Augustine wrote 15 commentaries on one book (Genesis).
Beethoven composed 16 string quartets.
Jeremiah spent 23 years saying the same thing (with no one listening).
Were they stuck in a rut? Not exactly.
Beethoven was fascinated by the quartet form, but was never satisfied with what he had done. He kept going back to do it again. Augustine never felt he’d really got to the beginning of the beginning and kept going back to Genesis, returning again and again. Beethoven, Augustine, Jeremiah–they all kept doing the same thing over and over. And yet they were more fully alive, their imaginations more on fire, their minds more filled with wonder.
“The mark of a certain kind of genius is the ability and energy to keep returning to the same task relentlessly, imaginatively, curiously, for a lifetime. Never give up and go on to something else; never get distracted and be diverted to something else.” Eugene Peterson Run With The Horses
Which makes me think of children and how they are and how God is and that quote I love so much from GKC:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”G K Chesterton Orthodoxy
We all know it’s true. My little 3 year old friend AE, made us read Poor Doreen 14 times in a row when I first gave it to her. (Her parents and I took it in turns because we are grown ups and 14 times was too many.) (Doreen of course loved it.)
Augustine, Beethoven, Jeremiah weren’t stuck in a rut, though they kept doing the same thing day in day out. They were not mindlessly working. They were committed to a purpose. And they were filled with joy.
Have we sinned and grown old? I hope never.
“Do it again!”