Sunday, October 19, 2008

emotion and calmness

From Nature doth emotion come, and moods
Of calmness equally are Nature's gift:
This is her glory--these two attributes
Are sister horns that constitute her strength;
This twofold influence is the sun and shower
Of all her bounties, both in origin
And end alike benignant. Hence it is
That genius, which exists by interchange
Of peace and excitation, finds in her
His best and purest friend--from her receives
That energy by which he seeks the truth
Is rouzed, aspires, grasps, struggles, wishes, craves
From her that happy stillness of the mind
Which fits him to receive it when unsought.

William Wordsworth, The Prelude, (1805) Book Twelfth

Sometimes when I'm feeling agitated, unsettled, or even a bit desperate, I grab a book of poetry and open it, I-ching style, to see what comes up. The passage above was the result of such a search today. In the margin are my notes from a summer class I took in graduate school with the wonderful Professor Les Chard. In blue pencil (leftover from my freelance editing job) I wrote, "emotion & calmness," "active & passive," "grace?" and " 'rehabilitation'."

Although Wordsworth is clearly asserting his belief in the power of capital-N Nature to foster the imagination and restore "right reason," it spoke to me more about the vicissitudes of human nature, in particular my own vacillations between intensity and calm.

It was a quiet day on the surface here, but internally I weathered storms worthy of Prospero's books. This happens from time to time--a plunge into the depths, feeling unable to navigate the turbulent waves. I guess I am still seeking some sort of guidance, and these times are when I feel its lack most keenly. For now, I'll just try to keep feeling my way until the tempests pass and light breaks through the clouds again.

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