“Catch it if you can. The present is an invisible electron; its lightning path traced faintly on a blackened screen is fleet, and fleeing, and gone” (from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek).
James speaks of the “gentleness born of wisdom;” our combination of readings perhaps highlights a related expression of wisdom: paying attention, not getting distracted.
“She did not know / that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, / and who lavished upon her silver / and gold that they used for Baal.” Hosea’s 8th century Israel is a case study in not paying attention, but perhaps not as extreme as that, say, of our stock markets, whose traders imagine that their wealth comes from their cunning and Baal, rather than from God’s generous earth. And then, as now, multiple forms of folly ensue.
Paying attention, not getting distracted particularly by that little organ so close to the brains in which we take so much pride: “placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.” [Election year addendum on Not Getting Distracted: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).]
Paying attention: Jesus’ parables highlight the payoff: the encountered treasure, the encountered pearl. And here’s where the dangers start: “As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Lk. 8:14). “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Lk. 10:41-42).
“Catch it if you can.”