word of the day: prevenient
Today I am honored to be giving the eulogy for Charlotte York Irey, the brilliant and feisty pioneer who founded my Dance Department and impacted the lives of thousands through her tenacity and belief in DANCE. Whenever I have to write something, I look to those who wield words far better than I to give me a shoulder to stand on. One of my favorite authors, of course, is Marilynne Robinson, and yesterday I found this gem about having the “willingness to see” and “prevenient courage.”
“It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance – for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light …. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? …. Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave – that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.”
word of the day: prevenient
Prevenient grace, in Christian theology, is the notion of divine grace that precedes human decision. As it is mentioned in the bible, it relates to humankind’s kinks and bends towards sin, giving a folks a “get out of jail free card” through their God-given free-will to chose (or not to choose) salvation. Prevenient alone, means “coming before or anticipatory,” and Robinson’s notion of prevenient courage illuminates that bravery depends upon first having the desire to take action. What a thing always in our lives, to be willing to move forward, to turn your eyes towards that ember of what could be, even though there is fear in your heart. Before there was fear–based in the knowledge of pain experienced in real time–there is a prevenient (pre-you) calm of courage that leads us on.
A dancer trains to listen and access this prevenient drive, surviving that dark moment in the wings before the entrance, thanks to the practice and practice and practice of taking action: the preparation before the leap, the deep coiling in towards trust to allow the improvisational impulse. In life, just as in dance, we sometimes need that little nudge into the light–that rolling snare, that anticipatory “5,6, 7, 8,” moving us towards bravery.
Charlotte had a lot of this prevenient moxie–it was the engine of her pioneering heart, her get-it-done-ness, and was the antidote to the loss she suffered in her life that could have immobilized her. “To Dance is Live!” she was fond of saying–to take action, to trust, to move forward–what a bountiful willingness to see! And in that fearless seeing she modeled for me, who knows her more through a patchwork quilt of other’s memories, that ability to turn that small grey ember back into radiance. prevenient.
Love to all,