Saturday, May 24, 2008

George Eliot on Introverted Academics

This is a longish quotation from Middlemarch (Penguin Classics), 279-280, but well worth reading if you (or someone you know) is inclined toward introversion and academia. George Eliot has all our little depravities down cold:

Mr Casaubon had never had a strong bodily frame, and his soul was sensitive without being enthusiastic: it was too languid to thrill out of self-consciousness into passionate delight; it went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched, thinking of its wings and never flying.

His experience was of that pitiable kind which shrinks from pity, and fears most of all that it should be known: it was that proud narrow sensitiveness which has not mass enough to spare for transformation into sympathy, and quivers thread-like in small currents of self-preoccupation or at best of an egoistic scrupulosity.

. . . It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self - never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardour of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.


RogueMonk said...

This links to more contemprary phenomena--professors who train minsters but have no (or very little) real minstry experience. It is little wonder that a large majority of ministers later lament that seminary (or Bible College) didn't really prepare them for the ministry in the local church.

What good does it do if we can exegete in Greek and Hebrew, understand ANE history, have good sound doctrine, know church history...but...have no people skills, preach boring sermons, don't know how lead, can't navigate conflict are too idealistic and burn-out?

d. miller said...

Thanks for the comment, roguemonk! I'd like to reflect on your comment a little more before responding in detail, but it might take awhile before I get back to it.