14 July 2008

If there is anything virtuous, lovely. . .

"When she came to the end of one life it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different - something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be south and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth."
~Anne of the Island, Pg 108
I've been thinking quite a bit lately about what it means to be refined. It's such an interesting word. It is a word that implies a continual process. It is an active word. Somehow, for me, the phrase "personal improvement" or even phrases about trying to be better don't quite seem as (for lack of a better term) as refined as the word "refined".

As part of this new quest of mine to be a more refined sort of person, my mom sent me a talk given at at BYU devotional in 2006 by Douglas L. Callister called "Your Refined Heavenly Home". My mother knows me well. The talk is really incredible. Brother Callister did a beautiful job of describing how a refined person would behave. "The nearer we get to God," he says, "the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things [...] Refinement is a companion to developed spirituality. Refinement and spirituality are two strings drawn by the same bow."

The portion of the talk that I enjoyed the most was about literature and speech (naturally). I remember having long discussions in some of my education classes about how only literary nuts (like me) will ever appreciate analyzing literature and "what does it really ever do for us" and "should we make our students do it when they're not getting anything out of it?". This hasn't ever exactly sat well with me - not just with literature but with all forms of media or information or whatever that get thrown at us. I get bothered by people who take things at face value or say that they "like" or "don't like" something without any reasoning one way or the other on why.

Take a guy I used to work with, for example. He all out hated the Harry Potter books. The reasoning he gave was that they were popular and he didn't want to read them for that reason. He said they were stupid and he just didn't like them. Now, this is ridiculous. If he didn't want to read them, all he had to say was that he didn't want to read them because they didn't sound interesting. But not wanting to read them on principle and then attacking them is not good enough, any more than saying that you love them "just. . . because they're. . . funny and stuff" is an acceptable answer. Shouldn't we be self aware enough to be able to express why we like what we do?

The ability to express ourselves well is something that is so key to being refined. Language is important. I say that not just as an English major who loves words, but as someone who has seen the difference in a life you can make by using words well or not so well. Brother Callister continues:
We will feel more comfortable in Heavenly Father's presence if we have developed proper habits of speech. We not only wish to see God's face "with pleasure," we want to open our mouths with confidence that our speech harmonizes with the refinement of heaven. We will thrill to hear exalted beings express their sublime thoughts in perfectly chosen words. I suppose that the language of heaven properly spoken, may approach a form of music. Did C.S. Lewis have this in mind when he wrote: 'Isn't it funny the way some combinations of words can give you - almost apart from their meaning - a thrill like music?'
This brings me back to the quote from the top of this entry. It's taken from a chapter in the third "Anne" book when Anne's old school chum Ruby Gillis is dying of consumption. Ruby's chief concern in dying is that heaven will feel so different than what she is used to, even if it is wonderful. Anne has to admit that Ruby is right. It will feel different for her because she has based her life on being frivolous and obsessed with beaux. What if, then, part of our preparation for Celestial life is not just in becoming more Christlike with characteristics of love or charity, etc.? We are meant to be good, well rounded and refined individuals. We are to make our lives and our homes beautiful "as reflected in the language, literature, art, music, and order of heaven." In other words, part of our preparation for meeting God comes in ways that may not be counted as strictly "spiritual". If we are to be like our Father in Heaven, we are to be a people of refinement who seek after things that are "virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy."

1 comment:

Mom said...

Wow, I am so glad you liked that article so much, Joni, and what a great connection to that quote from Anne of the Island. So much to think about, huh...makes me look at life a bit differently.