Being Yourself

We are definitely in a new Romantic era as I listen to this young American! It is a temptation to dismiss the millennial generation, but actually many of them have broken away from the dictatorship of the old century and the same pit as in the 1790’s or the 1890’s. They are free!

I found this link on my men’s long hair forum in response to a young man who was being harassed by his employer for his long hair. In truth, the young man is in the wrong job, because he needs to be in something where he can be himself (on condition of doing his job properly and professionally). There are many occupations where a man can escape the suit and tie and short hair profile of the company man. The man presenting the video has short hair, but that’s obviously his own free choice. 🙂

We spend too much time trying to impress other people instead of being true to ourselves. If we “changed” and fitted exactly into the mould, “they” would still not be satisfied and we would be unhappy.

In all likelihood, our young man is alienated from churches or religion, or has never been anywhere near a church. The newly canonised Pope John XXIII intended to open doors and windows to let in fresh air, beginning with allowing people to breathe and find their faith whilst being their true selves. Of course, some reading this are going to wince and accuse me of promoting modern “agendas”. Not a bit of it. Grace does not destroy nature and we cannot but admire this beautiful spontaneity of a young man in the prime of life and enthusiasm. My own experience in traditionalist Roman Catholicism has been one of trying to fit into the mould, and I found I could not conform enough and be enough of a wet rag!

The Americans call it “thinking outside the box”. Jung called it individuation, reconciling the opposites and coming to terms with what we really are. The quest for wholeness is a theme of Romanticism and the alchemical sciences of old. In the Church, we have doctrinal standards and moral teachings, but the spirit gives life where the letter kills. In Romanticism, redemption is a process of attaining wholeness, not of being ever more compliant with someone else’s ethics.

Self-knowledge is vital, by recognising the pairs of opposites we have within ourselves. It is for each of us to find which are those pairs of opposites, because it isn’t the same for everyone. I remember my time as a working guest at the Benedictine abbey in France, and being told that imagination is an enemy of contemplation. They are wrong. Imagination is the creative logos by which man participates in God’s ongoing work of creation. It is by the imagination that we find ourselves and our freedom.

Wordsworth wrote in 1850:

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable worskmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society.

We live this diversity in ourself as in society, and peace comes through reconciliation. Romanticism connects beauty and harmony as the Platonists equate the One with Beauty. Truth as Beauty is a unifying of opposites, both in creation and in our own being as humans.

Our whole lives are spent in some sort of compromise with the world, of which the institutional Church is a part, together with our families, homes, work and all the things we have to pay for with money. Some measure of compromise is needed, but we are free in ourselves through the imagination and our constant state of tension with the “pit” that tries to dictate fashion, “political correctness” and la pensée unique. We have to go along with some things to an extent, but within ourselves we are free and beautiful. Being something of a Hegelian, I can see this tension as being good for us, if we can learn to handle it.

Some of us are called to higher things, and perhaps we are not such a minority as elitists and people “of the flesh” might like to believe.

In another age, that young man might have seen the horrors in Paris in the 1790’s and sought beauty and health in Italy, writing poetry or music before a death from consumption or shipwreck at a tragically young age. May he live and teach truth and beauty in our own time, with that beauty and freshness that are still his!

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