Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Door in the Mountain" by Jean Valentine

Never ran this hard through the valley
never ate so many stars

I was carrying a dead deer
tied on to my neck and shoulders

deer legs hanging in front of me
heavy on my chest

People are not wanting
to let me in

Door in the mountain
let me in


"Without Tedium"


"In freedom, dear things
repeat without tedium."

Kay Ryan, "Every Painting by Chagall" from her collection THE BEST OF IT


Monday, December 27, 2010





More from Karl Stern


"There is a German word, durchleiden, for which there is no good English translation. It means to experience and get to know something by suffering. To 'suffer a thing through' with your entire being, rather than to 'figure it out.'"




"I have said that in entering the Church one does not have to give up any single positive value one has ever believed in. You think of yourself as a traitor to your past. You think you have to leave Goethe behind, or Tolstoy, or Gandhi, or Judaism, or whatever. But there is nothing that is good in all these things which you do not find again in the Church. Now it is ordered and synthetized. It is molten in Christ. Moreover, you do not have to accept anything which is repulsive to you in the Church, on a political or social plane. Nobody wants you to accept a totalitarian politican, or a priest who is obsessed by racial prejudice. All you have to accept is Christ and His Sacraments." Karl Stern, PILLAR OF FIRE


Friday, December 10, 2010

Interior Landscape


"Public scrutiny filled him with horror, for the force of it came close to breaking through a seal that protected the secret refuge within himself, an inland sea of liquid, inarticulate forms that shaped and reshaped themselves into an eloquence of vast solitudes, deserts, hill, and horizons--a language both shocking and beloved for its sere beauty."

--from Michael D. O'Brien's ECLIPSE OF THE SUN


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Poem by Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941)



I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord:
Not borne on morning wings
Of majesty, but I have set My Feet
Amidst the delicate and bladed wheat
That springs triumphant in the furrowed sod
There do I dwell, in weakness and in power:
Not broken or divided, saith our God!
In your straight garden plot I come to flower:
About your porch My Vine
Meek, fruitful, doth entwine;
Waits, at the threshold, Love's appointed hour.

I come in little things,
Saith the Lord:
Yea! on the glancing wings
Of eager birds, the softly pattering feet
Of furred and gentle beasts. I come to meet
Your hard and wayward heart. In brown eyes
That peep from out the brake, I stand confest
On every nest
Where feathery Patience is content to brood
And leaves her pleasure for the high emprize
Of motherhood -
There doth My Godhead rest.

I come in little things,
Saith the Lord:
My starry wings
I do forsake,
Love's highway of humility to take.
Meekly I fit My stature to your need.
In beggar's part
About your gates I shall not cease to plead -
As man, to speak with man -
Till by such art
I shall achieve My Immemorial Plan.
Pass the low lintel of the human heart.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Family Anxiety (Holiday)


This is the time of year when various kinds of family anxiety may show up, especially regarding people who may be dear to us but whom we don't see often.

So much of this, I think, is because everyone feels it obligatory to maintain a steady stream of conversation, which would make anyone anxious--like being perpetually on stage.

What if upon arrival (or our guests' arrival) we could all exchange silence coupons?

If people could get used to being quiet together, cooking or reading the paper or taking walks, etc., appreciating each others' presence without having to speak much, everything would be so much easier.

I think of the way children can at times silently occupy a space together--parallel play--a very restful way of enjoying each others' company.


Friday, December 3, 2010



"I believe that the opposite of subjectivity is not objectivity, but otherness...

...It is an openness to the other--as other--that frees us for creativity and originality in our response: the other who is somehow outside my social system or the the Absolute Other who gives me a reference point that relativizes all of my own. It is always an encounter with otherness that changes me. If I am not open to the beyond-me, I'm in trouble....

One could say that the central theme of the biblical revelation is to call people to encounters with otherness: the alien, the sinner, the Samaritan, the Gentile, the hidden and denied self, angels unaware...

The God who speaks to Job out of the whirlwind is not an answer giver or a problem solver. God does more than that. God frees Job and every believer from their hall of mirrors, their prison of self..."





"I'm certain...that a great many things I thought were weeds when I first started my journey have turned out to be my wheat. So many things I was sure were my greatest virtues--my best wheat--have turned out to be my demons and weeds. And if I had pulled them out too quickly...I would have lost some of my greatest gifts.

Conversely, much that I thought was my wheat, my true gifts, have turned out to be the source of my greatest and most denied faults. Only time and suffering sorted them out a bit. Thus Jesus courageously says, 'Let them both grow together until the harvest.' Quite amazing and quite untraditional teaching. Jesus does not see religion as the enforcement of law and order in the world, but much more as the school of the soul, the training ground for union."



Thursday, December 2, 2010

"It's Amazing We're Not More Amazed"



The world
is gone
like the exact
shape of a cloud
or the exact shape
of a hand waving
in the sunlight
from across
a crowded
to another hand
that waves back.

Come to think of it,
everything up to now
is gone.
And I have also
already left
even though
I still ride
the train
through the outskirts
of the city.

And I still sit
by the window,
the filthy
while what is left
of the demolished
go past
and the empty
and the transitory

It’s amazing
we’re not
more amazed.
The world
is here
but then it’s gone
like a wave
traveling toward
other waves.

Or like
the delicate white
of the Dogwood
that float
as if there were
no gravity,
as if there were
no moments
isolated from
any other

Malena Morling


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Secret of Every Moment (Really!)

A geode: Ordinary, rough, and unbeautiful on the outside, but break it open, and SURPRISE!--you can see the glory that was hidden within.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Not Something I've Heard Much About


pasted from http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/03/coming-judgment.html:

In the Biblico-patristic tradition we also see another way in which men will be judged in the future Judgement. It is said that men will be judged by the saints. We find this already in Christ's words to His disciples: "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).

The Apostle Paul maintains the same thing. Reproaching the Christians for turning to worldly tribunals to solve their various affairs, he says: "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6:2). But how is this judgement known by the saints?

St. Symeon answers this point as well. He says that every man, finding himself faced with eternal life and that unutterable light, will see "one who is like him and will be judged by him". All men who have lived on earth in different ways of life will be judged by other men who have lived with them in the same conditions of life. And the ones lived in accord with the will of God, the others rejected His commandments. This means that there can be no excuse that the conditions of life were difficult and that therefore they could not live according to God's ordinances.

Thus fathers will be judged by fathers, relatives and friends by relatives and friends, brothers by brothers, the rich by those who were rich, the poor by those who were poor, the married by those who have excelled in the married state, etc. When sinners look at sinners who have repented, whoremongers who have not repented see penitent whoremongers, when the kings see holy kings, etc, and in general, when each person sees that someone like himself, who had the same nature, the same hands and eyes, the same conditions of life has been saved, this will be a self-condemnation, he will have no arguments and no excuses.

St. Symeon's words which I shall quote exactly are very characteristic: "Thus each of us sinners will be condemned by each of the saints, and likewise unbelievers by those who believe, and sinners who have failed to repent by those who perhaps have sinned more but have fervently repented".

It is terrible at that hour for someone to see in the glory of God "him who received the tonsure with him standing on the right hand, the one who ate and drank with him, his contemporary, his colleague” being completely surrounded by great glory like Christ, while he himself is the opposite. Then he will be unable to speak at all.

This is just what it means that we shall be judged by the saints. We will be censured by their penitence and by the fact that they lived under the same conditions and yet they have been shown to be recipients of the Holy Spirit, imitators of Christ in every respect.


Faith in Our Children's Mystery


"There is a double risk for parents when it comes to placing ... faith in their children. On the one hand, they are placing their faith in what cannot be known, controlled, or comprehended. If Levinas is correct in describing the face of the human other as the trace of the infinite, the child is a parent's most direct and profound access to the infinite. But as the trace of the infinite, the face simultaneously reveals and conceals. It gives us something to know in what it reveals to us. But the more we get to know what is revealed, the more we come to see the mystery hidden in the infinite from which it comes.

Insofar as children are both finite and a trace of the infinite, parents can and indeed must have faith in the infinite and mostly hidden dimension of a child's life. This is the dimension out of which the unique character, resiliency, and mettle of the child will be forged with the assistance of a parent's love, skill, and insight. In the hidden depths of the child's developing personality is the power to become that which we cannot fully anticipate. So parents are faced with the task of simultaneously nurturing and cultivating the seen and unseen dimensions of a child's personality. And these different dimensions are not clearly demarcated. They are interwoven with each other, the one affecting the other in multiple ways...

