Thursday, September 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes- Quotation Edition

1. I've been mulling over this line from Mumford and Sons for a long time: "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy/Then I could have won."
I think this is something you want to avoid having to say.
2. I'm also mulling over this from Gerard Manley Hopkins: "The effect of studying masterpieces is to make me admire and do otherwise."
3. More goodness, this time from Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit."
4. And this one, I think, could apply to television and the internet: "Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge." - Proverbs 14:7
5. Have you ever heard the old chestnut, "God moves in mysterious ways"? I would like to point out (having just discovered the fact myself) that the poem that's from ("Light Shining Out of Darkness" by Cowper) ends with:
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain. *
So . . . the poem ends insisting on pretty much the opposite of what everyone who quotes the more famous first line means.
6. The above-quoted poem also includes this cheering stanza:
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take:
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
7. And I've been thinking, all week, about John Donne's "Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward." I thought of it because of the famous line, "Who sees God's face, that is self life, must die; What a death were it then to see God die?" and because of the heartbreakingly hopeful end, but when I went to read it again, it was the beginning that struck me:
Let man's Soul be a Sphere, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is;
What a thought, eh? that the intelligence that moves the sphere of our souls is devotion. (It was an old belief that the heavenly bodies were moved by intelligences proper to them.) "Devotion to what?" is the next logical question. But Donne goes on:
And as the other Spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motions, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey;
Pleasure or business, so, our Souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
Doesn't that sound familiar? We admit pleasure or business in place of devotion to God, and like a moon caught in the gravity well of a planet, we're whirled away from our native trajectory and spin far, far, far from our proper courses.
The poem goes on, of course, to talk about which direction Donne is facing versus which way he ought to be facing, and why, and what that means, but I've found myself simply sitting and soaking in the idea that it is devotion that moves me in the direction I find myself going each day.
"Devotion" and "attend" were the two words I started the year with. What am I given over to and where am I looking? Anyone who's every mountain-biked knows that you go where you look (which is why you don't look where you don't want to go - don't look at the scary ditch or you'll find yourself heading over the handlebars into it).
This poem is all about that.
If you are what you repeatedly do . . . well, you ought to think about what you want those repeated actions to be. You ought to attend. And having attended, you'll quickly be called to devote yourself to God - he who has ears, let him hear. If you pay attention, you can't help but hear His call.
But alas, Lord, we are "fools and slight". So the poem ends the way that it does:
O think me worth thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rusts and my deformity,
Restore thine Image so much, by thy grace,
That thou may'st know me, and I'll turn my face.

More Quick Takes to be found over at Conversion Diary.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*emphasis mine.


Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Jess, I really appreciated this post. Poetry is something that is hard for me to understand, but I enjoy it once it is explained/commented on. This gave me a lot to think about.

Jessica Snell said...

Em, I'm so glad! this is a poem I've been coming back to for, I think, over a decade now, and I feel like I'm only now beginning to understand it. Donne's deep, and repays close study.

I'm so grateful that men like this left behind the footprints of their prayer lives for us to follow!