Life can dish up patterns of rejection. This is often the lot of creative people. Artists wait years for that “break” that will bring their gifts to light. Mozart died a pauper. Having insulted Salzburg’s Archbishop Colloredo and the Viennese aristocracy, he was black-listed. And Franz Schubert sold his lieder for pennies to put food on his table.
On a Journey to Happiness
After spending years hammering out a philosophy of the human person, the late and great Father W. Norris Clarke, S.J. offers us valuable insights into the question: who am I. They are summarized below.
First of all, the fact that I exist means not a state but the act of all acts. To be is to be an energy, a dynamic impulse, a restless driving force carrying me forward from within my depths to my full self-achievement. I am an embodied spirit distinct from all others, with memory and imagination, with intellect and will and yet interconnected to the cosmos and to one another. I am actively present. Action follows being. (Agere sequitur esse).
Second, I am a unified and dynamic center of choice, of free self-conscious action on two levels – material and spiritual, in search of the Infinite toward my final trans-worldly goal. In happy amazement, I can experience heart, imagination, feeling, emotion, mood, and eros deep down in my mysterious center.
Third, I am on a journey from potential self-possession to actuality. Each of us lives most intensely within the self. What I say to myself is often more important than what I say to others. Nonetheless, I have the urge to share our own goodness with others and grasp the universe. I am introverted and extroverted.
Fourth, I want to make or do something beautiful, something worthwhile to leave in the world as an expression of who I am.
Fifth, I am limited, poor and rich at the same time. Sixth, the root of all my being – my perfection, is self-communicating love with its unity of beauty, truth, and goodness.
Finally, I am a self-possessing person:
- in-myself through self-consciousness or self-awareness; as self-consciousness that is first touched and loved by another;
- as I-Thou, going out to another and then returning to in-myself;
- as self-determining and self-governing that involves freedom, responsibility, accountability and morality;
- as a person with principles and values.
- as a person who graciously receives from others. (W. Norris Clarke, S.J.: Person and Being)
Do I live to impress or please others, or do I live as my real self – the one inside of me?
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Fr. Clarke gives us food for reflection and prayer. Two scriptural passages summarize his thoughts:
1. (God’s beauty is what we reflect.) 2 Cor 3:18f “We, with our unveiled faces reflecting like a mirror the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter, from one glory to the other, as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit.” (We are transformed from one glory to another and are made into a godly kind of beauty.)
2. (Live, so that your beauty shines through.) Eph 2:10 “We are God’s work of art created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning He meant us to live it.”
The truth is that we live in relationship with God and with self, with others and with circumstances unique to each of us. They are the source and raw material of self-knowledge. Integrating our responses to all four tells us who we are. In prayer and in practice, we gain self-knowledge.