June 2022
Words of a Contemplative

And these words: You will not be overcome, were said very insistently and strongly, for certainty and strength against every tribulation which may come. [Jesus] did not say: You will not be troubled, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disquieted; but he said: You will not be overcome. God wants us to pay attention to these words, and always be strong and faithful in trust, in well-being and in woe, for he loves us and delights in us, and so he wishes us to love him and delight in him and trust greatly in him, and all will be well.

And soon all was hidden, and I saw no more after this.

Julian of Norwich, Showings, Paulist Press, 315


May 2022

Wolfgang "Lover-of-God" Mozart

I tell you I want to write a finale lasting half an hour! A quartet becoming a quintet becoming a sextet becoming a septet. On and on, wider and wider—all sounds multiplying and rising together—and then together making a sound entirely new. . .. I bet you that’s how God hears the world! Millions of sounds ascending at once and mixing in His ear to become an unending music, unimaginable to us. [To SALIERI] That’s our job! That’s our job, we composers: to combine the inner minds of him and him, and her and her—the thoughts of chambermaids and Court Composers—and turn the audience into God.

[Pause. SALIERI stares at him, fascinated. Embarrassed, MOZART sounds a fart noise and giggles.]

I’m sorry. I talk nonsense all day. It’s incurable—ask Stanzerl.

from the playscript Amadeus by Peter Shaffer (2001)


April 2022

A Plan to Escape Servitude in Russian Alaska

The waiting became a kind of ghost attaching itself within each of their lives, as if a man now cast two shadows and one somehow fell into his body instead of away. The outer man had to perform as ever—do his work, eat, sleep, carry on barracks gabble—while inside, this sudden new shadow-creature, the one in wait, bided the next six weeks and six days wholly in thought of the immense voyage ahead.

Ivan Doig, The Sea Runners 

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March 2022
Bilbo Baggins' Return from Adventure

Indeed Bilbo found he had lost...his reputation. It is true that for ever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honour of dwarves, wizards, and all such folk as ever passed that way; but he was no longer quite respectable. He was in fact held by all the hobbits of the neighborhood to be 'queer'--except by his nephews and nieces on the Took side, but even they were not encouraged in their friendship by their elders.
I am sorry to say he didn't mind. He was quite content; and the sound of the kettle on his hearth was ever after more musical than it had been even in the quiet days before the Unexpected Party.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit


February 2022

Godric's Ascetic Warfare

They do not guess that in my mind I’m never still. Seven times seven are the seas I’ve sailed in less time than it takes to tell. I can draw my breath on Dover Road and puff it out again in Rome. And oh the thoughts that come to roost in this old skull!

When I’m awake, I’m master of them well enough. Let some woman that I lay with once come chirping lechery in my memory’s ear, I’ve but to clap my hands and she will usually fly away. Or let some ancient grievance croak, some long forgotten hunger whet his beak for more, some foolish pride start preening in the sun, and I’ve such arms as these old pot-lids that I wear for vest, or icy Wear, or holy prayer, to fend them off. But hermits sleep like other men, alas, and in the dark all men go mad.

Frederick Buechner, Godric 


January 2022

"What are you in for?" said Winston.

"Thoughtcrime!" said Parsons, almost blubbering. The tone of his voice implied at once a complete admission of his guilt and a sort of incredulous horror that such a word could be applied to himself. He paused opposite Winston and began eagerly appealing to him. "You don't think they'll shoot me, do you old chap? They don't shoot you if you haven't actually done anything--only thoughts, which you can't help? ...A chap like me could make himself pretty useful in a labor camp."

George Orwell, 1984


December 2021

I have set freedom before my eyes; and I am striving for that reward. And what is freedom, you ask? It means not being a slave to any circumstance, to any constraint, to any chance; it means compelling Fortune to enter the lists on equal terms. And on the day when I know that I have the upper hand, her power will be naught. When I have death in my own control, shall I take orders from her?

Seneca, Letters from a Stoic


November 2021
A Hand on Deck

With a temperament neither loquacious nor taciturn he found very little occasion to talk. There were matters of duty, of course—directions, orders, and so on; but the past being to his mind done with, and the future not there yet, the more general actualities of the day required no comment—because facts can speak for themselves with overwhelming precision.

Joseph Conrad, "Typhoon"