Thursday, January 14, 2010

Culture: from the Latin cultura; stemming from colere, meaning "to cultivate"

Off to Chicago tonight, but first a quick note: I've had all of my classes now, minus meeting with my thesis adviser and may I just say? This is going to be an amazing semester, even if the reading will be immense and slightly overwhelming in terms of volume. I started reading 'Go Down, Moses' by Faulkner; Southern literature is so dark and gothic. Thomas More is quickly being idealized in my mind as the best of men, and I half-wish I had majored in chemistry (the science I like best) and was more interested in pursuing a masters in history of science like Kalthoff. Siegel was my American Heritage teacher freshman year and the first teacher I actually liked at Hillsdale (which is funny because he oftentimes petrifies people with his sarcastic and challenging academic demands), so it will be wonderful ending my college career by taking another course with him, even if it is an honors seminar. I also saw a copy of 'The Loved One' in Prof. Siegel's office today and was happy to hear he lends it to students, because it is one of my favoritest books.

Today's poem is an early one by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I remember last semester, I was reading Emerson while studying with three friends. One of the guys asked if he could play a song out-loud in the room for us, and it was a beautiful, Christian song. I had just been reading about how Emerson saw God in everything around him, particularly in nature, but when I shared that with the gang, a different friend got indignant that I even liked Emerson, especially because I am a Catholic (which apparently she meant because Catholics are so orthodox and Emerson was certainly not).

I don't see it that way though. I do like Emerson, although perhaps Thoreau a little less. I don't compare him to me and then decide what is true, because we both know the ultimate Truth. I've definitely been influenced by reading Salt of the Earth by German journalist and fallen-away Catholic Peter Seewald (published October 1997). The book is an interview with Pope Benedict XVI when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. Seewald asked Ratzinger how many ways there are to God--imagining, I suppose, he would say The Church. Rather, Ratzinger delivered, in my opinion, one of the best replies. He said:

As many as there are people. Even within the same faith each man's way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ's word: I am the way. In that respect, there is ultimately one way, and everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of consciousness and will, but, on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man.

It should not be surprising to hear then, following the publication of that book, Seewald returned to the faith. Ratzinger/ Pope Benedict XVI sees God as an active force in the world. We are all reflections of Him and yet we are so individual, something He embraces and wants, with each of us reflecting a different facet of God and all potentially being in communion with Him. It's the same with Emerson. There is something to be said about recognizing God in this world, especially as His presence is being sabotaged in society today. RWE may not approach God the same way I do, but he still acknowledged and followed Him, which means we are united in the same faith even if we do not share the same denomination. I would never push aside the importance of dogma in theology, nor do I follow Emerson's Unitarianism, but in the face of secularism, Christ needs to be a culture, not just a character.

I'm also reminded of Jack Kerouac, whom I wrote one of my favorite papers of my collegiate career on at the end of my second semester junior year. People love claiming him and the beat generation as grounds for their own depravity. Kerouac, however, called it the "beat generation" because of the Italian word "beatific" (happiness, blessed); he wanted it to be a religious revival movement. He was a lapsed Catholic who dabbled in Buddhism, and yet very much a believing man whose Catholicism influenced everything in his life--especially his writings. Kerouac was a man who found God in the sky, in the bums he met, and on the road, as a modernist, pseduo-Wandering Jew.
We're all on a road in this life. It's not surprising the Western canon is filled with images of roads, and not at all ironic that in a few hours I'll be on a road to Chicago with Julia, towards an interview that will lead somewhere, whether or not I get the job.

Anyways, enjoy! I don't think the above has relevance to the poem below, but I do think the poem is best when heard and read aloud, so that the tongue can catch the rhythm and tone. The last two lines are my favorite.

Give All To Love By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the muse;
Nothing refuse.

'Tis a brave master,
Let it have scope,
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope;
High and more high,
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But 'tis a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.
'Tis not for the mean,
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending;
Such 'twill reward,
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.

Leave all for love;—
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, for ever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
Vague shadow of surmise,
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free,
Do not thou detain a hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Tho' her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.

In other first-week-of-school news, my friend Matt N. gave me a lovely bicycle bell as a belated Christmas present last night, as he promised/ threatened he would, because of an incident last semester that involved me riding my bike to the library one night and Matt's allegations that I almost ran over him.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful poem -- with much to consider. Have you ever read any Gerard Manley Hopkins? He is one of my favorite poets for his beautiful word-play and underlying theological themes (as a sidenote, he was a Jesuit). :) Hoping that interview goes well!!