs to believe.

Malcolm: Ah hell, Shepherd, I ain’t looking for help from on high. That’s a long wait for a train don’t come.

Shepherd Book: When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I’m talking about God?

I echo Shepherd Book’s words. Faith is much more than what we do at church. For me, I can best exercise my faith as a pastor, but I know that is not true for others. I know many of faith, some of whom go to church, many of whom do not. All of them seek some form of the Still Point though.

My prayer and hope is that through the words found here, people will find a way to their own Still Point.




About tmrichmond3

I am the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Medford, Oregon. I believe that faith should be able to sustain us, not oppress us.
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