Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales


Sample Opening Passage: From "The Birthmark", which captures a common theme in Hawthorne's work:

In the latter part of the last century there lived a man of science, an eminent proficient in every branch of natural philosophy, who not long before our story opens had made experience of a spiritual affinity more attractive than any chemical one. He had left his laboratory to the care of an assistant, cleared his fine countenance from the furnace smoke, washed the stain of acids from his fingers, and persuaded a beautiful woman to become his wife. In those days when the comparatively recent discovery of electricity and other kindred mysteries of Nature seemed to open paths into the region of miracle, it was not unusual for the love of science to rival the love of woman in its depth and absorbing energy. The higher intellect, the imagination, the spirit, and even the heart might all find their congenial aliment in pursuits which, as some of their ardent votaries believed, would ascend from one step of powerful intelligence to another, until the philosopher should lay his hand on the secret of creative force and perhaps make new worlds for himself. We know not whether Aylmer possessed this degree of faith in man's ultimate control over Nature. He had devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any second passion. His love for his young wife might prove the stronger of the two; but it could only be by intertwining itself with his love of science, and uniting the strength of the latter to his own.

Summary: The stories in the volume I read were collected from three different short story collections published by Hawthorne; they are practically all well known. One of the notable things about the selection is that it markedly toned down Hawthorne's tendency to allegorize -- except for the pure satire-allegory of "The Celestial Railroad" and some of the more popular moralizations, like "Lady Eleanore's Mantle",it mostly just peeks out here and there. I'm not sure this is fair to Hawthorne, because Hawthorne has two strengths: allegorization and atmosphere. Throwing out too much of one gives an unbalanced Hawthorne. Modern readers tend to have a distaste for allegory; this distaste is sometimes justifiable, but more often it is bad taste. Hawthorne still lived in a day when Pilgrim's Progress was in practically every house, when preachers still preached the world as a typology of moral and religious life, when Calvinist and Transcendentalist alike saw the world in moral terms. The palate was accustomed to allegory, so allegory was part of the palette. On the other side, I find it a bit suspicious that the stories that tend to be preferred by modern readers are those that in some way can be read as jabbing at Calvinist gloominess; I wonder if the more allegorical side of Hawthorne jabs at the pet views of modern readers more than they like.

In any case, I read most of Hawthorne in high school. I had read Little Women, which had led to Pilgrim's Progress; then we had read "Young Goodman Brown" in American literature, and, liking it, I looked around for more Hawthorne and happened to stumble upon "The Celestial Railroad", which, of course, uses the framework of Pilgrim's Progress to mock the world of Hawthorne's day, with its sleek taste for making things, anything, more efficient, and for going more comfortably and quickly in any direction you wished to go, even if it was in the direction of hell. Even after reading a lot of Hawthorne it (along with House of Seven Gables) became my favorite work by him. I was pleased to find, not having read it in several years, that it holds up splendidly, and is still my favorite. One that improved greatly was "The Artist of the Beautiful", which I vaguely remember not liking very much, and yet found quite enjoyable this time around. Likewise, I enjoyed "Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe" a bit more than I remember. "The Great Stone Face", on the other hand, seemed a little strained.

