Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Statute of the Blessed Virgin in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Church, UCD Belfield

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Human Form Divine

On Sunday I watched the movie Big Miracle, which is about three whales trapped in ice in Alaska. (I have been criticised for using the more American term "movie" rather than "film". But movie seems both more specific and more aesthetically pleasing.)

I loved Big Miracle for many reasons, but partly because I like movies set in cold places. Winter is my favourite season. There are many, many things that please me about winter, but one of them is seeing people bundled up in coats and scarves and hats and gloves. They always look so cosy and protected and-- strangely-- fragile and precious.

Looking at the actors thus bundled up in Big Miracle, it occured to me that the human body is a very beautiful thing. No, I'm not talking about Michaelangelo's statue of David, or the contours of a ballerina. I mean the human body in general, as we see it in the street.

I think we have been so eroticised, today, that we can no longer take innocent pleasure in many simple things. Mind you, I am not for a moment denying that some people are more aesthetically appealing than others, or that there is anything unhealthy in an instinctive response to a member of the opposite sex.

But I think we have become so fixated on those things-- and so obsessed, too, by looks and weight and fitness and skin tone and a long line of other factors-- that we miss out on the glory of what William Blake called "the human form divine", all around.

Children instinctively delight in drawing matchstick men, in reproducing the basic lines of head, torso, arms, legs.

If we are looking at an enormous panting of a landscape, our eye fixes gratefully upon a solitary, tiny figure in the background.

If we had not seen another human being for months and months-- how eagerly we would drink in the sight of the first person we saw!

I am always working on the Chestertonian exercise of discovering more to wonder at, more to be grateful for, all around me. And today it occurs to me; how lucky I am to be surrounded by the forms of those marvellous monstrosities, man and woman!

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