We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love – these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman,
“O me, O life of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
What will your verse be? ~Lines of dialogue from the movie Dead Poets Society
If Saint Ignatius had been an actor I think he would have played the character John Keating, the unorthodox teacher, in the movie Dead Poets Society, who brings his students to a greater understanding of themselves and their world through his teaching of poetry.
There are two lines from the quote about that sounds so Ignatian, the first is this line: And the human race is filled with passion. Ignatius certainly thought that passion was needed to live life: Passion for Christ, passion for our fellow man, passion in general in that order. Without passion we can not show our love for God, our neighbour and ourselves. For Ignatius when he came to understand how much God loved him and as such with how much passion God’s love was, Saint Ignatius knew that it was with the same passion, giving up of yourself to others, that he HAD to live his life. He would argue that God’s giving us talent and keenness for our vocation of life should be lived with great passion..”And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life“, had to be done with as much passion as God’s love for us.
For to live without passion a life is not worth living.
And the second Ignatian line is: “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” I can see Ignatius saying just that very line to his students. What line; what good in the world will you contribute. The play, of course, is life, and it is wonderful to think of life that way. We are “writing” our story, our poem, with all the colours in the box. Sometimes our choice of colour is a little dark, but when it is placed next to the brighter colours, the darkness makes the bright, brighter. God gives us these colours and as we live we learn how to use those colours effectively.
Ignatius created the spiritual exercises and examen as ways to help us learn how God is calling us to use our colours, write our story. We go deeply into our lives looking at all of it: good, bad and ugly; not to shame us but to show us where God was during every time of our lives. It also shows us where we were in relations to God. Where we close to him or did we move further away? We can see patterns in our lives, patterns of strength and patterns of shortcomings. God wants us to see our strengths as our go to and our shortcomings as things that will teach us lessons and provide us with tools that will become strengths.
For Ignatius God was not punitive, but compassionate, forgiving and greatly in love with us.