Thursday, June 28, 2007

"I don't want to meet my new life without you"

My copy of The Idiot is out on loan, but I found this quote again recently thanks to the forward thinking of my good-natured friend Roland. I am posting it here for my birthday, which will be in a few days.
"Stop, and never speak of that again!" cried Myshkin. "Listen, Parfyon, just before you appeared I came here and suddenly began laughing -- I don't know what about. The only reason was that I remembered it was my birthday tomorrow. It seems to have come on purpose. It's almost twelve o'clock. Come, let us meet the day! I've got some wine. Let's drink some. Wish for me what I don't know how to wish for myself. You wish it, and I'll wish all happiness to you. If not, give back the cross. You didn't send the cross back to me the next day! You've got it on now, haven't you?"

"Yes," said Rogozhin.

"Well, then, come along. I don't want to meet my new life without you, for my new life has begun. You don't know, Parfyon, that my new life has begun today." [1]

[1] I believe this is the Constance Garnett translation.

Some thoughts of the ending of War and Peace

Today is the anniversary of both the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the Assignation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, so it is a good day to remember World War I. In his memoir Surprised By Joy, C. S. Lewis describes some pretty disturbing goings on in the boarding school he attended as a teenager. After the description, however, he writes one of the most chilling paragraphs he ever wrote:
Peace to them all. A worse fate awaited them than the most vindictive fag among us could have wished. Ypres and the Somme ate up most of them. They were happy while their good days lasted.
Which brings me back to War and Peace, which I finished finally a few weeks ago. I heard a professor say that the amazing thing about Tolstoy was that he ended his great epic with Natasha rejoicing over her sick child's dirty diaper. I think the Count seems to be implying that the health of small child is more meaningful and important than the vain pretensions of Emperors and famous men. On this point, I probably agree with him. War and Peace ends with a long philosophical essay about history and war. But before that it's narrative ends with a sort of image of family happiness, in the families of Marie and Nikolai, and Natasha and Pierre. But even in the midst of this family happiness, we know that tragedy again lurks in the background. Tolstoy never mentions the Decembrist uprising, which to be sure is not so tragic as World War I, but Pierre's participation in his secret society in St. Petersburg, which sounds an awful lot like the Northern Society, makes one wonder: what fate awaits Pierre and Natasha's family happiness? Exile, Siberia, or the gallows?

Monday, June 18, 2007

a good word for tonight from St. John of Damascus

Yesterday I found a beautiful image from St. John of Damascus' First Homily "On the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God:
What, then--shall we keep silent, cowering in fear, because we cannot praise her [Mary, the Holy Theotokos] worthily? Not at all! Or shall we stretch out our foot over the boundary, as they say, and ignore our own limitations? Shall we shake off the reins of fear, and boldly reach out to the untouchable? Never! Mingling, instead, fear with longing and weaving from them both a single wreath, let us, in holy reverence, with trembling hand and yearning soul, pay gratefully the humble first-fruits of our minds, as we must, to the Queen Mother, the benefactress of all nature! [1]

[1] From Daley, S.J., Brian E. tr. On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. Crestwood, NY: 1998.

St. John of Damascus (676-749), by the way, is awesome. You should read more about him:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ars nova

Suddenly he realized he was a philistine.

Friday, June 8, 2007


i fell in love with ornate words
and since then plain ones never do
but cowards get what they deserve
there's no one left to sing them to

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

On Second Thought

"And then when I took my fateful decision:

I decided to choose, to take, Fatalism."

Monday, June 4, 2007

In apology to Mr. Ginsberg on the day after his birthday

I don't want to go
to San Francisco.

The town for me
is Bethany.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


The Thesaurus was
his favorite dinosaur.