“A girl only sixteen years old,
(Is this not something supernatural?)
who notices little the arms she bears
for she has been brought up for this,
so strong and resolute and natural.
And not one of her enemies can stand up to her
and instead they flee before her and run.
She does all this in plain view of everyone.”
– The Song of Joan of Arc by Christine de Pisan
“Joan: I heard voices telling me what to do. They come from God.
Robert: They come from your imagination.
Joan: Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us.”
—George Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan (1923)
To once again remind myself that if I find myself in such a situation the best solution is not to try to sit down and analyse what is most important and then use 1 hour to do that and then have one hour left to do it.
The best course is just to choose.
And do it.
And choose something I know will give me positive energy.
So there it is once again. It’s Joan of Arc.
But it could have been other things.
What is it for you?
I mean, it just feels wonderful to be reminded that how much energy I get from reading and thinking about Joan of Arc. Even if I don’t time. Especially if I don’t have time.
… when I was visiting Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, and I looked out the window and saw the church across the street and I almost froze, because a Thought came to me … solid and real and insisting upon itself:
THIS house is the real church.
That house was the church. Not the ‘real’ church across the street.
I wonder …
I will leave you with the image even so:
Joan of Arc cursing her fate in a dark prison cell, crying, praying or even bargaining – to avoid it all. To go back to normal.
To … somewhere that is not where she is.
I will leave you with that and ask you:
Is she still beautiful?
The answer will decide much for you and how you will live with – or eventually escape – your own prisons.
It has for me.
I assume Alexander Selkirk kept the lambs in some kind of fold, and that the point was that even in that confined space he did not have to struggle too much to get at one of them and kill it, because they were handicapped so to speak – because he had broken their legs. Gruesome in one manner, if you can forget our own slaughter-houses for a moment. But on the other hand understandable, if you get a tropical fever and barely can get up, and you have dehydrated and shit all over the dried leaves that make out your bed.
There is a strange fascination and yet revulsion with this little bit of story, but at the heart of it is a lesson, about what life is if you take away any kind of help from the outside.
There’s the story, then. Which makes me feel revolted and grateful at the same time. I guess I should remember the gratefulness the most.
Alexander Selkirk (d. 1721) wanted badly to get away and he wanted to get rich. He didn’t want to die for nothing. Or at least die risking to achieve what he felt was his highest dream.
Not as gift-wrapped as Columbus’ dream, I might reiterate, but nevertheless the most precious dream he had. That man of 200 years past.
But how many like him are still here today.
Again, I’m not trying to equate my own petty considerations about how to keep certain other people at arm’s length in my life to the voluntary or involuntary complete and utter exile.
But there is an interesting door, in both situations, to one major theme – the quality of being alone, of not being interfered with, of being sheltered from whatever ills we ascribe to other people and society at large.
Obviously many decry ‘loneliness’ or ‘isolationist tendencies’ or ‘aloofness’ etc. etc. And they should. Alone-ness or isolation – wholly or partially – voluntary or involuntary is not an end in itself. Or ‘good’ Just Because.
Obviously it isn’t. Whether Selkirk chose his island or not. Whether we chose how much or how little our own ‘islands’ – places of solitude – should fill our lives.
It is always a scale and it is always set in a context – whether or not solitude is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. How much ‘good’? How much ‘bad’? Do we even call it “solitude”? What if we called it … “loneliness?” in Alexander’s case.
Or in my case: “poor social skills” or “being introvert”?
It’s all a bit messy, as usual.
But something shines through. Something like a very important theme, not just for this talk, but for life in general. And that is how I want it.
Why would you want to make peace with a “complete jerk”, for example – if that IS your heart-felt belief about what that this person is all about?
That kind of thinking goes on in all of us all the time. I do it each day to some extent although I try very much to restrain myself and not fall back to my earlier life behavior which was much more temperamental, much an 800-year old king.
I’m not going to drive myself over a cliff in this life-time by fostering mostly antagonistic relations to other people. But I might still do so with some people, because I still have it in me.
And I have to decide if that is good enough.
We need to see our life as story where we can grow and become the best reflection of a saint.
People of the past are distant mirrors of ourselves. They are not us and yet they are us. Recognizable yet distorted. What we see in them, at a very deep level then, is a reflection of ourselves.