Feb 21, 2024

speaking of flourishing

Paul Griffiths:

John Donne writes, in the twentieth meditation of his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, that he is “ground even to an attenuation and must proceed to evacuation, all ways to exinanition and annihilation.” This condition of persons, which we all share — ground down, on the way to emptiness, approaching nothing — repairs as well as damages us: repair can come from seeing the intimacy of this condition with our capacity to see it; damage will come from its intimacy with the removal of that capacity.

Is speaking of our flourishing the best way to elucidate what we are and how we move in the world and what it is that we move toward? I doubt it. “Flourishing” has a Pollyannaish flavor, a tincture of the kind of optimism that precedes energetic programs of amelioration grounded upon confidence that we can see clearly now and are therefore equipped to repair without damage. Amelioration cannot come in that way. If it comes at all, it comes when we understand ourselves to be persons in a world in which damage and repair are incapable of clean separation, and in which programs of amelioration must be wept over in advance because of the damage they cannot help but bring.