In addition to reading the short stories, I listened to classic radio adaptations (a reason why this fortnight extended to three weeks). I have already discussed the four versions of "Rappaccini's Daughter" to which I listened. In addition, I listened to The Weird Circle's adaptations of "Ethan Brand" (retitled as "The Heart of Ethan Brand") and "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" (retitled as "The Curse of the Mantle"). Both were fairly freely adapted, emphasizing the fantastic elements -- for instance, the latter takes Hawthorne's identification of the mantle with pride and runs with it, making an interesting story, but one with a very different atmosphere than Hawthorne's original. CBS Radio Mystery Theater's "The Birthmark" made a strong effort to stay close to the story; it does so by telling a lot of it in conversation, which gives an interesting staccato pacing to the tale. I listened to two versions of "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment": one by Favorite Story and another by CBS Radio Mystery Theater. The Favorite Story adaptation was splendid; easily the best of all the adaptations I heard -- discovering it was worth the time spent listening to all the episodes I listened to for this project, and I highly recommend it. The CBSRMT version was pretty decent -- it's a good story for radio -- although not as good as the Favorite Story version, in part because it felt a little more padded -- it only really starts picking up halfway through. I also listened to Vanishing Point's "The Artist of the Beautiful", which was, shall we say, entirely bizarre, in part due to VP's taste for modernizing old tales; they make Owen a 1980s computer programmer and Annie a slang-slinging feminist with an interest in robotics. Everyone becomes infinitely more annoying. It's also over-busy in terms of music and sound effects. The basic idea in the adaptation was interesting, but it doesn't, I think, come out entirely as it should have (although they do a good job with the ending).

Favorite Passage: This passage, from "Earth's Holocaust", jumped out at me this reading:

From Shakespeare there gushed a flame of such marvellous splendor that men shaded their eyes as against the sun's meridian glory; nor even when the works of his own elucidators were flung upon him did he cease to flash forth a dazzling radiance from beneath the ponderous heap. It is my belief that he is still blazing as fervidly as ever.

"Could a poet but light a lamp at that glorious flame," remarked I, "he might then consume the midnight oil to some good purpose."

"That is the very thing which modern poets have been too apt to do, or at least to attempt," answered a critic. "The chief benefit to be expected from this conflagration of past literature undoubtedly is, that writers will henceforth be compelled to light their lamps at the sun or stars."

"If they can reach so high," said I; "but that task requires a giant, who may afterwards distribute the light among inferior men. It is not every one that can steal the fire from heaven like Prometheus; but, when once he had done the deed, a thousand hearths were kindled by it."

Recommendation: Hawthorne is very uneven, but his worst is always at least good, and his best is very good. Highly Recommended.

ἡ Ἁγία Αἰκατερίνα ἡ Μεγαλομάρτυς

Today is the feast of Queen Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Great Martyr and Holy Helper, the patron saint of philosophers.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, Barbara Longhi

Her story likely has some folk-traditional roots, but is also probably a stylized composite of a number of virgin martyr tales. It seems to be popular in some scholarship today to suggest that her story is based on that of Hypatia, but this is extraordinarily implausible, both in terms of the structure of her legend and in terms of historical influence, and I have never seen any argument for the claim that is even remotely tenable; it seems to me very likely that the historians proposing such things are doing a stylized composite of their own.

From the Caxton translation of The Golden Legend:

First she appeared marvellous in wisdom, in her was all manner of philosophy. Philosophy is divided in three, in theory, in practice, and in logic.

Theory is divided in three, that is intellectual, natural, and mathematical. The blessed Katherine had science intellectual in knowledge of things divine, of which she used against the masters, to whom she proved to be but one very God only, and convanquished all the false gods. Secondly, she had science natural of which she used in disputing against the emperor. Thirdly, she had science mathematical, that is a science that be holdeth the forms and the manner of things, and this science had she in despising the earthly things, for she withdrew her heart from all earthly matter. She showed to have this science when she answered to the emperor, when he demanded who she was, and said: I am Katherine, daughter of king Costus, and how she had been nourished in purple. And hereof used she when she enharded the queen to despise the world and herself, and to desire the reign perdurable.

The practice is divided in three manners, in ethic, economic, and politic. The first teacheth to inform manners and adorn him with virtues, and that appertaineth to all men. The second teacheth to rule and govern well his meiny, and that appertaineth to them that have men to govern. The third appertaineth to the governors of cities, for she teacheth to govern the peoples, the cities, and the commons. And these three sciences had the blessed Katherine. First, she had in herself all honesty of manners; secondly, she ruled her meiny laudably, which was left to her, thirdly, she informed wisely the emperor.

