Quotations: July 2008 Archives

I often tire of hearing how businesses should be left alone to regulate as they see fit--that governmental interference in the workplace is disruptive to economic progress.


But then there's this:

from In Praise of Slowness
Carl Honoré

One British manager put it bluntly: "We're in a cut-throat business, and if our rivals are getting seventy hours per week out of their staff, then we have to get at least that to stay in the game."

This is the attitude that infuses laissez-faire economics--people are capital, people are commodities, people are resources to be used and disposed of at will. It is dehumanizing and it is a distinctly anti-Christian view of the person. And if it is not actively protested by those who experience it--if we countenance it, then we are contributing to its continuation. The form of protest, the one I use most often and which offends nearly no one is to refuse to say "We don't have the resources for that." I always say, "There are not enough people for that" or "We do not have enough staff to manage that." It's a small way of continuing to point out that people are people and staplers and paper are resources.

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From Soren Kierkegaard


Found in the book cited below:

Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.

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Nature and Humanity


from In Praise of Slowness
Carl Honoré

A recent study at Texas A&M University found that having a view of green spaces from the bedside window helped patients recover from surgery more quickly and with fewer painkillers. So hospitals are installing outdoor gardens, revamping wards to provide more sunlight, plants and green views and broadcasting footage of dolphins swimming in the sea or streams gurgling through sun-dappled forests on in-house TV channels.

Why should it come as a surprise or need any research to discover that humans respond well to their natural environment? We have made such a ritual of our divorce from nature in everything from the food we eat to the places we live to the ways we move about the face of the Earth, that we have forgotten that we are bound inextricably with nature. Indeed, St. Paul tells us that with the fall of humanity all of nature fell as well, descending with the fallen race to support and aid us in our miserable fallen existence. It is God's mercy that we are part of this wonderful natural world, and through our own ignorance we constantly try to deny it.

Later (and please note I can neither comment upon nor do I endorse the therapy mentioned):

Caleta combines reiki with other techniques to heal and ralx. She starts off by steering the patient through a deep-breathing exercise, and then uses guided meditation to help them visualize a peaceful scene in nature. "People who live in cities respond especially well to making that connection with nature,"she says. "It really calms them down."

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from The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (DRC)
8 First I give thanks to my God, through Jesus Christ, for you all, because your faith is spoken of in the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make a commemoration of you; 10 Always in my prayers making request, if by any means now at length I may have a prosperous journey, by the will of God, to come unto you.

from The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (KJV)

8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

10Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

In Greek

Here, we learn something interesting about the Roman community--Paul has yet to visit them. He writes from Corinth--most scholars place the date of the later sometime in the fifth decade of the first century--perhaps 52 A.D. Paul is about to embark on a journey to Jerusalem to deliver some of the money and relief he has received from the Churches in Asia Minor to the Church at Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, he will be arrested and imprisoned for the final time--and he will at last achieve his goal of traveling to Rome.

In the words of greeting, Paul at once expresses his deep love for the Church of Rome, his desire to go there, and his constant prayer for them. He is the role model for intercessory prayer, demonstrating in thought, word, and deed that one can pray for people one has never seen.

Because Paul has never visited with the Romans, the letter has a peculiar character. Most of the other letters attempt to address an immediate problem within the community. However, the letter to the Romans does not do so. Instead, it is a deeply theological reflection on the meaning of Christianity and of the salvation that God has fashioned for all people through time.

(The substance of this entry is derived from the introductory material to William Barclay's The Letter to the Romans, excerpts of which are available here.)

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I continue to read through Soul in the City and while there is nothing astonishing here, there are a great many insights that are thought-provoking and even, as my protestant friends would have it "convicting."

fromSoul in the City
Marcy Heidish

"There are some peoplewho, in order not to pray, use as an excuse the fact that life is so hectic that it prevents them from praying. This cannot be," wrote Mother Teresa of Calcutta. "Prayer does not demand that we interrupt our work, but that we continue working as if it were a prayer" Everything we do, then, can be offered to God in a prayerful way.

If you don't feel comfortable with concepts such as breath prayer, try speaking directly to God. Just speak. Tell Him everything; talk to Him. "He is our father," Mother Teresa said. "He is father to us all whatever religion we are."

Add insights from Saints and holy people of all faiths, to outright challenges at the end of each chapter:

[source as cited above]

5. Begin to see God in each person you pass in a crowd. Practice this slowly for one block, then two block, then more.

6. Pray silently in a crowd. Deliberately note when you're intent on holding your own in an urban setting.

10. When you're walking downtonw or in an urban settings, try this mental exercise: imagine being part of a crowd swarming around Jesus. Do you behave differently? Is your attitude different? Note these times in a journal.

