One works and works for something, which then happens of its own accord

Following the news out of Iran, I keep coming back to Lawrence Weschler’s writing about the 1980 Solidarty uprising in Poland, perhaps the best summation I’ve seen of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions, and of the nature of, as Bonhoeffer put it, costly grace.

Similarly, these passion pieces are punctuated with grace notes, and this mysterious working of grace is something I’ve likewise often considered in my political reporting: grace in its original sense as gratis, for free. One works and works at something, which then happens of its own accord: it would not have happened without all the prior work, true, but its happening cannot be said to have resulted from all that work, the way effects are said to result from a series of causes. There is all the work, which is preparation, preparation for receptivity, but then there is something beyond that which is gratis, for free. August 1980 in Gdansk, Poland, would never have happened without the years and years of tenuous labor by a small band of seemingly marginal activists—on one denies this—but when that strike suddenly happened, it seemed to come out of nowhere, to happen all by itself. Everyone still talks about this (particularly the activists), talks about and wonders at the sudden overwhelming sense of rightness that descended on the place at that moment.

from the preface to A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces, by Lawrence Weschler, 1998

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