Archive for June, 2013

June 23, 2013

the sight of monsters walking among them

Now the sight of monsters walking among them seemed as normal as the seagulls that swooped and chattered in the air above the city.

From page 127 of Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree.

The book spines looked richer somehow in the lantern’s glow, and Janner thought of Oskar’s words at the start of the day: “Look around you, lad. This is the best of old Skree. Or at least, it’s what’s left of it.” …What Oskar had preserved was the memory of a world that had passed away as surely as Esben Igiby had passed away.

From pages 92 and 86 of the same book by Andrew Peterson.

June 18, 2013

after this cruel analysis

“Remember, young man, unceasingly,” Father Païssy began, without preface, “that the science of this world, which has become a great power, has, especially in the last century, analysed everything divine handed down to us in the holy books. After this cruel analysis the learned of this world have nothing left of all that was sacred of old. But they have only analysed the parts and overlooked the whole, and indeed their blindness is marvellous. Yet the whole still stands steadfast before their eyes, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Has it not lasted nineteen centuries, is it not still a living, a moving power in the individual soul and in the masses of people? It is still as strong and living even in the souls of atheists, who have destroyed everything! For even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardour of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ of old. When it has been attempted, the result has been only grotesque.”

…The philosophic reflections he had just heard so unexpectedly testified to the warmth of Father Païssy’s heart. He was in haste to arm the boy’s mind for conflict with temptation and to guard the young soul left in his charge with the strongest defence he could imagine.

From The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (p. 116), book IV (“Lacerations”), chapter 1 (“Father Ferapont”).

June 18, 2013

watch over your own deceitfulness

Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love. Don’t be frightened overmuch even at your evil actions. I am sorry I can say nothing more consoling to you, for love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. But active love is labour and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science. But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting farther from your goal instead of nearer to it—at that very moment I predict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you.

Advice given by Elder Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (p. 37), book II (“An Unfortunate Gathering”), chapter 4 (“A Lady of Little Faith”).

June 18, 2013

she has no right to forgive

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, book V (“Pro and Contra”), chapter 4 (“Rebellion”):

Can you understand why a little creature, who can’t even understand what’s done to her, should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in the dark and the cold, and weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God to protect her? Do you understand that, friend and brother, you pious and humble novice? Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? Why, the whole world of knowledge is not worth that child’s prayer to dear, kind God’!

…Surely I haven’t suffered simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else. I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That’s a question I can’t answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I’ve only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their fathers’ crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension. Some jester will say, perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you see he didn’t grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight years old. Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.’ When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can’t accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures.

…I don’t want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother’s heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don’t want harmony. From love for humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.”

June 13, 2013

democracy of the dead

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (Chapter 4, “The Ethics of Elfland”):

Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. …Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.

June 13, 2013

to stand silent and awed within the Precious Habitation

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (216-218):

They were the inlaid eyes of a life-sized wooden statue, and he saw now that they had been partially smashed, as if from the blow of a dagger hilt. Gebu and Wenamon had wanted no gaze upon them as they went about their evil work, especially the gaze of this watchful ushabti placed here as servant and guardian of the dead.

Nervously Ranofer examined the figure more closely, and his fear of its vengeance changed to an unexpected pity. It was the statue of a slim and lovely servant girl, wearing a painted gild necklace, steadying a box on one shoulder and carrying a painted wooden duck by its feet in her other hand. Her expression was one of serenity and joy, and the sculptor who carved her had been a master. Now her clear, wide eyes were cloudy and blinded by the blow that had splintered them; her beauty was marred and her usefulness as a watchful guardian ended. It was like seeing some innocent, happy creature lying murdered, victim of Gebu’s callous greed.

Ranofer’s gaze turned from her to move in wonder about the rest of the chamber, which was dimly illumined by the glow of the torch form the next room. As he looked a strange emotion took possession of him. Beyond and around the graceful statue were articles of household furniture, arranged as in a beautiful home. There were armchairs and beds of carved wood decorated with gold, there were alabaster honey jars, painted boxes resting on delicately wrought ivory legs. There was a wicker trunk ventilated by little slatted openings, through which the fragrance of the perfumed garments within escaped into the room. There were winecups arranged on shelves, there were scent jars and jeweled collars and arm bands. Everywhere was the gleam of gold.

It was not the gold, however, that held Ranofer’s gaze and drew him slowly through the jagged entrance to stand, silent and awed, within the Precious Habitation. It was the garland of flowers, only a little withered, as if placed here in love and grief only yesterday, and the sight of a worn oaken staff leaning against the wall, of two pairs of sandals, a new and an old, of favorite joints of meat placed neatly in boxes as if for a journey. Whatever he had expected, it was not this intimate look of home, of a well-loved room to which its owner might at any moment return.

…Who was the owner? …There were two owners. Slowly, soundlessly, he crossed the chamber to the pair of silver-inlaid coffins, on the lids of which were sculptured in gold the figures of their occupants, a man and a woman. They lay as if sleeping, side by side, their folded hands eloquent of the same defenseless trust that had caused them to order a sweet-faced servant girl as their only guardian. As Ranofer looked into their quiet golden faces, the stealthy sounds of plundering in the next room became horrible to him. For the first time he fully understood this crime.

He straightened, all his fear gone and in its place hot fury.

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