On Sorrow, Buffoons and St. Francis

I was able to sit on the couch in comfort and solitude tonight; in the soft glow of a standing lamp and a single candle flickering around the perimeter of the room. I began with today’s reading in The Divine Office from Ecclesiastes, the last lines of which stood out for me:

Though I said to myself, “Behold, I have become great and stored up wisdom beyond all who were before me in Jerusalem, and my mind has broad experience of wisdom and knowledge”; yet when I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly, I learned that this also is a chase after wind.

For in much wisdom there is much sorrow, and he who stores up knowledge stores up grief. (emphasis mine)

I then turned to C.S. Lewis and The Four Loves and my present location, the third chapter which is about the subject of Eros.

Man has held three views of his body. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the “tomb” of the soul, and of Christians like Fisher to whom it was a “sack of dung,” food for worms, filthy, shameful, a source of nothing but temptation to bad men and humiliation to good ones. Then there are the Neo-Pagans (they seldom knew Greek), the nudists and the sufferers from Dark Gods, to whom the body is glorious. But thirdly we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body “Brother Ass.” All three may be–I am not sure–defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money.

Ass is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can either revere or hate a donkey. It is useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body. There’s not living with it till we recognize that one of its functions in our lives is to play the part of buffoon. Until some theory has sophisticated them, every man, woman and child in the world knows this.

I am guilty of storing up knowledge in an effort at gaining wisdom. I am guilty of much grief as a result. And I am guilty of being the heartiest of buffoons. Yet I would not have it any other way. I am alive. Guilty as charged.

©2006-2010 Jeff A. Walker. All Rights Reserved.

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One thought on “On Sorrow, Buffoons and St. Francis

  1. Pingback: Friday Five – Volume 113 | Mere Observations

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