Friday Flotsam: Lent and Reading

1. So another Lent begins. This year I’m focusing on purgation, clearing out habits that have been a drag on my mind and attention span. In particular I’m giving up most video media: no perusing YouTube, no movies, no shows, etc. I’ll still work on my own videos some, and still use ‘ambience’ videos (which are mostly for white noise with some slight visuals), but nothing narrative or comedic or really primarily visual in nature. Also just generally trying to create more silence in my life.

2. On the latter note, I’ve been reading Cardinal Sarah’s The Power of Silence. I started it a bit ago but am continuing it as part of the Lenten reading. Reading that is like sinking into a warm bath and letting cares and worries fall away in the peaceful surrender of rest; I highly recommend it. It makes one long for quiet and solitude and reflection.

“If we want to grow and to be filled with the love of God, it is necessary to plant our life on three great realities: the Cross, the Host, and the Virgin. These are three mysteries that God gave to the world in order to structure, fructify, and sanctify our interior life and to lead us to Jesus. These three mysteries are to be contemplated in silence.”

3. I’m also taking Joseph Moore’s advice and rereading The Divine Comedy, though ironically enough it’s hard to moderate Dante, and I’m already most of the way through the Inferno. When it comes to apt imagery and moral fitness, there is Dante and there is everyone else. Things like how suicides are turned into trees that bleed when their boughs are broken, and after the Resurrection of the Body they alone will not be restored to the flesh they rejected, but their bodies will hang from their branches for eternity. It is a staggering wealth of poetic imagination mixed with rigid philosophy.

I’m reading Ciardi’s translation at the moment. After I’ve finished with it, I might just seek out Longfellow or Dorothy Sayer’s version and go another round.

4. Speaking of Mr. Moore, in his most recent post he talks about the cultural and intellectual stagnation at the end of the Middle Ages, brought on by the repeated blows of a climate-change-caused Famine, the Black Death, and the 100 Years War and its little brothers. The result was that material science was essentially put on pause for some two-hundred years, and art and literature simply repeated what had come before.

That last part should sound familiar to us, as we’re undoubtedly in a state of similar stagnation today, only from a lower height. Which raises the question of what the modern world’s Divine Comedy will be; the apex of modern art and culture.

My own suggestions are either Lord of the Rings or Fantasia (the former being the greater and richer work, but the latter being more an embodiment of the best of its time).

5. It’s a bit of a treasure trove, reading wise at the moment: I just discovered last night that Hilaire Belloc wrote a biography (or more of a character study) of King James II, and that it’s available for free on Internet Archive. That is exactly the sort of thing I would want; an account of a shadowy, generally unpopular figure whose downfall is part of the modern foundation myth, written by a man who (mostly) wouldn’t give the popular narrative of history the time of day.

I’ve not gotten very far, but Belloc’s shown his usual psychological shrewdness in painting the figure of our late lamented King. Belloc was an absolute master at grasping and illustrating the unique character of the figures he presents, conveying the strange contradictions that exist in real people, and showing how they fit together into a coherent whole (he’d be very useful as a guide to character creation). Like, he describes how James, serving in the French Army during his first exile, nevertheless cheered Cromwell’s soldiers because they were his countrymen and he was patriotic to a degree that would have been more suited to the 19th century than the 17th, something all-but-unheard of among Kings of the time.

6. By the way, I call him ‘our’ king, because of course at the time of his reign the states that would become the core of the Republic, complete with institutions that persist to this day, were still colonies under the British crown. Who do you think New York is named after?

7. Thought of the day:

If you’re a young person and a teacher or some other authority figure is telling you to ‘take the lead’, it’s most likely because he needs your firm young body to absorb the bullets and billy clubs before they hit him.

2 thoughts on “Friday Flotsam: Lent and Reading

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