Friday, November 8, 2019

The World Must Be Romanticized

The Accolade, Edmund Leighton, 1901
"The world must be romanticized. Only in that way will one rediscover its original senses. Romanticization is nothing less than a qualitative raising of the power of a thing... I romanticize something when I give the commonplace a higher meaning, the known the dignity of the unknown, and the finite the appearance of the infinite."
~ Novalis

Sunday, October 27, 2019

al-Baghdadi - Into the Void

"There is in Islam a paradox which is perhaps a permanent menace. The great creed born in the desert creates a kind of ecstasy of the very emptiness of its own land, and even, one may say, out of the emptiness of its own theology... A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet produces an endless procession of Mahomets."
~G. K. Chesterton 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Rembrandt Painted The Best Portrait Of Freedom Ever

No other well-known work of art claiming to reflect the idea of freedom seems to withstand a real competition with The Night Watch (click for more).

Thursday, September 19, 2019


"Symbols are the natural speech of the soul, a language older and more universal than words."
~Edmund Spencer

Monday, September 9, 2019

"the raving ones"

"Suffice it to say that what the word “freedom” has generally come to mean for most of us now, when our usage is at its most habitual and unreflective, is libertarian autonomy and spontaneous volition, the negative freedom of the unrestrained or, at least, minimally restrained individual will. It is a concept of freedom not only impoverished, but ultimately incoherent."
~David Bentley Hart 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Here Be Dragons

The Death of Glaurung by Elena Kukanova

“Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
– G.K. Chesterton
(from The Medieval Professor

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

“Stand by the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Let Yourself Go

No more thy meaning seek, thine anguish plead,
But leaving straining thought and stammering word,
Across the barren azure pass to God;
Shooting the void in silence, like a bird,
A bird that shuts his wings for better speed.

—Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, from “SONNET XXVIII”

Friday, May 10, 2019

Some Tender and Terrible Energy

Marie-Francois Firman-Girard, Autumn Market at Les Halles
"What does faith mean, finally, at this late date? I often feel that it means no more than, and no less than, faith in life—in the ongoingness of it, the indestructibility, some atom-by-atom intelligence that is and isn’t us, some day-by-day and death-by-death persistence insisting on a more-than-human hope, some tender and terrible energy that is, for those with the eyes to see it, love."
~Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss 

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Source of Moral Meaning

Rembrandt’s 1659 rendering of Moses with the Ten Commandments 
Do our great stories create moral meaning? Or do they actually detect and reveal it? 
"Good fiction does not create phenomena; it describes them. Like all art, fiction is a language for communicating a type of reality that can’t be communicated in any other way: the interplay of human consciousness with itself and the world. That experience can be delusional, as when we hear voices, mistake infatuation for love, or convince ourselves that slavery is moral. But the very fact that it can be delusional points to the fact that it can be healthy and accurate as well. When it is healthy, the “common imagination of human beings” can be regarded as an organ of perception, like the eye. Fiction merely describes the world of morality and meaning that that organ perceives."
~Andrew Klavan, "CAN WE BELIEVE?"

Sunday, April 28, 2019

On the Ending of the Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick: “The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film. 
"They choose this room, which is a very inaccurate replica of French architecture — deliberately so, inaccurate — because one was suggesting that they had some idea of something that he might think was pretty, but wasn’t quite sure. Just as we’re not quite sure what do in zoos with animals to try to give them what we think is their natural environment.
"Anyway, when they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of Superrman. 
"We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.”

Thursday, April 4, 2019


Theodor Kettelsen, 1900
"Faith is nothing more—but how much this is—than a motion of the soul toward God. It is not belief. Belief has objects—Christ was resurrected, God created the earth—faith does not. Even the motion of faith is mysterious and inexplicable: I say the soul moves “toward” God, but that is only the limitation of language. It may be God who moves, the soul that opens for him. Faith is faith in the soul. Faith is the word “faith” decaying into pure meaning." 
~Christian Wiman

Thursday, March 28, 2019


A forgotten love
from the summers of my youth:
The constant cascading
chorus of cicadas. 
Simultaneously blissful and sad
The soundtrack of memory.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Hockney on Van Gogh and Rembrandt

