Out of Nowhere

'Coming out of nowhere,' by Michael Holler (rolleh) on Flickr

[Image: by Michael Holler on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

I Wonder

I wonder what would happen if
I treated everyone like I was in love
with them, whether I like them or not
and whether they respond or not and no matter
what they say or do to me and even if I see
things in them which are ugly twisted petty
cruel vain deceitful indifferent, just accept
all that and turn my attention to some small
weak tender hidden part and keep my eyes on
that until it shines like a beam of light
like a bonfire I can warm my hands by and trust
it to burn away all the waste which is not
never was my business to meddle with.

(Derek Tasker [source: see note at the foot of this post])


If your yes sometimes feels heavy and silent and still in your chest that is only because it is still looking for a bell tower in the world. Wait. Be patient. You’ll one day again find a bright and worthy place to hang your heaviness, and when it starts to sway — and the clapper of your joy begins to swing in rhythm with it — your bell will at last be heard, even if initially by only one other. And it will be answered, it will be joined.

Have you ever heard a bell ringing in a little valley town? It’s a lovely sound, but there is something mournful about it as well. But two bells, or all the bells in the valley ringing together at once? That is something else entirely. That is the music the human heart was designed to make. That is the definition of a joyful noise.

Wait for that.

(Brad Zellar [source])


You asked me to write you a letter, so I am writing you a letter. I do not know why I am writing you this letter, or what this letter is supposed to be about, but I am writing it nonetheless, because I love you very much and trust that you have some good purpose for having me write this letter. I hope that one day you will have the experience of doing something you do not understand for someone you love.
Your father

(Jonathan Safran Foer [source])

Not from whiskey river:

A childlike adult is not one whose development is arrested; on the contrary, he is an adult who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most people have muffled themselves into a cocoon of middle age habit and convention.

(Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays)


If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person.

(Thomas Merton [source])


Anthropologists have found “galumphing” to be one of the prime talents that characterize higher life forms. Galumphing is the immaculately rambunctious and seemingly inexhaustible play-energy apparent in puppies, kittens, children, baby baboons—and also in young communities and civilizations. Galumphing is the seemingly useless elaboration and ornamentation of activity. It is profligate, excessive, exaggerated, uneconomical. We galumph when we hop instead of walk, when we take the scenic route instead of the efficient one, when we play a game whose rules demand a limitation of our powers, when we are interested in means rather than in ends. We voluntarily create obstacles in our path and then enjoy overcoming them. In the higher animals and in people, it is of supreme evolutionary value.

Galumphing ensures that we remain on the upside of the law of requisite variety.

(Stephen Nachmanovitch [source])


When I was well into A Swiftly Tilting Planet I had set myself all kinds of problems which I feared might be insoluble. I was trying to listen to the story, and was thoroughly confused, because in the story I’d been given a vengeful South American dictator in a small country called Vespugia (my husband thought up that delightful name) set in the middle of what used to be known as Patagonia, a sizable area along what are now the boundaries of Chile and Argentina. I also had in the story an ancient Welsh prince, Madoc, son of Owain, King of Gwynedd, who, after his father’s death and the violent quarreling of the brothers over the throne, had left Wales, and was supposed to have come to North America, before Leif Erickson, and to have made his life among a tribe of friendly Indians. The legend persists today, and Madoc and his descendants were important to the story, and so was the Vespugian dictator, Mad Dog Branzillo. And what I needed was some kind of a link between Wales and South America, particularly, of course, the Vespugian part of South America, and it seemed to me extremely unlikely that there could be such a connection. I was afraid I had painted myself into a corner.

And just at that time I went off to Wheaton College to give some lectures. I remember standing in the library and saying that I needed to know more about the legend of Madoc. I didn’t mention Vespugia or Patagonia or my need for a link. Ruth Cording loaned me two little paperback volumes, Welsh on one side of the page, English on the other, about Wales and America, and in one of these books I read that in 1865 an expedition left Wales to go to settle in South America, in exactly that part of Patagonia where I had placed Vespugia.

(Madeleine L’Engle [source])


Note: I couldn’t identify Derek Tasker with any certainty — at least, not the Derek Tasker quoted above. But I think this Derek Tasker may have been a Canon of the Church of England, who acted as a mentor to many other priests. (He is identified in an autobiography of former British Prime Minister Edward Heath as “a Liberal from Exeter College who was later ordained and became the Canon Treasurer of Southwark Cathedral” — one of three companions who accompanied Heath as an observer of the Spanish Civil War.) I am not even sure if the quotation is a free-verse poem, as presented on whiskey river and other sites, or a prose except — as presented on all the others. One source for the quotation may be a book by one Ivor Smith-Cameron, called Pilgrimage: An Exploration Into God. However, I haven’t been able to confirm this: the reference to Smith-Cameron’s book actually didn’t even mention Tasker, just identified the former as though he’d written the lines.

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  1. My, you have been busy, JES! Thank you – this is a particularly rich selection for the year’s end.

    I particularly like Brad Zellar’s metaphor; but I am unable to investigate his blog at the moment, since my VPN is on the blink – very frustrating. And I hadn’t heard of that Thomas Merton novel before, but am convinced that I have to buy it at once… perhaps for the school library. (Do you remember my sci-fi story outline about The Tempters? I have just realised that the power to create a school library is just that kind of irresistible ultimate delight for me – although it is also a fiendishly subtle torture, an impossible and neverending task.)

    I can imagine how excited you will have got about Madeleine L’Engle’s exploration of links between Wales and the Americas. I’m not sure if it’s the same “expedition” that she refers to, but I recall reading that quite large numbers of coalminers from South Wales were hired to go out to Argentina (to work copper or tin rather than coal, I think) – I suspect it must have been Bruce Chatwin’s wonderful In Patagonia where I came across that.

    And thanks also for the ongoing Christmas music selections. I’ve been diverting myself with that over the last few days whiled holed up, bored and lonely, in a hotel room in Hong Kong (visa issues again!).

    Best wishes to you and The Missus for a splendid 2014!!

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