The Stream, a River, a Torrent, This Puddle, the Sea

'Jimmy's Fairy Tale,' by Woodford Yang on Flickr

[Image: “Jimmy’s Fairy Tale,” by Woodford Yang. Found it on Flickr (used here under a Creative Commons license). The artist/photographer — the user who posted it, anyhow — offers absolutely no context for it: where it was taken, what it depicts, who “Jimmy” might be/have been… nothing at all. (The user profile indicates that he is based in Taipei, and I found numerous references to that exact name around the Web; but I really have no details to offer.) Whatever it “means,” I like that the train’s label — referring to van Gogh’s painting, presumably, or to the Don McLean song about it — echoes (or is echoed in) those softly glowing overhead lights.]

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up…

A critic not long ago said in praise of a very serious fairy tale that the author’s tongue “never once got into his cheek.” But why on earth should it?—unless he had been eating a seed-cake. Nothing seems to me more fatal, for this art, than an idea that whatever we share with children is, in the privative sense, “childish” and that whatever is childish is somehow comic. We must meet children as equals in that area of our nature where we are their equals. Our superiority consists partly in commanding other areas, and partly (which is more relevant) in the fact that we are better at telling stories than they are. The child as reader is neither to be patronized nor idolized: we talk to him as man to man. But the worst attitude of all would be the professional attitude which regards children in the lump as a sort of raw material which we have to handle.

(C. S. Lewis [source])

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The Devil(s) You Don’t Know

'The Cadejos,' by Todd Freeman

[Image: “The Cadejos,” hand-painted etching on paper, by Todd Freeman; found on Flickr.
(Click to enlarge.) For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.

(Neil Gaiman [source])

…and:

My definition of a devil is a god who has not been recognized. That is to say, it is a power in you to which you have not given expression, and you push it back. And then, like all repressed energy, it builds up and becomes completely dangerous to the position you’re trying to hold.

(Joseph Campbell [source])

…and:

To feel anything
deranges you. To be seen
feeling anything strips you
naked. In the grip of it
pleasure or pain doesn’t
matter. You think what
will they do what new
power will they acquire if
they see me naked like
this. If they see you
feeling. You have no idea
what. It’s not about them.
To be seen is the penalty.

(Anne Carson [source])

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Eye-Openings

'The Awakening (in Snow),' photo by InnocentEyez on Flickr.com, used under a Creative Commons License

[Image: “Awakening in the Snow,” by user InnocentEyez on Flickr.com (photograph of sculpture, The Awakening, by J. Seward Johnson). Reproduced here under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

Franz Kafka is Dead

He died in a tree from which he wouldn’t come down. “Come down!” they cried to him. “Come down! Come down!” Silence filled the night, and the night filled the silence, while they waited for Kafka to speak. “I can’t,” he finally said, with a note of wistfulness. “Why?” they cried. Stars spilled across the black sky. “Because then you’ll stop asking for me.” The people whispered and nodded among themselves. They put their arms around each other, and touched their children’s hair. They took off their hats and raised them to the small, sickly man with the ears of a strange animal, sitting in his black velvet suit in the dark tree. Then they turned and started for home under the canopy of leaves. Children were carried on their fathers’ shoulders, sleepy from having been taken to see who wrote his books on pieces of bark he tore off the tree from which he refused to come down. In his delicate, beautiful, illegible handwriting. And they admired those books, and they admired his will and stamina. After all: who doesn’t wish to make a spectacle of his loneliness? One by one families broke off with a good night and a squeeze of the hands, suddenly grateful for the company of neighbors. Doors closed to warm houses. Candles were lit in windows. Far off, in his perch in the trees, Kafka listened to it all: the rustle of the clothes being dropped to the floor, or lips fluttering along naked shoulders, beds creaking along the weight of tenderness. It all caught in the delicate pointed shells of his ears and rolled like pinballs through the great hall of his mind.

That night a freezing wind blew in. When the children woke up, they went to the window and found the world encased in ice. One child, the smallest, shrieked out in delight and her cry tore through the silence and exploded the ice of a giant oak tree. The world shone.

They found him frozen on the ground like a bird. It’s said that when they put their ears to the shell of his ears, they could hear themselves.

(Nicole Krauss [source])

and:

We read of spiritual efforts, and our imagination makes us believe that, because we enjoy the idea of doing them, we have done them. I am appalled to see how much of the change I thought I had undergone lately was only imaginary. The real work seems still to be done. It is so fatally easy to confuse an aesthetic appreciation of the spiritual life with the life itself — to dream that you have waked, washed, and dressed & then to find yourself still in bed.

(C. S. Lewis [source])

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A Conspiracy of Pages

[Etching: “The Hall of Planets,” by Erik Desmazières, #5 in a series of eleven illustrating  an edition of “The Library of Babel,” by Jorges Luis Borges; click to enlarge]

From whiskey river:

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust in them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things — the beauty, the memory of our own past — are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.

(C. S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory [source])

and:

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy?… Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.

(Franz Kafka [source])

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“An Echo That Did Not Die Away”

[Image: a communications “satelloon.” For more information,
see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you’ve been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw — but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you were transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of — something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it — tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest — if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself — you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

(C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain [source])

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Seen Everything? Look Again.

[An “impossible triangle” sculpture in East Perth, Australia. For more information,
see the note at the bottom of this post.]

From whiskey river:

Welcome

if you believe nothing is always what’s left
after a while, as I did,
If you believe you have this collection
of ungiven gifts, as I do (right here
behind the silence and the averted eyes)
If you believe an afternoon can collapse
into strange privacies  —
how in your backyard, for example,
the shyness of flowers can be suddenly
overwhelming, and in the distance
the clear goddamn of thunder
personal, like a voice,
If you believe there’s no correct response
to death, as I do; that even in grief
(where I’ve sat making plans)
there are small corners of joy
If your body sometimes is a light switch
in a house of insomniacs
If you can feel yourself straining
to be yourself every waking minute
If, as I am, you are almost smiling…

(Stephen Dunn, from New and Selected Poems, 1974-1994 [source])

and:

Nothing can be given or taken away; nothing has been added or subtracted; nothing increased or diminished. We stand on the same shore before the same mighty ocean. The ocean of love. There it is — in perpetuum. As much in a broken blossom, the sound of a waterfall, the swoop of a carrion bird as in the thunderous artillery of the prophet. We move with eyes shut and ears stopped; we smash walls where doors are waiting to open to the touch; we grope for ladders, forgetting that we have wings; we pray as if God were deaf and blind, as if He were in a space. No wonder the angels in our midst are unrecognizable.

One day it will be pleasant to remember these things.

(Henry Miller, Nexus [source])

…and:

Seriousness

Driving the Garden State Parkway to New York, I pointed out two crows to a woman who believed crows always travel in threes. And later just one crow eating the carcass of a squirrel. “The others are nearby,” she said, “hidden in trees.” She was sure. Now and then she’d say “See!” and a clear dark trinity of crows would be standing on the grass. I told her she was wrong to under- or overestimate crows, and wondered out loud if three crows together made any evolutionary sense. I was almost getting serious now. Near Forked River, we saw five. “There’s three,” she said, “and two others with a friend in a tree.” I looked to see if she was smiling. She wasn’t. Or she was. “Men like you,” she said, “need it written down, notarized, and signed.”

(Stephen Dunn [source])

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