I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Never again

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Then one of the demons answered: “Lords, we have been ruined by what we thought would benefit us most. Remember the words of the prophets, who said that the son of God would come down to earth to save the sinners descended from Adam and Eve. And we went and seized those who said that the man who would come to earth would deliver them from the torments of Hell. Everything the prophets said has now come true. He has taken away all those that we had taken hold of, and we are powerless against him. He has taken away from us all those who believe in his special birth, who believe he was born of woman in such a way that we had no part in the event and were not even aware that it was going to happen.”

“Don’t you know, then,” said another, “that he has them washed in water in his name? They are washed in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, so that we can never again have them as we used to. We have now lost them all through this washing, so that we have no power over them unless they choose to come back to us. Thus the man who has taken them away has reduced our power. Moreover he has left ministers on earth who will save them, no matter how great a part they have had in our works; they have but to repent and renounce our works and do as the ministers say. We have thus lost them all. Our Lord has offered them a great spiritual gift: to save mankind, he came to earth and deigned to be born of woman and suffer all the torments of the world; and he was born of woman unbeknownst to us and without committing any sin of the flesh. When at last we came along, we tried and tested him in every way we knew, but he resisted all our efforts and chose instead to die in order to save mankind. He must surely love all men, if he was willing to suffer such great pain to take them away from us. We now have to seek a way to win them back so that they cannot repent or even speak to the ministers who could grant them the pardon that he paid for with his death.”

Then all together they said: “We have lost everything, since he can pardon sinners up to the last moment. Whoever embrace him will be saved. Even someone who has always performed our works is now lost to us if he repents. We have now lost them all.”

From The Prose Merlin, in The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation, p. 307

I find it especially interesting that the author has the demons call Jesus Our Lord.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 16, 2020 at 3:48 pm

There’s no other way

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“You have done what was required of you,” said the Director. “You have obeyed and waited. It will often happen like that.”

C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Written by Scott Moonen

March 1, 2020 at 9:05 am

Posted in Books, Quotations, Vocation

Follow me

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My name also is Ransom.

Maleldil, to Elwin Ransom

Written by Scott Moonen

February 15, 2020 at 7:24 am

Posted in Books, Quotations

The Piano

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When I am stuck in writing a book, when I am stuck in a problem in life, if I go to the piano and play Bach for an hour, the problem is usually either resolved or accepted. I find, as I grow older, that I turn less to the romantics and more to the baroque composers, though they’ve always been my favorites. In college I asked if I could learn something with more feeling in it, and my professor gave me some Chopin. What I had really been wanting, of course, was Bach.

And I did, years earlier, discover counterpoint for myself. We were visiting my grandmother in the South. What I remember most about her big old house was that there was a small conservatory, always green-smelling and warm, and that there were birds in it; and I remember her white, cluttered bedroom, off which was a screened sleeping porch entirely surrounded by trees covered with Spanish moss and filled with the singing of birds; and I remember the music room, with double doors leading to the living room. I spent a lot of time there, the doors closed, and one evening after dinner I was leafing through some old music and came across a rondeau by Rameau. I hadn’t been taking piano lessons for more than a year or so, and I will never forget the shock of joy with which I heard my left hand repeating what my right hand had been doing, heard both hands together, one starting the melody, the second coming in with it: the feeling of discovery, of sheer bliss, is still vivid.

Here in Crosswicks we have my mother’s piano. It is older than I am, has become difficult to tune, is not always predictable. Keys stick. Notes do not always sound when struck. When we moved back to New York for the winters it was clear that the piano would not stand another transition. In any case, we did not want to empty the house completely; it still had to be Crosswicks.

For a while we lived in a lovely but almost empty apartment. My mother came up from the South to visit, and one day she said, “You do miss a piano, don’t you?” Yes, I did. Desperately. We kept our eyes and ears open for a second-hand piano, and eventually found one which Mother bought for me. It was not a great piano, but neither am I a great pianist. For a good many years it was perfectly adequate. Then it got to the point where the bass sounded dead and the treble sounded tinny, and tuning didn’t help at all.

One evening we were at Tallis’s for dinner. The friend who had cashed Emily Brontë’s check and I were with him out in the kitchen. Hugh was coming up after rehearsal; had he been there he probably would have shut me up, but I was beefing about the piano, and said, “If one of your ritzy friends is breaking up a big house and wants to dispose of a piano, I’m in the market.”

The following Sunday after church we were again up in Tallis’s apartment, and he staggered us by announcing, “Madeleine, I’ve decided to give you my piano.”

