Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Quote of the Day (Poet Amy Clampitt, on How ‘The World Is a Wheel’)

“Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel.
All that we know, that we're
made of, is motion.”—American poet Amy Clampitt (1920-1993), “Nothing Stays Put,” in The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt (1997)

Monday, March 27, 2023

Quote of the Day (H. L. Mencken, Defining ‘Celebrity’)

“A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.” —American editor, columnist, and philologist H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), A Mencken Chrestomathy: His Own Selection of His Choicest Writing (1949)

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Spiritual Quote of the Day (The Gospel of John, on the Raising of Lazarus)

“Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’

“Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’

“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’

“The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”—John 11: 32-44

This episode is among the most unusual, even the most strange and affecting, among all of them in the four gospels.

From the viewpoint strictly of storytelling, it shifts perspectives, with Christ addressing Martha and Mary, making his way through the crowd, addressing his Trinitarian “Father,” and having moments of interior consciousness (Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled”).

Moreover, for the inevitable doubters of this very public miracle hearing this years later, John includes the grittiest details associated with the event: the bandage- and cloth-bound, risen Lazarus, and even the gruesome invocation of a stench associated with removing the stone.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, in George Stevens’ reverential but slow-moving 1965 Biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told, this appears to have been the one event to call out all the great director’s skills.

As you’ll see in this YouTube clip, the scene dispenses with the all-star cameos that are so distracting elsewhere in the film.

Instead, Stevens frames everything—including the climactic moment when Jesus urges his friend to “Come forth”—as if we were viewing a great Renaissance tableau—maybe something like The Raising of Lazarus, by the Italian painter Sebastiano del Piombo, in the image accompanying this post.

How unusual is this chapter in the ministry of Jesus? Well, the Lazarus story is not told in any Gospel other than John’s. This story has the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” And of course, it ultimately foreshadows the Easter that the Church year looks forward to and that Christians hope for.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Quote of the Day (Tove Ditlevsen, on Childhood and Memory)

“Childhood falls silently to the bottom of my memory, that library of the soul from which I will draw knowledge and experience for the rest of my life.”— Danish poet, fiction writer, and memoirist Tove Ditlevsen (1917-1976), Childhood (Vol. 1 of The Copenhagen Trilogy, translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman) (2021)

Friday, March 24, 2023

Quote of the Day (Mark Twain, on Cats and Lies)

“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.”—American humorist, novelist, and lecturer Mark Twain (1835-1910), Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

Political lies especially have incredible longevity. Just look at the drumbeat of falsehood dominating this week’s news.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Quote of the Day (Washington Irving, on a Man Who Became a ‘Matrimonial Victim’)

“My aunt was a lady of large frame, strong mind, and great resolution; she was what might be termed a very manly woman. My uncle was a thin, puny little man, very meek and acquiescent, and no match for my aunt. It was observed that he dwindled and dwindled gradually away, from the day of his marriage. His wife’s powerful mind was too much for him; it wore him out. My aunt, however, took all possible care of him, had half the doctors in town to prescribe for him, made him take all their prescriptions, willy nilly, and dosed him with physic enough to cure a whole hospital. All was in vain. My uncle grew worse and worse the more dosing and nursing he underwent, until in the end he added another to the long list of matrimonial victims, who have been killed with kindness.” — American fiction writer, biographer and diplomat Washington Irving (1783-1859), “The Adventure of My Aunt,” in The Complete Tales of Washington Irving, edited by Charles Neider (1975)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Quote of the Day (Sir Francis Bacon, on the Differences Between History and Poetry)

“Because true history propoundeth the successes and issues of actions not so agreeable to the merits of virtue and vice, therefore poesy [i.e., poetry] feigns them more just in retribution, and more according to revealed Providence.  Because true history representeth actions and events more ordinary and less interchanged, therefore poesy endueth them with more rareness and more unexpected and alternative variations.  So as it appeareth that poesy serveth and conferreth to magnanimity, morality and to delectation.  And therefore, it was ever thought to have some participation of divineness, because it doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the mind; whereas reason doth buckle and bow the mind unto the nature of things.  And we see that by these insinuations and congruities with man’s nature and pleasure, joined also with the agreement and consort it hath with music, it hath had access and estimation in rude times and barbarous regions, where other learning stood excluded.”—English philosopher, scientist, essayist, and statesman Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), The Advancement of Learning (1605)