Wednesday, April 28, 2021

“Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus, he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. Thus, he believes that children were indeed the kingdom of heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to the kingdom of earth. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.”

― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908)

Monday, February 1, 2021


“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!” 

~Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Tomorrow Again


Tomorrow, at dawn, somewhat miraculously,
The landlord in Rotterdam unbombed
Will raise the quayside shutters, polish his glasses and cups,
And arrange them again in glittering ranks.

And at dusk, somewhere between Tiel and Nijmegen,
The bell ringers will assemble again and spit in their hands
Before grasping the sallies.

Peasants near Pforzheim
Will hack with mattocks at frost-bitten grass
In a field that looks and sounds, once more, as hard as iron,

While heavy-whiskered Viennese cabbies
Will straighten the blankets on their horses' quarters
And give them their feed in buckets.

And students, scholars, monks and clerks,
In ones and twos, will rise again from straw
And spur along the highways, uncertain of a roof,
Reciting Plato, Shakespeare, Horace, Villon
As they go.

All those who hold their ground and keep the continent in place--
The constant widows, landlords, blacksmiths, bargemen--
Will eye their coming,

Then hear their plans,
Raise a brow, signal them to wait,
Bring down a long stone bottle
And some bread to share
Again.

~Michael Duggan

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Eucatastrophe

Ascension of Christ, Salvador Dali (1958)

Eucatastrophe is a neologism coined by J.R.R. Tolkien from Greek ευ- "good" and καταστροφή "destruction".
"I coined the word 'eucatastrophe': the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary 'truth' on the second plane (....) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest 'eucatastrophe' possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love."
― Letter 89

Friday, May 15, 2020

Dogfight in the Sky


After consultation, the elderly squadron leader
knew he would be fighting for survival:
hormone therapy as back-up – thirty-seven sorties
of carefully targeted external beam radiotherapy
homing in on the prostate and surrounding area.
When he leaves the briefing room he’s kitted out,
hands shaking, stomach churning, bladder full.
Morning sunshine floods across the tarmac.
This could be Biggin Hill in 1940. He can’t wait
to take off, destroy the enemy, get the job done.
The other chaps have their own stories: one
couldn’t climb up; another peed in the cockpit.
He remembers those who didn’t come back:
ditched; burnt; “some corner of a foreign field,”
but, with the latest equipment, he should be fine.
He’s in the cockpit, no longer troubled by nerves.
Above him – a spotless blue sky: the face of heaven;
the growl of the engines is music; a slight vibration,
the gun carefully aimed, the button ready to press.
He closes his eyes. It’s all over in minutes.
On the runway a nurse is smiling at him.
He climbs down and smooths his moustache –
relief – the fuselage undamaged – no friendly fire.
He slips off his gown and opens his log book:
mission accomplished – one down, thirty-six to go.
Walking across the tarmac he passes more pilots,
one – no more than a boy, some – hardened veterans.
He recalls that day in July 1940 when he was nearly
shot down – saved for another kind of dogfight;
another kind of enemy; another kind of war.
~ A. K. Shaw

Sunday, May 10, 2020

True

"She often thought back to the court theater in Whitehall. She thought of the small gestures of the actors, of the long sentences, their ever-varying, nearly musical rhythm, now swift and clattering along, now dying gradually away, now questioning, now bristling with authority. There had been theater performances whenever she came to the court to visit her parents. People stood on the stage and dissembled, but she had grasped at once that this was not so at all and that the dissembling too was merely a mask, for it was not the theater that was false, no, everything else was pretense, disguise, and frippery, everything that was not theater was false. On the stage people were themselves, completely true, fully transparent. In real life no one spoke in soliloquies. Everyone kept his thoughts to himself, faces could not be read, everyone dragged the dead weight of his secrets. No one stood alone in his room and spoke aloud about his desires and fears, but when Burbage did so on the stage, in his rasping voice, his very thin fingers at eye level, it seemed unnatural that men should forever conceal what transpired within them. And what words he used! Rich words, rare, shimmering like cloth of gold—sentences so perfectly constructed that they were beyond anything you yourself could ever have managed. This is how things should be, the theater told you, this is how you should talk, how you should hold yourself, how you should feel, this is what it would be like to be a true human being."
~from TYLL, a novel by Daniel Kehlmann, translated from German by Ross Benjamin