Saturday, August 14, 2010

What literature is all about

Paul Gruchow, via the Laudator:
At the University of Minnesota, on another spring day, I heard the poet John Berryman fail to lecture on The Iliad to a room jammed with students. He sat down at a table, as was his custom, put on his reading glasses, lit a cigarette, which he held at bottom of the space between his trembling index and middle fingers in the way that drunks do, and began to read to us from the poem in his dark voice, oddly powerful coming from such a frail man, paying as much attention to the stops in the lines as to the accents. He read to us the scene in which Hector and Andromache say farewell to each other. Hector is destined to die and Andromache to be hauled into slavery, and both know this by premonition. When he came to the end of the scene, Berryman was weeping and so, unexpectedly, were we. He made no effort to hide his grief, running from an ancient pen across the long centuries through a modern language into our hearts. He did not even brush away his tears. We sat, stunned, until he got up and left the room without another word, and then we, too, gathered up our books and emerged into the cruel sunshine. I hurried to my office (I was editor of the student newspaper) and locked myself in, and it was an hour or two before I could see anybody. It was the first time, I think, that any of us had ever been taught what literature is all about.

Why he's NOT going to buy a computer

Hello, Irony. Come on in. Where have you been?

Well, Bill, I've been surfing the web, where I saw a computer programmer post a link on his blog to a Wendell Berry essay about why he's not going to buy a computer.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The "devotions" meme

Zoinks! I've been tagged by TSO on the favorite devotions meme.

Well, the last few years I haven't really done off-the-shelf devotions. I keep one of these excellent little rosary booklets on my bedside coffee table, but I haven't gotten into it in a really long time, and I never did get into the various chaplets and whatnot. So what passes for my devotions nowadays are -

  • reading the Psalms and Canticles - in the King James or the old BCP on the old Benedictine schedule (the weekly schema in the Psalterium Monasticum) along with Neale & Littledale's magnificent old 4-volume commentary. Not every day - I just drop down into them now and then. Note the recurring refrain: old, old, old. Speaking of old, I have a handy rule of thumb: never join a new Catholic movement that's less than 500 years old. Saves a lot of hassle.
  • reading the Fathers - I try to keep up with the week's Gospel in the old calendar by reading through the relevant commentaries and sermons in The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers. For each week's Gospel, the relevant part of the Catena aurea of Aquinas is given, followed by a few of the complete sermons from which Aqinas gleaned his excerpts. I appreciate the old calendar's slow and steady emphasis on one reading per week over against the new calendar's frenzied whirlwind of daily readings. With SSOTGF you get the Gospel on Sunday, then you have a whole week to work through the Catena and a few patristic homilies before another Gospel comes up. Each of the homilies is from a preacher such as John Chrysostom or Gregory I, whose chief delights are stepping on toes and calling people to their senses. Works for me.
  • reading Divine Intimacy - it's a mid-20th-century Carmelite book, keyed to the old calendar, with a short 3-part daily devotion. It's organized like Opus Dei's In Conversation With God series, but with more fundamental theology and less of something I can't put my finger on. It does come with lots of references to the chief Carmelite writers, which (grumble) I guess I can live with. Carmelites always read as though they've been translated out of French.
  • quick Hail Marys - when I converted, I spent a lot of time with St Louis de Montfort's True Devotion and works of similar piety that I'd found at the Marian Center in Springfield, Illinois - a delightful mess of a bookstore. Somewhere, de Montfort emphasizes the power of a single Ave, and that has somehow stuck with me.

I basically read myself into the Church, and I guess I continue that today.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Live by old Ethicks..."

From Sir Thomas Browne's Christian Morals (google books):
Live by old Ethicks and the classical Rules of Honesty. Put no new names or notions upon Authentick Virtues & Vices. Think not that Morality is Ambulatory; that Vices in one age are not Vices in another; or that Virtues, which are under the everlasting Seal of right Reason, may be Stamped by Opinion. And therefore though vicious times invert the opinions of things, and set up a new Ethicks against Virtue, yet hold thou unto old Morality; & rather than follow a multitude to do evil, stand like Pompey's Pillar conspicuous by thy self, and single in Integrity. And since the worst of times afford imitable Examples of Virtue; since no Deluge of Vice is like to be so general, but more than eight will escape; Eye well those Heroes who have held their Heads above Water, who have touched Pitch, and not been defiled, and in the common Contagion have remained uncorrupted.