April 30, 2007 - 0 Comments

"Why did you bid me hope for Heaven? Lo, even this very crown of my mortal life, which the skilful tending of crops and cattle had scarce wrought out for me for all my endeavour--though you are my mother, I resign. Come, and with your own hand tear up my fruitful woods; put hostile flame to my stalls, destroy my crops, burn my seedlings, and swing the stout axe against my vines, if such loathing for my honour has seized you."

- Publius Vergilius Maro (trans. Fairclough), Georgics, Book IV, 29BC.

April 26, 2007 - 0 Comments

"So we may well believe that the King's men were shriven on the night before they fought. Something of the young man's vision had penetrated to his captains and his soldiers. Something of the new ideal of the Round Table which was to be born in pain, something about doing a hateful and dangerous action for the sake of decency--for they knew that the fight was to be fought in blood and death without reward. They would get nothing but the unmarketable conscience of having done what they ought to do in spite of fear--something which wicked people have often debased by calling it glory with too much sentiment, but which is glory all the same. This idea was in the hearts of the young men who knelt before the God-distributing bishops--knowing that the odds were three to one, and that their own warm bodies might be cold at sunset."

"Why did not Lancelot make love to Guenever, or run away with his hero's wife altogether, as any enlightened man would do today?
One reason for his dilemma was that he was a Christian. The modern world is apt to forget that several people were Christians in the remote past, and in Lancelot's time there were no Protestants--except John Scotus Erigena. His Church, in which he had been brought up--and it is difficult to escape from your upbringing--directly forbade him to seduce his best friend's wife."

"'It is all very well for Bors,' he said complainingly, 'but what about the hermit? What about Sir Colgrevance? Why didn't God save them?"
'Dogmas are difficult things,' said Arthur.
Guenever said: "We don't know what their past history was. The killing didn't do any harm to their souls. Perhaps it even helped their souls, to die like that. Perhaps God gave them this good death because it was the best thing for them.'"

- White, The Once and Future King, 1958.

April 25, 2007 - 0 Comments

"The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, who has no real effect in the world. But craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one's failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away."
- Matthew Crawford, Shop Craft as Soul Craft, The New Yorker, 2007.

April 21, 2007 - 0 Comments

"Thomas Merton wrote, 'There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.' There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won't have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus."

"I think that the dying pray at the last not 'please,' but 'thank you,' as a guest thanks his host at the door."

- Dillard, Tinker Creek, 1974.

April 18, 2007 - 0 Comments

"Lick a finger; feel the now."

"Along with intricacy, there is another aspect of the creation that has impressed me in the course of my wanderings. Look again at the horsehair worm, a yard long and thin as a thread, whipping through the duck pond, or tangled with others of its own kind in a slithering Gordian knot. Look at an overwintering ball of buzzing bees, or a turtle under ice breathing through its pumping cloaca. Look at the fruit of the Osage orange tree, big as a grapefruit, green, convoluted as any human brain. Or look at a rotifer's translucent gut: something orange and powerful is surging up and down like a piston, and something small and round is spinning in place like a flywheel. Look, in short, at practically anything--the coot's feet, the mantis's face, a banana, the human ear--and see that not only did the creator create everything, but that he is apt to create anything. He'll stop at nothing."

"There are seven or eight categories of phenomena in the world that are worth talking about, and one of them is weather."

"Nature is, above all, profligate. Don't believe them when they tell you how ecomonical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn't it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance! Nature will try anything once. This is what the sign of the insects says. No form is too gruesome, no behavior too grotesque. If you're dealing with organic compounds, then let them combine. If it works, if it quickens, set it clacking in the grass; there's always room for one more; you ain't so handsome yourself. This is a spendthrift economy; though nothing is lost, all is spent."

"This is it, I think, this is it, right now, the present, this empty gas station, here, this western wind, this tang of coffee on the tongue, and I am patting the puppy, I am watching the mountain. And the second I verbalize this awareness in my brain, I cease to see the mountain or feel the puppy. I am opaque, so much black asphalt. . . It is ironic that the one thing that all religions recognize as separating us from our creator--our very self-consciousness--is also the one thing that divides us from our fellow creatures. It was a bitter birthday present from evolution, cutting us off at both ends."
- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974.

April 16, 2007 - 0 Comments

"Her temper being naturally good, she was never violent or morose, but frrom constant indulgence and habitual scorn of reason, she as often testy and capricious; her mind had never been cultivated . . . "

'Tilly, though she would have made a fine lad, was not quite what a young lady ought to be."

- Anne Bronte, Agnes Grey, 1847.

April 8, 2007 - 0 Comments

"I almost doubt whether any object such as that you mean is necessary for life, or even expedient. It seems to me that if a man can so train himself that he may live honestly and die fearlessly, he has done about as much as is necessary."

"There were many things about this woman that were not altogether what a husband might wish. She was not softly delicate in all her ways; but in disposition and temper she was altogether generous. I do not know that she was at all points a lady, but had Fate so willed it she would have been a thorough gentleman."

- Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?, 1866.