Time, Tradition and T.S.Eliot

T.S.Eliot is not only my favorite poet, but one of my favorite people. I like his anti-poet attitude. In an age where the individual poet was meant to be a bohemian dreamer living on a crust of bread in a squalid garret Eliot wore a three piece suit and got a job at a bank. In an age where the poet was a libertine and alcoholic, Eliot was a semi-monastic figure–abstemious and reserved. In the age of the aesthete he was an ascetic. He refused to conform to the passion for non conformity. In an age where youth and sexuality was worshipped Eliot presented himself as a prematurely senescent office clerk.

My latest article for Imaginative Conservative explores Eliot’s ideas on time, eternity and the role of tradition.

Time, if you like, is a little holy Trinity: The past is summarized and fulfilled in the present moment and the present contains in seed form all that that the future will be. We are not cut off from the past. Instead, this past is alive in this present moment. All that has been has come together in this present. Neither are we cut off from the future for all future possibilities exist here and now in the present moment. Past, present, and future are unified here and now. Past, present ,and future are three in one and one in three—an undivided trinity of time.

Mr. Eliot’s understanding of time past, present, and future also illuminates the importance of tradition for the artist. In his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent, he expounds the idea that the artist seeks an original voice and style while at the same time he is only recognized if he remains within the great tradition. The tradition informs the artist, but it cannot contain him. Indeed, the artist who remains bound by the tradition is no more than an echoing and unoriginal voice.

Take time to read the whole article here because the thinking on the importance of tradition affects every aspect of life and is vital for a true understanding of the Catholic faith.


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