agent provocateur

Tomorrow is Pentecost, so my mind is filled with rushing wind and dancing flame and thoughts about the flow of energy — God’s and ours. But the wind stirred an old memory, an old conversation that I need to discharge here, lest it get in the way of the sermon.

(and there is a trick about preparing sermons — you must first get rid of all the preachable thoughts you don’t intend to use…)

The conversation took place years ago, in my first year at university. I have no idea what led to it or what it was about, but it began something like this:

‘What about passion then? Do you think it can be good? Or is it always dangerous?’

There were three of us in the room, with certain predictable roles.

The questioner was expert and guide, agent provocateur.

I was Miss Manners — the one with a rather prissy sense of New England propriety and decorum. The sort that spends hours embroidering large red A’s for the Hester Prynne’s of the world.

And the third often tried to make Hester Prynne look like a shrinking violet.

Given the casting, I knew what we were each supposed to say. But I was equally sure I had no idea what I thought. Passion just wasn’t part of Miss Manners’ curriculum. Not a category of thought ready to be discussed.

So seventeen years later, I find the answer pressing its way into a sermon.

Passion is often good. And always dangerous.

Though it is even more dangerous in its absence.

Let us hope it blows in on the wind.

Addendum: if any of you don’t know Hester Prynne,
stop now, turn off your computer, and go read
The Scarlet Letter. Right now. Today. Indeed, let’s make it required reading for all Anglicans by Lambeth 2008. That should help sort out the debate.

11 thoughts on “agent provocateur”

  1. Could I ask your to forgive me please, for pointing out that Agent Provocateur is a brand of lingerie and that I was always most impressed with the brand name.

  2. And for our readers, it is also worth noting that that KH has been known to pronounce ‘lingerie’ linger-y (as in: ‘why don’t you stay a while?’) Though once again, I can’t remember the context, and suspect the cast was similar to that of the original post.

    I can feel Miss Manners nervously smoothing down her ruffles at the very thought.

  3. Is there not something, somewhere, about spewing the lukewarm out of the mouth? Giove me passion, any day.

  4. I was taught to pronounce the word lingerie by my father, who doubtless knows best. I know of no other way of pronouncing it.

  5. You know, after writing what I did, I thought ‘or was it the patriarch?’ but I found it even harder to posit a context for hearing him say lingerie.

  6. Passion goes along with fire, with life energy and creativity and generativity of all sorts. Losing it would be a bit like dying. It’s what one does with it, how and where that energy is directed, that makes all the difference.

    I think the lukewarm bit may be from Revelation.

    K, I’m going to have to hear more of your thoughts on this! And are you going to post your sermon, or would you email it to me? A little light holiday reading, suitable for Duxbury, wouldn’t you say?

  7. Oh, the patriarch needs no excuse for using the word lingerie. Just let him walk past M&S and listen carefully.

  8. I remember whilst working down in Greenock that one day I was a tad displeased with the unfairness of a situation. Whilst the situation did not involve me directly I detest unfairness. Good colleagues pointed out that I should calm down and not get too emotional about things, “It’s only work afterall” to which my reponse was something of “I spend more than 8hours a day here and you seriously expect me not to get passionate about something which is clearly wrong”. On hearing the word ‘passionate’ the men turned bright red. Oh how I laughed!! I still think it funny today that they got hung up on a word which to them was purely something that happened in the bedroom with their partner.

    Completely unrelated to this topic, but I also recollect one of the IBM managers wanting to display his educational intelligence and asked me to put together Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on a chart. Guess which one he deemed unneccessary? That would be the Physiological need of sex to the point where he said that sex wasn’t needed at which point I asked him how his daughter was conceived!! Again bright red was the colour.

    And to think that IBM is often referred to Big Blue.

    Apologies for going off topic but hopefully you smiled LOL

  9. I suddenly thought when catching up on this – and I have much catching up to do after the last few weeks – that I have been waiting all my life for a priest in my parish who

    a) Has read “The Scarlet Letter”

    b) Can write about it (and the experience of talking about such things like talking about passion) in the way that Eliot wrote about the scent of a rose ….(and in keeping with KB ‘s injunctions, if you don’t recognise that reference, look it up – it will be worth it…)

    c) Is prepared to share those things openly and fearlessly in order to allow us all (and herself I suspect) to continue to explore / reflect / wonder / compare / feel / understand/ be excited by (keep adding the words…). Learn / grow / change might be useful additions. As indeed might Whitman’s instruction to “fare forward, voyager” for what this all about is voyaging sometimes in very leaky, very frail and very huuman boats . “Not waving, but bailing” to parphrase Stevie Smith as well.

    So not only a political revolution in the last few weeks in this wee corner of the planet but now (in this even wee-er corner) a spiritual one too…. It has heartened and moved me no end at the conclusion of a very long day.

    Any my apologies for only dipping in at present. Though dipping has proved very worthwhile tonight.

  10. Michael, in this day of naming ministries right and left, I dare say yours is a ministry of encouragement. Thank you.

    This is also a good place to note for those of you who may not have noticed that we have a Piskie Minister for the Enviornment in Scotland. (who will hopefully get us further than the ex-piskie, baptist-type president of my native land.)

  11. Anyone would get you further than GWB would. At least in any direction you’d want to go.

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