Rags of Light

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In defense of 'passivism'.

In a probing, quirky essay, Alan Jacobs joins reflections on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park to the portrait of Franz Jägerstätter in Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, reminding us that just standing still/firm can be a profound, radical act.

“Stillness, quietness, weakness and self-retraction” — rather negative as virtues go, wouldn’t you say? Not much to get excited about, is there? But maybe Jane Austen and Franz Jägerstätter understood something we don’t — maybe more than one thing — about what it takes not to be blown about by every propagandistic breeze (for so I render ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας), and about the distinctive kind of weakness in which Another’s strength may be made perfect. Christians who are “not quite at home in the world,” and cannot, or will not, “compete with its rampant appetitive energies” may not deserve our contempt. I find myself longing to exhibit something that no one has ever accused me of exhibiting: “true unassertive reticence of soul.”