The incomprehensibility of the hidden dimensions of a child's life can be exasperating for parents. Often the most difficult situations for parents are those in which there is uncertainty and ambiguity. A child begins to whine, complain, and cry, sometimes for days at a time it seems, and for no obvious reason. The parent tries to soothe her, to understand what is bothering her, but sometimes there is no reasonable answer. The causes of her agitation are unclear to mother and child, making the situation difficult to address. As adolescents, children challenge parents with a full range of mysterious and incomprehensible behavior from brooding to silence to promiscuous sexual relations.

Faced with the difficulties and unpredictability of our children's emerging personalities, it sometimes seems as though even bad news is better than not knowing because it gives us a sense of direction, a point of reference from which we can formulate a strategy and orient our lives...[I]t can be paralyzing when the hidden dimension of a child's life is ambiguous and beyond our comprehension...

...Whether intervening with conditions and terms, or letting the child be, we are called to walk a fine line between the seen and unseen, the known and unknowable, the conditional and unconditional...Most often, our choices are made with only a partial view of the situation, incomplete knowledge of the relevant data. We choose with intensity, but we choose also with faith: faith in our children and the incomprehensible potential and resilience that resides beneath their laughs and tears, successes and failures, joys and pains..."



Blessed Astonishment


"Rather than turning away from the world, [Heraclitus] urges us to turn into it with all its strife to find meaning, to find coherence, to find the Logos. This turn into the world rather than away from it is unsettling, initially, because we abandon what is familiar and come face-to-face with the deep and confusing impermanence of things and the uncertainty and unpredictability that goes with it.

Friedrich Nietzsche explains that there is a reward waiting for those of us who do not try to escape the world and all of its difficulties when he writes that the impermanence and apparent chaos of things is 'a terrible, paralyzing thought...It takes astonishing strength to transform this reaction into its opposite, into sublimity and the feeling of blessed astonishment.'"



Sunday, November 28, 2010



"...the believer must seek the tension, not shy from it...

Brooke Foss Wescott, bishop of Durham in the 1890's, confessed that he never felt he was on safe ground theologically until he found the paradox."

(from THE FEAST by Gregory Post and Charles Turner)

Hmmm...and how do we know we've found the paradox? Maybe by the way it feels--simultaneously impossible (like dancing on a razor's edge) and liberating, relief-full (like being home).


Saturday, November 27, 2010

"How Wondrous Strange It Was at That Moment to Be in the Flesh"


How Wondrous Strange It Was at That Moment to Be in the Flesh

The year we lived in our car,
there were clouds above us
like mountains
that did not weigh anything.
There were voices rising through the static
singing San Diego Serenade or Benedictus
Qui Venit and once Hardenberger played
an Albioni trumpet solo somewhere
in Ohio and you sitting behind the wheel
turned to me and said:
"It's like slicing butter in heaven."
How wondrous strange it was at that moment
to be in the flesh. Far off, fleets
of clouds moved over the grass.
And on the ground, their shadows
that will never be aloft
raced after them.
And everywhere we looked there were dandelions.
Those lights that have grown up out of the earth.

(by Malena Morling)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

St. John Chrysostom on Not Getting Lost Inside Our Own Heads


For when the soul is fevered with reasonings, and stormy, then it questions, but when it is in a sound state, it does not question, but receives the faith. But from questionings and strifes of words nothing can be discovered. For when the things which faith only promises are received by an inquisitive spirit, it neither demonstrates them, nor suffers us to understand them. If one should close his eyes, he would not be able to find anything he sought: or if, again with his eyes open, he should bury himself, and exclude the sun, he would be unable to find anything, thus seeking. So without faith nothing can be discerned, but contentions must needs arise." (Homily 17 on First Timothy)


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thinking About a Song


...that profoundly, though perhaps ungrammatically, asks God to "speak a little softer so I can hear You..."

(Maybe it should be "a little more softly"?)

We tend to want everything God says to us to be really obvious and even blatant...I love the way this prayer subverts that false desire! The prayer seems as mischievous--against the whiny, insecure parts of us that would eschew mystery!) as it is joyful.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


This morning I'm thinking about the unresolved stuff in my life--relationships, etc.-- not merely unresolved but seemingly unresolvable.

And I look around me and see that there is unresolved stuff in other people's lives too.

But there is a kind of painful beauty, even a glory in the unresolved...in the very fact that nothing's finished yet, that it's still all going on, molecule by molecule, nano-second by nano-second, generation by generation, visibly and invisibly...

In it. We are in it.

The end: inextricable from the process through which it is slowly and strangely revealed.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010



St. John Chrysostom:

For not only faith is necessary, but love. Since there are many still who believe that Christ is God, who yet love Him not, nor act like those who love Him. For how is it when they prefer everything to Him, money, nativity, fate, augury, divinations, omens? When we live in defiance of Him, pray, where is our love? Has any one a warm and affectionate friend? Let him love Christ but equally. ... What? How shall it appear that we do not love God even as our friends, you say? ... For consider: friends, that are truly friends, will often suffer loss for those they love. But for Christ, no one will suffer loss, or even be content with his present state. For a friend we can readily submit to insults, and undertake quarrels; but for Christ, no one can endure enmity: and the saying is, "Be loved for nothing--but be not hated for nothing."

None of us would fail to relieve a friend who was hungering, but when Christ comes to us from day to day, and asks no great matter, but only bread, we do not even regard him, yea though we are nauseously over full, and swollen with gluttony: though our breath betrays the wine of yesterday, and we live in luxury, and waste our substance on harlots and parasites and flatterers, and even on monsters, idiots, and dwarfs; for men convert the natural defects of such into matter for amusement. Again, friends, that are truly such, we do not envy, nor are mortified at their success, yet we feel this toward (the minister of) [1126] Christ, and our friendship for men is seen to be more powerful than the fear of God, for the envious and the insincere plainly respect men more than God. And how is this? God sees the heart, yet man does not forbear to practice deceit in His sight; yet if the same man were detected in deceit by men, he thinks himself undone, and blushes for shame. And why speak of this? If a friend be in distress, we visit him, and should fear to be condemned, if we deferred it for a little time. But we do not visit Christ, though He die again and again in prison; nay, if we have friends among the faithful, we visit them, not because they are Christians, but because they are our friends. Thus we do nothing from the fear or the love of God, but some things from friendship, some from custom. When we see a friend depart on travel, we weep and are troubled, and if we see his death, we bewail him, though we know that we shall not be long separated, that he will be restored to us at the Resurrection. But though Christ departs from us, or rather we reject Him daily, we do not grieve, nor think it strange, to injure, to offend, to provoke Him by doing what is displeasing to Him; and the fearful thing is not that we do not treat Him as a friend; for I will show that we even treat Him as an enemy. How, do you ask? because "the carnal mind is enmity against God," as Paul has said, and this we always carry about us. And we persecute Christ, when He advances toward us, and comes to our very doors.**


St. John Chrysostom Waxes Paradoxical (Yet Again, sigh...)


1 Timothy 1:12-14:
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

...Having said therefore that "the Gospel was committed to his trust"; lest this should seem to be said from pride, he checks himself at once, adding by way of correction, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." Thus everywhere, we see, he conceals his own merit, and ascribes everything to God, yet so far only, as not to take away free will. For the unbeliever might perhaps say, If everything is of God, and we contribute nothing of ourselves, while He turns us, as if we were mere wood and stone, from wickedness to the love of wisdom, why then did He make Paul such as he was, and not Judas? To remove this objection, mark the prudence of his expression, "Which was committed," he says, "to my trust." This was his own excellence and merit, but not wholly his own; for he says, "I thank Christ Jesus, who enabled me." This is God's part: then his own again, "Because He counted me faithful." Surely because he would be serviceable of his own part.

