2000 Words (give or take a few)

letter-writing

I was originally going to post this as a Friday Five, but instead decided to make it a stand-alone post. I intend to provide some quotes for you to chew on for awhile (as I have been during my hiatus) as well as mention another item or three. So here we go.

My birthday was January 1. After eating cake and watching some college football I drove to my local Barnes & Noble to purchase the two blank journals necessary for my plans in 2013. I decided to buy this one and this one. Each one is to be used for a different writing project which is why I didn’t purchase two that were alike. I already own a brown version of the first and have used it for two years to collect various thoughts and quotes, and it accompanied me on my retreat last September.

So far during my time away from this blog I:

  • decided to start another blog. What form it takes is as yet unknown. Using the ColorNotes app on my Droid I’ve collected a growing list of ideas, names and subjects and am going to continue to gather ideas and allow them to gestate for awhile. I may begin in a matter or days or more likely months as I do not want to get sidetracked from my other projects.
  • began to fill the larger journal with thoughts, meditations and stories while reading the book that has been called by many a book second only to the Bible: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Á Kempis. I already own a copy of the book but last year purchased this version because of its commentary and reader’s guide. The Imitation of Christ is divided into four books and all together is made up of 114 chapters (if I recall correctly). Each one is brief, perhaps a page or two, but so rich and steeped in spiritual insights that I wanted to go deeper within it. Hence this version which contains questions for use after each chapter, and a need for the journal.
  • read a few books, among them one that surprised me in its richness and affirmation of life. A good friend had purchased an edition of Mountain Man by Vardis Fischer for me last year. Fisher wrote a beautiful, if not at times brutally jarring, account of 1840s American mountain west. The Robert Redford movie Jeremiah Johnson is loosely based off this book, which is based upon a real historical figure: John “Liver-eating” Johnson (1824-1900). No, it’s not politically correct. Yes, it is filled with the beauty of a man in God’s creation, as well as the ugliness. Time and space constrains me from writing more on this book.
  • have given serious thought about attending a symposium on Dostoevsky in a few weeks. The schedule for the Wichita event is here, and the lectures and breakout sessions look brilliant.
  • have done all I can to avoid commenting on anything related to politics or government. Never in my lifetime have I been witness to such breathtaking falsehoods, ignorance and rank stupidity on full display, while being blindly accepted and repeated without a coherent thought by so many.
  • watched most of the episodes I recorded during the Twilight Zone marathon on New Year’s Day. It remains some of the best writing ever for television and wonderful storytelling. I’ve watched The Obsolete Man several times as its message resonates strongly in today’s political climate. (View full episode here)
The Obsolete Man

The Obsolete Man

Great stories contain both the beautiful and the ugly within their pages. You can’t have The Shire without the threat of orcs, or the redemptive grace experienced by the grandmother without the violence of The Misfit in Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. Too many movies or books today portray only one end of the spectrum which results in hyperviolence that desensitizes us after prolonged exposure, or bland, sappy feel-good stories that we forget a few minutes afterwards. A great story has both. The original versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales were not sugar and spice and everything nice.

So while I continue to read and to journal privately, I may check in here from time to time to share a quote, a video, a song or some insights with you. Until then, I leave you with the following quotes to chew upon and slowly digest.

*****

The first is one I read on January 1 and contains advice which I followed:

“I think of this new year as a white page given to me by Your Father, on which He will write, day by day, whatever His divine good pleasure has planned. I shall now write at the top of the page, with complete confidence: Domine, fac de me sicut vis, Lord, do with me what You will, and at the bottom I already write my Amen to all the proposals of Your divine will. Yes Lord, yes to all the joys, the sorrows, the graces, the hardships prepared for me, which You will reveal to me day by day. Grant that my Amen may be the Paschal Amen, always followed by the Alleluia, uttered wholeheartedly, in the joy of a complete gift. Give me Your love and Your grace, and I shall be rich enough.”

–  Sister Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D. From Divine Intimacy, by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen

*****

Among the books I’m reading is If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Barbara Ueland. It’s a short, but powerful book on writing and may just be the best one I’ve read on the subject. A few quotes from it follow:

So you see the imagination needs happy idling, dawdling and puttering. People are always briskly doing something and as busy as waltzing mice have little, sharp, staccato ideas such as: “I see where I can make an annual cut of $3.47 in my meat budget.” But they have no slow, big ideas. And the fewer noble, shining, free, jovial, magnanimous ideas that come up, the more nervously and desperately they rush from office to office and up and downstairs, thinking that by action their life will have some warmth and meaning.