Logic is divided in three, in demonstrative, in probable, and in sophistical. The first pertaineth to philosophers, the second to rhetors and logicians, and the third to sophisters, and these three sciences had Katherine in her, for she disputed with the emperor.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Vain, a Man's Voice, to Conquer Men!

Men of Aquino
by Lionel Johnson

To Charles Mulvaney

Those angry fires, that clove the air,
Heavy with Rome's Imperial lust:
Those bitter fires that burn and flare
Unquenched, above their kindler's dust:
Aquinum can their birth declare.

The wicked splendors of old time,
Juvenal! stung they passionate heart.
Wrath learned of thee a scorn sublime;
The Muses, a prophetic art:
Yet pride and lust kept still their prime.

A greater birth, Aquinum knows:
Rank upon rank, in stately wise;
Rank upon rank, in ordered rows;
Like sacred hosts and hierarchies,
The march of holy science goes.

Vain, a man's voice, to conquer men!
Rome fell: Rome rose: Aquinum lent
The world her greater citizen:
Armed for Rome's war, Saint Thomas went,
Using God's voice: they listened, then.

Ah, Juvenal: thy trumpet sound:
Woe for the fallen soul of Rome!
But the high saint whose music found
The altar its eternal home,
Sang: Lauda Sion! heavenward bound.

A fourfold music of the Host
He sang: the open Heavens shone plain.
Then back he turned him to his post,
And opened heavenly Laws again,
From first to last, both least and most.

O little Latin town! rejoice,
Who hast such motherhood, as this:
Through all the worlds of faith one voice
Chaunts forth the truth: yet stays not his,
Whose anger made a righteous choice.

"Rappaccini's Daughter" on the Radio

Unlike Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne was not a particularly common source of stories in the Golden Age of Radio. The Golden Age series that made the most use of Hawthorne was The Weird Circle, which adapted four of his short stories; Favorite Story adapted two; The Witch's Tale did one. NBC University Theater apparently did an adaptation of The Marble Faun which, as far as I have been able to determine, is the only Golden Age adaptation of a Hawthorne novel to radio. After the Golden Age, Hawthorne fares much better, proportionally, although radio drama shrinks enough that examples are still sparse. In the several revival attempts in the late sixties and seventies, CBC Radio Mystery Theater and CBS Radio Mystery Theater both did several Hawthorne adaptations. Nightfall and Vanishing Point, put out by CBC Radio in the mid-eighties, did a few, as well. And, while it's much harder to gauge how many there are, as the Internet has slowly brought back some interest in radio-like drama, there seem to be a few newer ones floating around.

Of all of Hawthorne's works, there is no question which has been the radio favorite, because it is easily the most adapted one: "Rappaccini's Daughter", originally published in 1844 and then anthologized in Mosses from an Old Manse in 1846.

(1) The Witch's Tale (Australia, 1943).

The Witch's Tale was the first major horror series on radio; it ran from 1931 to 1938 on the Mutual Radio Network, with considerable success. It was transcribed on disks, and in this period it was common for American radio networks to sell the recorded shows to places like Australia. It was a very good deal for the American companies; since their primary profit was from the very large American market, they could always sell to Australian radio stations at a cost much lower than any Australian networks could make a series, thus eliminating any local competition before it could even get started, and still make money off the deal. In 1939, this practice was blocked by the Australian government in order to reduce how much Australian money was going in wartime to the United States; but the Australians had apparently already heard enough of The Witch's Tale to be interested more; when the American series ended, they started an Australian run of the same show, which lasted from 1938-1943 (and provides us most of the few dozen episodes that have survived from the once extremely popular series). In the middle of this run, they did "Rappaccini's Daughter". Unfortunately, it seems to be very difficult to find, so, alas, I did not hear how Old Nancy and her black cat Satan handle the story.

(2) The Weird Circle (1944).

