Monday – and I am mightily irritated because:
My refrigerator crisper froze my bag of fresh spinach.
My over-the-kitchen-island light fixture needs to be dusted.
My bathroom shower tiles are dingy plus a hint of soap-scummy.
My central-air compressor won’t push the cold air to the upstairs bedrooms.
My front-load washing machine has some mildew on the rubber door gasket.
My grocery store stopped carrying my favorite brand of snack crackers.
My all-in-one printer – scanner – copier is out of ink…again.
My iPod refuses to correctly sort my three favorite albums.
My dishwasher left gritty residue on the steak knives.
My car has a funny rattle under the front dash.
And my gas grill has a jiggly handle.
Really. It’s enough to make any reasonable (read: self-important) 21st-century woman throw up her hands in disgust, mutter unspeakables under her breath, and call it quits. Quite. Who, after all, can be expected to function under these desperate conditions?
[And now I will square off with myself and do battle with the ‘I’ that looms largely, always ready to rear her haughty head and claim her full share of centrality. I know her well and don’t think much of her. That Jesus willingly died for her is really quite astounding.]
[In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, Vicky Austin reads these lines by the poet Thomas Browne:*
If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, “This is not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, “This is enow
Unto itself – ’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.”
[*For all you L’Engle fans, there’s been a bit of rumbling about the authorship of this poem. L’Engle clearly attributes it to a Sir Thomas Browne who lived “at least three centuries ago” which would be the Sir Thomas Browne who wrote, among other things, Religio Medici. But in fact the poem’s author is T.E. Browne, a 19th century educator, theologian, and poet. You can read more about the mix-up here and can read the poem, titled “Indwelling,” here on page 82. Just in case you were wondering.]
Haha. I know how you feel! I get in that state of mind sometimes too. I usually drop all of the tremendously important things I’m doing for myself and go for a walk around town. I look around at all the people and try to imagine all of the tremendously important things they’re facing too.
Yes, sometimes a walk will do it. Usually considering other people carefully will do it. I visited your blog and saw your favorite books list. Nice. If you haven’t read these, here are some others: Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy. C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. The Perilous Gard (an old Newberry book). Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. Robin McKinley’s Damar books and Spindle’s End. Cynthia Voigt’s Jackaroo and On Fortune’s Wheel. Naomi Novik’s dragon series (if you’re into dragons…and the French Revolution…which of course go together).
Thanks for the recommendations! I will definitely hunt them down. A couple of them are already on my list of books to buy.
I love to read your thoughts-you write them so well! Thank you for publishing exactly how I feel! Scary, but so fun! 🙂 -Your Southern friend from FBCO, Ozark, MO…Courtney McMurry
Hello Courtney! I’m trying to remember how long since I was at FBCO…was it just last year? Time gets muddled when it’s so full. Hope you are well. Thanks for the nice comment. I appreciate it.
Thanks for highlighting this gross error of misattributation by Ms. L’Enge. The internet can also disseminate false information just as well as true. If only L’Enge had used her brains and checked her sources instead of saddling sir T.B. with the reputation of writing psycho-babble doggerel verse, i presume by ’empty thyself of self’ she means the ever ubiquitous ego in modern society, the self is emptied/transformed at death.
Kevin – this “slip” by L’Engle was very uncharacteristic. She knew her lit and poetry like few others. Though perhaps not as ‘sophisticated’ as Sir Thomas Browne’s discourse, I do love this poem by the “other” Thomas Browne. His reference to “emptying thyself of self” is, I believe, a theological one…giving up a self-central life and choosing a God-centered life; dying daily to one’s self in order to live daily as a reborn Self; moving “me” out of the way so that the soul can be filled with the Spirit of Christ instead. That is very much in line with L’Engle’s philosophical and theological worldview (and, as far as I can ascertain) with the poem’s author. For me personally, it is a clearly articulated reminder that, left to my own devices, I would be “all replete with very me” – and I have lived with myself long enough to know that life is richer, fuller, sweeter, and more joyful (which does not equate to “easier, happier, and problem-free”) when I am emptied of self and replete with Christ.
I can see how Sir T. Browne could easily be identified with the noble sentiment of this poem, but a cursory knowledge of 17th century language soon dispels any possible attribution to Sir T.B.
Sadly, however uncharacteristic, L’Engle’s error to check her sources taints her scholastic reputation for as long as her name is attached to this quotation and disseminated online.