The Cloister Walk
Kathleen Norris
February 4, 2021

Exile, Homeland, and Negative Capability

By Eavan Boland in Object Lessons

Exile, like memory, may be a place of hope and delusion. But there are rules of light there and principles of darkness… the expatriate is in search of a country, the exile in search of a self.

By John Keats

Negative capability… [is being] capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable searching after fact and reason.

* The dichotomy of life, at least in our formative years, can be summed up by Norris’ observation, “[children] described as ‘good students’ will inevitably write acceptable but unexceptional poems and stories.”

            – Often, we applaud those who fit in our box of measurable standards and processes, while marginalizing those who view things differently or at least from an unorthodox perspective.

            – What creates knowledge, understanding, and community is the encouragement to be creative and practice creative things. Because in creativity people find a country and a self. As described by Boland above.

            – In an environment that embraces creativity people can find their true voice and unleash their God-given talents.

Question for reflection

How is it that the things we most treasure when we’re young are exactly the things we come to spurn as teenagers and young adults?

Gail Ramshaw is quoted, “…theology is prose, but liturgy is poetry…” It is ironic that the function of liturgy is not practice but is metaphor and simile; by being immersed in something which is known but not understood except in comparison.

Our Christian worship should give rise to theological reflection and not the other way around.

A well-functioning community needs to remember that unity is unrestrained by uniformity. What examples are there? The community remembers the eccentric for generations through oral history.

Anglican bishop John V. Taylor said, “imagination and faith are the same thing, giving substance and reality to the unseen.

Observation: the harder we try to make our faith “fit” or place boundaries on faith, we create a community that has exiles. God is simple but resides in our messy relationship with God.