Thus we see him acknowledge both his own part and that of God, and whilst he ascribes the greater part to the providence of God, he extenuates his own, yet so far only, as we said before, as was consistent with free will. And what is this, "Who enabled me"? I will tell you. He had so heavy a burden to sustain, that he needed much aid from above... This was the effect of no human power, and yet not of Divine influence alone, but of his own resolution also. For that Christ chose him with a foreknowledge of what he would be, is plain from the testimony He bore to him before the commencement of his preaching. "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings." (Acts 9:15.)..."I thank the Lord, who hath enabled me." Observe how he thanks God even for that which was his own part....What then does he mean when he says, "He counted me faithful"? He would give up no right of his Master's: even his own part he ascribed to Him, and assumed nothing to himself, nor claimed for his own the glory which was due to God...


Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm Thankful for People Who Can Express This Stuff


"This inner core of a person has a profundity and a simplicity that is literally beyond words. The core of the soul is not a place upon which to take a stand; nor is it a thing to be grasped. To speak of the core of a person in such terms is very misleading. Our deepest center stretches far beyond what can be conceived in clear and distinct ideas and what can be fully expressed in words. As we grow in our appreciation of this personal center, its presence dawns, alluringly shrouded in mist and mystery. Such mysteriousness does not imply cloudy ambiguity. Rather, within the shifting mists of this inner mysterious realm there can dawn a great quiet and clarity of vision. Allowing ourselves to be led further into this core of self facilitates a wonderful process of simplification. Life's complexities fuse into an undaunted simplicity. A noisy world hushes into a resounding quiet. And a polluted heart is stripped clear and clean. This core of the soul is marked by a simple calm and quiet beyond any cataclysmic storms and brutalizing temper tantrums. This deepest core of soul speaks of the infinite simplicity of God and of love beyond words that, even as you now read, is breathing life within you.

But such a profound depth of personal center can also frighten people in a dizzying vertigo of two types. First, there is the fear of being trapped in a suffocating loneliness. Entering into their deepest center can easily confront people with the potential danger of a loneliness whose suffocating effect just does not seem worth the risk. For these people discovering a greater sense of one's uniqueness seems inevitably to entail ever greater loneliness. Surely, loneliness is unavoidable and can, at times, swamp us in fearsome ways. But the same loneliness, when properly dealt with, can serve to teach the invaluable lesson of how precious our uniqueness is and yet how communitarian our personal identity is. In the core of the soul no deadening loneliness sucks away the breath of our life. Rather in the core of our soul God's creative love is breathing the gift of life into us moment by moment, now, and on into eternity. It is this same creative love, unique to each one of us, that breathes life into each and every person. And so, as we are led ever deeper into the core of our soul, our experience of God and of ourselves becomes ever more profound, personal, and unique. This God-centeredness is not meant to segregate each of us into a lonely solitariness, but rather to root and unite us in the community of the universal human family created in the image of God's Trinity. Finally, we are not, and never can be, alone.

A second fear can be even more frightening. Once we know the potential for evil within ourselves, a question with ominous consequences can stare us to a standstill. What runs deeper within me: goodness or evil? It is easy to become so frightened by a potentially 'evil' answer to my question that either I aggressively shun any deepening of self-discovery or I force and fabricate a 'good' answer that is finally illusory and very unreal. Such a fear often plays itself out in a furious pace of busy distraction and empty activity. But such a fear has often been addressed by God--and with a clarity unmistakable in the revelation of Christ...God reveals that in every human person what runs deepest is the goodness of divine love and forgiveness. There is in each of us a deepest central point where evil cannot reach, and where only the beauty of God's creative love exists in all its uniqueness. Such continuing proclamation in the church can quiet fear and invite an evolving abandonment into our deepest truest self in the love of God that is Christ Jesus...

...Our most profound and personal experience of God, as mentioned earlier, is in the core of our soul. The core's profundity is not given to intensely exhilarating experiences. Because the waters of our core identity run deep beyond words, God's love is not experienced there like the excitement of cresting and breaking waves of emotion. Rather God's love resounds as a presence perduring and endearing. This profundity of God's perduring presence can produce an inner quiet - like the catching of one's breath - behind and beyond all exciting spontaneity and breathless activity.

At our deepest center we are not actually doing or feeling anything. This is the point where we are - where we are in God, and are continually coming to be in the breath of God's loving Spirit. This center of being, this presence does not completely elude conscious grasp. Moments of prayerful reflection, sometimes carefully attuned to our breathing, can reveal a deep inner calm and quiet, that does not have a deadening effect but rather renews and enlivens. This is holy ground. In the holiness of this quiet sanctuary, with an attractiveness beyond imagining, God's love is grasping, laying claim to and identifying each of us in Christ. It is the still point in the ever turning world of our own person and of the whole cosmos."

"A Hidden Self Grown Strong" by George Aschenbrenner, S.J.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Admitting We're Wrong


"'Our capacity to tolerate error,' Gadd said, 'depends on our capacity to tolerate emotion.'...[Virtually] all of [our mistakes] require us to feel something: a wash of dismay, a moment of foolishness, guilt over our dismissive treatment of someone else who turned out to be right... It is the presentiment of these feelings, and the recoil from them, that renders us so defensive in the face of possible error...[O]ur resistance to error is, in no small part, a resistance to being left alone with too few certainties and too many emotions.

...For some people, this experience is essentially unbearable...All of us know people...whose rigidity serves to protect a certain inner fragility, who cannot bend precisely because they are at risk of breaking...

...[In] failing to face up to wrongness...we miss out on the wrongness itself. If the ability to admit that we are wrong depends on the ability to tolerate emotion, it is because being wrong, like grieving or falling in love, is fundamentally an emotional exerience. Such experiences can be agonizing, but the corny truism about them is true: If you haven't experienced them, you haven't fully lived. As with love and loss, so too with error. Sure, it can hurt you, but the only way to protect yourself from that potential is by closing yourself off to new experiences and other people. And to do that is to throw your life out with the bathwater."

BEING WRONG by Kathryn Schulz


Crystal or Iceberg?


...[T]here's ... an unsurmountable difference between the way I understand you and the way I understand myself. I might understand you by analogy to myself, but I cannot understand you as a self. A self, by definition, can only be understood as such from the inside. That understanding isn't necessarily accurate;...self-knowledge, too, can fail us. But it is very different from understanding someone from the outside, which is the only way I can understand other people.

This fundamental difference in perspective has an important practical corollary. Because we know other people only from the outside, we assume they can be known from the outside; we think we can understand people reasonably well based on their words and deeds. At the same time, because we know ourselves from the inside, we think we can only be known from the inside. Each of us lives, day in and day out, with an intricate internal reality: with the fluctuations of our moods, the complexity of our emotions, the ongoing committee meeting in our brain, the things we think but never say out loud. As a consequence, it's easy to feel that no one can grasp our true nature without access to this rich and dynamic inner world.

...It's as if we regard other people as psychological crystals, with everything important refracted to the visible surface, while regarding ourselves as psychological icebergs, with the majority of what matters submerged and invisible.

....[W]e think we can know other people based on criteria we reject for ourselves."

(Footnote: "This assymetry can take a toll on relationships of all sorts. Psychological studies have shown that people in shared living situations generally think they do more chores than their housemates, that people in relationships tend to think they try harder than their partner to resolve conjugal issues, and that each of the colleagues collaborating on a project typically thinks he or she is pulling more weight than everyone else. Granted, sometimes there's a genuine disparity between one person's work and another's. But at least as often, the hour I spent scrubbing the scum from the bathroom tiles (or talking about intimacy issues with my therapist, or drawing up a five-year budget for the project proposal) is just particularly real to me, whereas whatever work you might have done remains an abstraction--at worst unnoticed and at best fleetingly appreciated, but certainly not minutely calibrated in terms of time and energy expended.")

BEING WRONG by Kathryn Schulz


Not the Case


"It is not the case that I am caught in a web of beliefs...Rather, I am caught in a network of witnesses..."

Avishai Margalit


Is This True?


"Could reality come into direct contact with sense and consciousness, could we enter into immediate communion with things and with ourselves, probably art would be useless."



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Proof of God": Excerpts from the novel A CORNER OF THE VEIL by Laurence Cosse


"The government is terribly upset to learn that the proof [of God's existence] is established. And still more to imagine it broadcast. It has put its experts to work to get an idea of what could become of our societies once they're informed of the matter. The predictions are alarming. The first effect would obviously be chaos.

