Quotations: September 2007 Archives

Interesting Reading

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The thing about diatribe is that one can be smoothly carried along in its rampant and all-encompassing embrace. It is unsettling, leaving one to wonder how much is truth and how much is rant. But it occasionally breaks forth in a moment of pristine brilliance.

from America Alone
Mark Steyn

Most mainline Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left political clichés, on the grounds that if Jesus were alive today he'd most like be a gay Anglican bishop in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally friendly car with an "Arms Are for Hugging" sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams.

The sheer volume of the rant carries it along. The tone is clear and in one sweeping blow condemns the morally insensate and the morally neutral. Environmentally friendly cars are not a sign of dissolution. In a saner society they would be a sign of rehabilitation. It is when the cars replace any core of belief, any strength of conviction, any moral center that they become problematic. And yet, diatribe doesn't allow these distinction to be made. Nevertheless, as a rant goes, this one is both amusing and, unfortunately, close to the truth for a good many mainline Protestant Churches today--and that is a shame because it is the loss of a great and powerful tradition and voice. It is a diminishment, a weakening, a loss of the gospel truth--the only thing we have that is worth holding and sharing.

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In Memoriam


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
--George Santayana

As opposed as I am to the war in Iraq, as much as I may question its authenticity as a meaningful action against terrorism, as much as I may find myself pondering the question of its "justness," I also find within it a profound statement of the conviction that we are simply not going to roll over and take whatever treatment the world has decided we have merited.

Unlike the Spanish election, America has not capitulated. We can debate whether or not we have taken the correct steps to confront those who would gladly deprive all of the freedoms many in the past have died to preserve; but then, we have the freedom to engage in that exchange of ideas.

For better or worse, September 11, 2001 marked a watershed--a determined advance by a small group of highly active and motivated insurgents into the heartland. For a brief time we awoke and we responded as was just and proper--we sought out the root of the problem and attempted to destroy it.

We have not been successful, not for lack of trying but because there is no root. Rather there is a mycelium--a network--small and invisible--that at any time can give rise to yet another fungal bloom. A dandelion is relatively easy to confront, mushrooms much less so.

September 11 does not justify any and all actions, but whenever we pause to question what we are doing and whether it is right, the memory of it should add weight to the reflection. September 11 was a declaration on the part of a very small part of the world that they have no intention of tolerating or respecting anything outside of the range of their political and religious philosophy.

We make a serious error when we attribute this strain of thought to an entire group. And we make a serious error if we think this strain of thought justifies the deprivation of any group of people any part of the rights guaranteed by our law; that way also lay defeat.

Rather, we need to be aware, enlightened, and seriously determined to move forward in the defense of the freedoms we have had handed to us on a silver platter. We are a privileged people living in a hard time.

from The Crisis, December 23, 1776
Thomas Paine

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

Atheist, he may have been, but what he said then stands now; and today gives us pause to remember it.

We do an injustice to those innocent people who died that day if we ever forget the truths that made this country great. They were not soldiers, they were not martyrs, they were our friends, our families, our colleagues, our co-religionists--people we loved and whom we remember today--people whose lives give great weight to any battle we wage to prevent further such outrages. These innocent people we must not forget, for in so doing, we put the lives of a great many others at risk.

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Cold Truth


The cold light of truth in four lines from a poem.

from "The Imaginary Iceberg"
Elizabeth Bishop

We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship,
Although it mean the end of travel.
Although it stood stock still like cloudy rock
And all the sea were moving marble.

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To make good sense of Roethke's poem, you may want to visit one by Charles Baudelaire, Correspondences, another translation of which is appended below.

Charles Baudelaire

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.
Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.
II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,
Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens.


Nature is a temple where living pillars
Let escape sometimes confused words;
Man traverses it through forests of symbols
That observe him with familiar glances.

Like long echoes that intermingle from afar
In a dark and profound unity,
Vast like the night and like the light,
The perfumes, the colors and the sounds respond.

There are perfumes fresh like the skin of infants
Sweet like oboes, green like prairies,
—And others corrupted, rich and triumphant

That have the expanse of infinite things,
Like ambergris, musk, balsam and incense,
Which sing the ecstasies of the mind and senses.

Translation from this site q.v. for an interesting explicative note.

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The Body of Allusion


The text of one of my all-time favorite poem--posted or reposted. Magnificent and beautiful. I am often stunned by Roethke's poetry and I remember really disliking it when I first read it--go figure.:

In a Dark Time
Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Quotations category from September 2007.

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