The great mystic philosopher Plotinus said about this:

“So there are men too feeble for contemplation.” (This is his word for what I call the imagination.) “Being unable to raise themselves to contemplation from the weakness of their Soul, unable to behold spiritual reality and fill themselves with it, but desiring to see it, they are driven to action that they may see that which they could not see with the spiritual eye.”

One more:

But at last I understood from William Blake and van Gogh and other great men and from myself – from the truth that is in me (and which I have at last learned to declare and stand up for, as I am trying to persuade you to stand  up for your inner truth) – at last I understood that writing was this: an impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had. Not to preach to them, but to give it to them if they cared to hear it. If they did not – fine. They did not need to listen. That was all right too. And I would never fall into those two extremes (both lies) of saying: “I have nothing to say and am of no importance and have no gift”; or “The public doesn’t want good stuff.”

After I learned all this I was able to write freely and jovially and not feel contracted and guilty about being such a conceited ass, …”

*****

I continue to read from the Year of Faith booklet every day as I have since last October. I think this passage from January 8 talks to a mistake made by too many Christians, and what causes many skeptical of Christianity to be that way. We can be such poor models of behavior for others.

We believe not in propositions but in the reality which is expressed by the propositions; we believe, not in a creed, but through a creed. … It is possible to accept the formulas of the creeds and still to have a quite wrong idea of the nature of God and of his providence; it is possible to worship God and still to fall into a sort of practical idolatry. If you turn your religion into magic: if you expect an immediate and literal answer to all your prayers, if you expect the grace of God to do for you by miracle what only demands a little hard work, you are misunderstanding the faith. … If you allow yourself to accept the assumptions of a pagan environment as far as conduct is concerned, and keep your faith in abstraction from practical affairs, you are betraying it. … The truth is given us from without, yes; but it is something that we have to realize in actual experience: we have to translate the formulas of the creed into the stuff of life; we have to learn so to see the faith in all the everyday circumstances and events of life that it becomes not something we sometimes think of but something we always are. (Fr. Gerald Vann, from Magnificat Year of Faith Companion)

*****

Why don’t we study love more? It’s a question asked by Thoughts on Theatre recently. A few years ago I purchased a used copy of The Book of Love by Diane Ackerman and Jeanne MacKin, which is designed as

…a gift book, this comprehensive anthology of love defined, presented, examined, and detailed for the general reader is expressly crafted to reflect the most salient literature on the topic. Begining with a good overview of early and classic writings, the work proceeds in roughly chronological order through Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Hardy, Henry Miller, and Anais Nin to the most contemporary writers, presenting powerful passages that have shaped history, altered personalities, calmed monsters, consoled the forlorn, and fueled national scandals. Fiction, poetry, essays, memoirs, and letters are all included.

Why would a man buy an 864 page book on such a subject?

“If he desired to know about automobiles, he would, without question, study diligently about automobiles.

If his wife desired to be a gourmet cook, she’d certainly study the art of cooking, perhaps even attending a cooking class.

Yet, it never seems as obvious to him that if he wants to live in love, he must spend at least as much time as the auto mechanic or the gourmet in studying love.”

– Leo Buscaglia from Love

*****

And finally, I’m spending my time just reading a lot of Heather King. The quote below comes courtesy of her blog today.

There is no one who does not experience a hundred small annoyances every day, caused either by our own carelessness or inattention, or by the inconsideration or spite of other people, or by pure accident. Our whole lives are made up on incidents of this kind, occurring ceaselessly from one minute to another, and producing a host of involuntary feelings of dislike and aversion, envy, fear, and impatience to trouble the serenity of our minds…If we were careful to offer all these petty annoyances to God and accept them as being ordered by his providence, we would soon be in a position to support the greatest misfortunes that can happen to us, besides at the same time insensibly drawing close to intimate union with God. (St. Claude de la Colombière, 17th-century priest and confessor)

*****

One more before I go. Since today is the Memorial for St. Anthony, the founder of Christian monasticism I’ll close with him.

“Who sits in solitude and is quiet hath escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, seeing: yet against one thing shall he continually battle: that is, his own heart.” (St. Anthony the Great)

Until the next time, whenever that time may be, stay frosty cool ones. Go deep.

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