"Our complex, fragile economies will be turned upside down. Dazzled by God, men will have no further reason to keep working to make the machine turn the way it used to. The primacy of economic matters will crumble. Ninety percent of human undertakings will look foolish, meaningless, pathetic. The ad man, the beautician, all the merchants of dreams and escape, will close up shop. The arms merchant all the more so. The only tenable behavior will be more or less what contemplatives do: prayer and frugality. I don't see research in general, and theology in particular, retaining the slightest importance any longer, my dear colleagues. An archaic economy will develop. Suddenly money changers will close down, and stock exchanges throughout the world, and university chairs in international finance, and business schools. Frugality and prayer.

"We've had a hard enough time putting a little order on earth over twenty centuries. And that order will be undermined at the roots! The order of priorities, the scale of importance, the distinction between essential and incidental...The basic values of the model societies here below will come unbolted: values of work, of enrichment/development, of social organization...

"In the longer run, a world dedicated to the good is not a reassuring one. I can understand that the paradox would shock you. But do you really believe that a world of praying people would be liveable?...Mankind hasn't done so badly, with electricity, vaccines, nuclear science--let's admit it, even the atomic bomb. Some rye seed always gets in with the good grain, inextricably, and overall we've come pretty close to a balance. It worked. Why try to unbalance everything?

"The good, the pure good--we know where that leads...The rejection of life and its ambiguity, all its fecund ambiguity...Believe me, this proof is loaded with danger."


"...Within six months, within a year, we have to imagine France as one huge monastery. Everything that today is the motivating force of the advanced liberal societies--the spirit of enterprise, the quest for wealth, the concern for efficiency, the work ethic...briefly, what others might call the every-man-for-himself, the activism, the copycat greed, money as guiding light--at the annoucement that God exists, all of that will no longer seem important to our fellow citizens. God becomes a certainty in our midst. How do we react? We spend all our time on Him. We just about cease to work. We earn much less money, but what does it matter? We no longer yearn to change apartments, go off on vacation, send our children to American business schools. We no longer chase after money. If we do work, it's just enough for what we need to eat and be clothed, to have a roof over our heads. Most of our time we spend meditating, praying. We study Scripture. We succor the poor, we comfort the lonely. We gaze on nature. We feel we're opening our eyes for the first time. We breathe."

...What about me, Marasquin was thinking, what becomes of me in this whole thing?

What will I have left in the scuffle? Torin wondered.

I go under in this shitheap, Dupont had already decided....

...Beloeil went on..."We can predict that the effect will be inversely proportional to the social weight of the individual. And for this paradoxical reason that in our society, the indispensable tasks are the ones least respected these days, while prestige attaches to all sorts of useless activities.

"I'll explain myself. The garbage collector, the shoemaker, the truck farmer, all the little people we can't do without, will lead more or less the same lives as before. Like everyone else, they will render unto the Creator the best portion, but their social positions won't suffer; on the contrary. Their work will be more necessary than ever. They always earned three cents, they'll still be earning three cents, but now nobody will expect to earn any more than that.

"The same cannot be said of the big shots of the world. What will become of the sports gods when the spirit of competition has disappeared? The automobile racers? The fashion models? The champagne heirs? The hosts of television shows that nobody will be watching?...The tranquilizer manufacturers? The directors of marketing...?

..."Everything in our lives that was not in the service of God and His splendor will fall away like dead skin...After which we shall disappear into the anonymity of the Good..."


Monday, November 8, 2010




Your immensity is something you keep
under lock and key because it is terrifying to you.
At night your immensity wakes you up,

banging its metal cup against the bars
of the cage where you keep it. Your immensity
wears seven-light-year boots and can cross

between stars with a single stride. Your immensity
can look at a table or a refrigerator or a window
and see each separate particle that makes it up.

Your immensity's head is the size of the rolling earth,
and its dreams boil like magma inside of a skull of rock.
From time to time an island in the Pacific erupts

and you know a terrifying clarity, terrifying because
it does not last, cannot help you in the everyday
routine where you exist without your immensity,

because you don't know what to do with it,
how to take it out in public, how to teach it
to work with you in the world

rather than turning you into a fool with glazed,
vacant eyes. So you make your immensity wait
until you're ready for it, until you're done

with the world, until you're ready
to leave behind the beloved things
that your immensity dwarfs.

~Dave Awl


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Too funny, too true




Saturday, October 16, 2010

Candied Bacon

Makes 10 strips

½ pound bacon (10 strips)
¼ cup sugar
Dash ground cinnamon (optional, to taste)
Pinch ground coriander (optional, to taste)
Pinch ground chile powder (optional, to taste)

If using spices, stir them into the sugar and mix evenly.
Lay the bacon in one tight layer in the heaviest, widest skillet you have, and set it over medium heat. If you can't fit all the bacon at once, do this in multiple batches. Cook the bacon, flipping after a few minutes, until it's nicely shrunk, starting to brown, but still pliable, about 6 minutes in the pan. (If you want to make a whole bunch, do it in the oven: Lay the bacon out, again in one layer, on a rimmed, parchment-lined sheet tray and bake in a preheated 350 oven. Check on the bacon in about 20 minutes.) When ready, pour off the fat, saving it for other, delicious uses, and let the bacon drain on paper towels.
If you plan on serving the pieces in half, cutting them now is a good idea, and it will probably let you fit more pieces in the pan at once. Set the skillet back on medium heat with as much bacon as it will take in one layer. (Sorry, bakers; you'll really want to do the candying step on the stove so you can keep an eye on the sugar.) Sprinkle the sugar over the bacon, remembering to save some if you're doing this in multiple batches, and let it cook until the sugar melts. At this point, turn the heat down to medium-low and keep a close eye on it, making sure it doesn't get too dark and burn. With tongs, swish the bacon around so that it's entirely coated in the molten sugar. When the bacon looks dark and shiny, and the sugar has taken on a light brown color of its own, remove the bacon to a plate or a cutting board to cool. Make sure you give them some room so they don't stick to one another, and DON'T PUT IT ON PAPER TOWELS. Trying to rip the stuck bits of paper towel of candied bacon is more impossible than trying to de-toilet-paper your tree. Once it's cool, trick or treat!

Note: Candied bacon can be stored out of the fridge in an airtight container for a day, but will lose its crispness. If you want, you can precook the bacon and refrigerate it, and then candy it with the sugar the day you want to serve it.


Friday, October 15, 2010


"Chronology cannot contain the event of resurrection as paper cannot contain fire. The New Testament does not describe how Jesus was raised. The resurrection of Jesus Christ must be a new experience for time!...Time must stop, for it does not know how to behave at this great mystery...The risen Lord means, then, the coming of the new time, the new order, the new covenant, and the new humanity. The risen mind is the mind...captivated by the presence of the new quality of time within this history of ours. It is, then, an extremely unusual mind which sees time in the light of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. It is the mind of faith. It works with the discernment of faith and sees what is not visible and believes what is impossible."

Kosuke Koyama, No Handle on the Cross


"He did not know how to carry it, yet he carried it..."

"In following him, why is the outward sign and inner mind to be a cross? Why not a lunch box?...How about...[a] ...'caloried-salaried, international, technological, carefully-packed lunch-box' for the sake of Jesus Christ? It is an attractively shaped box with a neat handle for carrying. It is not heavy. How psychologically and physcially strengthening to carry such a lovely and substantial lunch-box...we can whistle and light-footedly follow Jesus 'from victory unto victory.' The lunch-box symbolizes our resourcefulness, spiritual and mental energy, high-powered substantial theology, good honest thinking, careful (international and technological) planning and sacred commitment to our faith. Why not, then, '...let him prepare himself and take up his lunch-box and follow me.../? We can be and will remain energetic and resourceful. If necessary, we can even walk ahead of Jesus instead of 'follow him.'

The contrast is between the cross and the lunch-box; an extremely inconvenient thing to carry ('without a handle') and an extremely convenient thing to carry ('with a handle'); an ugly thing to carry and an attractive thing to carry; slow movement and fast movement; inefficiency and efficiency; insecurity and security; heavy-footedness and light-footedness; pain and glory; self-denial and self-asssertion.

...Theology that puts a handle to the power of God is no longer a theology but a demonic theological ideology. Theology must refuse to 'handle' the saving power of God. It tries to speak about it. It tries to sing 'Magnificat' about it. It meditates about it. But it does not 'handle' it as we handle our car and washing machine. Theology, then, must not 'handle' people either.

