Everything You Do Is Worship

We think of worship as something we do mostly in church. It is time we dedicate especially to God. But every moment of our lives is dedicated to something or other; and we would not be doing anything we do if those things to which they are dedicated were not important to us; if we did not think them worthy of our attention, and of our effort.

Worship is worth-ship; the condition of being oneself worthy. When we worship, we shape ourselves to the object of our worship, and form ourselves in its likeness. We dedicate ourselves to that object, as mete to our attention – to the devotion of our lives, or at least of some portion of our lives. We become ourselves worthy according to its worthiness, and in light thereof. So, worth signifies not just value in its nominative and adjectival usages, but as a verb the very act of becoming.

In everything you do, then, you are in service to some master or other; and every master whatever, indeed every thing whatever, is in the final analysis a vassal of but one of only two supreme masters. You know the identity, aye and the names, of each of those two supreme masters. And you know perfectly well what each of them is like.

So: whatever you might like to think about most of your daily and weekly activities, they all serve to worship, yes and to glorify and magnify, one supreme master and all his vassals, or the other.

Of which of those two supreme masters are you a vassal? You can’t serve both of them. For, their vassals are all at odds. Which one of them shall it be, who is  your master?

Shall you be about doing your damnedest – the word is chosen carefully – to consecrate all your moments, and all your acts, thereby blessing them, and yourself; or shall you be about profaning all of them, and damning? You are headed in one of those two directions; there are no others.

NB: chopping wood is just chopping wood, to be sure. Most things in life are like that. But, you do them for a reason, and a purpose, that is rooted ultimately in your ultimate purposes. You would not do them, otherwise.

What is your ultimate purpose? Chop wood for that.

13 thoughts on “Everything You Do Is Worship

  1. In my branch of geography, landscape is a foundational concept. As best we can tell, we got the word from the Dutch, who gave the name landskip to a new type of painting around 1500. A landskip was a painting in which the background became the subject and there was no dominant figure. The English soon copied the painting style, and adopted the word landskip, but they soon thereafter invented or revived the word landship to mean the general appearance or character of the land. Here is a description of the etymology from the early seventeenth century. “Landtskip is a Dutch word, and it means as much as we should say in English landship, or expressing of the land . . . as far as may be shewed within our horizon” (Henry Peacham, The Gentleman’s Exercise [1612]). Landship is the word that evolved into our word landscape, although how this happened is not clear. In any case, this strikes me as relevant to what you say about worship, because worship is to worth what landship (or landscape) is to land. This is obvious if you consider that most landscape paintings are taken from an elevated vantage point, so as to take in the whole countryside, and show how the village relates to river and the river relates to the hill. To worship is likewise to view worth from an elevated vantage, so that all the particular things of worth are seen in their proper relations. Landship (landscape) sees land as a totality; worship (worth-scape?) sees worth as a totality.

    • Now that is a totally cool association you have drawn. That such associations are here so often noticed is one of the things I love about reading here.

      According to the Online Etymological Dictionary – perhaps the most important traditionalist site in English on the web:

      -ship: word-forming element meaning “quality, condition; act, power, skill; office, position; relation between.” … Anglian -scip, “state, condition of being,” from Proto-Germanic … *skap- “to create, ordain, appoint,” from PIE root *(s)kep-, forming words meaning “to cut, scrape, hack” (see shape (v.)).

      The PIE root *(s)kep- gives us science. Recall then that the act of Creation in Genesis constitutes an iterated separation, a cutting. In his epochal Laws of Form, G. Spencer Brown derives logic – and so, implicitly, everything else, including all becoming, particularly its cognitive aspect – from the root act of distinguishing – a cognitive act, NB – which he calls a cut.

      The Word names – distinguishes this from that, categoreally – and is thereby nomological, lawgiving; ergo, creating.

      Consider then the following usages of –ship: seamanship; hardship; kingship; lordship; godship; outdoorsmanship; sportsmanship, citizenship; discipleship; township; companionship; apprenticeship; relationship; gamesmanship; musicianship; workmanship; leadership; ownership; and so forth. All these terms in one way or another denote the shape or character of a thing, especially a person.

