the child grows enormous but never grows up

We’re a violent people, Cal. Does it seem strange to you that I include myself? Maybe it’s true that we are all descended from the restless, the nervous, the criminals, the arguers and brawlers, but also the brave and independent and generous. If our ancestors had not been that, they would have stayed in their home plots in the other world and starved over the squeezed-out soil.

…That’s why I include myself. We all have that heritage, no matter what old land our fathers left. All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It’s a breed—selected out by accident. And so we’re overbrave and overfearful—we’re kind and cruel as children. We’re overfriendly and at the same time frightened by strangers. We boast and are impressed. We’re oversentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic—and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands, they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture. Can it be that our critics have not the key or the language of our culture? That’s what we are, Cal—all of us. You aren’t very different.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden (via invisibleforeigner)
I don’t really understand my reasoning processes at all!

"A Cat in a Knot in a Tree"


"A Cat in a Knot in a Tree"

I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (via invisibleforeigner)

“To Any Reader” — Robert Louis Stevenson
California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.
Don DeLillo, White Noise (via mattdpearce)

Robert Doisneau      Juliette Gréco, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris     1947

"A photographer who made a picture from a splendid moment, an accidental pose of someone or a beautiful scenery, is the finder of a treasure." Robert Doisneau 


Robert Doisneau      Juliette Gréco, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris     1947

"A photographer who made a picture from a splendid moment, an accidental pose of someone or a beautiful scenery, is the finder of a treasure." Robert Doisneau 

Franz Kafka’s signature in a letter to Milena Jesenská. It reads:
Franz wrong,  F  wrong, Yours wrongnothing more, calm, deep forest
Prague, July 29, 1920.

Franz Kafka’s signature in a letter to Milena Jesenská. It reads:

Franz wrong,  F  wrong, Yours wrong
nothing more, calm, deep forest

Prague, July 29, 1920.


The CampMor catalog hand-drawn product illustrations are everything to me


The CampMor catalog hand-drawn product illustrations are everything to me


I have no
life but this

-Emily Dickinson, The Gorgeous Nothings, as penciled on an envelope scrap, p. 54-55. 

I Didn’t Care About Stuff But Then Stuff Happened To Me


To me.

We disparage ourselves endlessly, sometimes with reason… but more often, and more damningly, with a kind of black clarity of judgment that reaches right past all that we have or have not done, reaches past any insight or diagnosis that psychology can offer, and fingers us at the heart of what we are. Wrongness, call it. A stark and utter saturation of self:

God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me.

The poet Christian Wiman in My Bright Abyssthe final lines are from Gerard Manley Hopkins"Self" here has a particular definition established in earlier chapters; it is a conception of individual existence which contrasts indifferently with the word "soul,"

a word that has become almost embarrassing for many contemporary people unless it is completely stripped of its religious meaning. Perhaps that’s just what it needs sometimes: to be stripped of its ‘religious’ meaning, in the sense that faith itself sometimes needs to be stripped of its social and historical encrustations and returned to its first, churchless incarnation in the human heart. That’s what the twentieth century was, a kind of windstorm-scouring of all we thought was knowledge, and truth, and ours —until it became too strong for us, or we too weak for it, and ‘the self replaced the soul as the fist of survival’ (Fanny Howe). Anxiety comes from the self as ultimate concern, from the fact that the self cannot bear this ultimate concern: it buckles and wavers under the strain, and eventually, inevitably, it breaks.

My Bright Abyss is dense with such astute and precise humanity —in its poems, both Wiman’s and those he quotes, and its prose descriptions of lived experience— that one’s own lack of religiosity seems hardly important, no more important than faithlessness in a cathedral of tremendous beauty or incredulity amidst Buddhist monks quietly and carefully transcribing their texts. It is certainly the best introduction to poetry I’ve read, but also the most universalizing account of belief:

To have faith is to acknowledge the absolute materiality of existence while acknowledging at the same time the compulsion toward transfiguring order that seems not outside of things but within them, and within you, not an idea imposed upon the world but a vital, answering instinct. Heading home from work, irritated by my busyness and the sense of wasted days, shouldering through the strangers who merge and flow together on Michigan Avenue, merge and flow in the mirrored facades, I flash past the rapt eyes and undecayed face of my grandmother, lit and lost at once. In a board meeting, bored to oblivion, I hear a pen scrape like a fingernail on a cell wall, watch the glasses sweat as if even water wanted out, when suddenly, at the center of the long table, light makes of a bell-shaped pitcher a bell that rings in no place on this earth. Moments, only, and I am aware even within them, and thus am outside of them, yet something in the very act of such attention has troubled the tyranny of the ordinary, as if the world at which I gazed gazed at me, as if the lost face and the living crowd, the soundless bell and the mind in which it rings, all hankered toward—expressed some undeniable hope for—one end.

Quoting any part of the book is acutely frustrating; as Andrew Sullivan wrote after confessing that he read it “in a great rush of exhilaration” that kept him awake into the night, “It is no exaggeration to say that I’ve waited my entire adult life to read a book like this. It is impossible to summarize or even categorize.” And so it is. Perhaps the clearest thing I can say about it is that it seems to come from a time before the degradation and quiet collapse of art and literature, before noncommercial and nonsocial meaning itself was rendered absurd. Sullivan compares it to Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace, and Weil —a hero of mine in every sense— also seemed rather like an emissary from a vastly more serious and honest time. The introspection on which Wiman and Weil alike base much of their work has nothing of the performativity that ensnares our introspection, to note one difference among many. Sullivan again:

If I were to suggest why, whether believer or not, you should read My Bright Abyss, it would be because Wiman asks the most difficult questions I can imagine about life and death with unflinching honesty.

For me, the caliber, depth, and intensity of his honesty is a bracing artistic achievement rare if not absent among contemporary writers, into whose most intimate prose creeps a pathetic public deference, a political sort of compromise, as though while making love they are wondering how their form will be judged, pretending to enjoy that which they do not. They are oppressed by the imperative to conform to a zeitgeist which insists it is not fashion but moral truth, as though any era is anything but transiently mistaken, soon to be misunderstood by generations who judge it ethically wanting, intellectually primitive, socially disgraceful. Do you think you are not a slaveholder, in your way? Do you think you will carry the approval of your peers with you into the dark earth?

I peer at Wiman’s sentences, trying to determine how he managed to get off stage in order to think and write just so, how he managed to create without hearing the carping of the crowds we all now carry. I will never not hear them, never not seek to anticipate them and defend myself. Wiman quotes Rilke’s Seventh Duino Elegy, which I read and ignored in school:

Truly being here is glorious. Even you knew it,
you girls who seemed to be lost, to go under –, in the filthiest
streets of the city, festering there, or wide open
for garbage. For each of you had an hour, or perhaps
not even an hour, a barely measurable time
between two moments –, when you were granted a sense
of being. Everything. Your veins flowed with being.
But we can so easily forget what our laughing neighbor
neither confirms nor envies.

It is hard to keep a sense of oneself, but even in the filthiest streets of the city our veins flow with being. My Bright Abyss helps me remember what matters and what does not.

(via mills)
Chris Schlarb - 'Til I Die
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