Walks with Beauty

Charlie's thoughts and blog.


> Either Way Something of Meaning

Posted by Charlie Finn at

Do we not at times, looking back on periods in our life when we felt lost and confused, recognize sense emerging from nonsense, meaning emerging from what had felt meaningless? Think back to the weeks, months, maybe even years when it felt we were wandering, squandering, floundering. No waste feels greater than time and effort spent forging a path that ends in a blind alley. How could we have been so clueless? Why didn’t we listen to our own misgivings or that cautionary advice from others? What jackasses for not knowing better, and now having nothing to show for it. Or so it has seemed.

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> World Mothering, Part III : A Tale of Two Marys

Posted by Charlie Finn at

A frequent critique of Hopkins’ poetry, beyond its at times opaque vocabulary and strained verse, is its religious enthusiasm. The poem we have been examining is a case in point. The “Blessed Virgin” in the very title, touching on the Catholic doctrine that Mary was not only virgin before and during parturition but remained so ever after (despite gospel references to Jesus’ brothers and sisters), strains the credulity of any not indoctrinated.

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> World Mothering, Part II : Hopkins Sings of Our Lady

Posted by Charlie Finn at

The object of Hopkins’ lyrical poem, however, was not Earth’s blue mantle. Rather it was Mary’s blue mantle, Mary’s mantle of mercy—hence his choice of “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe” for the poem’s title. To the bafflement and dismay of his family and friends, Hopkins not only converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism while studying at Oxford but soon after entered the Society of Jesus, feeling called to become a Jesuit priest. Remembering the hostility to Catholics in general and Jesuits in particular in England after the Reformation can help us imagine the shock this engendered. When Hopkins resumed his poetry (after initially feeling it incompatible with his vocation), he couldn’t help but sing in his poems of his new-found Catholic faith—the spiritual air he now breathed. And in this poem it was the part of his faith relating to Mary that he sung.

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> World Mothering, Part I : Hopkins Sings of Our Atmosphere

Posted by Charlie Finn at

The English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins begins his long song of praise for the air we breathe by immediately sounding the theme that this very atmosphere, by surrounding, protecting and enfolding us, is “world-mothering.” Scientists might smile indulgently at the metaphor, but how apt they and the rest of us might see it. While Hopkins is absolutely in earnest in this poem, he has fittingly chosen an airy, even playful, manner of conveying his delight in the maternal magic nestling us everywhere.

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> Sweetness and Steel: Lincoln, Obama, Angelou

Posted by Charlie Finn at

There were superficial reasons—when he thundered on the political scene at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and then rode on the wave of that thunder to his election in 2008—to compare Barack Obama with Abraham Lincoln. There was the Illinois connection, for instance, and the gifted orator connection, and the “new birth of freedom” connection. Add to these the evident high esteem, even reverence, held by Obama for that towering mentor of his spirit, and it is easy to link the two of them. But what about things deeper than the surface?

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