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Common Life looks at the various meanings of common, especially its senses of familiar and widely known; belong or relating to the community at large; and its twinned notions of simple and rudimentary and vulgar and profane. The book’s perspective is religious, and is grounded in the epigraph from the Psalms: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” The “waiting” that is required has to do with three things: first, our desire, as Charles Wright puts it, “to believe in belief” rather than believe; secondly, the need for a setting aside of the self, an abandonment of “every attempt to make something of oneself, even…a righteous person” in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and thirdly, the “waiting” must be as Eliot wrote in the Four Quartets a waiting “without hope for hope would be hope of the wrong thing.” If we learn to wait in these ways, the final section of the book suggests that we have the chance of opening ourselves to all that is graceful within life’s common bounds.
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