      Consider now the following usages of –scape: townscape; streetscape; seascape; starscape; and so forth. All these terms denote the shape or character of a region.

      Shape seems to be the central notion. Shipshape occurs to me: it is the shape of what is fit for a ship. Citizenship then is the shape of what is fit for a man of the city. And so forth.


      • Thanks Kristor. As always, I gain much from a careful reading of your posts. While reading this, I couldn’t help but think of Meister Eckhart who said something like ‘all of our actions should be done sacramentally’. Furthermore, your drawing on etymology brings to mind the late Ananda Coomaraswamy who had great capacity with etymology; most of his essays contained fascinating footnotes teasing out the metaphysical/philosophical significance of words based on etymology… (I have heard it said that he knew well over a dozen languages, which no doubt contributed to his etymological prowess!)

      • You are welcome, Wayfarer; glad to be of help.

        None of the ideas I write about are new, I hope – and, generally, sooner or later, find. Both Eckhart and Coomaraswamy have written more or less the same things about most of them before, and far better.

        In our languages, honed over countless generations and handed down from our forefathers without too much conscious reflection, are encoded all the most basic and most important insights of our species. Language is the first and deepest treasury of traditional wisdom.

        This is why traditional cultures have so emphasized the importance of the rectification of names – of, i.e., the right use of language. To use language aright is to keep the most basic tradition of man, and the medium for the transmission from each generation to the next of all traditional wisdom. It is also why heretics have so often engaged in the sinistrification and confusion of names, so as to deform language to their own purposes. Viz., what the liberal US Supreme Court has done to the term “marriage.” Euphemism is how the sinistrification of names is most often carried off. “Euphemism” is itself a euphemism, that denotes dysphemism.

        It is not for nothing that Babel is the parable of what happens when human society goes badly awry.

      • The (s)kep-ping above reminds me of what Socrates says in the Phaedrus, when he compares distinctions to butchery: “The second principle is that of division into species according to the natural formation, where the joint is, not breaking any part as a bad carver might.” Correct thought involves recognizing the structure and relations of the intelligible cosmos — the anatomy of reality — and cutting up the parts appropriately.

      • Aye. Such is the rectification of names. Without it, one is bound to cut bones through their midst, and laboriously. Error is simply more difficult than accuracy; crime of any sort, no matter how petty, just does not pay. It is yet another instance of Whitehead’s dictum, famous with me if nowhere else: The morality of the universe is the instability of evil.

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  4. Nice point. As I was brushing my teeth last night (always an opportunity for elevated thoughts), another example occurred to me. At the Divine Liturgy, when we pray for our bishops, the priest says, “whom do Thou grant unto Thy holy Churches, in peace, integrity, honor, health, and length of day, rightly dividing the word of Thy truth,” echoing the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy.

    And, of course, it doesn’t end there. I wondered what the etymology of scripture (from scriptus) was. Yep: (s)kreybʰ — to scratch, to tear.

  5. And it continues (is this is what happens to Prof. Smith during his word fits???):

    τέμνω — that cutting part of cutting straight — comes from τάμνω, which is the root for temple and perhaps time (though that might be related to stretching or string, but what do you do with a string, eh, to make it usable?!?!?) Etymology is fun . . . and grounding . . . getting to the root of things.

    “For *τάμνω (*támnō), with ε from aorist ἔτεμον (étemon), from Proto-Indo-European *tm̥-n-h₂-, nasal-infixed present (The present tense system includes a N progressive aspect marker.) from *temh₂- (“to cut”). Cognate with Latin temnō, tondeō, tempus, templum.”

    • Great stuff! PIE *tem- is also where we get temenos, the sacred temple precincts. From Etymology Online:

      Temple: … Latin templum, “piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, building for worship of a god.” Commonly referred to PIE root *tem-, to cut, on notion of “place reserved or cut out,” or to root *temp-, “to stretch,” on notion of “cleared (measured) space in front of an altar” (from PIE root *ten-, “to stretch”); … the notion being perhaps the “stretched” string that marks off the ground.

      Stretching out string between stakes is of course the first step in preparing the foundation of a temple.

