Rumination & Reverie

A Copybook of Culture, A Miscellany of Life.

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The Purest and the Loveliest of Mirrors

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"The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away. In this work, at all times, the human spirit is shown as modified by its relations with force as swept away, blinded by the very force it imagined it could handle, as deformed by the weight of the force it submits to. For those dreamers who considered that force, thanks to progress, would soon be a thing of the past, the Iliad could appear as an historical document; for others, whose powers of recognition are more acute and who perceive force, today as yesterday, at the very center of human history, the Iliad is the purest and loveliest of mirrors.”

—Simone Weil, “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force" (1940)

Picture: Simone Weil, “Permit of organisation ‘France Combattante’ (Fighting France) in London.” Public Domain.

Filed under simone weil homer iliad

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Which is one of the powers that books have; the way that they solidify viewpoints other than our own, emotional and mental traveling into the far unknown and the near unknown, both in fiction and in nonfiction. There is a connection between The Child That Books Built and Unapologetic. I tend to be interested in things in practice, and there is surprisingly little written about the experience of reading when it is the stuff of most bookish people’s lives. We fast-forward through the discussion of what reading itself is like, and just treat it as this transparent portal that opens out in the book, and then we just talk about the book. The shared experience, which is the reading, goes unsaid. In the same way with Unapologetic, it was a bridge of experience I wanted to construct. I’m interested in the way faith is experienced in life. The way it lives in daily experience, and metamorphoses there, and manifests itself in forms that are not always polite or tidy, but that are nevertheless the stuff of real commitment.

It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to try and talk about the experience of belief rather than belief itself. Again, not fast-forwarding through how we feel it and where we feel it, straight to the thing felt, but to try and talk seriously about where it lives in a life, and on what terms. Which is also, I hope, where you get common ground with people whose lives are very different.

Francis Spufford, from a conversation with Books & Culture editor John Wilson

Filed under francis spufford john wilson unapologetic belief

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Faulkner in Hollywood

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“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” The quotation from Dante is what Faulkner considered a fitting road sign for drivers to see as they crossed the border into California. (For Arizona, his thought was “Science Fiction Country.”) It was a telling description of how he viewed his new home away from home. For good reason, it’s often said that when people move to Hollywood, they’re likely to lose their true identity, heritage, and sense of purpose—this is La-La Land, after all. But Faulkner didn’t. He had his pipe and tobacco, and his bourbon, and he could still hunt.

John Meroney, "William Faulkner’s Hollywood Odyssey"

Carl van Vechten photo of William Faulkner, 1954 (Public Domain).

Filed under william faulkner hollywood

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Although It is the Night

etr-gu:

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A wise man said that a classic is a book that refuses to stay out of print. Along the same lines, a classic writer is one who keeps producing new work even from beyond the grave – or such is the effect as unpublished, occasional, incidental work comes to light.

This weekend I was struck…

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Love in the Ruins

For the world is broken, sundered, busted down the middle, self ripped from self and man pasted back together as mythical monster, half angel, half beast, but no man. Even now I can diagnose and shall one day cure: cure the new plague, the modern Black Death, the current hermaphroditism of the spirit, namely: More’s syndrome, or: chronic angelism-bestialism that rives soul from body and sets it orbiting the great world as the spirit of abstraction whence it takes the form of beasts, swans and bulls, werewolves, blood-suckers, Mr. Hydes, or just poor lonesome ghost locked in its own machinery.

If you want and work and wait, you can have. Every man a king. What I want is no longer the Nobel, screw prizes, but just to figure out what I’ve hit on. Some day a man will walk into my office as ghost or beast or ghost-beast and walk out as a man, which is to say sovereign wanderer, lordly exile, worker and waiter and watcher.”

Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins

Painting based on Love in the Ruins by Austin artist William B. Montgomery.  Discovered here. Learn more about the artist here.

Filed under Walker Percy love in the ruins

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The Bright Sadness

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The general impression, I said, is that of “bright sadness.” Even a man having only a limited knowledge of worship who enters a church during a Lenten service would understand almost immediately, I am sure, what is meant by this somewhat contradictory expression. On the one hand, a certain quiet sadness permeates the service: vestments are dark, the services are longer than usual and more monotonous, there is almost no movement. Readings and chants alternate yet nothing seems to “happen.” At regular intervals the priest comes out of the sanctuary and reads always the same short prayer, and the whole congregation punctuates every petition of that prayer with prostrations. Thus, for a long time we stand in this monotony — in this quiet sadness.

But then we begin to realize that this very length and monotony are needed if we are to experience the secret and at first unnoticeable “action” of the service in us. Little by little we begin to understand, or rather to feel, that this sadness is indeed “bright,” that a mysterious transformation is about to take place in us. It is as if we were reaching a place to which the noises and the fuss of life, of the street, of all that which usually fills our days and even nights, have no access — a place where they have no power.

All that which seemed so tremendously important to us as to fill our mind, that state of anxiety which has virtually become our second nature, disappear somewhere and we begin to feel free, light and happy. It is not the noisy and superficial happiness which comes and goes twenty times a day and is so fragile and fugitive; it is a deep happiness which comes not from a single and particular reason but from our soul having, in the words of Dostoevsky, touched “another world.” And that which it has touched is made up of light and peace and joy, of an inexpressible trust. We understand then why the services had to be long and seemingly monotonous. We understand that it is simply impossible to pass from our normal state of mind made up almost entirely of fuss, rush, and care, into this new one without first “quieting down,” without restoring in ourselves a measure of inner stability.

—Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent

Picture: “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai (Public Domain)

Filed under lent alexander schmemann

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Longing Never Ages

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Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love. We oldies yearn daily and hourly for conversation and a renewed domesticity, for company at the movies or while visiting a museum, for someone close by in the car when coming home at night. This is why we throng Match.com and OkCupid in such numbers—but not just for this, surely. Rowing in Eden (in Emily Dickinson’s words: “Rowing in Eden— / Ah—the sea”) isn’t reserved for the lithe and young, the dating or the hooked-up or the just lavishly married, or even for couples in the middle-aged mixed-doubles semifinals, thank God. No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated like a raunchy secret. The invisibility factor—you’ve had your turn—is back at it again. But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing: just look at our faces. If it returns, we seize upon it avidly, stunned and altered again.

Roger Angell, “Life in the Nineties

Painting: Thomas Cole, “The Voyage of Life: Old Age" (1840). Public Domain.

Filed under roger angell new yorker thomas cole

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smithsonianmag:

When the Beatles Arrived in America, Reporters Ignored the Music and Obsessed Over Hair
by Joseph Stromberg
February 9 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ legendary first performance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” At the time, the band was already wildly successful in Britain—over the previous three years, they’d rapidly become the country’s most popular group, and were met by hordes of screaming teenagers at every public appearance—but in the United States, they were known for only a few fast-selling singles released by Capitol Records, along with rumors of the Beatlemania that had struck the U.K.
This is part of a new series called Vintage Headlines, an examination of notable news from years past. Read more at Smithsonian.com.

smithsonianmag:

When the Beatles Arrived in America, Reporters Ignored the Music and Obsessed Over Hair

by Joseph Stromberg

February 9 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ legendary first performance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” At the time, the band was already wildly successful in Britain—over the previous three years, they’d rapidly become the country’s most popular group, and were met by hordes of screaming teenagers at every public appearance—but in the United States, they were known for only a few fast-selling singles released by Capitol Records, along with rumors of the Beatlemania that had struck the U.K.

This is part of a new series called Vintage Headlines, an examination of notable news from years past. Read more at Smithsonian.com.