Delight (Priestly)

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delightOne of my great delights is good writing-essays especially. I aspire to be a clear and succinct writer myself. A fine example is Delight as small collection of by pieces J.B. Priestly, in which he tells of things that delight him, as if to contradict what he supposes to be his reputation for grumpiness. One of his delights is clear well crafted writing, of which he writes in chapter Twenty Six of the book. I also like the presentation and typography of British books from the 40s and 50s. They’re more compact and economical that what we often have today, with interesting fonts.

At the end of a long talk with a youngish critic, a sincere fellow whose personality (though not his values) I respect, he stared at me and then said slowly: ‘I don’t understand you. Your talk is so much more complicated-subtle-than your writing. Your writing always seems to me too simple.’ And I replied: ‘But I’ve spent years and years trying to make my writing simple. What you see as a fault, I regard as a virtue.’

There was now revealed to us the gulf between his generation and mine. He and his lot, who matured in the early ‘thirties, wanted literature to be difficult.

Read the whole chapter …

Quiet or …

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It is a small relief to discover that “A Charm”, no. 4 from A Charm of Lullabies Op. 41, by Benjamin Britten, was indeed intended as comical by the poet Thomas Randolph (1605-1635).

cerberusPicture: William Blake. Cerberus. National Gallery of Victoria.

Quiet!
Sleep! or I will make
Erinnys whip thee with a snake,
And cruel Rhadamanthus take
Thy body to the boiling lake,
Where fire and brimstones never slake;
Thy heart shall burn, thy head shall ache,
And ev’ry joint about thee quake;
And therefor dare not yet to wake!
Quiet, sleep!
Quiet, sleep!
Quiet!

Quiet!
Sleep! or thou shalt see
The horrid hags of Tartary,
Whose tresses ugly serpants be,
And Cerberus shall bark at thee,
And all the Furies that are three
The worst is called Tisiphone,
Shall lash thee to eternity;
And therefor sleep thou peacefully
Quiet, sleep!
Quiet, sleep!
Quiet!

Then there’s always this:

go_the_fuck_to_sleep

The cats nestle close to their kittens now.
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear
Please go the fuck to sleep.

Read Macy Halford’s comments in New Yorker 2011.

Best of any song

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birdsongBird song is our loud alarm clock these spring days.

Best of any song
is bird song
in the quiet, but first
you must have the quiet.

— Wendell Berry. “1997.I” in A timbered choir: the Sabbath poems 1979-1997. New York, Counterpoint, 1992, p. 207. Picture from from cover of Birdsong: a natural history, by Don Stap. Oxford, 2006

“For, lo, the winter is past … The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come … ” Song of Solomon 3.11-12.

Crumpled for the planet

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stop-ironing“We are entering the ‘Oh Shit’ era of global warming.”
Rolling Stone, 3 Nov 05

Seriously folks, global warming is really, really, scary.

Meanwhile here’s a worthy suggestion by Dave Walker of cartoonChurch.com. It’s ridiculous that we should care whether clothes are creased or not . . . but we do, I do sometimes. It’s worth thinking about why.

I would not want to work for any employer who would not hire me if my shirt were wrinkled.

After all, the crumpled look is fashionable.

You could say it’s globally cool.

crumpled

Advent: we’re not used to waiting

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Dr Rowan Williams’s Reflections on Advent are superb. Some extracts are below, but do read it all or view the video.

We’re not a culture that’s very used to waiting.

During Advent, Christians go back to that time of waiting as the Bible shows it to us. They read again the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Old Testament. They read about how people were longing for an end to slavery, longing to be back home in some sense, longing to be at home with God again, longing for reconciliation. And all of that is expressed in the most powerful metaphors, especially in the prophesies of Isaiah, metaphors about the desert blossoming, metaphors about the rain falling, metaphors about day dawning after there’s been a long, long night.

So during this four weeks before Christmas, that’s what Christians are reflecting on. When Jesus comes into the life of the world with something unplanned, overwhelming, something that makes a colossal difference, we long for it and yet we don’t quite know what it’s going to involve. … know some of the difference he’s made to our lives as individuals, to the life of the Christian community, the Church, to the whole world. And yet there’s more. We’re still waiting to see what might happen if Jesus was allowed into our lives that bit more fully; that bit more radically.

. . . Advent is a time when [Christians] do a bit of self-examination. Have I allowed Jesus in yet? Has the good news really made the full impact it might make, or is my life still locked into old patterns, into darkness, into slavery, into being not at home with myself or God or with other people? It’s a time of self-examination, of repentance indeed, facing myself honestly and saying sorry for the things that don’t easily face the light. And it’s a time of expectation and a time of hope. A time, therefore, also of quiet.

It’s been said so often it hardly needs saying again, but it is rather a pity that for a few weeks before Christmas we are saturated with Christmas carols. We don’t have quite the sort of quiet we need to think, ‘Well what would it be if Jesus really came as if for the first time into my life? What would it be for the good news really to change me.’ Because for that to happen I need some reflective time; I need some peace; I need to slow down; I need, you might say, to take my time about things.

… It may be deeply painful as well as deeply joyful. Death and judgment, and hell and heaven. It will be that experience of confronting the truth in such a way that you’re changed for good. We say yes to all of that even with the pain and the risk. Or God forbid we say no we can’t cope with the truth, we’d prefer our own darkness. And so part of our self-examination during Advent is looking into ourselves and saying, ‘Well can I get myself to the point where I can look at God and say well there’s truth and there’s beauty and light and love and it’s painful for me, weak and stupid though I am, to face that, and yet I’d rather be there with the truth, however much it costs, than be locked up with myself?’

During Advent, we try to get ourselves a bit more used to the truth—the truth about ourselves, which is not always very encouraging, but the truth about God above all which is always encouraging. The One who comes will come with a great challenge. It will be like fire on the earth as the Bible says. And yet the One who comes is coming in love. He’s coming to set us free. And that’s something well worth waiting for.