Friday, February 18, 2011

fundamental mistakes

Today I was sorting through my twins' clothes - taking out the too-small, putting in the slightly too-big - and listening to Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, my favorite novel.

Why is it my favorite? Well because of dialogues like this:

"I quite agree with you," said Miss de Vine, "about the difficulty of combining intellectual and emotional interests . . "

"But suppose one doesn't quite know which one wants to put first. Suppose," said Harriet, falling back on words which were not her own, "suppose one is cursed with both a heart and a brain?"

"You can usually tell," said Miss de Vine, "by seeing what kind of mistakes you make. I'm quite sure that one never makes fundamental mistakes about the thing one really wants to do. Fundamental mistakes arise out of lack of genuine interest. In my opinion, that is."

"I made a very big mistake once," said Harriet, "as I expect you know. I don't think it arose out of a lack of interest. It seemed at the time the most important thing in the world."

"And yet you made the mistake. Were you really giving all your mind to it? Your mind? Were you really being as cautious and exacting about it as you would be about writing a passage of fine prose?"

"That's rather a difficult sort of comparison. One can't, surely, deal with emotional excitements in that detached spirit."

"Isn't the writing of a good prose an emotional excitement?"

"Yes, of course it is. At least, when you get the thing dead right and know it's dead right, there's no excitement like it. It's marvelous. It makes you feel like God on the Seventh Day - for a bit, anyhow."

"Well, that's what I mean. You expend the trouble and you don't make any mistakes - and then you experience the ecstasy. But if there's any subject in which you're content with the second-rate, then it isn't really your subject."

Then, later in the conversation, Miss de Vine asks Harriet, "You'd lie cheerfully, I expect, about anything except - what?"

"Oh, anything!" said Harriet, laughing. "Except saying that somebody's beastly book is good when it isn't. I can't do that. It makes me a lot of enemies, but I can't do it."

"No, one can't," said Miss de Vine. "However painful it is, there's always one thing one has to deal with sincerely, if there's any root to one's mind at all."

Later yet, discussing their "one thing", Miss de Vine points out that some people have another person as their job, and how difficult this can be. Harriet says, "I suppose one oughtn't to marry anybody, unless one's prepared to make him a full-time job."

And Miss de Vine replies, "Probably not; though there are a few rare people, I believe, who don't look on themselves as jobs but as fellow creatures."

I have to say, my husband is one of those "few rare people."

Anyway, I've loved this book for a long time, but this time through, it's striking me that it might as well be called the manifesto of the INFJ. Both heart and brain. It makes me curious - I know INFJ's are more likely to be found in profusion online than in real life - any other INFJ's who feel like this book perfectly depicts the cry of their heart?

Equally, I'm interested in knowing if this book produces that response in any other personality types, and, if so, which. Please speak up in the comment box!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

1 comment:

MomCO3 said...

I have scored so many different ways on the M-B that I have no idea what my personality type is (undetermined, perhaps? hopeful not to be determined by a type?)-- and yet, I LOVE this book. Without any detachment at all.