Sunday, June 22, 2008

New and different

One of my favorite exchanges in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice comes while Elizabeth Bennet is dancing with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield ball. The conversation is about conversation and the need to make an effort at it, since as Elizabeth observes,
"It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together." Then Elizabeth supplies an explanation for why she and Darcy may prefer to talk as little as possible while dancing together.

"We are each of us of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb."

Darcy replies, "This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure. . . . How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say."

Darcy's protest is polite, but ironic. Elizabeth's conversation is full of clever, original remarks, and she knows it. What she doesn't know is that Darcy finds this quality startlingly attractive.

I would classify myself as one of Elizabeth Bennet's unsocial, taciturn individuals--timid about speaking unless I've got something original and insightful to say. That's my excuse for two-and-a-half months of silence from the Perverse Lutheran. Despite beginning several posts, I've had nothing to say that would amaze the entire room, much less please myself.

I write because I want to find a new way to say something, because I want to test the truth for myself and find a new connection with it. I am looking for original insight, but even in summer's abundance of sunshine, I'm leaning towards the writer of Ecclesiastes' view of things: there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc. 1:9). Or Shakespeare's view--the same idea with an original twist: "There is nothing left remarkable/Beneath the visiting moon." (Antony and Cleopatra, IV.xiii.60) Cleopatra says this shortly before she dies.

As for the Preacher behind the book of Ecclesiastes--well, I'd have to read the durn book to comment on where he goes in the eleven chapters that follow his declaration that "what has been is what will be." I have no objections to reading Ecclesiastes, but stopping to do so now would probably keep me from finishing this post. I'm skipping to the end of the book: "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

Secret? That's a word I heard in church this morning, in the Gospel reading:

"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. (Matthew 10:26)

So God will ferret out every secret thing and will show these hidden things in a new light when they are brought to judgment. It's probably not theologically correct to describe God as taciturn and unsocial, but apparently the Creator likes to astound everyone in the room with amazing new views of stuff that is now hidden. Hey, being God, she can't help it.

Is that where Elizabeth Bennet and I get it from? Yes, there's some vanity, some false pride, maybe some prejudice, in having to discover everything for yourself There is vanity in thinking you can think what others have not thought, or that you can at least put a new twist on it. But I'm thinking the desire to do this could be part of what Paul described as being "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 6:11--the second lesson this morning)

A new creation!

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