Scenes from the first day in Sydney

Scenes from the first day in Sydney
D, the Opera House, and the Bridge

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another Reflection on Seeing and Embracing Our Whole Selves, Shadows Included

This reflection by 19th century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. describes the miraculous process through which God calls each of us into our uniqueness. It conveys the graced sentiment that truly, the privilege of a lifetime is becoming our true selves, including both our lights and shadows. As in his poetry, Hopkins plays around with grammar and syntax, so it might take a few reads.


I find myself both as man and as myself something most determined and distinctive, at pitch, myself with my pleasures and pains, my powers and my experiences, my deserts and guilt, my shame and sense of beauty, my dangers, hopes, fears, and all my fate, more important to myself than anything I see.

And when I ask where this throng and stack of beings, so rich, so distinctive, so important, come from /nothing I see can answer me. And this whether I speak of human nature of or anything in the world, can have been developed, evolved, condensed, from the vastness of the world not anyhow or by the working of common powers but only by one of finer or higher pitch and determination than itself and certainly than any that elsewhere we see (in other words, God), for this power had to force forward the starting or stubborn elements to the one pitch required.

And this is much more true when we consider the mind; when I consider my self-being, my consciousness and feeling of myself, that taste of myself, of I and me above and in all things, which is more distinctive than the taste of ale or alum, more distinctive than the smell of walnut-leaf or camphor, and is incommunicable by any means to another man (as when I was a child I used to ask myself: What must it be to be someone else?). Nothing else in nature comes near this unspeakable stress of pitch, distinctiveness, and selving, this self-being of my own. Nothing explains it or resembles it, except so far as this, that other men to themselves have the same feeling.

Devlin C. S.J. (Ed) 1959. The Sermons and Devotional Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins. London: Oxford University Press p.123

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