The technological mind is, in short, 'handle-minded,'while the theological mind is 'non-handle-minded.'...

...In the Bible, the cross does not have a 'handle.' Let me emphasize that for me the image of Jesus carrying over his shoulders the intolerable weight of the bulky cross--he did not know how to carry it, yet he carried it 'without a handle'--is the primary image for the understanding and explication of the Christian truth..."

Kosuke Koyama, No Handle on the Cross


Thursday, October 14, 2010


--"Time flows away without my pushing it. A coffee cup will not go away unless I push it. An oxcart will stay unless the ox pulls it. A jumbo jet will not fly until the powerful engines propel it. But time slips away without the aid of anyone or anything. How strange! Time makes me feel as though I were not important. How important I feel when I push something or someone....The more one pushes the more one feels important...

But time humiliates me. It limits me. I cannot push it. Time pushes me. I say innocently that 'time flows.' Actually it may be I that am flowing. If then, I flow, I hope to flow with time and in time. It would be intolerably lonely to be outside of time. Timelessness would be homelessness. I don't want to be orphaned by time. When I think about time I have no other choice than to be humbled..."

--"In the wilderness our speed is slowed down until gradually we come to the speed [at] which we walk--three miles an hour....

I find that God goes 'slowly' in his educational process of man. 'Forty years in the wilderness' points to his basic educational philosophy. Forty years of national migration through the wilderness, three generations of the united monarchy..., nineteen kings of Israel and twenty kings of Judah..., the hosts of the prophets and priests, the experience of exile and restoration--isn't this rather a slow and costly way for God to let his people know the covenant relationship between God and man?

Jesus Christ came. He walked toward the 'full stop.' He lost his mobility. He was nailed down! He is not even at three miles an hour as we walk. He is not moving. 'Full stop'! What can be slower than 'full stop'--'nailed down'? At this point of 'full stop,' the apostolic church proclaims that the love of God to man is ultimately and fully revealed. God walks 'slowly' because he is love. If he is not love he would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is 'slow' yet it is lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, whether we are currently hit by storm or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks."

Kosuke Koyama, Three Mile an Hour God


Monday, October 4, 2010

"Love your enemies"


"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who hurt you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
Matthew 5:44

So...basically, it should be an incredible and royal privilege to be our enemy--to hate us should guarantee all kinds of blessings and heartfelt prayers!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

"Death Is the Mother of Beauty"

Or so said Wallace Stevens, famously, and it's true that the phenomenon, the fact, of death is awe-inspiring, that death possesses (in the collective imagination) a panoply, an array, a glory, giving off a compelling, weirdly dark energy that can be mistaken for illumination. It's also true that, as in Steven's poem, we can actually find ourselves energized by our awareness of finitude, sucking from it a kind of bittersweet, anticipatory nostalgia. Perhaps that's why so many artists and writers have aestheticized/eroticized death; Edgar Allen Poe, for example, claimed that "the death . . . of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world," and David Lynch must have at least to some extent shared the sentiment, as in the photo above, from the "Twin Peaks" television series.

But just now, I found this, from an essay by Christian Wiman:

"Death is the mother of beauty" is a phrase that could only have been written by a man for whom death was an abstraction, a vaguely pleasant abstraction at that. That's not really a critique of Stevens's "Sunday Morning," one of the greatest poems of the twentieth century. Death is an abstraction for all of us, until it isn't. But for the person whose death is imminent and inescapable, nothing is more offensive, useless, or wrongheaded than phrases like "Death is the mother of beauty." http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news/bulletin_mag/articles/35-1_wiman.html

Last night at vespers, we sang:

By Thy burial Thou didst mortify the majesty of death...
O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory to Thee!

Death in itself is neither beautiful nor the mother of beauty, and it is not an abstraction, as each of us will personally discover in the very cells of our own flesh.

Instead, the humble, non-abstract death of Jesus, inextricable from His resurrection, is the mother of beauty, and our only Light.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

God: Not "Real"?

Apparently, God is not "real" in the sense of belonging to (being inside of) a category of reality along with other "real" objects such as tables, chairs, waterfalls, humans, etc.

Instead, God is the source of reality.

Or something like that?


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Silence as treatment/cure re. unbelief, part 2

...I think of this not as punishment but as a kind of time-out.

And I think of it not in an external way, as with Zacharius, but internally, allowing oneself to disengage from the (all-too-familiar!) inner chatter, speculation, self-argument, calculation, etc. (Everyone has his or her own "signature style" of this chatter of unbelief.)

To leave room for surprise, for something new, that the wilderness may give glory.


Silence as treatment/cure re. unbelief!

We sang this last night:

As the godly Zachariah sacrificed within the holy Temple
and offered up the petitions of the people
to the Benefactor and all-merciful One,
he beheld the holy Angel who cried to him:
“Your prayer and supplication have been heard.
Take courage, O priest, and believe in me,

for you will have a child, the holy Forerunner,
who will be greater than all those born of women!
Greater than Elijah in power, he will go before Christ.”

“You appear strange to me in sight and manner,” Zachariah replied;
“strange in words and in report.
For I have come to ask the salvation of the people
and not to acquire a child, as you proclaim.
I find you opposed to their request
and fear you do not tell the truth.
How will what you say be confirmed?
For Elizabeth is barren and, as you can see, I am already an elderly man.

“Why do you not believe my words, O Zachariah?
Why do you say I bear false tidings?
As an Archangel of God I now stand with you
and tell you what I have been commanded to say.
But since you have doubted and have not believed, you will be dumb and
until you behold the divine fulfillment of my words.
When Elizabeth has borne the Voice and great Forerunner of the Word,
your tongue will be loosened and you will bless the God of Israel.”

Today the fruit of prayer buds forth from a barren womb:
John the Forerunner.
O wilderness, give glory!
Dance, all people!
Behold, the herald of repentance begins to take flesh in his mother's womb!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Secret Love: Stanza from John Clare Poem


I hid my love in field and town
Till e'en the breeze would knock me down;
The bees seemed singing ballads o'er,
The fly's bass turned a lion's roar;
And even silence found a tongue,
To haunt me all the summer long;
The riddle nature could not prove
Was nothing else but secret love.

This seems to suggest that the more you internalize, protect something (from the world's eyes), the more powerful it grows within you, and the more it transforms you...


Sunday, September 5, 2010

To Be Alive


To be alive

To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That's crudely put, but…
If we're not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?

Gregory Orr


Friday, September 3, 2010

The Most Important Sermon I've Ever Come Across (not that I live up to it!)

"Waste" by Watchman Nee

Reading: (Mark 14:3-9 NAS) "And while He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? "For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. "For the poor you always have with you, and whenever you wish, you can do them good; but you do not always have Me. "She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. "And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, that also which this woman has done shall be spoken of in memory of her.""

The Lord has ordained that the story of Mary anointing Him with the costly ointment should always accompany the preaching of the gospel. We know the story well. Judging by the story in connection with her brother's resurrection, we know that the family was not an especially wealthy one. The sisters had to work in the house themselves, and one of them, Mary, had an alabaster box with three hundred pence worth of ointment in it, and with a stroke she broke it and poured the whole of that costly nard upon the head of the Lord. According to human reasoning it was altogether too much, even for the Lord. That is why Judas took the lead with the other disciples in thinking that Mary was wasting something (John 12:4-5).

Now we come to the word which the Lord wants to emphasize at this time, the word waste. What is waste? Waste simply means giving too much. If a shilling will do and you give a pound, it is waste. If two ounces will do and you give a kilogram, it is a waste. A waste means that you give something too much for something too little. A waste means that the one who is receiving the something is not worth so much. Yet we are dealing here with something the Lord said was to go out with the gospel, wherever the gospel should be preached. With the preaching of the gospel the Lord is out to have a result that corresponds with Mary's action here: that is, for people to come out and "waste" themselves on Him. That is what He is after.

Now we must look at the question from two angles, that of Judas, and that of the other disciple. They all thought it to be a waste. To Judas, who had never called our Lord the Lord, everything that was poured upon Him was waste. Even water would have been waste. To the world, the service of the Lord, and our giving of ourselves to Him is pure waste. "Such and such a man would have made good in the world if he were not a Christian," is a sentiment that is frequently expressed. For anyone with natural talents to be a Christian, to serve the Lord, is deemed to be pure waste.