David Hockney on Van Gogh and Rembrandt:
"Being in the south of France obviously gave Vincent an enormous joy, which visibly comes out in the paintings. That’s what people feel when they look at them. They are so incredibly direct. I remember in some of his letters Vincent saying that he was aware he saw more clearly than other people. It was an intense vision… [H]e must have been doing some very concentrated looking. My God! After working for a long time, I get very tired eyes. I just have to close them…
"Photographs of those fields around Arles that Van Gogh painted wouldn’t interest us much. It’s a rather boring, flat landscape. Vincent makes us see a great deal more than the camera could. With a lot of his work, most people who actually saw the subject would think it was incredibly uninteresting. If you’d locked Van Gogh in the dullest motel room in America for a week, with some paints and canvases, he’d have come out with astonishing paintings and drawings of a rundown bathroom or a frayed carton. Somehow he’d be able to make something of it. I think Van Gogh could draw anything and make it enthralling…
"Those early drawings of the peasants are incredibly good, technically. You really feel volume, get a sense of the body and the texture of the fabric of the clothes they are wearing — and yet they transcend that, because the empathy is so strong. But technically they are as good as any drawing you’ll ever see. Rembrandt could do that too. You feel whether the clothes his figures are wearing are ragged or a refined cloth, even if he has just used six lines.
"With a truly great draughtsman, there is no formula. Each image is something new … You never get a repeat of a face in Rembrandt or Van Gogh; there’s always something of the individual character.
"With Rembrandt you never get a generic face, the eyes are always amazing. In a slight elongation of mark — just a little line and a blob — a set of eyes becomes old and tired. You can tell just where they are looking. Every face is different, just as it is in reality. He was wonderful at old men. There was incredible empathy. To me, the drawings are the greatest Rembrandt; the paintings are wonderful, but these are unique.
"That’s what we’d see in real life if we were looking. We’d notice straight away the old hands, the sad face. That’s why Rembrandt’s so human. Anybody who’s ever drawn very quickly sees how wonderful Rembrandt’s drawings are; the economy of means takes your breath away. The hands, for example, can be quite crude, but in another way you totally get them. He can draw old hands in a couple of lines. Often you can tell that a certain line must have been done very fast. You can see the speed."

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Joy's Trick


At the alder-darkened brink 
Where the stream slows to a lucid jet 
I lean to the water, dinting its top with sweat, 
And see, before I can drink, 

A startled inchling trout 
Of spotted near-transparency, 
Trawling a shadow solider than he. 
He swerves now, darting out 

To where, in a flicked slew 
Of sparks and glittering silt, he weaves 
Through stream-bed rocks, disturbing foundered leaves, 
And butts then out of view 

Beneath a sliding glass 
Crazed by the skimming of a brace 
Of burnished dragon-flies across its face, 
In which deep cloudlets pass 

And a white precipice 
Of mirrored birch-trees plunges down 
Toward where the azures of the zenith drown. 
How shall I drink all this? 

Joy’s trick is to supply 
Dry lips with what can cool and slake, 
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache 
Nothing can satisfy. 


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Medieval Man

Burgundian miniature, ca 1460
"Medieval man thought that truth had been revealed to him, so that he was spared from its wild pursuit; the reckless energy that we give to seeking it was turned in those days to the creation of beauty; and amid poverty, epidemics, famines, and wars men found time and spirit to make beautiful a thousand varieties of objects, from initials to cathedrals... we thank a million forgotten men for redeeming the blood of history with the sacrament of art."
~WIll Durant, The Age of Faith

Monday, February 4, 2019

From a Window

Incurable and unbelieving
in any truth but the truth of grieving,

I saw a tree inside a tree
rise kaleidoscopically

as if the leaves had livelier ghosts.
I pressed my face as close

to the pane as I could get
to watch that fitful, fluent spirit

that seemed a single being undefined
or countless beings of one mind

haul its strange cohesion
beyond the limits of my vision

over the house heavenwards.
Of course I knew those leaves were birds.

Of course that old tree stood
exactly as it had and would

(but why should it seem fuller now?)
and though a man’s mind might endow

even a tree with some excess
of life to which a man seems witness,

that life is not the life of men.
And that is where the joy came in.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

How Bright the Abyss

"Lord, I can approach you only by means of my consciousness, but consciousness can only approach you as an object, which you are not. I have no hope of experiencing you as I experience the world—directly, immediately—yet I want nothing more. Indeed, so great is my hunger for you—or is this evidence of your hunger for me?—that I seem to see you in the black flower mourners make beside a grave I do not know, in the embers’ innards like a shining hive, in the bare abundance of a winter tree whose every limb is lit and fraught with snow. Lord, Lord, how bright the abyss inside that “seem.”"

~Christian Wiman
"My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer"