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On Taking for Granted Things Granted


Robertson Davies and Annie Dillard alert us to its importance,
    this distinction between a profession and professionalism.
Davis disturbs the architects, playwrights, clergy, journalists
    who submerge the wondrously new into the usefully
        predictable.
Dillard still notices the balanced peril of Mohegans skyscraping
    6.0642 seconds above death, and she wonders at
    easy preachers oblivious to the danger they proclaim.

No time for the seriously, mortally wounding professionalists,
    those for whom things indifferent are equally essential,
    those who joke away the few things worth fighting for.
Jaded masters mistresses of the score
    with conditioned nonchalance they hit all the notes,
    yet miss the silenting pathos for mad Lucia.
All their gall is congealed into three parts:
    gravel ignominious, sedentary, metaphoric.

But time abounds and overflows for those whose profession
    is their call, so subject to their subject that excellence
    in caring cared for is second nature new creation.
Their sure foundation the super hanc rock of petrine stratum
    against which no hellish gates prevail.
With delightsome freedom they profess the few essentials
    and Sarah laughs about what amounts not to a hill of     
        beings.

These two opposed variants of profession divide on
    the what and who and how of taking for granted.
The geniuses of skilled tedium take nothing for granted,
    but deserve and merit and earn and are praised by their ilk.
The unlearned untaught wonder at all the granted to be taken
        freely,
    all ordinary meaners of penultimate grace:
    plowers of walks for professorial gait,
    pruners of azalea for May fire,
    preparers of cornucopia for a thousand tastes,
    friends who admonish and excite,
    students who study and teachers ditto,
    the matter-of-factors keeping stacks open roofs closed,
    keepers of instruments well strung and pay checks good,
    the amen cornerers and the lifters of the weight of sin,
    the bandagers and kissers of scraped knees,
    the young repaired kissed to run the race set before them,
    the sore-backed gleaners who keep Cinco de Mayo year
        round.

It is meet, right, and our bounden duty that we should
    at all times and in all places give thanks and so forth,
But especially do we thank thee that thou of thy tender mercy
    didst send thine only begotten and so forth
Enmangered pantokrator, the impoverished one by whom we are
    enriched, the light to lighten the gentiles.

So lighten up, le roy is at hand lifting the gates,
    lighten up, luster and say grace
To this honoring ribald band, and ask
    of them the further gift:
Help us uncharacteristically retiring types
    to remember to keep the extended sabbatical wholly given. greendot.gif (43 bytes)

willis2.jpg (32376 bytes) E. David Willis, the Seminary's Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus, presented this poem at the Retirement Dinner held at the Seminary on Friday, May 8, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Princeton Theological Seminary
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