December 18, 2009

Let's Play...

...why's my bookbag (or e-reader equivalent) so damn heavy?

From Buzz by Stephen Braun:
"Modern neuroscience suggests that it would be a mistake to discount the multiplicity of the mind, to forget that one's conscious self is not one's entire self, and to ignore the power of the nonrational forces within us.

This deep dichotomy between reason and irrationality can be seen in the world's tremendous appetite for alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is liberator of the irrational. Caffeine is the stimulator of the rational. It would appear that the human spirit craves both poles and turns to these most familiar drugs to achieve those ends."

From George Rutler's The Cure d'Ars Today: St. John Vianney:
The remains of his body lie in a glass case over an altar in Ars...Anglo-Saxons find this custom of displaying saints odd, and even offensive. It is a crystal-clear exposition of death, and more cerebral people prefer to keep the most graphic facts of life opaque; they do not want to think of death as a fact of life. The graphic display of a corpse is the one kind of exhibitionism still generally considered degrading. But what seems morbid to the mundane conscience is vital to the transcendent conscience. One gets muddled trying to combine the two the wrong way: sacramentalism is a right kind of transcendent earthiness, but materialism issues in a vapidity. The embalmed relics of Lenin and Mao are shadowy and grotesque parodies of the saintly cults. The totalitarian and the saint both recumbent should attack any fair sense of equipoise.

* * *

Heroes are better than we are; saints are better than themselves. That is, saints become the ultimate pragmatists by making themselves totally available to God's original design for men. The hero imposes his will on nature as an act; the saint imposes God's will on nature as a state. In the case of the hero, heroism is deed; it is a way of being for the saint. "We have a treasure,then, in our keeping, but its shell is of perishable earthenware; it must be God, and not anything in ourselves, that gives it its power" (2 Cor 4:7).

From Charles Dickens by GK Chesterton:
A definite school regarded Dickens as a great man from the first days of his fame: Dickens certainly belonged to this school. In reply to this question, "Why have we no great men to-day?" many modern explanations are offered. Advertisement, cigarette-smoking, the decay of religion, the decay of agriculture, too much humanitarianism, too little humanitarianism, the fact that people are educated insufficiently, the fact that they are educated at all, all these are reasons given. If I give my own explanation, it is not for its intrinsic value; it is because my answer to the question, "Why have we no great men?" is a short way of stating the deepest and most catastrophic difference between the age in which we live and the early nineteenth century; the age under the shadow of the French Revolution, the age in which Dickens was born.

The soundest of the Dickens critics, a man of genius, Mr. George Gissing, opens his criticism by remarking that the world in which Dickens grew up was a hard and cruel world. He notes its gross feeding, its fierce sports, its fighting and foul humour, and all this he summarises in the words hard and cruel. It is curious how different are the impressions of men. To me this old English world seems infinitely less hard and cruel than the world described in Gissing's own novels. Coarse external customs are merely relative, and easily assimilated. A man soon learnt to harden his hands and harden his head. Faced with the world of Gissing, he can do little but harden his heart. But the fundamental difference between the beginning of the nineteenth century and the end of it is a difference simple but enormous. The first period was full of evil things, but it was full of hope. The second period, the fin de siécle, was even full (in some sense) of good things. But it was occupied in asking what was the good of good things. Joy itself became joyless; and the fighting of Cobbett was happier than the feasting of Walter Pater. The men of Cobbett's day were sturdy enough to endure and inflict brutality; but they were also sturdy enough to alter it. This "hard and cruel" age was, after all, the age of reform.

1 comment:

Toronto Stucco said...

Mind stimulating posts. After a day of facing the mundane, it's always nice to sit in front of my computer and absorb this kind of writing to integrate depth into my personality.