So thought Judas, "We could manage better with the money; we could give it to charity; we could do some social service, we could help people in a more practical way. Why pour it down at the feet of Jesus? As to yourself, can you not find a better employment of your life?" That is what Judas was thinking, and that is what the world is thinking. It is too much to give yourself to the Lord! But no! When once our eyes have been opened to the worth of the Lord, nothing is too good for Him.

But it is upon the reaction of the other disciples that I want most to dwell; for they affect us more than does Judas. We do not mind very much what the world is saying, but we do mind what those other disciples are saying who ought to have understood, yet did not. We mark that they said the same thing as Judas; and not only so, but they were moved to indignation, saying, "To what purpose is this waste...?"

Now here is the whole question of waste, and of what the Lord is after. Today, even amongst Christians, there can be found much of that spirit that wants to give as little as possible to the Lord, and yet to get as much as possible from Him. The prevailing thought today is of being used, as though that were the one thing that mattered. That my little rubber band should be stretched to the very limit seems all important. But this is not the Lord's mind. The Lord wants us to be used, yes; but what He is after is that we pour all we have, ourselves, to Him, and if that be all, that is enough. It is not a question of whether the poor have been helped or not, but of whether the Lord has been satisfied. The question is not one of working for Him, my friends, but of service to Him, of ministering to the Lord. That is what He is after; that I should give Him my all, even though people should say, 'You are doing nothing!' My service to the Lord is to please Him. There is many a meeting we might take, many a convention at which we might speak, many a campaign in which we might share, but this is not the first consideration. That my usefulness should be brought to the full is not what the Lord is after, but His concern is rather with my position at His feet and my anointing of His head. What I have as an alabaster box, the most precious thing, my whole life. I give it all up to the Lord. It seems as if it is a waste, but that is what He is after.

May I tell you something? One thing some of us have come to learn is that in the divine service the principle of "waste" is the principle of power, whereas the principle of "usefulness" is the very principle of scattering. The real usefulness in the hand of the Lord is "waste." The more you think you could do, the more you employ your gifts to the very limit--and perhaps beyond the limit--that you will find to be the principle of the world, and not the principle of the Lord. I knew a sister in the Lord, now in His presence, who was very greatly used of Him. But my first concern about her was that she did not seem to be being used. Every time I said to myself. Why did she not get out and take some meetings, get somewhere, do something? It was a waste to live in a small village without anything happening. Sometimes when I went to see her, I almost shouted at her: "No one knows the Lord as you do. You know the Book in a most living way. Do you not see the need all around you? Why don't you do something? It is a waste of time, a waste of energy, a waste of money, a waste of everything, just sitting here and doing nothing!" But she was the one who helped me most of all., The highest thing is not just to be moving about. I do not mean to say that we are going to do nothing, but the first thing is the Lord Himself, not the work. That is what He is after.

So the Lord said, "Why trouble ye her? She has wrought a good work as to Me. The poor you will always have, but you cannot always have Me." The whole point is, What am I going to do to the Lord today? Did those other women who came with their spices to the tomb succeed in anointing the Lord's body? No! He was risen. Only one succeeded, Mary, who anointed Him beforehand. It seems as if man will say I am wasting my time--but Lord, nothing is too good for Thee! He is worthy to be served. He is worthy for me just to be His prisoner. He is worthy for me just to live for Him. Let others say what they will. Have our eyes been opened to see that working for the poor, working for the benefit of the world, working for the eternal welfare of the sinner, as things in themselves, are not to be compared with the work we do to the Lord, with our being just for Him. What is your estimate of the Lord?

Then the Lord said, "She hath done what she could." It means that Mary had given her all. That was all she could do, no more; and she did it. The Lord will not be satisfied with anything less. The whole point is a life really laid down at the feet of the Lord, and that in view of His death, His burial; that is, in view of a future day. Then it was His burial, now it is His crowning day that is in view. He will be acclaimed by all in that day, but how precious, far more precious to Him it is that we should anoint Him now; not with any material oil, but with that which is deepest and, maybe, hard for us to break. The Lord get anointing from us today!

Further, the Lord said, "Wherever the gospel shall be preached, this story shall be told." Why? Because the gospel is meant to produce this. The gospel is not primarily for the satisfaction of sinners. The gospel is preached that everything may be to the satisfaction of the Son of God. Not to sinners first of all, though, praise God, sinners will be satisfied. But supremely it is Christ who must find satisfaction through its preaching.

Once more let me repeat. The whole question for us is simply this: It seems that I am giving too much for too little. That is waste. Others appear to far better advantage than I, though they have given up none of the things that I have. As for me, I seem to meet with all the difficulties. Continual trial and suffering is what comes my way. Now, am I not wasting my time? If I consecrate myself enough for the blessing, but not enough for the trouble; if I consecrate myself enough for the Lord to use me, but not enough for the Lord to shut me up, it will be all right! Are we not found thinking thus at times? But the principle of waste is that which satisfies the heart of the Lord Jesus. You can get something for yourself out of your consecration, but often real satisfaction can only come to the heart of your Lord when you seem to be "wasting" yourself on the Lord, giving too much and getting nothing back for yourself.

O friends, what are we after? Are we after mere usefulness, as those disciples were? They wanted to make every penny of that three hundred pence go to its full length. They wanted to be used themselves. If only we can please Him, surely that should be enough.

Now the breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the odor, with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness. The odor which filled the house that day still fills the Church; Mary's fragrance never passes away.

Friends, we cannot produce impressions of God upon others, impart the sense of the presence of God, without the breaking of everything, even the most precious things, at the feet of the Lord Jesus. The Lord would have us here, not first of all to preach or to do work for Him, but to create hunger in others. No true work will begin in any life apart from a sense of need. We cannot inject that into others, we cannot drive people to be hungry for God. Such hunger can be created only by those whose lives convey vital impressions of Him.

Oh, to be wasted! It is a blessed thing to be wasted for the Lord. So many of us who have been prominent in the Christian world know nothing of this. Many of us have been used to the full--have been used, I would say, too much--but we do know what it means to be wasted on God. We like to be always "on the go": the Lord would sometimes prefer to have us in prison. We think in terms of apostolic journeys: God dares to put His greatest ambassadors in chains. "But thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savor of his knowledge in every place" (2 Corinthians 2:14).


Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Secular" sources from which I've found inspiration about the "spiritual" life: part 2


From Bert Dodson's Keys to Drawing:

There is a scene in an old Western film in which Danny Kaye, as the hero, is challenged by a dangerous gunslinger to a shootout in the street. As he walks toward the saloon door and into that street, well-meaning friends give him advice on his best chances of surviving. "The sun's in the west so keep him to the east," says one old-timer. "He stands up tall, so squat down low," says another. Someone else advises, "He shoots from his right, so lean to the left." Kaye desperately tries to remember these tips, but by the time he reaches the swinging doors, he's hopelessly confused, and we hear him muttering, "The sun's up tall, so lean to the west...he squats to his left, so shoot down low...he's east of his right so shoot at what's left..."

Drawing, if approached as a set of instructions that must be remembered, can make us react very much like Danny Kaye in the scene above. No one I know draws that way because it is difficult to keep such a jumble of instructions in mind while drawing. Simply remember that there are many keys to drawing...With use they will be absorbed into your own system of drawing. We cannot bring to bear all our knowledge at once. What we can do is concentrate on our subject and trust our eyes.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How Not To Be

"Secular" sources from which I've found inspiration about the "spiritual" life: part 1


(This is pretty long, so I've bolded the parts that cut to the heart of the matter, for easy skimming.)

From David Mamet's True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor:

My philosophical bent and thirty years' experience inform me that nothing in the world is less interesting than an actor on the stage involved in his or her own emotions. The very act of striving to create an emotional state takes one out of the play. It is the ultimate self-consciousness, and though it may be self-consciousness in the service of an ideal, it is not less boring for that.

The actor on the stage, looking for or striving to create a "state" in himself can think only of one of two things: (a) I have not reached the required state yet; I am deficient and must try harder; or (b) I have reached the required state, how proficient I am! (at which point the mind, ever jealous of its preogatives,will reduce the actor to (a).

Both (a) and (b) take the actor right out of the play. For the mind cannot be forced. It can be suggested, but it cannot be forced. An actor onstage can no more act upon the order "Be happy" than she can act upon the order "Do not think of a hippopotamus."

