“Please understand me. There are those who would gladly give up all they have gained in the world to have relented just once when it mattered.”
Chang-rae Lee’s protagonist in A Gesture Life, Franklin Hata, offers this serious advice to his friends who joke about “relenting” in married life. The quotation comes from the last book I will read and write about at Hopkins, although I wish I had read it at the beginning of my high school years.
What does it mean to relent? Hata’s friend jokes that to relent is to decrease, to give up, to weaken. But according to Hata, to relent is to slow down to observe something beautiful. Hata defines relenting as pausing to notice, or pausing one’s own motions to lift up another. Relenting in this sense reminds me of Kate’s final speech in Taming of the Shrew after she and Petruchio have learned to love one another, when she instructs the audience “And place your hands below your husband’s foot:/In token of which duty, if he please,/My hand is ready, may it do him ease” (Act V, Scene II). Perhaps relenting is necessary to notice something properly, to love someone fully, to make a piece of art that is truly satisfying.
In my last few weeks of high school, so much has given me cause to relent-- the celebration of our commitment, the growth we have endured, our love for each other, a breath of pause we take, a panoramic noticing before our world together comes to a close. Most pertinent to this magazine, I think, is the version of relenting that artists undertake to make art. To compose art is to forget about appealing to the reader as smart or impressive, to undertake beauty; to relent is to surrender to this love and to share it with the world. What really speaks to me in the sentence is the last meditation: “when it mattered.” Artistic inspirations are fleeting, beauty is fleeting, it matters to relent to this when it comes and before it leaves.
I want to take this opportunity to dedicate the magazine to Ms. Jacox, as I think all Daystar publications are and should be. Ms. Jacox has taught me to listen and cater to the urge to express, she has taught me to put love in my writing. She embodies Hata’s definition of relenting-- she listens for and invites epiphany.
My deepest love for the Hopkins community and for the Daystar community-- thank you for teaching me, lifting me up, and making me a better person. I will miss you all dearly.