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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

866: The rose is without a why; it blossoms because it blossoms

Day 866: Saturday, July 30, 2022

The rose is without a why; it blossoms because it blossoms . . . Angelus Silesius.

(Why else? - Geoff Wood)


The rose is without ‘why’;

it blooms simply because it blooms.

It pays no attention to itself,

nor does it ask whether anyone sees it.

Visitors to my home often notice a framed photo of myself taken at age 3 wearing a playsuit and standing in a brand new wagon with the words Snappy Boy painted on its side. To those who pause to study the picture I always say, “When I die my final words will be Snappy Boy” – which baffles those too young to recall the movie Citizen Kane.

I saw that film when it opened in 1941. I was only 13 years old. The beginning held your attention. The camera focuses upon an iron gate, then raises its view to take in a dark castle high on a hill and then upon a lighted window in the castle’s tower.

This is the mansion – called Xanadu - of Charles Foster Kane, filled with spacious rooms and costly furniture and art, a veritable Hearst-like castle befitting a man of wealth and power. The camera continues to climb toward the lighted window, enters to focus upon a water-filled glass globe which when shaken causes tiny wax “snowflakes” to fall upon a miniature house. The globe rests within the grasp of the dying Kane. From there the camera rises to focus upon Kane’s lips which as he expires pronounce the word Rosebud. The globe then slips from his hand to shatter on the floor.

The movie is a parable of our modern times.

Kane was not born rich – but upon a winter’s day as he plays with his sled outside his rural home, his parents are negotiating with a visitor who announces the boy Kane to be heir to a fortune and destined to be brought up by guardians and ultimately benefit from all the advantages of wealth (our American dream) – and to let it go to his head.

As an adult he has money to spend on whatever he wants, buys control of a newspaper, turns it into a political platform; he has ambition beyond his “sensationalized journalism” to campaign for high political office but fails. He ruins his marriage by promoting his wife’s limited musical talent beyond its critical worth. He is at times like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

As such he is a metaphor of how unbridled power along with indifference to enduring wisdom and values can contribute to the disruption of what is already our fragile moment in history – which, I think, is illustrated in the closing scene of the movie – after Kane dies.

We find ourselves in the vast cellar of Xanadu where so much of the material accumulation of Kane has been stored and has now become junk – while laborers toss it piece by piece into a huge furnace to become ashes. I wonder, what with all the contending “absolutes” generating turmoil in our world (and church?) today, whether the history we elders took for progress isn’t also becoming a shambles ready to combust.

But the film does offer us hope. Because one of the laborers almost unnoticeably picks up a sled from the huge junk pile to toss into the furnace and as he does so the camera reveals the word Rosebud and an image thereof painted upon its surface. [I almost cried!] An image of hope? – a recall of Kane’s once unpolarized childhood (which Christ affirms) and maybe of Kane’s and our own anticipation of our planet’s saner, more playful destiny?

The rose is without a why; it blossoms because it blossoms . . . Angelus Silesius. (Why else?)

But the idea of “without why” was not original to Angelus Silesius. He simply reflected in poetic imagery an idea that was present in Meister Eckhart, who died 300 years before Silesius was born.

Echkart suggested that, “[The just person] wants and seeks nothing, for he knows no why.

He acts without a why just in the same way as God does; and just as life lives for its own sake and seeks no why for the sake of which it lives, so too the just person knows no why for the sake of which he would do something.” Ethical (justice-based) action for Eckhart was simply doing justice for justice’s sake – thus acting divinely, at one with God, the source of true bliss.

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