Our emotional-psychological makeup is such that our only response to an order to think or feel anything is rebellion. Think of the times someone suggested that you "cheer up," of the perfect young person your friends wanted to fix you up with, of the director who suggested you "relax." ...If one were truly able to command one's conscious thoughts, to summon emotion at will, there would be no neurosis, no psychosis, no psychoanalysis, no sadness.

...The skill of acting is finally a physical skill; it is not a mental exercise, and has nothing whatever to do with the ability to pass a test.

The skill of acting is not the paint-by-numbers ability to amalgamate emotional oases--to string them like pearls into a performance (the Method). Nor is it the mastery of syntax (the academic public speaking model). The skill of acting is like the skill of sport, which is a physical event. And like that endeavor, its difficulty consists to a large extent in being much simpler than it seems. Like sports, the study of acting consists in the main of getting out of ones' own way, and in learning to deal with uncertainty and being comfortable being uncomfortable....

The opportunity for bravery is always there--it is always in the play itself.

Let me explain. The actor says to himself, "I can't play this scene because I am unprepared; I can't play it because I don't like the other actor, who is a swine; I feel that the moment is wrong as the director has interpreted it; I feels this flies in the face of my preparation; the script isn't as good as I thought it was," and so on.

All of these feelings are engendered by the script and they are always and only engendered by the script...and all our excuses, all those supposed "impediments" to acting are, if we listen closely, merely the play asserting itself. The actor creates excuses not to act and attributes her reluctance to everything in the world except the actual cause. The play itself has brought her to life in ways she had not foreseen, and she doesn't like it one small bit... ..Acting...requires not tidiness, not paint-by-numbers intellectuality, but immediacy and courage...

In life there is no emotional preparation for loss, grief, surprise, betrayal, discovery; and there is none onstage either....

...When the performance is made truthful, the work of the writer is made something more than words on the page, not by the inventiveness but by the courage of the actor. Yes, it might seem like a good, and might seem like an attractive idea to embellish--it's your job to resist that attractive idea...Invent nothing. Deny nothing. Develop that hard habit.

...The addition of "emotion" to a situation which does not organically create it is a lie. First of all, it is not emotion. It is a counterfeit of emotion, and it is cheap...The greatest performances are seldom noticed. Why? Because they do not draw attention to themselve, and do not seek to--like any real heroism, they are simple and unassuming, and seem to be a natural and inevitable outgrowth of the actor.

...Any system built on belief functions through the operations of guilt and hypocrisy. Such a system, whether of acting training, meditation, self-improvement, etc., functions as a pseudo-religion...The system holds itself out as the alleviator, cleanser, and redeemer of the guilty individual.

Now, none of us is free of self-doubt, and none of is free of guilt. We all have thoughts, feelings, episdoes, and tendencies which we would rather did not exist.

...Curiously, the state these systems profess to cure--anxiety, guilt, nervousness, self-consciousness, ambivalence--is the human condition...and, coincidentally, the stuff of art....

You went into the theatre to get an explanation. That is why everyone goes into the theatre...Your fear, your self-doubt, your vast confusion (you are facing an ancient mystery--drama--of course you're confused) do not mar you.

...Respect for the audience is the foundation of all legitimate actor training--speak up, speak clearly, open yourself out, relax your body, find a simple objective....The actor before the curtain, the soldier going into combat, the fighter into the arena, the athlete before the event, may have feelings of self-doubt, fear, or panic. These feelings will or will not appear, and no amount of "work on the self" can eradicate them.

The rational individual will, when the bell rings, go out there anyway to do the job she said she was going to do. This is called courage.

...Acting, like any art, can be learned, finally, only in the arena.

One can read all one wants, and spend eternity in front of a blackboard with a tutor, but one is not going to learn to swim until one gets in the water--at which point the only "theory" which is going to be useful is that which keeps one's head up. Just so with acting...

...Acting is a physical art. It is close to the study of dance or of singing. It is not like the study of mechanical drawing or literature....

Let the politicians have their fixed smiles and their crocodile tears, let them be the unabashed promoters of their own capacity to feel. Let us be circumspect and say the words as simply as possible, in an attempt to accomplish a goal like that delineated by the author--and then both our successes and our failures can have dignity.


Saturday, August 21, 2010



Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time

And so I think it is with you.
your ideas mature gradually-let them grow
let them shape themselves, without undue hast.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.



Monday, August 16, 2010

It Might Be Harder


It might be harder to suffer WITH someone than to merely
suffer instead of that person.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Max Picard's Mythopoetic Vision of How We "Wound the Invisible"


"Formerly it was commonly known that the space about men and things, that is to say, the atmosphere, was to be respected. One moved carefully, as if afraid to wound the invisible. Man threaded his way between men and things, he did not break into them. One moved slowly, for one was broad and heavily laden with the invisible. Now, however, the space about men and things is destroyed. Man himself destroyed this space. Man wishes to be everywhere quickly and wants to put everything everywhere. That is why he drove the invisible away,--it is too much in the way for a man in a hurry.

But now, when man has emptied space of the invisible, it seems as if space were drawing him into the emptiness; it seems as if no automobile or airship can ever be fast enough to save him from being drawn into the emptiness...

....That is why the men of today are so easily annoyed by each other: it is the atmosphere that they lack, the atmosphere which served to keep men apart, and prevented them from bumping into each other. A man moves into another's atmosphere and that person is not only annoyed, he is also confused. And most important: when the invisible is destroyed, the visible too diminishes gradually. The powers of the invisible cease to flow into that man and that is why he becomes thinner and less concentrated. He may remain as before, his contours may not change, but within his contours he has diminished in substance, and gradually he becomes an incorporeal imitation of himself..."

Picard, The Human Face


Wednesday, August 11, 2010



"...God, Who 'is a jealous God,' will not settle for a mere portion of our heart...

The great tragedy of our time lies in the fact that we live, speak, think, and even pray to God, outside our heart, outside our Father's house. And truly our Father's house is our heart, the place where the 'spirit of glory and of God; would find repose, that Christ 'may be formed in us.'"

Archimandrite Zacharias, The Hidden Man of the Heart


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Transfiguration Poem

By Edward Muir:

The Transfiguration

So from the ground we felt that virtue branch
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists
As fresh and pure as water from a well,
Our hands made new to handle holy things,
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed
Till earth and light and water entering there
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world.
We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness,
But that even they, though sour and travel stained,
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance,
And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined
As in a morning field. Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere
And nowhere? Was the change in us alone,
And the enormous earth still left forlorn,
An exile or a prisoner? Yet the world
We saw that day made this unreal, for all
Was in its place. The painted animals
Assembled there in gentle congregations,
Or sought apart their leafy oratories,
Or walked in peace, the wild and tame together,
As if, also for them, the day had come.
The shepherds’ hovels shone, for underneath
The soot we saw the stone clean at the heart
As on the starting-day. The refuse heaps
Were grained with that fine dust that made the world;
For he had said, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’
And when we went into the town, he with us,
The lurkers under doorways, murderers,
With rags tied round their feet for silence, came
Out of themselves to us and were with us,
And those who hide within the labyrinth
Of their own loneliness and greatness came,
And those entangled in their own devices,
The silent and the garrulous liars, all
Stepped out of their dungeons and were free.
Reality or vision, this we have seen.
If it had lasted but another moment
It might have held forever! But the world
Rolled back into its place, and we are here,
And all that radiant kingdom lies forlorn,
As if it had never stirred; no human voice
Is heard among its meadows, but it speaks
To itself alone, alone it flowers and shines
And blossoms for itself while time runs on.
But he will come again, it’s said, though not
Unwanted, unsummoned; for all things,
Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas,
And all mankind from end to end of the earth
Will call him with one voice. In our own time,
Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.
Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled -
Glad to be so – and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner or young Eden,
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
>From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done.


