Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Book Too Far

Sometimes one can become so immersed in a literary/academic project for so long that one comes to suffer what the Early Church Fathers called apatheia. At times like this, my old friend Wordsworth has a few words to say about it.

The Table Turned by William Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless--
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.


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Anonymous Matthew R Green said...

As I've seen it used, many of the Early Church Fathers considered apatheia a good thing. The Neoplatonists used it as emotionlessness, but I thought the church saw it as healthy detachment from the world - appreciating the things of creation without feeling needful of them.

10:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Matthew,

Yes, many of the Early Church Fathers considered apatheia as neutral or good. They often used it to means a form of detachment from the world. This concept was heavily influenced by Greek Stoic philosophy. I believe the concept of apatheia or detachment was taken further by the via negativa movement of the Spanish mystics.

My personal comment is that when I find myself deeply involved in a period of theological research and writing, the activity has a tendency to draw me away from people, community and even from God! That is a scary thought.

1:47 PM  

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