is elegance a language we don’t understand?

“The gospel is a language I do not understand, when it opposes my passion”
Abelard to Heloise
I know this is not the most candle-lighting, stocking-stuffing, nor hymn-singing tribute this Christmas morning, but the Incarnation itself  offers an opportunity to give voice to our passions. The Christ child himself invests mortal humanity with an elegant love language, showing us that flesh and spirit need not be eternally at odds.
In recent weeks I have read the letters of Abelard and Heloise, a couple separated by circumstances, writing eloquent prose about their conflicts; I have read A Wild Surge of Guilty Passsion by Ron Hansen,  which contains letters less elegant, yet offers a glimpse of a man wrestling with spirit and flesh; I have read The Scarlet Letter, another depiction of humans caught between fleshly desires and spiritual ones, as if they need always be in conflict; and I have read Marilynne Robinson’s piece in Tin House on Beauty, in which the elegance of language, and the inevitable sadness of human lives, are merged in her idea about writing’s ability to speak to us in our humanity, somewhere between beasts and angels.
Perhaps what we lament when the holidays are over is the passing of something more elegant: an imagined time, a gospel language we understood, because it didn’t oppose our passions, but mingled with them somehow. Would the world be better if our worldly and spiritual loves were once again synonymous, united, similar to the way the baby in a manger suggests a hopeful innocence? Though our lives might be more “whole” or holy in such a case, the drama and tension that fill symphony halls or theaters would be absent if music and plays were devoid of a conflict of passions.
The Incarnation could even force us to doubt our convictions about elevated style and diction being appropriate to high subjects such as theology and love. As you read and watch and listen this holiday, attune yourself to the passion of characters, composers, musicians, authors–hear love in their language. In what way is there good news in art that calls you to expression of things you are passionate about?
A play I have been reading with a drama production in mind, “Holiday”, brings back such elegance…of language, of thought, of love, of ideals. But beyond single texts, I am curious which combination of texts speak to you in language differently than they might in isolation. Even my Dad’s Christmas gift to me, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, suggests Romeo and Juliet to me differently than they appear in my 22nd reading of their story as I regain it for my freshman English class, investing their bodies with new spirits. Now, whether a romantic comedy or a tragedy or a Hawthorne romance, everything involving a couple or a question about the role of passions (The Lady’s Not for Burning) in life is open to new reading because of the other open books on my table.
I hope your joy in reading increases this coming New Year!

0 Responses to “is elegance a language we don’t understand?”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Gordon’s Tweets

  • RT @onewheeljoe: A3 Almost all of the challenges I have encountered I handle by giving the student an alternative. When students have voice… 52 minutes ago
  • RT @danahmaloney: The Pope: “There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make th… 57 minutes ago
  • @CathEdToday Newman’s Ideas of a University inform my daily teaching practice. 1 hour ago
  • RT @CathEdToday: “A great memory does not make a mind any more than a dictionary is a piece of literature.” CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMAN ht… 1 hour ago
  • RT @ziwe: if you're arguing whether the children are in cages or windowless rooms, you've lost the plot 1 hour ago

RSS Good Questions

  • Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Cubbies November 9, 2015
    This lesson introduces students to the their classroom cubbies. The lesson allows the class as a whole to determine what is the appropriate use of a cubby and how to best care for them. What is a Guided Discovery? It is a student-centered … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Freeze Signal November 6, 2015
    The Freeze Signal is used to communicate to students that they should suddenly stop what they are doing and pay attention to the teacher.  I consider it an important safety measure.  Personally, I use a singing bowl, but I have seen teachers use … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • What is this Maker Movement? February 12, 2015
    I am a maker.  At least I think I am.  I sew. I blog. I cook. I bind books. I built a deck with my dad. Is that what people mean when they talk about ‘making?’ When I hear people … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Let the Planning Begin – Tools for Success August 13, 2013
    Procrastination finally comes to an end. Today I begin the work of plotting out the first few days (and weeks) of school. While the students are out shopping for school supplies (which induce panic attacks in me), I pull out … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Story Starters August 9, 2013
    This is a first for me.  I have been contacted by SmileMakers to preview one of their products, of my own choosing.  As an avid writing teacher, and a writer myself, I chose to review their Story Starter Word Cubes. … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Teachers Love Tech August 3, 2013
    My love for tech begins at a personal level.  I plan my life (and my lessons) on iCalendar. I create invites, worksheets, game handouts and more with Word and/or Pages.  All of my music comes from the web (check out … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Math Game: Hangmath October 8, 2011
    What is it? Hangmath is paper and pencil game similar to Hangman.  Players take turns creating two-digit addition problems, which the other player guesses. Rationale: Hangmath reinforces place value concepts because the Magical Minds must ask questions about the digits … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Studying Systems October 7, 2011
    SYSTEM: a set of connected things or parts that form a complex whole. The Magical Minds are investigating different kinds of systems.  We started by looking at smaller systems, things we could find in the classroom. We began to expand … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Reading: Understanding Genre Help Us Make Predictions October 6, 2011
    Today we began to think about how to use what we know about genre to make predictions about our books. To illustrate this point we compared nonfiction and fiction books. We already know that nonfiction books are full of information, … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Math Game: Foreheaded (place value) October 5, 2011
    What is it? In this game each player receives a mystery three-digit number, which they place on their forehead.  Using a guide sheet (below), players take turns guessing the digits in their numbers. Rationale: This game allows the Magical Minds … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz

%d bloggers like this: