Friday, December 20, 2013

they've got the right idea, that lot

"Never says no, that Alyoshka [the Baptist], whatever you ask him to do. If everybody in the world was like him, I'd be the same. Help anybody who asked me. Why not? They've got the right idea, that lot." 
[from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

debate about art in the Gulag

"'Yes, but art isn't what you do, it's how you do it.' 
Kh-123 reared up and chopped at the table with his hand. 
'I don't give a damn how you do it if it doesn't awaken good feelings in me!'"
[from Aleksandra Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

for I, except you entrall me, never shall be free

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. 
[John Donne]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

avoiding what it craved

"The soul that dies by craving lives by avoiding what it craved. [Restrain] yourselves from the monstrous savagery of pride, from the luxurious inertia of self-indulgence, and from sham pretension to knowledge..."

[Augustine, Confessions, Book XIII, Section 21, 26. "Day Six: Animals, the "living soul"]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

like bitter sweets we suck on endlessly

"Most of us have half-a-dozen or so favorite anxieties, like bitter sweets we suck on endlessly. We would be frightened to be deprived of them. Jesus challenges us to go beyond the fear of letting go of anxiety, the fear we have of peace itself." 
[Laurence Freeman]

Saturday, November 16, 2013

contagious Christ-focus

"Your goal is always to make your Christ-focus contagious – to just one person."

[Ann Voskamp, from "The Real Truth about Boring Men -- and the Women Who Live with Them: Redefining Boring"]


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

through what he suffered

"Although [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered." 
Hebrews 5:8

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

the dark chaos of our inner being

"In the morning I will stand and see my God, who sheds the light of salvation on my face, who will breathe life even into our mortal bodies through the Spirit who dwells in us and has been mercifully hovering over the dark chaos of our inner being."  
[Augustine, Confessions, Book XIII]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our true place is where we find rest.

...Why only of [the Holy Spirit] who alone is said to be your Gift? Because, I think, in your Gift we find rest, and there we enjoy you. Our true place is where we find rest. We are borne toward it by love, and it is your good Spirit who lifts up our sunken nature from the gates of death. In goodness of will is our peace. A body gravitates to its proper place by its own weight. This weight does not necessarily drag it downward, but pulls it tot he place proper to it: thus fire tends upward, a stone downward. Drawn by their weight, things seek their rightful places. If oil is poured into water, it will rise to the surface, but if water is poured onto oil it will sink below the oil; drawn by their weight, things seek their rightful places. They are not at rest as long as they are disordered, but once brought to order they find their rest. Now, my weight is my love, and wherever I am carried, it is this weight that carries me. Your Gift sets us afire and we are borne upward; we catch his flame and up we go. In our hearts we climb those upward paths, singing the songs of ascent. By your fire, your beneficent fire, are we inflamed, because we are making our way up to the peace of Jerusalem. For I rejoiced when I was told, 'We are going to the Lord's house.' There shall a good will find us a place, that we may have no other desire but to abide there for ever."  
[Augustine, Confessions]

Saturday, October 26, 2013

choice, not chance


“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” 
[Aristotle]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I the LORD have created it.

"Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let the earth cause them both to sprout;
I the LORD have created it."

Isaiah 45:8

Friday, October 18, 2013

what we would prefer not to talk about

 I think literature is best when it's voicing what we would prefer not to talk about.

[Rick Moody]

Friday, October 04, 2013

they never lose a minute


“Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.”
[V.S. Pritchett]

Thursday, August 08, 2013

10 Resolutions for Mental Health

Andy Goldsworthy

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me. 
2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing." 
3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood. 
4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do. 
5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work. 
6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence. 
7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder." 
8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music. 
9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now. 
10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

 [Ten Resolutions from a lecture by Dr. Clyde Kirby, Source: Desiring God]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

the huge solace of thinking that...we are not going to be judged

"Religion, opium for the people. To those suffering pain, humiliation, illness, and serfdom, it promised a reward in an afterlife. And now we are witnessing a transformation. A true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murder, we are not going to be judged." 
[Czeslaw Milosz]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

what I am seeking is a life of happiness


Bookmark by my amazingly talented friend Amanda Tanner.
Check out her Etsy shop at Let's All Make Believe.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

your maker is your husband

"As we have been saying all month the natural tendency of the human heart is to take good things into ultimate things, and in ancient cultures and nonwestern traditional cultures of today the family thing is the ultimate thing. it is what we have been calling, essentially, an idol. and therefore, women who don't have children because they aren't married or can't have children because of some physical impediment felt worthless and were regarded as worthless. so if you want to further the example of that you can go into the book of Genesis where Rachel the wife of Jacob is seeking to have children and can't have children and she says, 'Give me children, or I will die!' And that about sums it up in those cultures. Now some of you saying,  I know about this: those ancient cultures really oppressed women. And you're right, but I'm glad you brought that up actually... Why do you think that in those cultures women were not troubled with eating disorders at all? The point is that all cultures are fallen. And that all cultures oppress because here is what they do: every single culture put in front of men and women certain objects and says, 'You don't have them you don't have worth! You don't have them, you don't have significance! If you don't have them, your existence isn't justified! You must have them!' Ancient and traditional cultures have collective idols: you have to have a family.  
Modern western culture has individualistic idols. Modern cultures say that your worth is completely dependent upon your individual assets: looks, career, money. If you don't have that, you're nothing. When Rachel says, 'Give me children, or I die!' she is saying childlessness means psychological and social death. It's very telling. If you build your identity on anything more than God, and you fail to get it, it's psychological and social death. And every culture that ever existed and and exists today is telling you to build your identity on something. Therefore, every culture is going to oppress you and crush you into the ground because every culture is cooperating with a part of our heart that wants to be its on Savior and Lord and to justify itself. And it's almost impossible when everybody else is going after these objects to not go along with them and to not be just as enslaved and crushed as everyone else in the culture. I say almost impossible because God says there's a way out. There's a way to emotional and inner freedom and cultural freedom.... He says, Your maker is your husband. Your maker is your husband. Your maker is your husband." 
- Tim Keller

Saturday, July 13, 2013

other ways to proclaim the good news

"The Bible does clearly teach the right of property, but both the Old Testament and the New Testament put a tremendous stress on the compassionate use of that property. If at each place where the employer was a Bible-believing Christian the world could see that less profit was being taken so that the workers would have appreciably more than the 'going rate' of pay, the gospel would have been better proclaimed throughout the whole world than if the profits were the same as the world took and then large endowments were given to Christian schools, missions, and other projects. This is not to minimize the centrality of preaching the gospel to the whole world, nor to minimize missions; it is to say that the other is also a way to proclaim the good news." 
[Francis Schaeffer]

Thursday, June 27, 2013

only men sit down to think about what is important and not urgent


"In the first place, [men] think about problems that there is absolutely no need for them to solve so far as their biological needs, their struggle for survival, are concerned: the problems of mathematics, the problems of philosophy, the problems of any of the theoretical or speculative sciences. And in the second place, the manner in which they think about those problems is quite different. An animal, when thinking about or solving a problem, is active. He uses his senses, uses his limbs, runs around. But a man thinks in a different manner. You all I’m sure have the image of the human thinker. It is given us by that statue of Rodin’s which is here in San Francisco, Le Penseur. If you think about that famous statue, I want you to notice something. There is the posture of human thought. And what you see about that posture is intense bodily inactivity. Only men sit down to think about what is important and not urgent."
[Mortimer Adler, How to Think about the Great Ideas

Monday, June 24, 2013

faster than death

"It is not difficult to avoid death, gentlemen; it is much more difficult to avoid wickedness, for it runs faster than death." - Socrates, Apology

Sunday, June 23, 2013

many sacred veils

"We cannot be enlightened by the divine rays except they be hidden within the covering of many sacred veils." - Dionysius

the tree of life to all, but onely me


"O all ye who passe by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climbe the tree;
The tree of life to all, but onely me..." 
[George Herbert]

Friday, June 21, 2013

in the morning it's always Leah


"Most people if they really learn to look into their own heart would know that they do want and want acutely something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love or first think of some foreign country or first take up some subject that excites us are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can ever really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or failures of holidays and so on. I’m speaking of the very best possible ones. There is always something we have grasped at. There’s always something in that first moment of longing but fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse. The scenery has been excellent. It turned out to be a good job. But it’s evaded us. In the morning it’s always Leah."  
[C.S. Lewis]

Thursday, May 30, 2013

bow to the Christ in you


"To really get the best of frustration, you must turn it into celebration. If you stop being frustrated and start celebrating, you enter a whole different space, and so will your circumstances. You can make your circumstances bow to the Christ in you." 
- Graham Cooke

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Turin Horse


"Theirs is the moment...Nature, infinite silence."


Good movie to watch as I am beginning the Philosophy & Theology segment at St. John's this summer...

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Vintage Beach Photos



Circa 1910: Two young girls on Brighton beach, about to have a cigarette. (General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

See more vintage beach photos here.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

he told me I have a soul


I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul
How does he know?
What spirit came to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from that world

[from Les Miserables]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

that's what books will not tell me



This is from the novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. It was written in 1891.
Tess: "Sometimes I feel I don't want to know anything more about it than I know already." 

Angel: "Why not?" 

"Because what's the use of learning that I am one of a long row only— finding out that there is set down in some old book somebody just like me, and to know that I shall only act her part; making me sad, that's all. The best is not to remember that your nature and your past doings have been just like thousands' and thousands', and that your coming life and doings 'll be like thousands's and thousands'."

"What, really, then, you don't want to learn anything?" 

"I shouldn't mind learning why— why the sun do shine on the just and the unjust alike," she answered, with a slight quaver in her voice. "But that's what books will not tell me."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sonata in G


Givanni Paolo Cima, Sonata in G

Friday, April 05, 2013

where lichen scurries up the trunk of a tree that needs it

"You ask

to lead me to me
to lead you next

to colors all wet:
bark saturated brown,
brown-green

where lichen scurries up the trunk
of a tree that needs it.

You make me wonder about thirst,
the way things work together.
Boughs once empty fill with birds

in rapid flickering flight until beat, wingbeat,
winged threat: a magpie I try to wish away.

I ask, do not disappear.
That is no kind of apology
and I have never been a forgiver.

The green part of me never leaves
however I find that it remains with you.
However I find it in you

you must remember I am not a soft woman.
You’ll seek the mother in me
but expect to see splinters,
rolled margins.

Together we have never been so alone,
like ladders, like messengers with another
answer. The ink-stained hand holds

heartache no longer. It’s been set
and pressed down, mapped & scattered."

[Joan Naviyuk Kane, "Late Successional"]

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

draw back a little, and have a cup of tea

"Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea." 
[Elder Sophrony of Essex]

Friday, March 22, 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

at home in the bathtub

Conversation between Scout Finch and Miss Maudie Atkinson in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

“You know old Mr. Radley was a foot-washing Baptist-”
“That’s what you are, ain’t it?”
"My shell’s not that hard, child. I’m just a Baptist.”
“Don’t you all believe in foot-washing?”
“We do. At home in the bathtub.”

Sunday, March 10, 2013

birth is nothing but...

by V. Rae

 "Birth is nothing but the separation of one living body from another." 
[Mortimer Adler, Aristotle for Everybody]

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

in a word, eager purity and weary virtue

In we shuffle, hooded amplitudes,
scapulared brooms, a stray earring, skin-heads
and flowing locks, blind in one eye,
hooked-nosed, handsome as a prince
(and knows it), a five-thumbed organist,
an acolyte who sings in quarter tones,
one slightly swollen keeper of the bees,
the carpenter minus a finger here and there,
our pre-senile writing deathless verse,
a stranded sailor, a Cassian scholar,
the artist suffering the visually
illiterate and indignities unnamed,
two determined liturgists. In a word,
eager purity and weary virtue.
Last of all, the Lord Abbot, early old
(shepherding the saints is like herding cats).
These chariots and steeds of Israel
make a black progress into church.
A rumble of monks bows low and offers praise
to the High God of Gods who is faithful forever. 
[Kilian McDonnell, "The Monks of St. John's File in for Prayer"]

Monday, March 04, 2013

my heart only has entrances


"My heart only has entrances. It doesn’t have exits. Whoever enters remains there. Whatever he may do, I love him the same as I loved him when he first entered into my heart. I pray for him and seek his salvation."

[Elder Epiphanios]

Sunday, February 24, 2013

love quell my doubt and dread


Father whate’er of earthly bliss
Thy sovereign hand denies
Accepted at Thy throne of grace
Let this petition rise 
Let the sweet hope that thou art mine
My life and death attend
Thy presence through my journey shine
And crown my journey’s end 
Give me a calm, a thankful heart
From every murmur free
The blessings of Thy grace impart
And make me live to Thee 
You raise your hand to still the storms
That rage inside my head
Revive my heart with gratitude
Love quell my doubt and dread 
Give me a sure and rested soul
From every fear relieve
The spirit’s power and presence mine
To ever comfort me 
Give me a sure, a restful heart
From every fear relieve
Thy spirit’s power and presence mine
To ever comfort me. 
Give me a calm, a thankful heart
From every murmur free
The blessings of thy grace impart
And make me live to thee. 
[Anne Steele & Sandra McCracken, "Petition"]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the language is a bluff

Le Penseur by Auguste Rodin, 1902

"I’m always amused that so many social studies or science concepts must be, in about equal parts, 'described,' others 'analyzed,' or 'discussed.' It is perfectly plain that these verbs were assigned arbitrarily and that the language is a bluff; our tests never ask students to truly analyze or explain or discuss anything. They ask students to choose the correct answer on multiple choice items... " 
[Mike Schmoker]

full, ready, exact


“Reading maketh a full man;
conference a ready man;
and writing an exact man."
[Francis Bacon] 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

our understanding of them is primitive


"It is not that the primitive Eskimos are simple, but that our understanding of them is primitive."
[Marshall Shalins, paraphrased in Fienup-Riordan in Eskimo Essays] 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor



This is the next song I want to learn on the piano. Breathtaking.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

we must understand Jerusalem and Athens

All the hopes that we entertain in the midst of the confusions and dangers of the present are founded positively or negatively, directly or indirectly on the experiences of the past. Of these experiences the broadest and deepest, as far as we Western men are concerned, are indicated by the names of the two cities Jerusalem and Athens. Western man became what he is and is what he is through the coming together of biblical faith and Greek thought. In order to understand ourselves and to illuminate our trackless way into the future, we must understand Jerusalem and Athens.
[Leo Strauss] 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

an idealized image of ourselves


"...[We have a] desire to see hunting societies in general and Eskimos in particular as an original, primitive image of ourselves. The point is not to replace the image of the peaceful Eskimo with a violent one. To understand interpersonal violence and politically aggressive acts by Eskimos today, however, it is essential to understand the interpersonal hostilities and political alliances that were forged during the period of bow-and-arrow wars. Our representation of the Eskimo is especially important to understand because we have modeled our image of Eskimos, perhaps more than that of any other people, on an idealized image of ourselves."

[Ann Fienup-Riordan, Eskimo Essays]

Thursday, January 24, 2013

perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, righteous

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

[Psalm 19:7-14]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

those whose soul is intelligent

St. Anthony by Piero di Cosimo, c. 1480 
People are generally called intelligent through a wrong use of this word. The intelligent are not those who have studied the sayings and writings of the wise men of old, but those whose soul is intelligent, who can judge what is good and what is evil; they avoid what is evil and harms the soul and intelligently care for and practice what is good and profits the world, greatly thanking God. 
[Anthony of Egypt]

Saturday, January 19, 2013

pride = deciding what's cool in advance of the rest of the world

Photo from Hipster Christianity

Pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world.

[Mark Greif in his article "The Hipster of the Mirror" in the New York Times]

Friday, January 18, 2013

sat down in one soft descended Hallelujah

My friend David shared this with me. What a heavenly poem.
God, best at making in the morning, tossed
stars and planets, singing and dancing, rolled
Saturn's rings spinning and humming, twirled the earth
so hard it coughed and spat the moon up, brilliant
bubble floating around it for good, stretched holy
hands till birds in nervous sparks flew forth from
them and beasts--lizards, big and little, apes,
lions, elephants, dogs and cats cavorting,
tumbling over themselves, dizzy with joy when
God made us in the morning too, both man
and woman, leaving Adam no time for
sleep so nimbly was Eve bouncing out of
his side till as night came everything and
everybody, growing tired, declined, sat
down in one soft descended Hallelujah.  
Vassar Miller

Monday, January 14, 2013

not by efficiency and economy

‎"Order and organization are an essential part of our life cycle with God and one another, but they must be compelled by love and relationship, not by efficiency and economy."'
[Graham Cooke] 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

aspects of a liberal education



1. Ask questions.
"We express our wonder through questions...What kind of a world are we living in? What kind of a world should we be living in?" 
"Questions are the piety of thought." - Martin Heidigger
2. Study the greatest works by the greatest thinkers.
"These authors and ideas have been speaking to one another through all time."
3. A liberal education requires time and space to read, reflect, and discuss.
"It's unfortunate that in the world that we live in today, this digital world, the pace of activity is so great that we're constantly barraged with this relentless activity, but in pursuit of what? We've got to have a purpose, and what this time for reflection allows for students is to take that time to understand the world that we're living in and to prepare themselves for it so that they can go back into it."
4. Our time is not unique.
"The things that really matter haven't changed that much, and you have the opportunity then to go back, to ask the questions that others have asked, to reflect upon them, to read the greatest works by the greatest thinkers, and to learn and think for yourself. This is what a liberal education provides."

Monday, January 07, 2013

i am mediocrity with the name of disaster



I am mediocrity with the name disaster
Called into the chosen ones with a hope in the here and hereafter
[Tim Coons, "The Back Window"] 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

await another voice

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice. 
[T.S. Eliot]