Saturday, August 12, 2023

“These Last Strands of Man in Me…”

“Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, 
   not choose not to be.”

~Gerard Manley Hopkins (Poem 40, Stanza 1)

Not without reason is this poem (usually titled “Carrion Comfort”) regarded as one Hopkins’s greatest. It has more depths in the ensuing stanzas, but I find a resonance with this first one in this moment. These are words that speak at the extremity of desperation, where the poet discovers something more fundamental in the core of the heart: the desire for be-ing, all the more vivid through his exhausted negative expression.

Our being is a gift and a promise, and even in our darkest moments, they draw us to endurance. The One who gives us being gives us also the seemingly fragile tenacity that is in fact a supernatural strength. It empowers our freedom to embrace hope and stand firm against despair, to “not choose not to be.” .

This is the only reasonable position for a human being on the journey of life (and we recognize that many people who take their own lives do so because their reason is blocked or distorted by psychological pathology). The reasonable position of our hearts is to never give up.