      Compare the eruv – composed, if not of fences, walls or buildings, then of wire or string strung between poles overhead – that observant Jews stretch out around their neighbourhoods, to mark out space within which on the Sabbath it is lawful to carry outside the home such things as books, eyeglasses, keys, and so forth.

      Compare also the linen fence that marked the boundary of the court of the Tabernacle.

      As for “scribe,” in ancient Israel, scribes had the job of drafting legal instruments, copying scripture, and interpreting the Law. We would probably call them lawyers today. So they were in charge of drafting covenants, and interpreting the Covenants of the Law. No wonder they felt a bit challenged by the New Covenant and the New Commandments introduced by Jesus.

      The Hebrew for scribe is sofer. Sof is limit; thus definiteness, so order. Then the Ain Sof that logically preceded Creation was the boundless unwritten “blank slate” upon which YHWH scribed himself as himself the Limit and so the Law of the Cosmos, thereby both manifesting himself to his creatures – he has no reason to manifest himself otherwise, nor for that matter any way (for, he could manifest himself only to others than himself, who by definition must be his creatures) – and calling our world, along with all others, into actuality by his Word – in Greek, his Lógos, in Aramaic, his Memra. Taoism calls the Ain Sof the uncut block. Plato called it the Receptacle, the krater.

      I have often wondered whether the Greeks borrowed sof to get sofia, which is unattributed.

      Scratching away at papyrus with a quill was new technology. The first scribes scratched at clay tablets with wooden sticks – the yad rabbis use to keep track of where they are in reading scripture is perhaps a vestige. So scribing was first engraving, rather than a form of painting. The metaphor of the Law being graved or stamped in matter so as to form the created order with its mark – its kharakter, engraved mark, from kharassein, “to engrave,” from kharax, “pointed stake” (such as one uses to stretch string to mark out a temenos ) – derives from the first technology of civilized writing.

      Here’s YHWH using a kharax on a krater to mark out rightly divided bounds within it:

      • That’s wonderful, Kristor. I never knew the origin of “character” — or most of the things you mentioned. I knew of the eruv, but I didn’t connect it back to the Tabernacle. I will note, though, that the “bottom level” of iconography in many Russian temples is a depiction of linen stretched along all the walls . . . like the Tabernacle in the desert while the children of Israel wandered on their way to the promised land. Hence, the bottom level of iconography is the congregation of people themselves — who, of course, reflect the image of God.

        Here are some nifty 360 tours in DC, where you can easily see the cloth:



        While the Georgians don’t sport the tent of meeting cloth, there is a very cool “first person shooter” style tour of the cathedral in Tbilisi (it’s like Doom for church ladies!):


        They could make the 360 tour into a video game for that demographic, but instead of going around and shooting demons, the ecclesial biddies could go around and berate slouching teenagers who have their hands in their pockets or crossed legs — or wrap immodestly clad girls with shawls. They could smack the back of the head of gum-chewers — bonus points if accomplished during a bubble blow (and, of course, maximum award for getting the perp. at peak bubble). I’d like to watch a grandmother play that game. Maybe we could record some real life playing for the game’s sound effects.

        Yesterday, I had a linking comment between my two comments above, but it did not take. I noted that that phrase (rightly dividing the word of thy truth) in the Greek is ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας.

        ὀρθοτομέω: cut straight

        Hence, the next comment.

        That’s also a pretty awesome depiction of Genesis. Do you know the manuscript of origin?

      • Those are terrific tours. All cathedrals should get them.

        I’m afraid I don’t know the manuscript of origin for the ikon I posted. It’s a pretty common image for ikons, East and West.

        I love the bottom level of iconography in Orthodox churches. Never knew that!

        The linen fence is of course an echo of the Veil that surrounds the Holy of Holies; and, likewise, of the Firmament. The theology of the Temple is amazing; an early instance of the likes of the Mandelbrot Set, of self-similar layers within layers, each a synecdoche of all the others, each in itself a generative cornucopia of generative cornucopiae. The outermost veil of the Temple is the Firmament; comes then the orbit of the Moon; then the borders of Israel; then the walls of Jerusalem; then the Temple Mount; then the outer courts, courts within courts; then the nave of the Temple; then the debir; then the Ark within it, which is the altar of altars; and there, on the Chariot Throne above the Ark, between the cherubim, you have seated upon the Mercy Seat the terrible, all-destroying Ain Sof himself, whose pure calcinant gorgeous holy fire is the coruscant font of the myth of Shiva, and of the eschaton.

