At the recent VCUKI 2017 Theology Symposium, ‘Just Theology’, the brilliant Kate Colemanspoke powerfully on mission, diversity and leadership.
She began with a poem, playing this video:
This is a poem that is apparently well known – yet I’d not heard it before. In it’s own way, it is hauntingly beautiful and chillingly true:
Isn’t that beautifully brutal? As a former English student and an ongoing amateur theologian, I love it when a poem speaks truth. I think this poem gently blends hope and despair – the absence of something roundly making it clear that there must be something else. The characters in this poem’s story die. They die not because of anything that radical – just ‘cold’ – and don’t die spectacularly.
Looking in, whether as we watch the video or read the poem, was want to run towards the six humans, asking them gently, beseeching them violently, yelling that they need to change, to turn to each other, to move towards the light and warmth.
They don’t, it seems.
They don’t, because of underlying problems.
Is it sin?
Is it selfishness?
Or is it just the way things are?
I love the language of ‘happenstance’, the way that this situation – using familar things and characters, unnamed and unclear – makes sense to us.
I appreciate – love would be the wrong word – the way the poem ends.
Death, for this poem, for the point this poet is making and this reader is noticing, is final.
Death, for this poem, was always in view. The title and the last few words are the same. Without something else, without someone else, without a hint of light and truth and hope, ‘they died from the cold within‘.
From where I sit, this makes perfect sense. From my seat at the fire – with people I don’t know and understand – I want to scream out that the cold within us does not need to mean the end of us. As a man, as a rich man, as a game player, as a white man, as a church-man, I’ve learnt that something more true is always going on. I am grateful – before I heard this poem, as I read it, as I share it – that there is a way to warm up from the cold within.
I’d love to tell you about it.