One of the most delightful aspects of participating in Literary Life is the charm and fascination of its members. As I read through the posts and comments, I meet a range of characters from the beguiling and clever to the serious and searching. Much of what I encounter is at first a bit intimidating. And I pause here to bring a topic to light. Why is it that when we find a subject matter or a field of study intimidating, we turn away?
We turn away because we are embarrassed about what we don’t know.
Antidote: Strike out the voice of shame that whispers “not knowing makes you bad or uneducated” and embrace the idea that you have discovered a way for curiosity to exercise her muscles. I have discovered alternate ways of dealing with the shame of not knowing. To begin, there is no shame in not knowing. Be gentle with yourself and delight in the quest to grow in knowledge. Instead of backing down, dig in. Ask questions and be inquisitive (and no, curiosity did not kill the cat. English playwright, Ben Jonson first penned the saying in Every Man in His Humour, 1598 and it went like this “Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care’ll kill a Cat, up-tails all, and a Louse for the Hangman.” Worry and care in other people’s affairs were the behaviors in question).
This is especially useful in The Arts as it is an area where many feel insecure. Being articulate with regards to Music and Art can feel elusive to the beginner, but do not let that deter you. The best ways to discovery are through experience, research, and seeking out the like-minded. Being a part of Literary Life is a great step.
In things of beauty, he contemplated the One who is supremely beautiful, and, led, by the footprints he found in creatures, he followed the Beloved everywhere.
~Pope John Paul II from Bonaventure
We turn away because we do not know how to find out about what we know.
Antidote: Start searching and digging deeper into what you do not know. One of the easiest ways to do that is to find a community who is similarly stimulated.
Another good way to understand what you do not know is to use what you do know to approach it. Because I am trained in the musical arts I often begin with music, as understanding poetry can come more easily when married with the additional talents of a composer. Take, for instance the second movement of Vaughan William’s A Sea Symphony. The poetry is Walt Whitman’s On The Beach At Night Alone:
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.
After reading the poem, travel with the poetry along with composer Vaughan Williams and listen for the musical elements that pull us along further into meaning. There are immediately recognizable elements such as the lone voice at the beginning singing “On the beach at night alone”, the expansiveness of the horn section introducing us to the “vast similitude”, the widening of the vocal rang to extremes at “all distances of place however wide”. I read the poem and I am struck by its insights. I listen to the music and I find myself on the beach at night alone.
We turn away because we listen to the voices that exaggerate our fears and inabilities.
Antidote: Everyone feels that way. Instead of berating yourself and neglecting your natural curiosity, embrace it.
Let us listen to each other
Learn from each other.
Kate resides in Newport Beach, CA. After pursuing a music degree at Trinity University and Indiana University she currently studies at HBU in the Master of Arts in Apologetics program. She is a full time homeschooling mother of four, two of whom have graduated to college (Cornell and LMU). She is also a professional singer performing regularly with the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale. Kate gives regular recitals in Art Song and Opera and conducts the St Matthew’s Choristers at St Matthews Anglican Church in Newport Beach where they study Latin, Liturgy and Music. Her newest projects are the establishing of The Children’s Conservatory at St Matthew’s Montessori school and… as a contributing writer to Literary Life!