It was pleasant to drive back to the hotel in the late afternoon, above a sea as mysteriously colored as the agates and cornelians of childhood, green as green milk, blue as laundry water, wine dark. — F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me. — Genesis 32:26
And it’s what fueled the show’s essential story line for the best years of its life: the gradually romantic evolution of Jim and Pam from work spouses to actual spouses. Yes, the ham-fisted shenanigans of the final season made it plain that The Office had punted for years on the inevitable flip side to this fairy tale: Jim and Pam had gotten each other but they’d given up their hopes and dreams in the process. But I think it’s worth remembering just how bracing and essential those flirty looks and missed connections once felt, how understated and remarkable Jenna Fischer was in a role that so easily could have rankled with cuteness or veered into doormat. The end of Season 3 remains one of a handful of perfect television moments from my lifetime: Pam is doing a talking head to the camera assuming Jim, whom she’s lost to the wiles of Rashida Jones’s Karen, has gotten a corporate job in New York. Then Jim bursts into the room, a little flustered and a lot excited. He asks Pam out on a date. She accepts. He leaves. She turns back to us, asking “I’m sorry, what was the question?” And her skyscraping smile fills the screen in a way that standard sitcom laughter never could. — The end of ‘The Office’ - Grantland
Not the round natural world, not the deep mind,
The reconcilement holds: the blue abyss
Collects it not; our arrows sink amiss
And but in Him may we our import find.
The agony to know, the grief, the bliss
Of toil, is vain and vain: clots of the sod
Gathered in heat and haste and flung behind
To blind ourselves and others, what but this
Still grasping dust and sowing toward the wind?
No more thy meaning seek, thine anguish plead,
But leaving straining thought and stammering word,
Across the barren azure pass to God:
Shooting the void in silence like a bird,
A bird that shuts his wings for better speed. — Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Sonnet XXVIII
Maybe the coolest thing about being a teacher is just this: Everything that’s worn and familiar to me is new to my students. I’ve been through the ins and outs of Ulysses dozens of times, which is precisely what makes it fun to be in a room with thirty people who are encountering it for the first time. It’s easy for me to forget that experience — to forget all the ways that book can disorient (and even delight) a reader — unless I make a point not of explaining but of asking: What confused you? Where did you run aground? Was there a point when you were tempted to give up? (And no, I won’t ask you whether you yielded to that temptation.) What do you make of this passage? What about that one?
And it’s wonderful to see how some people discover that they were confused by something they didn’t even realize they were confused by until someone else raised a question — how a question from one student generates quite another question from a different student, how nodes of puzzlement — or excitement, or understanding — form during a class session. I lecture all right, but my lectures arise from where I discover that my students are situated in relation to a text. — Once More Around the MOOC | The American Conservative
I don’t have to be told that Americans are sentimental, earnest, boastful, narcissistic, inarticulate, inelegant, literal-minded, acquisitive strivers who speak in euphemisms. Some of this stuff I’m glad to be away from even as I remain a boastful, narcissistic striver myself. But it’s good to have some definitions of terms that have perplexed me. ‘The British,’ Eagleton writes, ‘“muddle through”, meaning that they achieve their goals but don’t quite know how, and might just as easily not have done.’ It’s a strange phrase to hear, as I have, from the mouth of a banker, but then I suppose public subsidies are just that sort of thing. And then there’s the weather – something I’ve never paid attention to. ‘The subject,’ Eagleton writes, ‘appeals to the deep-seated fatalism of the British people, since there is no way of stopping a thunderstorm. This … is a secret source of self-lacerating joy among the citizenry. The British rather enjoy feeling helpless, as the Americans do not. The thought that there is absolutely nothing one can do is regarded by some in the United States as defeatist, nihilistic and in some obscure sense unpatriotic. In Britain, it brings with it a strange, luminous, semi-mystical kind of peace.’ To think of all those grey drizzly days I’ve spent looking out the window in despair without knowing that everyone around me was concealing their semi-mystical masochistic glee beneath a cover of shyness and ironic grousing. — Christian Lorentzen · Short Cuts · LRB 9 May 2013
Intriguingly, when we look at the ancient evidence for the treatment of early Christians a very different picture emerges. The vast majority of our ancient sources for persecution in the first century were written in the second century and beyond. The stories about the deaths of the apostles, for instance, were written as late as a hundred years later and modeled on the fanciful genre of ancient romance novels.
Even the earliest, most ostensibly trustworthy martyrdom stories have been edited and reworked. The authors of these accounts borrowed from ancient mythology, changed the details of events to make the martyrs appear more like Jesus, and made the Roman antagonists increasingly venomous. The motivations of these later authors and editors, who have gone unheralded by history but who shaped our understanding of the world, are arguably more fascinating than the martyrdom stories themselves. No doubt there are kernels of truth at the heart of some of some of the stories, but we do not have evidence of persecution. —
Candida Moss: The Myth of Christian Persecution
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. — T.S Eliot, “East Coker”
Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God. — from T.S. Eliot, “East Coker”
People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience. The lady who only read books that improved her mind was taking a safe course—and a hopeless one. She’ll never know whether her mind is improved or not, but should she ever, by some mistake, read a great novel, she’ll know mighty well that something is happening to her. —
Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (via habitofbeing)
Apparently this has gone mini-viral since I last checked my Flannery O’Connor tumblr.