It’s a repeated Whovian theme.
There are no unimportant people.
Every creature, every person encountered is a wonder to behold.
Come here, you scrumptious little beauty!
John Duns Scotus called it haecceity (pronounce it “heck-city” – and don’t say you didn’t learn anything today) – the doctrine of “thisness.” It’s the Latin translation of the Greek to ti esti = “the what it is.”
Haecceity embodies the distinct characteristics that make something or someone what it is which was a radical thought for the times – times in which significance rested with the upper crust of society. You just didn’t make a fuss over the lower classes, the individuals, the nobodies. In fact, despite Jesus’ introduction of the concept of the individual almost in passing in such stories as the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to search for the one, Christian thinkers (and doers) for the most part missed it, as momentum flowed in the other direction towards identity derived from an institutional collective.
Haecceity is full-on incarnation, refusing all vague abstractions and revealing itself in concrete particularity, a radical thisness. “If nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self” (Christian Wiman). Sink your teeth into that one for a bit.
Rohr observes: “When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and –isms, we too often stay there – and argue about theory, forever making more distinctions. At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It is then easy to ‘love humanity, but not any individual people.’”
But we know and are known by a haecceitistic (!!! Yes, I am having far too much fun with words here) God who delights in the thisness of everything. He counts hairs – marveling at each cell; hairs that we readily pluck and discard, or pull out of our hairbrushes in large swatches as we mutter “gross.”
He feeds crows and watches sparrows fall – creatures we flatten into pancaked roadkill under our tires without so much as a thought.
He clothes wild grasses with splendor that we happily weed whack into oblivion.
And he beholds all the thisness of me, of you, of people who pass us as no more than blurs.
Now, all this talk about thisness could easily steer into yet one more burden, one more guilt trip piled onto our already overloaded backs – and you no doubt thought that’s where this is headed. Ah, but this havering was launched by a knock at the door in very, very deep space.
It is opportunity that knocks here.
Thisness is knocking at our door, inviting us to open and see it – in this face, this flower, these swaying branches, these high wispy cirriform streaks across the sky, this apple that just toppled to the ground, this blessing, this tragedy, this moment – knocking on the door of my heart like a bright box, inviting me to pause, to take it in my hands, and to see.
I’ve got mail!
Come here, you scrumptious little beauty…