The success of The Witch's Tale led to horror becoming one of the staple genres of the Golden Age of Radio. Among the shows that arose was The Weird Circle, produced by RCA and simultaneously leased to NBC-Red and to Mutual, and then later to others. It was broadcast from 1943 to 1945. It was a minor, although widely heard, program at the time, and it had a shoestring budget that meant it did not pay for the expense of music and used local actors from around New York, but the technical quality of the original recordings and the fact that multiple copies were made for syndication has resulted in its being one of the Golden Age series that is in the best shape. If I am not mistaken, every episode is extant, much of it in good quality audio. The Weird Circle did its version of "Rappaccini's Daughter" in 1944, one hundred years after its original publication. It mostly treats the tale as a love story with science-fantasy elements, and so breaks the ending, to the point of turning parts of it upside-down.

(3) Favorite Story (1947).

Up to about 1945 or so, radio transcription (recording onto disks for distribution) was a relatively minor contributor to the radio world -- it was used, mostly for cheap supplementary filler. The quality was not good enough to compete with live programming in the American market, which had quite a bit of money to spend on live programming. But recording developed to such a degree of technical quality that it became impossible to tell, simply from the sound, whether something was live or recorded. And when the always-savvy Bing Crosby realized in 1946 that he could do massively better in transcription, things began to shift hard. One of the big-name stars who moved from live radio to transcribed radio was Ronald Colman, who started a series, Favorite Story, which ran from 1946 to 1949. It was a big-budget investment by a relatively new and completely independent syndication business; it was a very expensive radio series to produce, but it paid off in spades, as high-quality transcription combined with big-name actors (Colman won an Academy Award in 1947) and a very active sales department sold the series throughout the United States and Canada on a massive scale. Each episode dramatized a 'favorite story' by a notable name, and in 1947, the actor Sydney Greenstreet was responsible for Favorite Story giving us "Rappaccini's Daughter". I think the casting is a little odd; Howard Duff was an unexpected selection for Giovanni. It makes the interesting choice of focusing on the aspect of the story concerned with beauty, and unsurprisingly it focuses as much, or perhaps even more on the romance than the other versions; thus, also unsurprisingly, it also breaks the ending.

(4) CBS Radio Mystery Theater (1975), as "The Kiss of Death".

The Golden Age of Radio ended on September 30, 1962, as even the most popular radio series were shuttered in the face of the television juggernaut. There were attempts to rethink how radio was done in order to salvage something, but most of them, even the best, failed. People still listened to the radio, including radio dramas, but it had become extremely difficult to develop and maintain a stable audience for it of any significant size. But in the 1970s, CBS Radio Mystery Theater and a few other shows managed to catch a wave of nostalgia that gave them time, and enough interested listeners, to build up precisely such an audience, composed of both older people who missed Golden Age Radio and younger people attracted to radio drama as a retro art. It ran from 1974 to 1982, with a total of 1,399 original episodes, all of which, of course, have survived. It was a shoestring-budget affair, and thus very uneven in quality, but it was more than successful enough to keep running. The CBSRMT version of the tale is retitled as "The Kiss of Death". It promises a story that shocks to the root of the soul, and a dark and menacing story, but like the previous versions deliberately breaks the ending. Interestingly, it chooses to give a partially first-person version of the tale. It also breaks the original ending to give the lovers "a better fate", but does so in a far more complicated way than previous versions, probably because it still has to deliver on a promise that it will give something shocking, dark, menacing.

(5) Vanishing Point (1986).

The CBC returned to old-style radio horror with Nightfall, which ran from 1980 to 1983. As this was not the Golden Age, they could go full-blast on it, and in fact one problem the series had was that it would occasionally be dropped by radio stations because it was too scary. After it ended, the CBC looked around for something to replace it and came up with the somewhat more science-fiction-oriented Vanishing Point, which ran from 1984 to 1986 and then sporadically afterward into the 90s. The Vanishing Point version of "Rappaccini's Daughter" moves the time of the story to the 1980s, which leads to some complicated, and occasionally odd, intertwining of the story with concerns about nuclear fallout. It does, however, put more emphasis than the other versions on the aspect of the story concerned with the morality of scientific inquiry. It also, unlike the others, retains something of the bitterness of the original ending.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Practically Flawless Turkey

I am not a great cook by any means, but one thing I do exceptionally well is roast a turkey -- never dry, never tough, never bland. A few tips.

