I took the title of Flannery O'Connor's unpublished essays, lectures, and critical articles that appeared in obscure publications, Mystery and Manners as my blog's domain name. I hope she doesn’t mind; Flannery O’Connors tops the list of my literary and intellectual heroes.
The title itself originates not in the mind of Flannery O'Connor but from an unfinished novel by Henry James. The editors of the book thought the title most appropriate for this collection of O’Connor’s writings.
She wrote about the title at one point: "It is the business of fiction to embody mystery through manners, and mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind. About the turn of the century, Henry James wrote that the young woman of the future, though she would be taken out for airings in a flying-machine, would know nothing of mystery and manners. James had no business to limit the prediction to one sex; otherwise, no one can very well disagree with him. The mystery he was talking about is the mystery of our position on earth, and the manners are those conventions which, in the hands of the artist, reveal that central mystery."
O’Connor inspired literary manners reveal the greatest mystery of all: God’s grace. She believed in grace. Grace is a theologically loaded term and signifies God's love for, and forgiveness of, humanity. She insisted that the challenge of a writer is to discern the presence of grace as it appears, at any given moment, when fallen humanity is given an opportunity to be restored.
O'Connor thought the central mystery of life and art is the answer to the enduring paradox that human existence, "for all its horror, has been found by God to be worth dying for."
I didn't grow up in the same "Christ-haunted South" as Miss O'Connor -- I grew up in the remnant of that South known as the Southern Baptist Convention, a community of believers who seek to distance themselves from their roots while simultaneously revealing to onlookers how much they haven't changed - one iota. I duel daily with the superficial beliefs of the Grandmother (from O’Connor’s work A Good Man is Hard to Find) and the teachings and traditions of the Catholic faith.
I do relate with O'Connor on another level. I had a childhood that involved doing what O'Connor once described in a character who sat and watched the world and "never lost (the) look of complete absorption." I do not compare my ability to write or discern reality to be on par with Miss O'Connor; perhaps I'm more like one of her misfits.
I'm confident she would not object to me, this humble "temple of the Holy Spirit" using the phrase as I stumble about, intellectually, seeking to discover moments of beauty, share the mystery and manner’s of the ways of the ancient Christian faith, and explore the wonder and amazement of becoming more and more engaged in the habit of being.