why the name?

i am frequently asked about the name of my blog so here goes:

i am a longtime admirer of the work of flannery o’connor. i was first introduced to her work in a meaningful way when i took a semester long class on flannery o’connor. i fell madly, deeply in love with her writing, her characters, her south. i took the name of my blog from this book, a collection of her letters.

i was in college with a fierce desire to finally be me, to be true to me. and then along came this diminutive professor with a voice that sounded remarkably like katherine hepburn (only warblier) and she handed me the habit of being and commanded, “read the intro. see you in office hours this afternoon.” i headed off after class to the frontier for food and coffee, and began reading it. i’ve read it many times since then but it’s that first reading that i remember. i was fascinated with fitzgerald’s recounting of how flannery picked up the idea of the “habit of art” while reading art and scholasticism by jacques maritain. maritain suggests that the habit of art is “an attitude or quality of mind, as essential to the real artist as talent.” i remember sitting in office hours with my prof, both our heads nodding yes, vehemently nodding yes, and i’m assuming flannery read that and did the same mad head nodding because she took this idea, the habit of art, and whirled it around a bit and landed on what fitzgerald describes as “the habit of being: an excellence not only of action but of interior disposition and activity that increasingly reflected the object, the being, which specified it, and was itself reflected in what she (o’connor) did and said.” insert vehement head nodding here, too.

i left my prof’s office that afternoon shaken and changed. i’m guessing that were flannery alive today she’d roll her eyes at the words we banter about nowadays for what she believed and practiced day in day out despite being limited by her health. mindfulness. fully present. in the moment. for me, those words pale in comparison to the habit of being. being. the habit of being goes beyond the moment; it’s a conscious choosing of life, an acquired behavior followed regularly until it becomes involuntary. it isn’t a moment or even a few moments strung together but rather a series of moments, strung one after another after another, until it becomes a part of you. it becomes the way you see others, the way you see the world. it becomes your way of living.

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