Sunday, June 03, 2007

All that we truely love is thus

Not having too much to say for the last week (consumed by work, children's activities, family issues), I will quote some more from Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici:

"Now there is another part of charity, which is the Basis and Pillar of this, and that is the love of God, for whom wee love our neighbour: for this I thinke is charity, to love God for himselfe, and our neighbour for God. All that is truely amiable is God, or as it were a divided piece of him, that retaines a reflex or shadow of himselfe. Nor is it strange that wee should place our affection on that which is invisible; all that wee truely love is thus; what wee adore under the affection of our senses, deserves not the honour of so pure a title. Thus wee adore vertue, though to the eyes of sense shee bee invisible. Thus that part of our noble friends that wee love, is not that part that we embrace, but that insensible part that our armes cannot embrace. God being all goodnesse, can love nothing but himselfe; hee loves us but for that part which is as it were himselfe, and the traduction of his holy Spirit. Let us call to assize the love of our parents, the affection of our wives and children, and they are all dumb showes, and dreames, without reality, truth, or constancy . . . . "

One of the things I admire about Browne's writing is the way his language circles and resurfaces. He finds definition (both for his terms and for his prose) by braiding words together--these terms, "love" "God" "neighbour" "charity" "invisible" "himselfe" "wee," are all interwoven, again and againg, and the pulse of the language builds up an energy that lifts the passage off the ground. Browne also makes use of turns--positive becomes negative by the use of the "is . . . not" construction. Then the passage opens up on the "life is a dream" conceit. What we see, I suppose, in terms of theme is that we are a reflection of God, invisible, like Him, that our love, which stems from physical touch, becomes metaphysical through the application of the physical--the "eyes of sense," our arms that embrace and do not embrace. This is all the familiar paradoxical way of expressing the divine, but Browne includes us as well in the paradox: that that survives of us is [in]visible--that that reflects the divine. Thoughts, perhaps. I see, with my "inner" eye, images of my grandmother all the time.

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