It is hard so sum up a day of pondering on the complexity, the beauty and the ‘messiness’ of human nature. Today, Canon Mark Oakley invited us to look at the human and divine nature through the lens of Shakespeare’s final solo play, The Tempest.
As with any truly worthwhile conversation, the more one understands of the other – in this case the characters in the play, or even the play itself – the more one realises how much we have in common. Particularly it struck me today that the answers we look for in the play, belong to questions that we need to ask ourselves and the world we live in.
What would a graceful life look like? Is justice what the most powerful enforce? Can we be truly free if we hold any power over others? What does it mean to forgive those who have hurt us and those whom we have hurt?
As with any good piece of art, poetry or literature, The Tempest shows us something about ourselves that we already knew, but hadn’t realised we did. For me it was today the insight that ultimately grace can only be freely given and received. As long as we see the other as ‘it’, not ‘thou’ – in Martin Buber’s words – the presence of power and a lack of freedom will mean that grace cannot abound. Grace and power are two competing principles. Maybe that is why true penitence and forgiveness are so incredibly hard: because it means letting go of the power we have given to ourselves or the other.
As Prospero speaks in his epilogue: