Spiritual Almanac – Tuesday, January 5, 2021: William Blake

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Today’s inspiration comes to us from the English artist and poet, William Blake. Born in London in 1757, he only attended school long enough to learn how to read and write. But the Bible had an early influence on Blake, and as a child he reported seeing the prophet Ezekiel and a tree filled with angels. Although he often found himself at odds with the church establishment, religion remained an important theme throughout his life, often finding its way into his engravings and poetry.

Here’s one of Blake’s more famous works titled “The Tyger.”

THE TYGER

By William Blake

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

Blake is pointing out the contradiction between the vengeful and violent God of the Old Testament and the gentle and merciful one described in the New Testament. Using the imagery of a beast, he sets up a dual image of God. When God made the tiger, “did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” It’s a contradiction that spiritually minded people have wrestled with for thousands of years and that’s the point. Both uncertainty and faith play a role in the spiritual life, and making progress means embracing mystery.

 

FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake  by David Erdman

Some more inspirational nuggets for today:

  • On this day in 1914, Henry Ford rolled out an eight-hour workday in his factories. The idea for an eight-hour workday wasn’t new. In 1886 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions had called for a nationwide strike demanding employers limit the workday to eight hours — a move that was met with resistance by Protestant clergy who felt that too much leisure time would result in drunkenness and debauchery. But Ford proved them wrong and his decision paid off almost immediately. By improving working conditions, he increased productivity, employee retention and profitability — and helped pave the way for the standardization of the 40-hour workweek in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. 

  • Today is the birthday of King Gillette, inventor of the disposable razor. Born in 1855, Gillette was working as a beverage salesman when he came up with the idea for his razors after watching people discard the bottle caps from his products. He was also a die-hard utopian socialist who promoted the idea that all U.S. commerce should be taken over by a single company owned by the public, and the entire nation should live in a single city called Metropolis that would be powered by Niagara Falls. He even offered Theodore Roosevelt a million dollars to run the company. For some reason, Roosevelt declined.

  • Today also marks the death of George Washington Carver in 1943 after he experienced complications from a fall down his stairs. Best known for his work developing 300 products from the peanut plant, Carver advocated for the integration of religion and science, and believed that his faith was vital for allowing him to pursue the art of science. “Reading about nature is fine,” he said. “But if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for [the woods] speak with the voice of God.” 

That’s today’s spiritual almanac — thanks for listening. If you liked what you heard today and you’re listening to the audio version of today’s episode, we’d sure appreciate it if you subscribed and gave our podcast a good rating. If you’re watching this on YouTube, we’d love it if you subscribed and hit like. 

Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.

 

“The Tyger” by William Blake. Public domain.

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