I wonder how/if this correlates with liturgy at all


From an announcement by the International Council of Kinetography Laban/Labanotation

Observing and experiencing stillness in dance choreography
by Oona Haaranen, Finland/USA

Paper and workshop presentation

This paper and workshop utilizes Labanotated dance scores and motif writing as a way to observe and analyze stillness and to explain the varied uses of stillness as they appear and disappear in two twentieth century choreographer’s works: George Balanchine’s Tarantella’s solo and Anna Sokolow’s Rooms, Escape solo. Sokolow’s use of stillness is in sharp contrast to Balanchine’s. Escape spends 8.16 percent in total stillness, while Tarantella’s use of total stillness is 2.09 percent. Tarantella utilizes partial stillness for 41.66 percent of its length and Escape uses partial stillness for 63.13 percent. The only similarities in both works are that the amount of total stillness is greater during partial stillness and total stillness is smaller when it abruptly takes place inside a traveling sequence. In Sokolow’s Escape, solo, stillness is primarily used as subtext with internal focus while in Balanchine’s Tarantella solo, stillness is postural in nature and is mainly used as punctuation.

Below are the concepts of stillness that will be explored, discovered and further defined through creative movement study:

1. Total stillness:complete absence of movement
2.Partial stillness: a) Partial stillness in space
b) Partial stillness in the body

Oona Haaranen, BFA Juilliard, MA in Dance Research and Reconstruction from The City College of New York. Oona was born in Finland where she first studied dance and music. She danced with the Finnish National Theater and Helsinki City Theater, working with Jorma Uotinen among others. In 1992 Ms. Haaranen brought her vision of dance to the creation of her own company, The Oona Haaranen Dance Company, NYC. Since 1990, she has belonged to the dance faculties of The New York City College, St. Joseph’s College and New York University. Ms. Haaranen is currently the Education Director Consultant for Brooklyn Ballet.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

"The Present Is Always Coming Up to Us, Surrounding Us"


Beginning with a Phrase from Simone Weil

There is no better time than the present when we have
lost everything. It doesn't mean rain falling
at a certain declension, at a variable speed is without
purpose or design.
The present everything is lost in time, according to laws
of physics things shift
when we lose sight of a present,
when there is no more everything. No more presence in
everything loved.

In the expanding model things slowly drift and every-
thing better than the present is lost in no time.
A day mulches according to gravity
and the sow bug marches. Gone, the hinge cracks, the
gate swings a breeze,
breeze contingent upon a grace opening to air,
velocity tied to winging clay. Every anything in its
peculiar station.

The sun brightens as it bleaches, fades the spectral value
in everything seen. And chaos is no better model
when we come adrift.
When we have lost a presence when there is no more
everything. No more presence in everything loved
losing anything to the present. I heard a fly buzz. I heard
revealed nature,
cars in the street and the garbage, footprints of a world,
every fly a perpetual window,
unalloyed life, gling, pinnacles of tar.

There is no better everything than loss when we have
time. No lack in the present better than everything.
In this expanding model rain falls
according to laws of physics, things drift. And every-
thing better than the present is gone
in no time. A certain declension, a variable speed.
Is there no better presence than loss?
A grace opening to air.
No better time than the present.

—Peter Gizzi


Tous Les Matins du Monde

Goodness is hard on the body,
a distracted mind unable to doze in fitful sleep.
The dove rattles the mind into thinking
it has a body of thought--complete
& symbolic--the gray feathers perched
outside the pale cut square of silver.
Say then, we belong to that window,
that warble, and suddenly we belong too,
the silver car in the yard, even a tiny silver hammer.
All vehicles of travel
disclose the mind's need to wonder in perfect forms.
Even if the skiffsman don't come to this bed
to rock me to sleep--to wander the tired stones again
and worn teeth we remember to hold onto a world
for this life might not take us the whole way.
That shape of an idea, the concept, or donnée
travels farther than the instrument can register.
The spindle whirs beyond its order.
Something must be moving at incredible speed.
With pure speed I address you, reality.

Peter Gizzi


In Defense of Nothing

I guess these trailers lined up in the lot off the highway will do.
I guess that crooked eucalyptus tree also.
I guess this highway will have to do and the cars

and the people in them on their way.
The present is always coming up to us, surrounding us.
It's hard to imagine atoms, hard to imagine

hydrogen & oxygen binding, it'll have to do.
This sky with the macular clouds also

and that electric tower to the left, one line broken free.

Peter Gizzi


"David Considers His Music" by Tania Runyan


David Considers His Music

There is nothing too wonderful about it.
I pick it up, I play.
Is that not the life of a harp?

I cannot tell why people change
with these notes. Widows lift their tambourines,
children drop their rocks and stare.
Even the sheep look up from the field
as if they know more than they should.
I think I could turn over a rock
and watch the lichen pulse with each arpeggio.

It is ordinary to be amazing.
I don’t try to do anything else.

At times I see the music play before me.
Deep chords become these violet mountains,
heaving from the ground like muscles.
A slow crescendo, the green power of a wave
washing over me, the elation of being small, being lost.

I like to play because I lose my place.
I play yet don’t make anything happen.
I lift the harp as easily as grass sprouts around my ankles,
as olive leaves tumble down my back.

I believe I can carry a violet mountain
on my back. This is not amazing.

You see, I can only laugh when children stare
with wonder. I can’t help the fingertips
that weave my soul around the strings.
There is something that keeps me awake
at the most beautiful hour, the black sky with light
pressing behind it. I cannot stop leaning over
the verge of possibility.

I think my song will fall through the decades
like a muscle of water. I think it will splash
children, widows and rocks. I think I will weave
my soul around the world. Thank you, Lord,
that I will have nothing to do with it,
that I will do it all.



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Am Vast, I Contain Multitudes, Etc.


"A man who still has the substance of silence within himself does not need to be always watching the movements of his inmost being, does not need to order everything, since much is ordered without his conscious knowledge by the power of the substance of silence, which can modify the contradictions at war within. Such a man may possess qualities that are incompatible and yet avoid a crisis, for there is room for contradictions within the substance of silence."

Max Picard, The World of Silence


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ontologically Conservative in an Annoying Way

All those children's books about young trains with personal agency...I think they are weirdly didactic, with a bias toward the status quo.

The little engines always end up learning this single lesson: Don't experiment! Stay on the tracks! Try nothing new!



Friday, July 9, 2010

Too Much God


A bird lives in the forest, and does not see the forest. A fish swims in the water, and does not see the water. A mole lives in the earth, and does not see the earth. In truth, the similarity of man to birds, fish, and moles is exceedingly sad.

People, like animals, do not pay attention to what exists in excessive abundance, but only open their eyes before what is rare or exceptional.

There is too much of You, O Lord, my breath, therefore people do not see You. You are too obvious, O Lord, my sighing, therefore the attention of people is diverted from You and directed toward polar bears, toward rarities in the distance.

You serve Your servants too much, my sweet faithfulness, therefore You are subjected to scorn. You rise to kindle the sun over the lake too early, therefore sleepyheads cannot bear You. You are too zealous in lighting the vigil lamps in the firmament at night, my unsurpassed zeal, and the lazy heart of people talks more about an indolent servant than about zeal.

from Prayers by the Lake --Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

About the Cartoon (Previous Posting)


The cartoon is wonderful in itself. But it also makes me think about Eucharist--how there's only one Eucharist, and we all participate in it, in our varied centuries and settings. It's vertigo-inciting, don't you think?


Saturday, July 3, 2010

C.S. Lewis on the Mystery of Schism


from his correspondence with Fr. Giovanni Calabria:

That the whole cause of schism lies in sin I do not hold to be certain. I grant that no schism is without sin but the one proposition doees not necessarily follow the other. From your side, Pope Leo, from ours Henry VIII, were lost men...But what would I think of your Thomas More or of our William Tyndale? All the writings of the one and all the writings of the other I have lately read right through. Both of them seem to me most saintly men and to have loved God with their whole heart: I am not worthy to undo the shoes of either of them. Nevertheless they disagree and (what racks and astounds me) their disagreement seems to me to spring not from their vices nor from their ignorance but rather from their virtues and the depths of their faith, so that the more they were at their best the more they were at variance. I believe the judgement of God on their dissension is more profoundly hidden than it appears to you to be: for His Judgements are indeed an abyss.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Arguing w/ St. John Chrysostom (see previous posts)


But St. John, even Mother Teresa is reported as having told Jesus, as she was dying, that He asks too much.

So why do you present it as being so easy?


more from St. John Chrysostom


...there is need of vigor, and a lofty soul, that takes in things beyond expectation, and stumbles not at appearances... You see that this is a chief characteristic of faith, ...to cast out the feebleness of calculation, and so to accept everything from the Power of God.