“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the spirit will remain, — the impalpable principle of light and thought, pure as when it left the Creator to inspire the creature: whence it came it will return”
I first read this quote in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë about two years ago before embarking on my 5-month adventure to France. Out of context, it may not have the same impact for others as it did for me that night. After being enveloped in the hardships of the ever-plain Jane’s life, I came across this passage; it was as though Brontë had gently placed her hand on my heart and told me that everything is going to be OK, that we are all capable of forgiveness.
A couple months later, during my English studies in France (ironically enough), my professor assigned a book called Flesh in the Age of Reason by Roy Porter. Porter discussed the evolution of the concept of ourselves as humans: our bodies, brain, soul, and mind. Are they all one and the same? Is your mind equivalent to your brain? Or is your thinking, dreaming mind something that science cannot yet fathom (or analyze rather)? During my time spent in a foreign country, with a foreign language, I spent my most reflective moments identifying who I was, who my mind was and the flesh I inhibit.
When writing my essays on this topic, Brontë’s quote came to mind. All within a couple lines, she so eloquently parsed apart her body from her soul, explaining that where life ends and death begins, our spirit is the sole survivor. Growing up as a dancer, I’ve had a mutual and respectful relationship with my body; however, I’ve never been able to find the words to express the dominance of my mind —and my soul. In an extroverted world, my introverted self struggled to understand the animosity and hatred expressed by those around me. Is my body a foreign organ to me? Sometimes. And perhaps that is why I have struggled to have superficial relations with other people’s bodies.
Perhaps this quote affected me so heavily because I found comfort in someone else’s understanding (be it someone from a hundred years ago) that our connection with another is more than with just our corruptible bodies. I think this quote continues to resonate with me during my 20-something years because I yearn for someone in this present life to, like Brontë, gently place their hand on my heart and show me the spark of their spirit. I find comfort in the hope that my soul may return to where it came.