Thesis Blog: The hardness of the heart

The motions of Grace,
the hardness of the heart;
external circumstances.

I’m working on edits of my thesis to prepare for tomorrow’s (final) meeting. The paper needs to be done-done by the beginning of April. And in theory, a final draft is due March 7. Ha. OK.

I’ve been coming back to the epigraph of Rabbit, Run as I finish this project. The contrapuntal* thesis to my paper is on the embodied soul. Because the only reason you would have a conversation about sexual desire and salvation is if you  believe that the soul has a body. I think that’s part of what this epigraph is about (whether Pascal knew it or not).

Because it seems these are the three motions of an embodied soul (a human):

  1. You experience the goodness of God. Your desire is fulfilled in God. You do not settle for lesser loves. Heaven is brought to earth. You remember the sabbath. You hear the good news.
  2. You pervert the goodness of God. You ignore the Spirit. You “mistake the lover for [your] own pleasure.”** You orient yourself away from God. You harden your heart.
  3. And then–everything else. The lives lived out around you. The banal, mundane, the neutral.

I feel so connected to this epigraph, especially as I do my research around desire. It seems like Updike is playing within the category of desire. His characters want much, but they’re never willing to orient themselves toward God for fullness. They settle for a chocolatey candy bar or sex with the annoying neighbor or golf on the beach with retirees, to speak of Rabbit. Or, like Aurelius in my thesis, he is never satisfied with what he has–the woman, the child, his decision to leave her.


* You format your paper in music terms when your theology professor is also a musicologist.

** To borrow language from my paper’s epigraph, “Sex Without Love” by Sharon Olds.

About Lauren Sawyer

I am a Ph.D. student studying social ethics in New Jersey. I love coffee, rainy days, and John Updike. Learn more about me at

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