01 March 2006
Merton on Life and Love
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message, one that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love – either with another human person or with God.“
From Love and Living by Thomas Merton, edited by Naomi Burton Stone and Br. Patrick Hart
(San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985) Page 27.
Those who know me best know how much I love to read, especially the classics. As such I usually will not read abridged or edited editions, preferring to get as close to the original as I can.
That being said, however, I humbly submit for your perusal the Book-A-Minute Classics. Click on the link and then on your favorite book, or one that you've been wanting to read for years but could never find the time. This resource site will help you grasp the nuts-and-bolts of the stories you've always wanted to read. Why only this morning I took in Hamlet, Walden, The Confessions of St. Augustine and the entire Lord of the Rings series.
Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself. :)
27 February 2006
Church for sale
While for years a church as operated as a second or perhaps even primary home for infinite worshippers, the most prominent church in Denise Deschamps’s life at the moment is actually in need of a home itself.That’s because for most of Deschamps life she has lived with a tremendous, intricately detailed sculpture of a Catholic Church in the basement of her childhood home, built by her father by hand and personally designed down to the detail. The church measures taller than most men and depicts a Good Friday Mass right down to the robes on the miniature replica alter boys.But after her father Roland Thomas’s death at the age of 94 last year, Deschamps said she is facing a drastic decision regarding the larger-than-life piece of folk art, which contains a copper roof, concrete facade and finished interior including mini confessional booths."My father was an engineer, he was very active in the church, and I think this just combined the two," Deschamps said of the miniature, which is resting in the basement of her father’s Malden home, which is being renovated and prepared for sale."We are selling the house, and it’s putting me in a desperate situation," Deschamps said. "It would cost way too much to store it, and I really don’t want to destroy it. I just hope that maybe someone or some organization would want to take it."
Roberto Benigni on "selfless love"
Oscar-winner Benigni told his audience that Jesus "has truly stated that he is Love."
Love is for others, "as our happiness depends on their happiness, and this is what Jesus has taught us," explained the actor-director.
Benigni gave young people a piece of advice. "May your steps move at the pace of [Jesus'] steps, fix your gaze in his direction."
During the show, Benigni recited passages of the Song of Songs and addressed a last thought to Mary, quoting one of the verses of Dante from "The Divine Comedy": "O Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son! Created beings all in lowliness surpassing, as in height above them all; term by the eternal counsel pre-ordain'd."
24 February 2006
21 February 2006
On buffoons and St. Francis
Though I said to myself, "Behold, I have become great and stored up wisdom beyond all who were before me in Jerusalem, and my mind has broad experience of wisdom and knowledge"; yet when I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly, I learned that this also is a chase after wind.For in much wisdom there is much sorrow, and he who stores up knowledge stores up grief. (emphasis mine)
Man has held three views of his body. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the "tomb" of the soul, and of Christians like Fisher to whom it was a "sack of dung," food for worms, filthy, shameful, a source of nothing but temptation to bad men and humiliation to good ones. Then there are the Neo-Pagans (they seldom knew Greek), the nudists and the sufferers from Dark Gods, to whom the body is glorious. But thirdly we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body "Brother Ass." All three may be--I am not sure--defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money.Ass is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can either revere or hate a donkey. It is useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body. There's not living with it till we recognize that one of its functions in our lives is to play the part of buffoon. Until some theory has sophisticated them, every man, woman and child in the world knows this.
Walking to Heaven backwards
"We advance to the truth by experience of error; we succeed through failures. We know not how to do right except by having done wrong … we grope about by touch, not by sight, and so by a miserable experience exhaust the possible modes of acting till nought is left, but truth, remaining. Such is the process by which we succeed; we walk to heaven backward; we drive our arrows at a mark, and think him most successful, whose shortcomings are the least."
The Literary Wino at 15,000 feet
Note: originally typed stream of consciousness on 1/27. Recently rediscovered on my laptop.
Friday, January 27, 2006 at 3:26pm Central, from Seat 12A, Northwest flight 2973, somewhere between Detroit and Lincoln.
I’m sitting in the very back of the small plane, next to the lavatory, a place one never wants to be if he can help it. I can look down to my left and see the ribbons of highway, the sparsely populated farmland, the very Heartland of our nation below on this sunny, clear day. I have consumed two overpriced bottled of Sutter Home white wine ($10) of 2004 vintage <snort> and have made the conscious decision to post this to my blog as it…without the benefit of editing later. I’d rather capture the random thoughts swimming through my Sutter Home-soaked head “as is.”
