Milton and the mind
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven...
So speaks the greatest anti-hero in all literature, Satan, in Milton's wonderful epic poem, Paradise Lost. He says this after he and his followers have been cast out of heaven and realize they have to rebuild a life in hell. It was a classic modernist perspective: that by an act of imagination we can perceive terrible circumstances to be wonderful, and then by force of will make them so.
I reflected on how right Milton was - that our perspective on our circumstances does have a powerful impact on how we inhabit them.
I also reflected on how wrong Milton was - in that he perpetuated a mind body separation that has been prevalent throughout much Christian history and theology. The mind is not its own place, divorced from the physical surroundings that it occupies - it resides in a body, and the body is affected by the environment. This is why I feel like the world is a better place after I go for a five mile run on Bair island.
Children raised with low expectations, bad nutrition and in an environment of poverty have their life chances curtailed. Tragically, only rare exceptions escape the poverty trap. The American dream, that we can transform our circumstances by force of will, is often a fantasy.
So I am left with these reflections. The body and the mind exist in a continuum and both affect each other. My prayer life must be somatic (by this I mean physical and not just in my head - walking while praying, or running are great). The environment affects us greatly, and it affects others as well; so, as those blessed with gifts of intellect, spirituality, economy and influence it is important that we are mindful of the needs of others, and how we can help all to reach their fullest potential.
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From the UK, Matthew loved US culture from the first time he picked up a Fantastic Four Comic when he was 12.