Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tantum Quantum: Enough is Enough

A year ago today, almost to the hour, I pulled into my driveway for the first time in 5 weeks, returning from the Long Retreat. Birthed in silence, lived in the noisy chaos that is my life, the Exercises are still busy reshaping my life. The last few months I've grappled again with Ignatius' concept of indifference, what Patient Spiritual Director often calls "poised freedom." It's not so much a lack of personal preference, but a willingness to set those preferences aside to better serve God's purposes. Preferences are fine, in "so far as" (tantum quantum in Ignatius' hard won Latin!) they further the greater glory of God. My geeky brain often sees it as a critical point on a surface, not a minimum, but a transition point -- where you are poised to go uphill or downhill with a differential change in position!

Today we are effectively snowed in. My Mini is nearly drifted over, the driveway a mound of snow. We skipped the "whites for white" shopping trip (buying white stuff: milk, bread, salt -- in anticipation of the arrival of white stuff: snow) and decided we could live with and off what we had in the house. (No bread, so I baked two loaves this morning.) But as Math Man and I divvied up the dozen and a half eggs for various culinary purposes, and I checked on how much butter we had I began to feel the same vague anxieties that I had when I packed for the Exercises. Do I really have enough: socks, pens, butter, eggs?

I wonder sometimes if this is where a stance of poised freedom begins to seize up, when I worry that what I have -- either tangibly or intangibly -- is not enough, and then hold onto it. When is enough, enough? Annie Dillard gets it, I think:
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give , give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you – you open your safe and find ashes.
So maybe I'll stop writing my name on the eggs in the carton?


  1. Oh my heavens. What a beautiful post!

    And such a thought.

    As we were "Breaking Open the Word" after Mass this morning we were talking about so many fish in the boat that the boats almost sink.

    Jesus: giving it all. Every time.

    Congratulations on a year "home."

  2. hi im a student from an Ignatian school and my teacher tasked us to make a short play/skit about Tantum Quantum and i'm a bit confused as to how should i make a skit that relates to the ignatian value: tantum quantum. can anybody hepl me? :( this is due on friday Jan 26, 2017

    1. Anonymous9:35 AM

      Maybe think about a situation with a choice where either seems fine, but one would better serve God?