Monday, May 19, 2014

The Spiritual Life--A Passage from "The Black Tower", a Mystery by PD James

     Father Baddeley's concern with the world had been minimal. But one thing immediately recognizable caught his eye. It was a neatly stacked row of quarto-sized child's exercise books bound in pale green. These, he knew, contained Father Baddeley's diary. So the same book were still being sold, the ubiquitous pale green exercise books, the back cover printed with arithmetical tables, as evocative of primary school as an ink-stained ruler or india rubber. Father Baddeley had always used these books for his diary, one book for each quarter of the year. Now, with the old black cloak hanging limply on the door, its musty ecclesiastical smell in his nose, Dalgliesh recalled the conversation as clearly as if he were still that ten-year-old boy and Father Baddeley, middle aged then but already seeming ageless, sitting here at his desk.
    "It's just an ordinary diary the, Father? It isn't about your spiritual life?"
     "This is the spiritual life, the ordinary things one does from hour to hour."
     Adam had asked with the egotism of the young,
     "Only what you do? Aren't I in it?" 
        "No. Just what I do. Do you remember what time the Mother's Union met this afternoon? It was your mother's drawing-room this week. The time was different, I think."
     "It was 2:45 p.m. instead of 3.00 p.m., Father. The Archdeacon wanted to get away early. But do you have to be accurate?"
     Father Baddeley had seemed to ponder this question, briefly but seriously, as if it were new to him and unexpectedly interesting.
     "Oh, yes. I think so. I think so. Otherwise it would lose its point."
     The young Dalgleish, to whom the point was already lost beyond ken, had wandered away to pursue his own more interesting and immediate concerns. The spiritual life. It was a phrase he had often heard on the lips of his father's more ultra mundane parishioners although never on the Canon's own. He had occasionally tried to visualize this mysterious other existence. Was it lived at the same time as the ordinary regulated life of getting up, meal times, school holidays, or was it an existence on some other plane to which he and the uninitiated had no access but into which Father Baddeley could retreat at will? Either way it had surely little to do with this careful recording of daily trivia.
     He picked up the last book and looked through it. Father Baddeley's system had not been changed. It was all here, two days to the page, neatly ruled off. The times where he had walked and how long it had taken;the monthly trip by bus into Dorchester; the weekly trip to Wareham; his hours spent helping at Troynton Grange; how he had disposed of every hour of his working day year after unremarkable year, documented with the meticulousness of a book-keeper. "But this is the spiritual life;the ordinary things that one does from day to day." Surely it couldn't be a s simple as that?

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