“Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was pretty sure that is a sentence — proclamation! — in “Self-Reliance” but I wanted to be sure so I “Googled” it. What I GOT was a rash of links purporting to explain what it means. The sixth offering was “Self-Reliance” itself.

It reminded me of the last class I taught and since I DON’T want to write about that (predictably), I won’t.

But I could absolutely rely on my students NOT to think about it on their own but to “Google” it. God forbid we get a “wrong” answer or think about it at all.

I’ve been accused of being inconsistent many times in my life. My mom called me “flighty.” I’m tempted to call upon the powers of another Transcendentalist and say something about “different drums” and all that, but having done that (obliquely, predictably) I think of Hopkins who wrote about unpredictability and inconsistency better than anyone. For Hopkins, inconsistency, unpredictability was the mark of the Divine.

“Glory be to God for dappled things,” he said in his poem, “Pied Beauty.” And, by the way, Google gives me the poem five times before it gives me the the “right answer.” 🙂

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
Unpredictable? Inconsistent? In my garden are dozens of “volunteer” violas. Most have come up yellow; many dark purple, but the rest? A riot of unpredictability. One of them even has yellow on the bottom and white on the top — but in the white are two tiny dots.
No “self” goes around saying, “I’m so unpredictable, I don’t know what I’m going to do next.” Those terms result from other peoples’ assessments based on whatever set of standards they have. Hopkins had something to say about that, too
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
Not all that unpredictable that I’d share THESE poems or quote THOSE philosophers, though… I’ve done it before, and, I’m sure I will again. You can count on it.


2 thoughts on “Hobgoblin

  1. Oh yes, unpredictable is a nasty word for me. I have no set schedule in my life except for the 35 years that I worked. Love this post. And you ended with a statement that was too funny,
    You can count on it. ” Well I reckon that is a predicable statement made intentionally. 🙂

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