And so I insert the green floppy disk, and begin……..
I’ve had the occasion during this trip to Alexandria, VA, and back to read a good portion of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times and find myself once again blown away by the masterpiece within my hands. I’ve reached the end of “Book the First” and am just now prepping to begin the second of three “books” within this novel, and am finding it so full of quotes to pass along that I know I’d never be able to capture them all. What is it about Dickens that I find so appealing? His humor? His satire? His commentary? I would have to answer “all of the above” as I have found that his takes on his own times to be much in line with those of our own, a century-and-a-half later.
Hard Times is a novel full of suspense, humor and tenderness; it is a brilliant defense of art in an age of mechanism. Championing the mind-numbing materialism of the period is Thomas Gradgrind, who opens the novel by arguing that boys and girls should be taught “nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.” Forbidding the development of imagination, Gradgrind is ultimately forced to confront the results of his philosophy—his own daughter’s (Louisa) terrible unhappiness.
We can see examples of this rampant materialisms and Fact-based philosophy alive and well in our own modern world as well. Our children today are discouraged, it seems, from dreaming. From philosophy. From asking the questions that really matter…not just those that pertain to balancing a checkbook or managing a portfolio. For while those things are important in this day and age, they are not the things that matter.
“What does it matter?” This is the question Tom Gradgrind’s eldest daughter, Louisa, aged 20, asked of her father when he informed her that Mr. Bounderby, a man best described as a pompous ass aged 50, had proposed to her through her father. Louisa asks her father whether she is to love Bounderby and is given a fact-based rebuttal of the use of the term “love”, and so she acquiesces to her father’s question of marriage with one of her own: “what does it matter?’
Our lives on this earth are short indeed. We must ask ourselves daily, even hourly, about our own actions: what does this matter? But to do so is to appear impractical in today’s mechanized, business-driven world. The world that led me to taking the trip I have in the past 24 hours and in culminating with my writing to you now from Seat 12A. This world saw me fly out to Virginia for a 120 minute meeting “face-to-face” with our client in order to review a document and now sees me fly halfway back across the country. What, indeed, does it matter?
I have written lately about vocations, and had meant to write of this earlier, but will take the occasion now to do so. January 24 was the feast day in the Catholic Church of St. Francis de Sales, a man born in 1567, who wrote a book that I possess on my bedside table The Introduction to a Devout Life. Within the opening pages of his master work, he wrote thusly:
I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
Tell me…whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in not way does true devotion destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfils all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.
The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.
Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.
They have just given the notice that we are descending into Lincoln for our landing, so I need to shut down…much earlier than anticipated. I guess I will need to finish and edit this after all. It would seem the wine has gotten the best of me and my abilities to be brief and lucid in thought.
Till next time, my dears….be asking yourselves "what does it matter?" If you, like Louisa can come up with no worthy answer, you're not trying hard enough and need to look harder. For surely it does, and you do, matter.
The death of Stephen Blackpool
I thought I'd try out the feature that allows me to post via email by quoting from the latest Dickens novel I just finished, Hard Times. I found it a wonderful book, one that I began while on a 2-day business trip at the end of January. It's typical Dicken, at times melancholy, ironic, humerous, and loaded with the most wonderful passages and quotes. So I'll begin with this, and hope it works. I won't be able to modify or delete it until later tonight if it gets garbled in translation...hehehe.
The bearers being now ready to carry him away, and the surgeon being anxious for his removal, those who had torches or lanterns, prepared to go in front of the litter. Before it was raised, and while they were arranging how to go, he said to Rachael, looking upwards at the star:
“Often as I coom to myseln, and found it shinin on me down there in my trouble, I thowt it were the star as guided to Our Saviour’s home. I awmust think it be the very star!”
They lifted him up, and he was overjoyed to find that they were about to take him in the direction whither the star seemed to him to lead.
“Rachael, beloved lass! Don’t let go my hand. We may walk together t’night, my dear!”
“I will hold thy hand, and keep beside thee, Stephen, all the way.”
“Bless thee! Will soombody be pleased to coover my face!”
They carried him very gently along the fields, and down the lanes, and over the wide landscape; Rachael always holding the hand in hers. Very few whispers broke the mournful silence. It was soon a funeral procession. The star had shown him where to find the God of the poor; and through humility, and sorrow, and forgiveness, he had gone to his Redeemer’s rest.
A new beginning...
I wonder where this journey will take me...