Caption: St. John in the Wilderness, linoleum block print
I’ve been reading Anselm’s Prayer to Saint John the Baptist and working on several pieces that are about John. Anselm’s poem is a long, heart-rending cry as he looks deep inside himself and struggles with his own nature. He writes:
You refashioned your gracious image in me,
and I superimposed upon it the image that is hateful.
Alas, alas, how could I?
And, even more painfully,
If I look within myself, I cannot bear myself;
if I do not look within myself, I do not know myself.
The poem quickly moves from a reflection on John to a reflection on the soul. This seems strange at first, but I think that’s the point. John the Baptist wants us to repent – to reflect on ourselves so that we may change. And because such reflection is painful, what he’s really calling us into is the death of ego and a wilderness in which we are meant to wander for awhile, undefined. I, like Anselm, often want to resist this call.