Cahiers Péguy

14Mar/111

man truly affirms himself only by accepting reality

"we must recognize that man truly affirms himself only by accepting reality, so much so that, in fact, he begins to accept himself by accepting his existence, that is, a reality he has not given himself" (The Religious Sense, 10).

Who am I? What is my destiny? What is man that thou art mindful of him? Thou who makes wind his messengers and flashing fire his servants. Last summer I grappled a bit with Gerard Manley Hopkins's poetry and his Scotism. Hopkins loved Duns Scotus because Scotus affirmed the self to a remarkable degree. While Aquinas proposed a common human nature that is differentiated through diverse circumstances, Scotus instead held that each human being is a species unto itself.  After much grappling I confirmed what Aquinas described in my own experience: what makes each person unique is being given a unique set of circumstances. What is this I that hurtles through the decades? Is it an abstract entity that suffers the shame of embodiment (yearning for singularity)? Or is the human person interesting precisely because he's an awareness among other awarenesses and yet with a distinct point of view? Even Hopkins, with his talk of instress and inscape, affirms the self precisely in confrontation with particular circumstances: the self who mourned the Binsey poplars, who felt at home in Wales, who languished in Ireland.

My existence is something that I have not given myself. Not at the beginning, and not now. I did not choose to be. And I did not choose what I would succeed or fail at. Even the things I have embraced, I have not chosen with full knowledge of everything that would follow as a result. Instead, I have surrendered to them as signs of something greater, hoping that their promise would not be empty. I have not chosen my hardships, although I have chased illusions and conceded to temptations that brought these sufferings with them. The mercy is that in having chased illusions and conceded to temptations that I have not annihilated myself: having served idols of nothingness I have not become entirely like them: without substance. And even this mercy is a gift which I can fight or surrender to.

Even more, accepting reality means accepting that it is within these daily banalities that I encounter the meaning of everything: Jesus the Christ. Within my daily trials I hear the voice of this man who doesn't abandon me. In the problems that I am given is also given the path toward happiness. Blessed is the man who hears the word of God and keeps it. May Christ strengthen me to follow him through the signs of everyday life toward beauty and happiness. May I be drawn ever on by his beauty beyond these things I grasp at. These finite tokens of the infinite.

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About Fred

Kansas City metro area, in Kansas. Father of three. Masters in English (mainly Chaucer through Donne) from Fordham. Work as Customer Service Manager in software specializing in successful implementation and training: bridging people with business requirements and technical specialists.
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  1. I needed this today, Fred, especially, “Within my daily trials I hear the voice of this man who doesn’t abandon me. In the problems that I am given is also given the path toward happiness.” It is too easy to forget.


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