Sunday, June 7, 2009

held

Thrush song, stream song, holy love
That flows through earthly forms and folds,
The song of Heaven's Sabbath fleshed
In throat and ear, in stream and stone,
A grace living here as we live,
Move my mind now to that which holds
Things as they change.
Wendell Berry, from "Sabbath 1982, IV". A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997. New York: Counterpoint. 43.

a good conscience

Someone of unbound conscience can dare to get it wrong, because they don't have to get it right. If you have to get it right, that means that you don't dare to get it wrong, which means that you are afraid of what will happen to you if you do get it wrong. But the Catholic and Christian understanding of conscience is that because we know that we are liked we can get it wrong, and it doesn't matter, because we are not frightened of punishment, but able to learn from our mistakes. In fact, if we can't dare to be wrong, then we can't truly get it right, because our being right will be a form of protection against what is other than us, what is unknown, exciting, big and causing us to be bigger-minded, magnanimous. A good conscience is not a feeling of self-satisfaction at having got it right; it is much more the underlying excitement of knowing yourself on the way somewhere, which is perfectly compatible with a deep sorrow of realisation at having got something wrong. This is the excitement of being a son or daughter who is on an adventure, not the contractual precision of a slave who has to get something right because he has no sense of being on the inside of the project of whoever is in charge, and merely senses the other as arbitrary and capricious, as someone who will glower at what is not perfect.
James Alison. On Being Liked. New York: Crossroad, 2003. 110 - 111.