For Itself

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Here is Charles Bernstein’s Why Do You Love the Poem?

For the sentiment. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the sentiment.
For the message. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the message.
For the music. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the music.
For the spirit. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the spirit.
For the intelligence. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the intelligence. 
For the courage. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the courage.
For the inspiration. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the inspiration. 
For the emotion. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the emotion. 
For the vocabulary. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the vocabulary. 
For the poet. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the poet.
For the meaning. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the meaning.
For what it stands for. — Then you don’t love the poem you love what it stands for.
For the words. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the words.
For the syntax. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the syntax.
For the politics. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the politics.
For the beauty. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the beauty.
For the outrage. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the outrage.
For the tenderness. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the tenderness.
For the hope. — Then you don’t love the poem you love the hope. 
For itself. — Then you love the poem.

From poets.org

This poem arrived in my inbox on July 27, and I’ve kept it there, returning now and again. I subscribe to their poem-a-day email newsletter. Not every selection that hits my inbox connects with me. Most don’t. But this one has hung with me.

My reason for returning is tangentially related to the poem. Bernstein makes a fine distinction between our appreciation of a thing for what it is in itself and our appreciation of a thing for its benefits. He’s right to do so. Our love for a thing can be self-centered rather than other-centered. We get this wrong all the time.

This isn’t just true of poems, or movies, or painting or other forms of art. It can be true of our relationships with friends, family, loved ones. It can be true of our relationship to God.

That’s why we should always search our hearts and examine our motivations. Do we love first because of a benefit we receive or because of an appreciation of something intrinsically good, true, and beautiful standing apart from my experience?

If we get the order wrong, we dishonor the moment, the person, the encounter. But if we get the order right, the benefits only increase in their richness, glowing more magnificently, appreciated more deeply, because we have rightly appraised their source.

Discern, then Respond

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