(1) Don't skimp on the oils. I've seen recipes where the instruction for oiling the turkey is 'rub an empty butter wrapper on the outside' or 'drizzle lightly with oil'. Unless you literally have a medical issue requiring you to sabotage your turkey, be more generous rather than less with oils -- whether you use butter, or olive oil, or anything else. (I use butter on the inside and olive oil on the outside.) Unless you eat turkey skin rather than meat, most of that oil is not going to make it to your plate. The entire outside of the turkey, or at least the entire top, should be coated -- it doesn't have to be a thick coat, but it should be as global as you can get it. This (1) gives an extra source of moisture to the whole that won't harm the taste of the turkey; and (2) helps to seal in juices.

(2) Apples and onions make the best stuffing. For stuffing, take enough apple and onion to stuff the whole turkey (you generally want more apple than onion, and the apple should be as tart as you can get) and a half stick of unsalted butter. Use about a quarter of that half-stick to coat the inside of the turkey, and chop the rest into big dabs. Cut the apple and the onion into chunks, removing the less tasty bits; I've found that eighths work very well. Mix up apple, onion, and butter, and stuff it in the turkey. Nothing more is really required, although you can add chopped bacon and (lightly) your favorite turkey spices. It's extremely easy, and it keeps your turkey from drying out. People always go for the breaded stuffings, but I find that breaded stuffings often are culprits in bad turkey -- people are using their turkeys as stuffing ovens and not using the stuffings to enhance the turkey. Any kind of stuffing will help keep moisture in your turkey, but breaded stuffings also tend to absorb a lot moisture.

Apples and onions with butter also give you a richer gravy. If you are cooking your turkey right, you don't need gravy. You should never rely on gravy to make your turkey palatable. Gravy is there for three things: to do something with odd bits, to enhance flavor, and to cover mistakes (like overly dry turkey). You shouldn't be relying on it to make your turkey edible. But the gravy you get with apples and onions and butter as your stuffing is very flavorful.

(3) Basting should be done carefully and with discernment. Basting properly helps keep a turkey from drying out, but most people, I think, don't do it right. You should certainly not be basting more than twice the entire time, and when you do, you should baste well -- don't just use the juices in the pan, which are probably not enough; also use some of the giblet broth that you are using for gravy. Your oven is a humid box. When you open the door, you let the moisture out, thus increasing the amount of liquid that evaporates from your turkey. Most people (1) open the door too often or (2) when they do, don't add enough liquid to make up for it.

(4) Don't overcook. This one is obvious, but something worth noted is that all three of the above points give you more wiggle room than you would otherwise have -- if you do accidentally overcook, it does less harm to your turkey. I overcooked my turkey a bit this year, and it was still juicier than most people have in their best years.

A Poem Re-Draft

A Bit of Thanksgiving

Thank you, Lord, for infant smiles
and children bright at play;
thank you for the silly souls
who annoy us every day.
(We appreciate those most, O Lord,
those crosses that we bear,
and we thank you that we're not yet bald
from pulling out our hair.)

I thank you, Lord, for mercy!
It saves us from the brink;
and thank you, Lord, for righteous wrath --
we need more of it, I think.
But thank you for all gentle souls
who always tempers keep;
protect them, Lord, from the rest of us,
lest we kill them in their sleep.

I thank you, Lord, for cheerful sun
that rises every dawn,
and that my students learn to hide
the sound and sight of yawn,
that education is a joy
that overflows with awe,
and, on those crazy grading days,
that there are murder laws.

I thank you, Lord, for fruitful fields,
for wide and healthful skies,
and for the hopes that we can have
that are not marred by lies.
And thank you, God, for mysteries
still left for us to solve
upon this awesome floating ball
that rotates and revolves.

