Sunday, February 10, 2013

whom have I to complain of but myself?

Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt
Divine Prediction; what if all foretold 
Had been fulfilld but through mine own default, 
Whom have I to complain of but my self?
--Samson, Samson Agonistes

Once upon a time, there was a poet named Milton.
Milton wrote about falls from grace.
The most famous of which is Paradise Lost, in which he covers our first parents' fall from grace. 
But then he wrote something called Samson Agonistes, which he tells the tale of one man's fall from light into blindness.
Samson's agony is not so much his external blindness, but the loss of his internal guiding light.

thy Soul
Imprison'd now indeed,
In real darkness of the body dwells,
Shut up from outward light
To incorporate with gloomy night;
For inward light alas
Puts forth no visual beam.
--Chorus, Samson Agonistes

When a human being commits a mistake, when we make a misstep, when we take a fall, we wonder: where did I go wrong? 
Like Samson, we find ourselves trapped in a prison--not an external one, but internally. Our strength, we find has left us. As our hearts weaken, so our strength is sapped. We retreat into an internal darkness, where everything crumbles under the laser-sharp inspection of our own internal introspection.
What part of us, we wonder, committed such an act? How far back does our real mistake lie? Samson wonders where he went wrong. For each step he took, was he following Providence, as he believed, or had he persuaded himself of Divine Influence to comfort and assuage his own overweening desires? How does a human being even begin to sift through the myriad motivations that move us to act? Which ones were of us, which ones were the persuasions of our baser instincts? 
Without the guidance of the inward light, without the illumination of the Truth, how are we supposed to dive into our blindness? 
And so we find ourselves trapped.
The prison in which Samson is chained is the prison of his own crippling self-doubt and despair.
How can he possibly choose to act? 
A single step may take him further out of the realm of grace.
One stray action may take him farther away from completing his mission.
How can he take action when he no longer even knows who he is?

Be of good courage, I begin to feel 
Some rouzing motions in me which dispose 
To something extraordinary my thoughts.
--Samson, Samson Agonistes

But then, Samson finds the courage to act, he finds the courage to leave his prison of blindness.
As courage stirs within his heart, the light returns.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
The light returns sight to his soul, and with the sight, his strength.

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