Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Just Man Justices

I regret my prolonged absence from this blog. My silly side project of a fashion blog ( had been distracting me from TRS for a while. But, when I noticed that some of the posts on this blog, despite not having been updated in a long time continued to get a significant amount of traffic, I decided it was high time to return. 

Over Christmas break, I met up with my friends PLP and GG for drinks. The topic of conversation was a prolonged argument about whether or not language could exist if there were no distinction between seeming and being. It naturally evolved into a conversation about the first couple chapters of Genesis. If Word itself is a creative act on the part of God (which is fascinating if we bear in mind John's words that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."), it is somehow bound up in the thing itself. But, what does it mean for Adam to name the animals? After all, they already exist; God has spoken them into being. So, what can Adam's of appellation give to them? 

If we are not trying to elucidate the obscurity of appearance and reality, why speak? But, Hopkins, in "As Kingfishers Catch Fire," provides an alternative reason for speech: meditation. It can add nothing to the being of a thing but merely palpates what it is. But, curiously, in this meditative speech, the rules of syntax necessarily breakdown. The distinction between verb and noun becomes irrelevant, for a thing is not just what it is, but what it is is what it does. The just man justices. 

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfisher catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves--goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is--
Christ--for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces. 

The poem is magnificently lovely. And, one could not begin to enumerate the lovely and intriguing parts of it. But, one thing that seems particularly relevant to me now is Hopkins' choice of verb. Christ plays in ten thousand places. In Plato's Laws, the Athenian stranger describes education as play; a child must play the part of what he will become in order to learn about it. Christ plays in the nature that He created. God plays in Man. He, who knows all, comes down to us and learns with us. The image of God in the first book of Genesis is movement over the face of the waters. God moves, though there cannot possibly be anything for which he moves. He learns though he knows all. 

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