Sunday, 6 May 2012

And so to bed

"And so to bed." was a phrase well known from the Diaries of Samuel Pepys, and I have been using it to end the day with a quotation on Facebook to ponder. Sometimes it takes around 20 minutes to find a suitable quotation, and I try to adhere to the following principles:

1) it must not be one of the interminable short quotations that are continually posted on Facebook, usually attributed (and occasionally genuinely) to Einstein, the Dalai Lama, Rumi, etc - so not a soundbite quotation. It must not be too short, but not too long either.

2) it must be genuine, and not a fake, properly sourced

3) Most importantly, it must be something that makes you glimpse the world through the eyes of the writer, and if you agree with it, it will not be because it is saying something that just chimes with you, like the soundbites, but a quotation that hopefully opens your eyes to a different vision, yet a vision with which you can also say "that is true", or "I never thought of that in that way, but now that I see it..."

So here are some of the quotations for which I've ended each evening, for those who have missed them going out on Facebook:

And so to bed... quote for tonight is Leonard Bernstein:

Any great work of art ... revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world - the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air.
And so to bed... quote for tonight is from EF Schumacher:

The Buddhist view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence.
And so to bed... quote for tonight is from George Orwell (The Lion and the Unicorn):

There is English characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it, and that is the addiction to hobbies and spare-time occupations, the privateness of English life. We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official - the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the 'nice cup of tea'. The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in the nineteenth century. But this has nothing to do with economic liberty, the right to exploit others for profit. It is the liberty to have a home of your own, to do what you like in your spare time, to choose your own amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above.
And so to bed... quote for tonight comes from Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, best known for The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde, Treasure Island, and A Child's Garden of Verses:

In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our mind filled with the busiest, kaleidoscopic dance of images, incapable of sleep or of continuous thought. The words, if the book be eloquent, should run thenceforward in our ears like the noise of breakers, and the story, if it be a story, repeat itself in a thousand coloured pictures to the eye.
And so to bed... quote for today is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

TEN YEARS is a long stretch in a man's life. Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. This is what makes it so disturbing to look back upon time we have lost. Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavour, enjoyment and suffering. Time lost is time we have not filled, time left empty. The past ten years have not been like that. Our losses have been immeasurable, but we have not lost time. True, knowledge and experience, which are realized only in retrospect, are mere abstractions compared with the reality, compared with the life we have actually lived. But just as the capacity to forget is a gift of grace, so memory, the recalling of the lessons we have learnt, is an essential element in responsible living.
And so to bed... quote for tonight comes from John Wyndham:

A word again ... When the minds have learnt to mingle, when no thought is wholly one's own, and each has taken too much of the other ever to be entirely himself alone; when one has reached the beginning of seeing with a single eye, loving with a single heart, enjoying with a single joy; when there can be moments of identity and nothing is separate save bodies that long for one another ... When there is that, where is the word? There is only the inadequacy of the word that exists.
And so to bed.. quote tonight is from G.K. Chesterton:

The wind awoke last night with so noble a violence that it was like the war in heaven; and I thought for a moment that the Thing had broken free.
For wind never seems like empty air. Wind always sounds full and physical, like the big body of something; and I fancied that the Thing itself was walking gigantic along the great roads between the forests of beech.

The wind sang and split the sky like thunder all the night through; in scraps of sleep it filled my dreams with the divine discordances of martyrdom and revolt; I heard the horn of Roland and the drums of Napoleon and all the tongues of terror with which the Thing has gone forth: the spirit of our race alive. But when I came down in the morning only a branch or two was broken off the tree in my garden; and none of the great country houses in the neighbourhood were blown down, as would have happened if the Thing had really been abroad.
And so to bed... quotes for tonight are from Agatha Christie, but not from her crime work, but from her work helping her archeologist husband on digs in the Middle East:

The lure of the past came up to grab me. To see a dagger slowly appearing, with its gold glint, through the sand was romantic. I fell in love with Ur, with its beauty in the evening, the ziggurat standing up, faintly shadowed, and that wide sea of sand with its lovely pale colours of apricot, rose, blue and mauve changing every minute.

All around and below stretched the blood-red rocks--a strange and unbelievable country unparalleled anywhere. Here, where nowadays only the tribesmen move with their brown tents, was once a busy part of the world. Here, some five thousand years ago, was the busy part of the world.

Here was once Calah, that great City. Then Calah slept... Here came Layard to disturb its peace. And again Calah-Nimrud slept... Here came Max Mallowan and his wife. Now again Calah sleeps... Who shall disturb it next?
And so to bed. Quote for tonight comes from John Ruskin:

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, - all in one.
And so to bed... quote for tonight comes from Cicero:

Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.
And so to bed... quote tonight is from Hildegard of Bingen:

The marvels of God are not brought forth from one's self.
Rather, it is more like a chord, a sound that is played.
The tone does not come out of the chord itself,
but rather, through the touch of the musician.
I am, of course, the lyre and harp of God's kindness.
And so to bed... quote for tonight is from HP Lovecraft, but in a more reflective mood, (and without mention of Cthulhu)

There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we listen and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life. But some of us awake in the night with strange phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, of plains that stretch down to sleeping cities of bronze and stone, and of shadowy companies of heroes that ride caparisoned white horses along the edges of thick forests; and then we know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.
And so to bed... quote for today is from Rollo May, psychotherapist and existentialist:

Therapy isn't curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness. My purpose as a therapist is to find out what it means to be human. Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, "This is me and the world be damned!" Leaders have always been the ones to stand against the society - Socrates, Christ, Freud, all the way down the line.
And so to bed... quote for tonight is from G.K. Chesterton:

And the root phrase for all Christian theism was this, that God was a creator, as an artist is a creator. A poet is so separate from his poem that he himself speaks of it as a little thing he has "thrown off." Even in giving it forth he has flung it away. This principle that all creation and procreation is a breaking off is at least as consistent through the cosmos as the evolutionary principle that all growth is a branching out. A woman loses a child even in having a child. All creation is separation. Birth is as solemn a parting as death.
And so to bed... quote for tonight is from G.K. Chesterton, from "The Hammer of God". Of this, Martin Gardner wrote that it "is a marvelous paragraph in which Chesterton so beautifully conveys the essence of Gothic architecture.":

Immediately beneath and about them the lines of the Gothic building plunged outwards into the void with a sickening swiftness akin to suicide. There is that element of Titan energy in the architecture of the Middle Ages that, from whatever aspect it be seen, it always seems to be rushing away, like the strong back of some maddened horse. This church was hewn out of ancient and silent stone, bearded with old fungoids and stained with the nests of birds. And yet, when they saw it from below, it sprang like a fountain at the stars; and when they saw it, as now, from above, it poured like a cataract into a voiceless pit.
And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Ursula Le Guin's novel "The Dispossessed":

A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skillful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well-this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection, and of sociality as a whole.
And so to bed... quote for tonight comes from Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher who lived from 1135 - 1204:

At times the truth shines so brilliantly that we perceive it as clear as day. Our nature and habit then draw a veil over our perception, and we return to a darkness almost as dense as before. We are like those who, though beholding frequent flashes of lightning, still find themselves in the thickest darkness of the night. On some the lightning flashes in rapid succession, and they seem to be in continuous light, and their night is as clear as the day.

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