Ms. Heidish write's particularly for the urban dweller, but her advice holds for anyone who feels hard-pressed by the tensions, anxieties, and heartaches that come with living in a world that is moving far too quickly for us. The warm and beautiful insights of this book can help us to focus once again on the presence of God wherever we happen to be.

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from The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (DRC)

1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 Which he had promised before, by his prophets, in the holy scriptures, 3 Concerning his Son, who was made to him of the seed of David, according to the flesh, 4 Who was predestinated the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of sanctification, by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead; 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith, in all nations, for his name; 6 Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that are at Rome, the beloved of God, called to be saints. Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 8

from The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (KJV)

1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

2(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

3Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

4And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

5By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

7To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[In Greek]

First, a note on the Greek site listed above. It is amazing and beautiful--the requested text appears in Greek. Upon mouseover, the word is parsed and defined. My particular reason for using for this passage was to get the particular word in Greek used here for "slave" so that all of the nuance could be understood. (Mouseover and see.)

Second, a short personal comment. While I've undertaken to attempt this way of honoring St. Paul, I must admit from the beginning my own defects in this mission. I am NOT a theologian in any professional sense, nor am I a qualified biblical scholar. For those things that do not spring from my own head (definitions of words and nuances, etc.) I am indebted to any number of commentaries, but in the course of my writing i shall probably rely upon two--one that I've come to trust (William Barclay's), and one that is freely available in any number of locations on the web (Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary), which has a time-honored place in the protestant tradition.)

Third, before comment, allow me to say that this may be the only passage of Romans on which I am capable, on my own steam, of making any intelligible comment at all. I invite you all to share with me as we go along, and so enrich the experience for all of us.

Now to Paul, who was to have been the centerpiece of this entry. In this, possibly the longest of the salutations in the letters, Paul sets out to describe clearly who he is and what place he holds in the line of the revelation of God. We note first that Paul is doulos of Jesus Christ. Quick reference to the Greek Bible tells us that doulos is a word used to refer to a slave--either literal or figurative, and either voluntary or involuntary. Both the DRC and the KJV use the milder term "servant," and that is a shame because it robs the statement of some of its impact and drama.

Because of its origin in the revelation on the road to Damascus we could look upon the inception of this slavery as involuntary and unasked for. However, there is no question that by the time the letters are written, Paul is the willing subject of his Lord--he sees slavery with Christ as more ennobling than freedom without Him.

Matthew Henry shares this insight:

He here builds his authority upon his call; he did not run without sending, as the false apostles did; kletos apostolos--called an apostle, as if this were the name he would be called by, though he acknowledged himself not meet to be called so, 1 Cor. xv. 9. Separated to the gospel of God. The Pharisees had their name from separation, because they separated themselves to the study of the law, and might be called aphorismenoi eis ton nomon; such a one Paul had formerly been; but now he had changed his studies, was aphorismenos eis to Euangelion, a gospel Pharisee, separated by the counsel of God (Gal. i. 15)

From Pharisee separated unto the law, to the new Pharisee, the real Pharisee, what the Pharisee set out to become--separated unto God--in this particular case through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

When we stop to think about it, Paul, of all the Apostles, probably has the greatest thing of all to boast about. He was so valuable to the faith, so important to what was to become Christianity, that he indeed was chosen, directly by Jesus Christ AFTER the earthly time of Jesus. Paul's closest direct encounter (that we have evidence us) was his approbation of the Martyrdom of St. Stephen. God raised up and invited into that elite company of the Founding Fathers, St. Paul. He used St. Paul's genius to inform, enlighten, and reveal much of the thought and understanding that would become the foundation of the Church. That's pretty phenomenal. As St. Paul writes his letter to the Romans, specifically to the Jewish community living in Rome, he is under house arrest for, basically, being a Christian. Not a good thing in the early years of the Empire.

So far we've gotten to the end of the first verse. Small wonder then that most commentaries are extended--although rarely protracted, and often densely argued, examining every shade of meaning of every word. Thus we launch into the second verse, which continues the pedigree by saying exactly who this was who called Paul to the Apostleship of Christ.

