Monday, January 05, 2015

The Epiphany Curve

This holiday The Atlantic's readers (The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis) breathed sighs of yuletide relief, assuring themselves that the mid-life crisis they have had, are having, or look forward to having would inevitably result in a biologically determined sextogenerian rebound. "The U-curve," writes the author, "offers an opportunity for society to tell a different and better story about life in middle age and beyond: a story that is more accurate and more forgiving and much less embarrassing and lonely." In sum: U complete me.

Not one to waste time, I aim to apply the insights. Wisdom, said article relates, is (merely?) neurological. Hitherto known as the three wise men, I will henceforth refer to them as the three "older people [who] compensate for deterioration in specific regions of the brain by recruiting additional neural networks in other regions—an increase in so-called neuroplasticity that compensates for cognitive decline and perhaps brings other benefits."

Spoken with the sarcastic disdain of someone yet to gain lasting wisdom, I know; but that is a direct quote from what would have been a far more fulfilling article were it not fortified with neurological reductivism like so much Viagara in a dissolute quinquagenarian. It's not that the findings are inaccurate (I'm unqualified to say), or that neurology is unhelpful (it availeth much), or that it's a bad article (I admit I appreciated much of it).  Nor is it that the findings, as the article at one point concedes, are anything new.  But what they are is upside down.

Indeed, the history of art has long asserted that the arc of life is indeed curved: Beginning with youthful, relatively clueless ambition, cresting with arrogant self-reliance, and followed by the humility that comes with age, when, that is, age submits to Divine reality, adoring - as one gorgeous Epiphany collect puts it - "the fruition of thy Glorious Godhead."  The Epiphany curve, furthermore, can take its course at any stage of life, and indeed occurs many times within it.  Here is the curve at the heart of the Psalter, the one that infuses the writings of the saints, or modern spiritual guides such as William Barry (really worthwhile!), Ken Shigematsu (quite good!) or Jacques Philippe (spiritual classic!).

But above all, whereas all The Atlantic has to offer is images of Middle Aged guys looking mopey (how I felt, at points, when I read the article), the Epiphany Curve has centuries of unparalleled beauty behind it, and some impressive names as well:

Don't question my elegantly-placed yellow curves - I didn't get my Ph.D. in art history for nothing.  More importantly, happy Epiphany millinerd reader(s), as you revel in the "mystery that the Gentiles are fellow heirs" (Ephesians 3:6).  And remember, it too is a season, not a day.