Wednesday, December 27

Merton, Hopkins, Daniel, Duns Scotus, Norton, and me.

Once again I find myself in Robert-Louis-Stevenson-mode, feeling bloated and sore-chested. I woke up this morning and immediately coughed up a mouthful of blood and phlegm. Yay: I'm home. As usually happens when I become ill this way, I feel like reading poetry. Sonnets, in particular. (Gerard Manley Hopkins rocks.) Shakespeare is too much of a summer picnic for my mouthfuls of phlegm and swollen eyelids. I rarely feel as if the clean modesty of beauty has rested on my face, and today is markedly not one of those moments.

In case you didn't know, I've been wondering these past few months what to do with myself, and why I am where I am, and where I shall be led from here. Because my beliefs are all there should be of me, I am not going to dysphemise my vocabulary for those of you who don't don't want to understand what "prayer" or "hope" mean.

With that marvellous introduction to this post, I promptly became very dizzy and looked around wildly for the nearest trash bin. Yay. But no such luck; I'm still in my chair and just rested my head and hands for a moment. I hate this feeling; my mind is so trapped inside a mess of bones and hair and blood and skin that doesn't function correctly.

As to my identity, I've been reading some Thomas Merton (proffered by a friend of a friend, and accepted with much gratitude and a tardy note of thanks) and some Hopkins. They use terms like "inscape" and "instress" that I'm not sure how to use correctly quite yet. In my Norton Anthology (2nd. vol., 7th ed.), the notation on Hopkins talks about the ideas he took from Duns Scotus, whose name came up in our medieval philosophy classes as one of the Irish who knew Greek, and was one of the only original thinkers in blah yadda I don't remember without my notes.

It kinda fits that I have once again found my answers through relationships and medievalism. Which basically sums me up.

From Norton: "[H]e felt that everything in the universe was characterized by what he called 'inscape', the distinctive design that constitutes individual identity. This identity is not static but dynamic. Each being in the universe 'selves', that is, enacts its identity. And the human being, the most highly selved, the most individually distinctive being in the universe, recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act that Hopkins calls 'instress', the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize its specific distinctiveness. Ultimately, the instress of inscape leads one to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of the divine creation on it. In the act of instress, therefore, the human being becomes a celebrant of the divine, at once recognizing God's creation and enacting his or her own God-given identity within it."

In regards to the "stamp of the divine" and the end bit, I've written about this before when I said "It is an awful thing to seem".

So, basically, the idea can be summed up with a quote from Merton: "The special clumsy beauty of this particular colt on this April day in this field under these clouds is a holiness consecrated to God by His own creative wisdom and it declares the glory of God."

Hence the cheery encouragement to "be yourself!" turns into something rather ominously beautiful.

I am being myself. I had faith that God would lead me someplace and he has and it is a university in Ireland for a year. What that means is beyond my ken. However, looking at the future . . . if my purpose is to be my self, then maybe my PhD and my writing is not in vain. My shyness and my clumsiness are to a purpose. And my sickness must be also to a purpose.

In the process of typing, I have somehow produced a mountain of balled-up tissues. Time to go find a nap, or a bubble bath.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

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