Hugh’s response was, “You can’t! Where will you put your pictures?” For the top of the piano was covered with dozens of photographs—friends, godchildren, people from all over the world, famous and infamous, majah, minah . . .

The piano is a Steinway grand. It came to Tallis from Austin Strong, the playwright. It has been played by Paderewski and Rachmaninoff. It has also almost undoubtedly been played by my mother, though none of us knew this at the time. Austin Strong was a friend of my father’s; they were of the same generation, and they saw each other weekly at the Players Club. My mother was a splendid pianist, and one of my earliest memories is hearing her run through an opera score while friends from the Met stood around the piano and sang.

The piano is now in our living room in New York. Tallis quite often remarks that things know where they belong. And The Piano is quite definitely an icon. I am convinced that the fact that Paderewski and Rachmaninoff have played it affects my own playing; the first night it was in our apartment I took my bath while Hugh walked the dogs, but instead of going to bed, I wrapped myself in a huge towel and, unable to resist, went to the piano. When Hugh came in he began to fumble with the dials on the radio-phonograph control, which are out in the hall by the front door. “What are you doing?” I asked him. He answered in surprise, “Are you playing? I thought it was WQXR.” Such was the effect of The Piano.

Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet, 165-167

Written by Scott Moonen

January 27, 2020 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Books, Music, Quotations

Christmas books!

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Written by Scott Moonen

January 18, 2020 at 6:59 am

Posted in Books, Personal

Spirit

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. . . in the tradition of Western philosophy, the capacity for spiritual knowledge has always been understood to mean the power of establishing relations with the whole of reality, with all things existing; that is how it has been defined, and it is conceived as a definition more than as a description. Spirit, it might be said, is not only defined as incorporeal, but as the power and capacity to relate itself to the totality of being. Spirit, in fact, is a capacity for relations of such all-embracing power that its field of relations transcends the frontiers of all and any “environment.” To talk of “environment” where spirit is concerned, is a misunderstanding, for its field of relations is “the world,” and by its very nature it breaks the bounds of any “environment;” it abolishes both adaptation and imprisonment. Therein lies, at one and the same time, the liberating force and the danger inherent in the nature of spirit.

Josef Pieper, The Philosophical Act

Written by Scott Moonen

January 5, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Books, Quotations

Leisure

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No, the contrary of acedia is not the spirit of work in the sense of the work of every day, of earning one’s living; it is man’s happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God—which is to say love. Love that certainly brings a particular freshness and readiness to work along with it, but that no one with the least experience could conceivably confuse with the tense activity of the fanatical “worker.”

Who would guess, unless he were expressly told so, that Aquinas regarded acedia as a sin against the third commandment? He was in fact so far from considering idleness as the opposite of the ethos of work that he simply interprets it as an offense against the commandment in which we are called upon to have “the peace of the mind of God.” . . .

Idleness, in the old sense of the word, so far from being synonymous with leisure, is more nearly the inner prerequisite which renders leisure impossible: it might be described as the utter absence of leisure, or the very opposite of leisure. Leisure is only possible when a man is at one with himself, when he acquiesces in his own being, whereas the essence of acedia is the refusal to acquiesce in one’s own being. Idleness and the incapacity for leisure correspond with one another. Leisure is the contrary of both.

Leisure, it must be clearly understood, is a mental and spiritual attitude—it is not simply the result of external factors, it is not the inevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a weekend or a vacation. It is, in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul, and as such utterly contrary to the ideal of “worker” . . . .

In the foregoing sections leisure was tentatively defined and outlined in its ideal form. It now remains to consider the problem of realizing its “hopes,” of its latent powers of gaining acceptance, and its possible impetus in history. The practical problem involved might be stated thus: Is it possible, from now on, to maintain and defend, or even to reconquer, the right and claims of leisure, in face of the claims of “total labor” that are invading every sphere of life? Leisure, it must be remembered, is not a Sunday afternoon idyll, but the preserve of freedom, of education and culture, and of that undiminished humanity which views the world as a whole. In other words, is it going to be possible to save men from becoming officials and functionaries and “workers” to the exclusion of all else? Can that possibly be done, and if so in what circumstances? There is no doubt of one thing: the world of the “worker” is taking shape with dynamic force—with such a velocity that, rightly or wrongly, one is tempted to speak of demonic force in history. . . .

There is, however, a fact which from the vantage-point we have now reached must be strikingly clear and significant, and it is this: whereas the “total work” State declares all un-useful work “undesirable,” and even expropriates free time in the service of work, there is one Institution in the world which forbids useful activity, and servile work, on particular days, and in this way prepares, as it were, a sphere for a non-proletarian existence.

Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Written by Scott Moonen

January 5, 2020 at 5:15 pm