Never be Ashamed of Staring

There is nothing that doesn’t require your attention.
Anything that helps you to see, anything that makes you look
is at all times an invisible burden you carry toward the limits of mystery.

There is something in us that demands the redemptive act,
but we have forgotten the price of restoration.
Our sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether.
Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live.

This is the beginning of vision: we are made out of dust.
Plunge into reality through the darkness of the familiar—
though it’s very shocking to the system,
though it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away.
(If you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t, but the way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience)

The longer you look, the more of the world you see.
It is almost of necessity going to be violent and comic.
It’s a terrible experience; the hair falls out and the teeth decay.
The prophet in you has to see the freak.

This is not an easy or simple thing to do.
More always happens than we are able to take in.
Pass by the dragon in a more drastic way—
Know mighty well that something is happening.
It is a job of heavy labor, of not getting the point at once.
You must be sustained by a hope of salvation, or you simply won’t survive the ordeal.

People without hope don’t take long looks at anything.
They lack the courage.
Never be ashamed of staring.
Outer and inner worlds can be seen through each other.
The blind man cured in the gospels saw men as if they were trees, but walking.

To know oneself is to know the world.
It is also a form of exile from that world.
The surface
intrudes upon the timeless
as one goes through it into mystery.

Found in Mystery and Manners
By Flannery O’Connor
Arranged 22 Nov 2009

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