The title above is borrowed from a favourite poem, God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins. July 28 is his birthday and I couldn’t resist the occasion.
The poem begins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil:
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Whenever my petty mind thinks about denouncing and denigrating someone or some initiative they’ve launched, I remember these lines. Which in turn reminds me of the number of times an opponent or adversary surprised me with actions that made the world more just.
That’s when my snicker turns into shimmer.
Hopkins walked a lonely path. He rejected the High Anglicanism of his family and became a Catholic priest alienating himself from family, friends and the intellectual life of his cherished Oxford. From everything I’ve read, he was challenged by depression and never really fit in. He actually called his poems “terrible sonnets.” He was virtually unknown during his lifetime.
Yet out of his imperfections, challenges and conflicts emerged such beautiful poetry. He saw grandeur everywhere. Not just in nature but in the heart of our conflicts, brokenness and tragedies. The crushed oil oozing out in the last line above is actually olive oil.
You find what you are looking for. To see grandeur in our shipwrecks requires a beholder. When the beholder and the beheld meet, music, dance and boldness burst forth. (from Paul Mariani’s book, Gerard Manley Hopkins.)
Apologies for playing loose with a great poem:
The world is charged with the grandeur of creation.
People shimmer with justice, like shining from shook foil.
The social concourse is essentially a matter of one citizen polishing another; polishing, that is, not only so that rough spots and edges may be removed, but also so that one may begin to reflect another in the common social project of public life.
from The World We Want: Restoring Citizenship in a Fractured Age by Mark Kingwell.
If this is all there is, maybe that’s okay
Believing in the bliss, wishing my time away
A tender-hearted sadness pulls me through the day
But that’s alright
My heart is okay
from The Bliss by the Fortunate Ones. Listen here. Buy here.
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Beautiful and profound. I’m so glad you wrote this, Al.