I thank you that we live here free
in houses without bars,
that there are things that we can own,
that no one owns the stars,
that joy and virtue freely flow
without a market price
while we have markets fully full
of grain and fruit and spice.

I thank you, Lord, for politics,
for presidents and such,
that they work so hard to get their way,
that they never get it much;
yea, for the limits you have placed
on corruption, fraud, and spite,
that we need only deal with them
a dozen times each night.

Thank you, Lord, for critics harsh
who attack with whip and flail;
because of harsh reviewers,
thank you, Lord, for hell.
And thank you, Lord, for stupid folk,
that we can clearly see
in blatant view the foolish things
from which none of us are free.

And thank you for those shocking times
when we pedants who lecture all
on every foolish folly
into those follies fall,
for it teaches us the wisdom
of gentleness and restraint
lest we in turn be painted
with the brush by which we paint.

Thank your for your graces,
the good of little things,
which even in the hardest times
can make us laugh and sing.
And thank you for all wonders
that stimulate the mind --
no matter the occasion,
new truths our minds may find.

But for absurdities I thank you most--
they overflow the bank
so if I thank you for each one,
I'll never cease to thank!
And thank you for sweet irony;
it gives the wit to see
that all the things we moan about
may be thanksgiving's seed.

But most of all, I thank you, Lord,
that long before we die,
we can see ourselves with wry regard,
and laugh until we cry.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Jottings on Erotetic Logic

Erotetic logic is the logic of questions. As with the logic of imperatives, there is a need for such a thing, and for similar reasons. You can have conjunctive questions and disjunctive questions, in which conjunction and disjunction work exactly like they do elsewhere. As importantly, questions can imply things. For instance,

Have you stopped beating your wife?

implies that you have been beating your wife, and

Was it Paul or Peter who opened the gate?

implies that either Paul or Peter opened the gate. More controversially, but also plausibly, assertions can imply questions, e.g., 'Either Paul or Peter opened the gate' naturally raises the question, "Which did it, Paul or Peter?", and this question-raising is either implication or something very like it.

But, as with imperatives there are a great many complications. For instance, questions do not seem to be the sort of thing that can be true or false, and this complicates practically everything. Interestingly, not everyone has agreed that questions can be neither true nor false -- Bolzano is the most famous case, since he argued that every question is actually an assertion about the one asking it. There is a certain plausibility for this with regard to some kinds of questions. For instance, if I ask a question in order to learn something I did not know, e.g., "What is the dominant predator on the island of Malta?", then this is not far from saying, "I do not know the dominant predator on the island of Malta." Indeed, the latter, in some circumstances, might be taken as an implicit question. And it is notable that much of the more interesting recent work on questions has tended to link it to various kinds of epistemic modal logics.

Nonetheless, Husserl showed that Bolzano's position is quite problematic, pointing out (among other things) the absurdity of thinking that when we are silently wondering about something we are doing the same thing as sitting there asserting our lack of knowledge about things. At the very least, some questions are not assertions, and for many questions it is absurd to take them to be assertions about the questioner.

Yet it's not so clear that Bolzano was wholly off-base. One of the things we do with questions is soften assertions. For instance, in Vietnamese, nhé? (or in some dialects, nha?) turns a statement into a suggestion, along the lines of how we might say in English, "I'll take you home now, ok?" This is arguably an assertion -- I am actually saying that I'll take you home, I'm just letting you have a say in the matter if you object. It is also prima facie a question. There seems to be a spread of ways in which this can work. In Vietnamese, if I understand correctly, Tôi đi nhé?, "I am leaving, ok?" is a different kind of question from Tôi đi à?, which might be something more like "I'm leaving!?" or "Am I leaving!?" and both from Tôi đi không?, "I'm leaving, aren't I?" or "Am I leaving?" (One could perhaps argue that these are actually compound, with an assertion part and a question part, but when we look at these things in use, it's not clear that this sort of analysis actually sheds any light on the meaning.)

