Archive for November, 2012

November 26, 2012

to desire it

In secular use, meditari means, in a general way, to think, to reflect, as does cogitare or considerare; but, more than these, it often implies an affinity with the practical or even moral order. It implies thinking of a thing with the intent to do it; it other words, to prepare oneself for it, to prefigure it in the mind, to desire it, in way , to do it in advance–briefly, to practice it. [16]

…Another important factor explained by rumination and reminiscence is the power of imagination of the medieval man. Exuberant as this faculty is, it nevertheless possesses a vigor and a preciseness which we find difficult to understand. We are used to seeing, almost without looking at them unless with a distracted eye, printed or moving pictures. We are fond of abstract ideas. Our imagination, having become lazy, seldom allows us to do anything but dream. But in the men of the Middle Ages it was vigorous and active. It permitted them to picture, to “make present,” to see beings with all the details provided by the texts. …The words of the sacred text never failed to produce a strong impression on the mind. [75]

The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture by Jean Leclercq.

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November 25, 2012

reverence for existence

The great Swiss author Ramuz, writing some years ago, spoke of a certain sense of holiness “which is the most precious thing the West has known, a certain attitude of reverence for existence–by which we must understand everything which exists, oneself and the world outside oneself, the mysteries which surround us, the mystery of death, and the mystery of birth, a certain veneration in the presence of life, a certain love, and (why not acknowledge it?) a certain state of poetry which the created world produces in us”. It is precisely this sense of holiness, this fundamental reverence for life and for death, itself considered as the nocturnal phase of life, it is this state of poetry produced in us by the created world which, during the last decades, and more particularly of recent years, has given way to the pressure of pride, of pretentiousness, of boredom and despair.

From page 75 of “The Mystery of the Family” in Homo Viator by Gabriel Marcel (1965). [This concept closely parallels the term quiddity as used by C.S. Lewis, or “omnivorous attentiveness” as Alan Jacobs calls it.]

November 25, 2012

teach like the first snow, falling

Undivided Attention
by Taylor Mali

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps—like classical music’s
birthday gift to the criminally insane—
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth‐floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers’ crane,
Chopin-­‐shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second‐to­‐last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over—
it’s a piano being pushed out of a window
and lowered down onto a flatbed truck!—and
I’m trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long‐necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-­‐falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

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November 24, 2012

obviously legitimate to wonder why

The more circumscribed an action is, the more it consequently belongs to the order of those actions which can either be reproduced by the agent himself in identical circumstances, or imitated by others–the more it is obviously legitimate to wonder why it is performed, or in other words what calls for it. On the other hand, the more totally an action involves the personality of the agent, the more it is of the nature of a vocation, and the more it is unique by its essence so that there can be no question of the agent repeating it or of others imitating it from outside, the less the question under consideration can be asked without absurdity.

From page 105 of “The Creative Vow as Essence of Fatherhood” in Homo Viator by Gabriel Marcel (1965).

November 24, 2012

an underground region which has to be examined and cleared

In reality everything goes to show that the crumbling away of religious beliefs, which has been going on for the last century and half in vast sectors of the western world, bring as its consequences a weakening of the natural foundation on which these beliefs had grown up. The philosopher, when faced with a fact of such dimensions, is obliged to seek an explanation and to wonder if the principle of these foundations does not contain a certain piety clearly religious in essence. This we might without any offense call sub-Christian, for it is the under structure upon which authentic Christianity is built. It is this understructure, or foundation, which is being destroyed before our eyes to-day, so that the work of reconstruction, of which all recognize the need, has to be carried out, not on the ground level, as in ordinarily imagined, but in an underground region which has to be examined and cleared.

From page 98 of “The Creative Vow as Essence of Fatherhood” in Homo Viator by Gabriel Marcel (1965).

November 22, 2012

not to be forced since it springs from an experience of plentitude

The meaning of the word “creative” is very precise here: it denotes the active contribution each soul is at liberty to bring to the universal work which is accomplishing itself in our world and doubtless far beyond it. In this connection the condition of a human being of whatever kind is not essentially different from that of the artists who is the bearer of some message which he must communicate, of some flame which me must kindle and pass on, like the torch-bearers of Lucretia. Everything seems to happen as though on the human level the operation of the flesh ought to be the hallowing of a certain inward fulfillment, an out-flowing not to be forced since it springs from an experience of plentitude. Perhaps I should make myself better understood by saying in a way which actually is not exclusively Christian that the operation of the flesh loses its dignity and degenerates from its true nature if it is not an act of thanksgiving, a creative testimony.

From page 88 of “The Mystery of the Family” in Homo Viator by Gabriel Marcel (1965).

November 17, 2012

life envelops him and protects him

Only those fully absorbed in life are protected from being dismantled by the void within them:

At the origin of diversion, of the will to be diverted or amused at any price, there is an attempt to escape, but from what? It can only be from oneself. The ego is without any doubt faced with a dilemma: to fulfill itself or to escape. Where it does not attain fulfillment, it is only conscious of itself as of an unendurable gaping void from which it must seek protection at any price. Anyone who is absorbed does not know this void; he is as it were caught up in plenitude, life envelops him and protects him. Boredom, on the contrary, is not only bound up with inaction but with a dismantling process.

From page 83-84 of “The Mystery of the Family” in Homo Viator by Gabriel Marcel (1965).

November 14, 2012

a profound and meaningful silence

Having life “abundantly” has something to do with quality, not quantity. Quantity belongs to the mind. Issues of quality belong to the heart.

…The language of the heart is silence–not a bleak, empty silence, but a profound and meaningful silence that ceaselessly sings the glory of God.

From Bread & Water, Wine & Oil by Archimandrite Meletios Webber (24-25).

November 13, 2012

faculty of wonder

There is a deep similarity between the union of the soul and body and the mystery of the family. In both cases we are in the presence of the same fact, or rather something which is far more than a fact since it is the very condition of all facts whatever they may be: I mean incarnation. I am not, of course, using this term in its theological sense. It is not a question of our Lord’s coming into the world, but of the infinitely mysterious act by which an essence assumes a body, an act around which the meditation of a Plato crystallised, and to which modern philosophies only cease to give their attention in so far as they have lost the intelligence’s essential gift, that is to say the faculty of wonder.

From page 69 of “The Mystery of the Family” in Homo Viator by Gabriel Marcel (1965).

November 11, 2012

a good notion of the current market value

Dragons steal gold and jewels, you know, from men and elves and dwarves, wherever they can find them; and they guard their plunder as long as they live (which is practically forever, unless they are killed), and never enjoy a brass ring of it. Indeed they hardly know a good bit of work from a bad, though they usually have a good notion of the current market value; and they can’t make a thing for themselves, not even mend a little loose scale of their armour.

From chapter one of The Hobbit by Tolkien. (I’m reminded that, when fighting sin, being “weak on dragons” is a real set back.)

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