Monday December 9, 2013
The nights have been bitterly cold: frozen hands (Little Match Girl), frozen hearts (Snow Queen), and Hard Times (the Charles Dickens variety).
As Hans Christian Anderson wrote: "It was terribly cold and nearly dark..."
Are you searching for something? Warmth, life's meaning, reprieve from what ails us, and perhaps even what they like to call happiness? In the interplay of shadows and light, literature bring us brief glimpses of epiphany, truth, or enlightenment--in those (sometimes brief) moments of reflection.
Henry Rollins once wrote: "If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you. "
You you ever feel that you could capture that night... perhaps even find yourself enlightened by the flow of words that surrounds you? Perhaps you're greedily devouring the words. Discover, learn and grow. Is there any other way to live?
Henry Miller wrote: "I believe that today more than ever a book should be sought after even if it has only one great page in it. We must search for fragments, splinters, toenails, anything that has ore in it, anything that is capable of resuscitating the body and the soul."
For all that the forthcoming days will hold, may books hold a great deal of splendor (and pleasure) for you--warm words to offer comfort and solace in hard times. Something about the indispensable flavor of words seem capable of any feat--even calming our fears and easing a broken heart. Capture night. Hold it in palm of hand.
Sunday December 8, 2013
It's Human Rights Month in commemoration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the U.N. General Assembly in December 1948. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our citizens in all our communities."
Mark Twain said: "Every man is in his own person the whole human race, with not a detail lacking. I am the whole human race without a detail lacking; I have studied the human race with diligence and strong interest all these years in my own person; in myself I find in big or little proportion every quality and every defect that is findable in the mass of the race."
Henry David Thoreau said: "No humane being, past the thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly murder any creature which holds its life by the same tenure that he does."
And, Walt Whitman wrote: "A voice from Death, solemn and strange, in all his sweep and power, / With sudden, indescribable blow--towns drown'd--humanity by thousands slain... Holding Humanity as in thy open hand, as some ephemeral toy..."
What are your thoughts on humanity? Do you agree with how writers have portrayed humanity--for good or ill?
Saturday December 7, 2013
In Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, the heroine spends her day preparing for a party. She collects flowers, prepares her clothing, and makes all the arrangements; but she also carefully recollects her past--loves and loss. Streams of life flow through the pages of this novel--a river of longing.
But all the expectations for her party and memories of times past also involve a intricate dance with death. Woolf was haunted by war (and the soldiers she was certain would invade). She was also troubled by the certainty of her own slippage toward madness.
In A Sketch of the Past, Woolf wrote, "One's life is not confined to one's body and what one says or does." A life is related "to a larger design, a pattern hidden behind the 'cotton wool' of daily life." It seems so terribly simple: our lives as words.
What does she mean then? What does her life represent? As Virginia Woolf writes in Mrs. Dalloway:
- "Did it matter then... that she must inevitable cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?"
- "But often now this body she wore... this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing --- nothing at all."
- "Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death."
Cover Art © HarperCollins.
Monday December 2, 2013
It's the second day of December. It's the day that John Brown was hanged. (Henry David Thoreau offered his take on the the infamous outlaw with A Plea For Captain John Brown.)
Charles Dickens conducted his first reading in the United States on December 2 in 1867.
And, Samuel Taylor Coleridge joined the Calvary on December 2, 1793 (he went on to become a famous poet, who launched the Romantic Period with William Wordsworth.
Take a look at the reading selection for December 2:
No gardener need go far to find
The Christmas rose,
The fairest of the flowers that mark
The sweet Year's close:
Nor be in quest of places where
The hollies grow,
Nor seek for sacred trees that hold
All kindly tended gardens love
And spread their latest riches out
In winter's praise.
But every gardener's work this month
Must surely be
To choose a very beautiful
Big Christmas tree,
And see it through the open door
In triumph ride,
To reign a glorious reign within
What are you reading?