Friday, August 5, 2011

Ambition to serve God

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Ambition to Serve God through Blindness

One of the joys of living and working at the heart of a major city is being around so many bright, energetic people. These people have high expectations for themselves and others, high standards for what they can accomplish. Ambitious That’s a good word for so many in our bustling society these days. But nobody will hear a great deal about ambition in church most Sundays. The richness of the imagery and symbolism which is referred to John Miltons poem about his own blindness, When I Consider How My Light is Spent, is a powerful ways to connect with the message of faith. Also, Milton gives us a picture of the importance of strong and healthy ambition, and the fear and passivity to serve God.

In the first place, the style of the poem is an Italian sonnet. The structure of the sonnet is a dialogue in the form of a question and an answer. It is divided into an octet which introduces the problematic situation and leads to the question, and into a sestet which offers a kind of answer to the problem. John Milton must have been deeply troubled by the disparity between fact and promise in his career. However, he refers to a very faint susceptibility to light still remaining to him. In the earlier part of the octet, John Milton alludes to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 5 14-0), which performs a crucial job in the poem in that it negatively affects the way in which the reader perceives the voiced answer in the sestet. Here he has defined it as a measure of weight and hence of value; there is here, of course, a play on the word in its modern sense of his mental gift, in Milton’s case his gift of poetry.

John Milton was stricken by blindness before beginning his great work, was overwhelmed by the possibility that he would fail to return his talent. In wresting with this possibility he wrote a poem on his blindness as When I Consider How My Light is Spent. John Milton was terrified that he might not invest the talents of his life well as consider “And that one Talent which is death to hide” (). Furthermore, he shows to despite the feeling that his Talent is “useless” (4), his “Soul more bent/To serve therewith my Maker, and present/My true account, lest he returning chide” (4-6). This recalls the view in the parable that God is a strict, exacting master to work for. John Milton knows, because the parable is a lesson that he should not feel this way about God, but he cannot seem to help it. He wants his writing and poetry, his body of work, as concrete proof to present to God that he has done everything he can to serve him, almost as if he does not trust that God will know and be fair to him on that Day of Judgment. In the sestet, God does not seem to need or want this true account, and in the context of line , when Milton effectively cuts off the phrase so that it is just “God doth not need” (), his wish to present this true account represents a significant crisis in the poem.

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As he began to lose his vision faith was his consolation. How he expressed that consolation still is powerfully clear. This had to have been a shattering adversity to such a powerful man. Of course the phrase, “They also serve who only stand and wait” (14), is familiar one; Milton would like us to understand how patience, the muses, or the Holy Spirit be eventually reward the faithful steward. These people serve God best by simply accepting him in faith. It seems that the answer in the sestet tries to console John Milton who can no longer do day-labor for God by suggesting that he need only “stand and wait” (14) in order to be served.

John Milton came to be a dangerous man. It was his ability to express his strong views with words that was the most threatening. However, we also learn from him to be really ambitious is to live life of such balance that all the dimensions of our lives are honored belonging to our friendships, families, and communities. No gift is too small to be revered and used in the economy of creation. The smallest gestures of a letter written, a prayer offered, a child tutored, a check written, help given a colleague, make the world flow with more grace. Moreover, all the life of our souls and our longing are for God.

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