        On Christian altars, the cherubim of the Ark are represented by the 6 lights of the menorah that ever stand on either side of its central light, which is the Cross with its corporal burden; the brazen serpent lifted up in the desert of this world, a caduceus for the healing of the people pilgrim thereof.

        Re the linen fence and the veil, consider first the linen of the Shroud; consider then the etymology of “curtain:”

        … in classical Latin “round vessel, cauldron,” from Latin cortem (older cohortem) “enclosure, courtyard” (see cohort).

        We are back to the krater, and what is more to the chora, to the consecrate dancing ground, wherein Sabaoth – the Host in Order of Battle, the Church in Heaven and on Earth of appalling ardent saints and dire dour relentless angels – rehearses her terrifying martial evolutions.

        It is in the chora, the krater, that the evolution of the kosmos transpires. All creaturely evolution in turn supervenes the eternal perichoresis and circumincession of the Persons, by which they know and so are each other. The ultimate dancing ground, wherein the Persons encounter each other, is the eternal Suprapersonal Godhead of Saint Dionysius; who is the Alpha and the Omega of all being, including his own. He is then the chora where men and angels and all creatures all dance; in him they live, so move, and thus have their being.

        Without him is nothing; such perhaps is the Lake of his Fire. By the nothing of his utter absence is our defect of presence calcined away.

        God send us some relict presence, to survive that purgation!

        As for Doom for Church Ladies, one absolutely could include a level up wherein players got to go around blasting demons trying to infiltrate the Temple and attack her servants. A level up from that, and the player would be in a company of angels, on a foray into Hell – to rescue Achilles, perhaps. Some levels above that, and the player would be roaming a lower Heaven, searching out and destroying demonic interlopers, and sending them plummeting downward to their proper hells.

        Levels within levels; as with the Temple, and as with the created order.

        Come to think of it, I see no reason why the Pilgrim’s Progress, or Dante, could not be presented as a video game. I should think that such a game might have enormous evangelical impact; especially if it was done under the aegis of some youngish and quite traditional monks, who would be bound to keep it within the pale of orthodoxy. An interesting thought.

        The designers could take Hieronymous Bosch as a point of departure for the visuals. That dude is sick. I mean that as the highest sort of compliment. Bosch is sick in a good way, if that makes any sense; a salubrious way; as the truth, no matter how painful or ugly, is good for us.

        The genius HR Giger is a Bosch wannabe. He is sick, too, but far less. Yet is he more thoroughly and horribly sickening. I suppose that is due to the fact that Giger is secular, and therefore ultimately hopeless, so that his horror is final and incorrigible; whereas Bosch is transecular, and so gets nearer to the heart of things, and so to the heart of our deepest dreads and of our dearest hopes. Of hope, Giger knows nothing.

        Bosch is obviously a mystic of the first order.

        As no other artist has ever done, Bosch penetrates and shows us the realm of Hellish nightmare, and then also beyond it, and serenely triumphant, the realm of Paradise, the quintessence of our happiest dreams.

        Bosch operates on us at the level of the brain stem. You simply can’t get deeper than he does.

        Compared to Bosch, Jung and Freud are pansies.

        When I was a kid, we had his famous triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, over our living room mantel (I’m a PK). I studied it carefully for hundreds of hours, horrified, entranced, delighted. His visions strike me as awefully true.

        What is it about the vivid sight of ultimate horror that enables us to recoil away from it, heartily, and toward the ultimate Good? I suppose that question answers itself. I suppose that answer explains the peculiar appeal of horror movies; which I have never understood, at all; so strong is my recoil from their admitted appeal to our baser concupiscent nature, that revels in chaos, license, untrammeled agency, so therefore pain (of others, NB), and death (again, of others: this is the appeal to us also of the death of the scapegoat; it does not hurt us; for the scapegoat is by his expulsion from the polis rendered an utter other, with whom we can have then nothing in common; so that we may hate him without sin).


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