There is No There There; So Let it Be

In 1935, after a nearly 45 year absence, Gertrude Stein returned to her childhood home in Oakland, California.  One outcome of Stein’s observations of ‘what once was’ is a sentence, part of which after being published in Everybody’s Autobiography in 1937, that became famous.  The famous part of the sentence are the five words that come at the end:  “…yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.”

I encountered Stein’s writing during college when I read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.  I can remember reading with amazement sentences that made perfect sense to me when they shouldn’t have.  It’s amazing what the absence of syntax and narrative order can do!  Reading Gertrude Stein is a little like listening to the great Jedi Master Yoda or like reading an interlinear bible (the bible word for word in its original language without the inclusion of modern literary conventions).  In fact, when it comes to “there is no there there,” the bible beat Stein to her punch:

“In beginning he created God the heavens and the earth; now the earth she was formless and empty and darkness over surface of deep and of spirit and God hovering over surface of the waters; and God said let him be light and he was was light…”  God said “Let light be and light was…” there is no there there!

The absence of there, here, is quite compelling.  It’s as if, in the beginning, in the naming and in the making of things, there is no there there and this brings the naming and the creating of things from a status of the past into a very simple command or a reality of the present for the people of God – to let light be so it will; let light be, and it will! Don’t, and it won’t.

Did those Beatles get it right..?

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be

There is no there there and yet there is an answer.  Where is God calling you and me to let light be?

Happy Monday,

Jim+

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2 Responses to There is No There There; So Let it Be

  1. Timothy C. Coughlin says:

    Wonderful. Thanks

  2. Anne-Louise Oliphant says:

    So be it. Amen.

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