Don’t Believe Everything You Think

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LAY MORALS
Robert Louis Stevenson

The problem of education is twofold: first to know, and then to utter. Every one who lives any semblance of an inner life thinks more nobly and profoundly than he speaks; and the best of teachers can impart only broken images of the truth which they perceive.

Speech which goes from one to another between two natures, and, what is worse, between two experiences, is doubly relative. The speaker buries his meaning; it is for the hearer to dig it up again; and all speech, written or spoken, is in a dead language until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.

Such, moreover, is the complexity of life, that when we condescend upon details in our advice, we may be sure we condescend on error; and the best of education is to throw out some magnanimous hints.

No man was ever so poor that he could express all he has in him by words, looks, or actions; his true knowledge is eternally incommunicable, for it is a knowledge of himself; and his best wisdom comes to him by no process of the mind, but in a supreme self-dictation, which keeps varying from hour to hour in its dictates with the variation of events and circumstances.


James Joyce was born on this day, February 2, in 1882.  His masterwork Ulysses was published in 1,000 copies in Paris on his 40th birthday.  As significant as this book is to the English literary canon, I don’t know anyone who has actually read it. I know many (including myself) who have tried.

It is a famously difficult book, written largely in stream of consciousness style. It is how a person’s mind actually works. The famous last chapter is perhaps the hardest. In it, the main character’s wife’s thoughts go on for more than 24,000 words yet is divided into only 8 mammoth sentences.

We think a thousand thoughts, all at once. That’s not the hard part. The challenge is to quiet your mind. The only way to do that is to first understand that you can’t force it. You have to step away and stand beside your thoughts, examining them from every angle – and most importantly – allow God to whisper to your heart.

The Bible says we are justified by faith, not reason.  Faith comes from the heart.  Belief comes from the heart. As Pascal said,

“The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.”

 

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Psalm 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

 

Dig Deeper

Art: The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

Originally named The Poet (French: Le Poète), The Thinker was initially a figure in a large commission, begun in 1880, for a doorway surround called The Gates of Hell. Rodin based this on The Divine Comedy of Dante, and most of the many figures in the work represented the main characters in the epic poem. Some critics believe The Thinker, at the centre of the composition over the doorway and at about 70 cm high larger than most other figures, was originally intended to depict Dante at the gates of Hell, pondering his great poem. However, there are questionable aspects to this interpretation, including that the figure is naked, while Dante is fully clothed throughout his poem, and that the figure, as used, in no way corresponds to Dante’s effete figure. The sculpture is nude, as Rodin wanted a heroic figure in the tradition of Michelangelo, to represent intellect as well as poetry.

This detail from the Gates of Hell was first named The Thinker by foundry workers, who noted its similarity to Michelangelo’s statue of Lorenzo de Medici called “Il Penseroso” (The Thinker). Rodin decided to treat the figure as an independent work, at a larger size. The figure was designed to be seen from below, and is normally displayed on a fairly high plinth, though the heights chosen by the various owners for these vary considerably.

Literature and Liturgy: James Joyce and Meditation

JoyceJames Augustine Aloysius Joyce, one of several children of John Stanislaus Joyce, was born in Dublin, Ireland, on February 2, 1882. He was educated in Dublin at Jesuit schools and graduated from what was then known as Royal University. From boyhood he was fascinated by the sounds of words and by the rhythms of speech and song.

When he was in his early twenties, Joyce left Ireland to live in continental Europe. Although he divorced himself from both his homeland and his church, the major source of his literary inspiration was to be his early life in Dublin and the years he spent in its Jesuit schools.

He lived for a time in Paris, France, and then settled in Trieste, Italy. Later he married Nora Barnacle, of Galway, Ireland. Their son and daughter, George and Lucia, were born in Trieste.
Joyce, who is said to have known 17 modern and ancient languages, at times eked out a living as a language instructor. During World War I he took his family to Switzerland, which was neutral in the war. There his struggle for recognition as a writer was complicated by near-blindness. He underwent a long series of operations and had to wear a patch over one eye, which was damaged.

Chamber Music, a book of poems, was Joyce’s first published work (1907). It was followed in 1914 by Dubliners, a collection of cruelly realistic short stories that deal with life in Joyce’s native city. In 1916Joyce’s first full-length book in the stream of consciousness technique, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, was published as a novel. It is an autobiographical work, though Joyce named the central figure Stephen Dedalus.

Stephen Dedalus is also a central character in Ulysses, an enormous work printed in book form in 1922 in Paris, where Joyce made his postwar home. The book re-creates a single day in Dublin in 1904. The language of‘Ulysses is often as disjointed as the images in a dream. It is full of puns, slang, and metaphors. Portions of the book were considered obscene and Ulysses was banned for many years in English-speaking countries. Joyce’s last work was Finnegans Wake, published in 1939 after parts of it had been serialized as Work in Progress. It is written almost in an invented language. His critics complained that Joyce had reached the ultimate in obscurity in the writing of Finnegans Wake.

Among other works by Joyce is a book of poems, Pomes Penyeach (1927). Part of the first draft of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man appeared in 1944 as Stephen Hero.
Joyce spent his last months in Switzerland, where he went in 1940 to escape the German occupation of France. He died in Zürich, Switzerland, on January 13, 1941.

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Meditation (μελετή, meditatio) has been used in a variety of different senses in the Christian tradition: (1) the recitation or memorizing of Scriptural texts (this is the predominant sense in early monastic literature, but later fell into disuse); (2) keeping various religious truths or inspirational thoughts in mind during the day (sometimes with different thoughts being recommended for different periods of the day); (3) thinking about things, whether the emphasis is on intellectual rigour, acuteness of perception, or devotional fervour (the object of such meditation might be Scripture, doctrine, life, the world, or almost anything); (4) the application of the mind and often the imagination to the truths of the faith and esp. to episodes in the life of Christ, with a view to stirring an intense affective response (this tends to become a more or less formal exercise). Meditation in all these senses is easily associated with *prayer, because some of the favourite biblical texts are themselves prayers, and thinking about Christian truth sharpens a desire for God’s gifts, and thinking about life reveals man’s need of God; in sense (4) meditation came in due course to be regarded as part of prayer and so it could be integrated into various methods of prayer. Following St *Teresa of Ávila and St *John of the Cross, many writers have posited a sharp distinction between meditation (in sense (4)) and *contemplation. In modern times various forms of meditation have been adopted or adapted from Eastern non-Christian religions, often involving the abandonment of deliberate thought rather than its focusing on a specific religious object.

 

Bibliology

F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1072.

“Joyce, James,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

 

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