Paul is "set apart for the Gospel of God" which God himself had promised through the prophets. (The pronouns and their antecedents are a little unclear in the English translation, while, by their relationship within an inflected language are perfectly clear in their reference.) This gospel, this Good News, is the message of God's Son, Jesus Christ, and in this next set of clauses, Paul launches subtly into the body of his message and the core of the truth of Christianity because he notes that Jesus is and was really human--by the flesh, descended from the line of David the King, but by the Spirit of Holiness (God himself) declared, marked out, defined, decreed, appointed or specified (see the Greek) the Son of God in the Spirit.

Within the first four verses of this book even within the salutation of the Letter, Paul has already laid out a fundamental and "impossible" truth of the Christian Faith. Jesus Christ is both completely human and completely divine--human and God--the incarnation of the Spirit of Holiness that had come upon the prophets of old, who had met with Moses in the desert and who had led and guided His chosen people to this revelation for all people--Jews first and then gentiles.

It is this selfsame God-man who has given Paul the grace to be an apostle and to call all people to Jesus Christ, even those in the Jewish community living in Rome at the time. This community of Jews who are called by God to be Saints, holy people, separated from the world and devoted entirely to God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. To this singular people, Paul commends himself.

So, in a simple salutation, we have the recapping of two thousand years or more of the revelation of God to His people--the final emphatic statement of this revelation the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead. So, we encounter many of the central elements of our faith--essentials of the creed and essentials of our spiritual life before Paul even begins to make his argument. He's barely stepped through the door and he's already opened up the entire revelation of God for his audience. St. Paul is nothing, if not a fast worker, and a worker of great subtlety because he has already tied Jesus to one of the central figures of the Jewish faith and tradition--He has anchored Jesus squarely in the center of the chosen people of God, in such a way that He cannot be repudiated without repudiating the essentials of the faith.

And, I fear, the letter becomes only more dense. However, because I also do, subsequent comments will likely be shorter and more to the point because the essence of this should be the celebration of St. Paul and not the celebration of Steven blabbing on about St. Paul.

Hope this was helpful, useful, or otherwise to your taste. If you are more of a scholar than I am, please feel free to comment, correct, and help anyone who reads here better understand what St. Paul intends.

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Humor Circa 1833


from an 1833 number of The New York Mirror

Matter and no matter.

Two metaphysicians debated the question whteher the soul was matter or no matter. "I will prove to you," said one, "That it is matter. Suppose you were to knock out my brains." "That," said the other, "certainly would be no matter.

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Robert de Boron's Prose Merlin


There was a time when a scholar had to order through ILL and wait for weeks or months before he or she could set eyes on such works as Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini or Robert de Boron's Prose Merlin. No more.

from Prose Merlin
Robert de Boron

Full wrothe and angry was the Devell, whan that oure Lorde hadde ben in helle
and had take oute Adam and Eve and other at his plesier. And whan the fendes
sien that, they hadden right grete feer and gret merveile. Thei assembleden togedir
and seiden: "What is he this thus us supprisith and distroyeth, in so moche that
oure strengthes ne nought ellis that we have may nought withholde hym, nor again
hym stonde in no diffence but that he doth all that hym lyketh? We ne trowed not
that eny man myght be bore of woman but that he sholde ben oures; and he that
thus us distroyeth, how is he born in whom we knewe non erthely delyte?"
Than ansuerde anothir fende and seide, "He this hath distroyed, that which we
wende sholde have be mooste oure availe. Remembre ye not how the prophetes
seiden how that God shulde come into erthe for to save the synners of Adam and
Eve, and we yeden bysily aboute theym that so seiden, and dide them moste turment
of eny othir pepill; and it semed by their semblant that it greved hem but litill or
nought, but they comforted hem that weren synners, and seide that oon sholde
come which sholde delyver hem out of tharldome and disese?

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Gandhi's Gita


from The Gita According to Gandhi

No knowledge is to be found without seeking, no tranquility without travail, no happiness except through tribulation. Every seeker has, at one time or another, to pass through a conflict of duties, a heart-churning.

Dhritarashtra Said:

1. Tell me, O Sanjaya, what my sons and Pandu's assembled, on battle intent, did on the field of Kuru, the field of duty.

The human body is the battlefield where the eternal duel between right and wrong goes on. Therefore it is capable of being turned into a gateway to Freedom. It is born in sin and becomes the seed-bed of sin. Hence it is also called the field of Kuru. The Kuravas represent the forces of Evil, the Pandavas the forces of Good. Who is there that has not experienced the daily conflict within himself between the forces of Evil and the forces of Good?