One variation would be to take questions to be to assertion as incomplete to complete. So, for instance, an assertion might be, "John went to the party last night." Some corresponding questions might be:

Did John go to the party last night?
Who went to the party last night?
What did John do?
Who did what?

In each case we are missing something. If we supply the answer, we get something equivalent to the original assertion. For instance, "Did John go to the party last night? Yes", is equivalent to "John went to the party last night", and so is "Who went to the party last night? John."

There are appropriate and inappropriate answers to questions. For instance, if you ask, "Who is in the house?" and I reply, "Slowly," my answer is not just incorrect, it's not even the right kind of answer to be correct. Thus there is a longstanding tendency to try to account of questions in terms of their possible answers. Thus Hamblin influentially argued that questions create a situation in which we choose among possible answers, which he held to be propositions. A potential strength of this is that it makes the logic easier -- you could then say a lot about the logic of questions based on the logic of the assertions that make up their possible answers. One difficulty is that the appropriate answer to a question does not always seem to be a proposition. If I say, "What color is John's shirt?", I only need an answer like "Red", I don't need, "John's shirt is red." I could certainly say the latter, but the only part of it that is doing any work answering is the term 'red', and it seems that instead of thinking in terms of propositions, we can just take the answer to be supplying what's needed to finish making the proposition -- which we can do either by just supplying the particular element needed or by giving the finished product with the element supplied. An even more serious difficulty is that the possible answers to a question seem to have to be severable from understanding the question itself. We can make sense of a question without having much idea as to what its possible answers really are, so we don't want to characterize questions as if they could only be understood if you knew all the ways they could be answered. We need to be able to know what would count as a possible answer without having to know the possible answers.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Music on My Mind

Rockwell, "Somebody's Watching Me". I was in the car today and this came on the radio. It had been ages since I'd last heard it. It's a very, very Eighties song, but it works perfectly. Jermaine Jackson is the backup vocals, Michael Jackson the chorus; Michael only did it as a favor, and on the condition that his name not be associated with the song at all.

Learn the Mystery of Progression Duly

by Adelaide Anne Procter

Nothing resting in its own completeness
Can have worth or beauty: but alone
Because it leads and tends to farther sweetness,
Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.

Spring’s real glory dwells not in the meaning,
Gracious though it be, of her blue hours;
But is hidden in her tender leaning
To the Summer’s richer wealth of flowers.

Dawn is fair, because the mists fade slowly
Into Day, which floods the world with light;
Twilight’s mystery is so sweet and holy
Just because it ends in starry Night.

Childhood’s smiles unconscious graces borrow
From Strife, that in a far-off future lies;
And angel glances (veiled now by Life’s sorrow)
Draw our hearts to some belovèd eyes.

Life is only bright when it proceedeth
Towards a truer, deeper Life above;
Human Love is sweetest when it leadeth
To a more divine and perfect Love.

Learn the mystery of Progression duly:
Do not call each glorious change, Decay;
But know we only hold our treasures truly,
When it seems as if they passed away.

Nor dare to blame God’s gifts for incompleteness;
In that want their beauty lies: they roll
Towards some infinite depth of love and sweetness,
Bearing onward man’s reluctant soul.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Temple of Living Stones

In place of Solomon's temple, Christ has built a temple of living stones, the communion of saints. At its center, he stands as the eternal high priest; on its altar, he is himself the perpetual sacrifice. And, in turn, the whole of creation is drawn into the "liturgy," the ceremonial worship service: the fruits of the earth as the mysterious offerings, the flowers and the lighted candlesticks, the carpets and the curtain, the ordained priest, and the anointing and blessing of God's house. Not even the cherubim are missing. Fashioned by the hand of the artist, the visible forms stand watch beside the Holy of Holies. And, as living copies of them, the "monks resembling angels" surround the sacrificial altar and make sure that the praise of God does not cease, as in heaven so on earth.

St. Edith Stein, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, Stein, tr., ICS Publications (Washington, DC: 2014), p. 9.

Alec Guiness Reading Julian of Norwich