An Essay By Ben // 3/20/2003

I'm tired.... I must have too much phlegm in my blood (as they would say in antiquated medicine). In the cafeteria tonight Jo the twin made me a great cappuccino with her cappuccino maker. I sat talking with two girls about objective truth, and somehow the caffeine and the objective truth mixed together to increase the level of phlegm in my blood. Anyway, I'm sleepy, tired, smoky (people smoke in the cafeteria at night), and somewhat ambivalent now.

But there is something... something human and real, something whole and entire, something that must be protected, something worthwhile. I don't claim to be an excellent or experienced judge of people, but there is something to be said for goodness. I picture goodness in so many different shapes and senses. She is a beautiful woman; she is the white of boat against the dark deep of sea; she is the stars. But she is also that tree outside the library window, the birds singing to the coming of spring, the people around me (but it's usually not so easy to recognize her in people). She is silence, and she is music.

Tomorrow, I have a "midterm" paper due in my Love and the City class. On Monday a paper on Thomas Aquinas will be due. I took a midterm for my Modernism (literature) class today. And, two days ago, I handed in a paper for the same class. Let's see... last week I had two Greek midterm tests and a paper, too. I am also intensely busy doing my self-study project, which is due at the end of this semester. So, it's hard to separate myself from my studies these days. Goodness knows, goodness rests in the elbows of books. But – more than that – she moves me in mysterious ways through what I learn. There is so much to discover here at college... there exists a sort of intoxication of reality. Furthermore, to really take it in we must love what we study – as Phil wisely said to me late one night some time this week.

Modernism class seems second-most central in my thoughts this semester. A surprising amount of the modern literature we read talks about the importance of poetry. It is so difficult to appreciate poetry for itself – and this alone tells me that something is wrong with our times, or with us. For poetry speaks about life... personal life... and if we scoff at poetry because it seems sentimental or stiff to us, there must be something sentimental or stiff in ourselves. Poetry and literature stand for so much more than text on a page. Modern literature especially stands for and preserves the sacred. For Yeats, Browning, Hardy, Housman, Virginia Woolf, or Conrad that forgotten thing called myth battles against that modern thing called fact. Science becomes almost the arch-enemy of literature. And the women in literature become the preservers and bearers of beauty and mystery and goodness. My test in this class went fairly well; I pretty much wrote about this same aspect of modern literature in the essay section.

The thing first-most in my mind, however, is Gerard Manley Hopkins. Although he died in 1889 (leaving behind about 90 poems that would soon become famous), I have him as my personal tutor now. As a junior literature major I am to study one poet intensely throughout the semester. I am doing Hopkins. I am flying through one of his biographies right now, but I still have a huge stack of books to read in the next two months. There is a little too much goodness for me to handle, thank you. That's what I say, but Hopkins already has an answer: "Patience, hard thing!" (poem 46)


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