This, apparently is Gandhi's translation into Gujarati, then translated into English, of one of India's great sacred books. For those interested, the entirety is available here.

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I suppose it is odd to put these two writers together, and I do so for only one reason--so I'll start with that and move on to tpleasures one derives from Henry James alone.

While there are a great many things delightful about reading both Georgette Heyer and Henry James, one thing the two have in common is a sensibility that seems to have long since fled the world. They come from a world and a time that was not completely genitally obsessed. In Henry James, marriage, infidelity, and the like make up the fabric of the story, but we are not invited into the intimacy of the physical marital union--it is not germane to his point--as it is not germane to most of what we read. It is an add-on that has long since lost its shock-value, novelty, and, frankly, its interest. It's one thing to read Lawrence Durrell trying to turn the literary world upside down (a little late considering he came in the wake of Henry Miller), and quite another to read the tawdriness of most modern novels wherein sex is interjected because there seems to be nothing else to keep the reader's interest for pages on end.

As with Henry James, so too with Georgette Heyer. In most cases her virginal heroines are married or about to be married on the last page. There is always some kiss or another misinterpreted, unasked for, or otherwise "transgressive," but nothing that would offend the sensibilities of my grandmother. And that's exactly as I like it. I have read, at the recommendation of another, some modern romances and have, in some cases, been delighted with the writing, but nearly always disappointed by the perceived necessity to make the stories "hot."

While Henry James and Georgette Heyer both share in this delight, there is another pleasure in James's writing that cannot be said to be a characteristic of Ms. Heyer's. Henry James forces us to slow down. It is nearly impossible to get anything out of reading Henry James rapidly, except perhaps a sense of vertigo and a headache that threatens to split your skull. Henry James, particularly in the later period, specializes in periodic sentences that require slowing down and reading with great care. To wit:

"She hadn't pretended this, as she had pretended on the other hand, to have divined Waymarsh's wish to extend to her an independent protection homeward; but Strether nevertheless found how, after he had Chad opposite to him at a small table in the brilliant halls that his companion straightaway selected, sharply and easily discriminated from others, it was quite, to his mind, as if she heard him speak; as if, sitting up, a mile away, in the little apartment he knew, she would listen hard enough to catch."

Now THAT is a sentence. And The Ambassadors as well as The Golden Bowl is a book of such sentences and more. (I cannot yet speak to The Wings of the Dove, but hope to do so soon.) It was one of my great plesures when the reading group I belong to expressed delight and great pleasure with reading The Portrait of a Lady. There is a sense of accomplishment in just getting through the books; however, there is a lingering element--a kind of spirit of the book that stays long after the last page has been finished and the last word said that provides a sustained pleasure--that gives one a true sense of why Henry James is rightfully called "The Master." There is none other like him, not remotely, and I have to say that it came as a woeful surprise to me that I was unable to pick up much of anything in the way of modern literature after having taken in the real and solid pleasures of The Portrait of a Lady. The modern sensibility palls in comparison. Henry James turns pleasure, leisure reading into an edifying and strengthening activity that delights both heart and mind in the recollection of it. There is no modern writer of whom I would say the same.

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I recently started reading this book, finding the concept intriguing--city spirituality. I'm intrigued not because I live in a city, I don't--but because the concept has larger applicability. I can think of it as the spirituality of those who do not appreciate the crowd, as it were.

A real delight upon opening the book was to find an index, a bibliography, and end-notes, like a real books. So few books on spirituality bother to share the sources from which they derive much of their insight. And with this books the sources range from magazine articles to Holy Scripture itself.

I'm not attempting at this point to review the entire work, just to share some of my enjoyment and the high-point of today's reading.

from Soul and the City
Marcy Heidish

I learned a great deal about praying in crowds from homeless women, especially Nell. She practiced prayer on the street by holding a phrase from a humn, a song, or Scripture with her throughout the day and repeating it to herself--and to God. Sometimes, she said, the phrase was short. For example, "Lord, have mercy on me." Sometimes she would vary this phrase by praying it as intercession, "Lord, have mercy on her/him/them." Other times the phrase was longer.

There is nothing astounding in this--nothing to take the breath away. And yet there is a down-to-earth solid practicality that I find inspiring. To read this is to be reminded that prayer is only a thought away--prayer is a choice, an act of love, and act of will that each person can make his or her own through the true prayer and exertion of the Holy Spirit whose inward work is both inward and upward, translating us into the realm of the Father even as we remain ignorant of it.

I'll share more as I continue to read.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Quotations category from July 2008.

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