Topic 10 Posts

Books

Thoughts, musings, and excerpts from books, both literary and nonfiction.
‘The best thing for being sad,’ replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, 'is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn—pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics—why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough.

T.H. White, chapter twenty one of “The Sword and the Stone”, being the first part of The Once and Future King

From Kant on, “there is a feeling that really good deeds are the ones we do with the most effort, after the biggest struggles; so our moral thinking has concentrated on the difficulties of decision-making more than on the character that develops over a lifetime.” But this really doesn’t fit our moral instincts: “if we think of those people whose moral and spiritual integrity has mattered to us and made a difference to us, we shall normally find that they are the ones whose behavior doesn’t draw attention to how difficult it all is, how hard they’re working to be good; they are people for whom, to some extent, there is a ‘naturalness’ about what they do. They have become a particular kind of person; and that personal reality has begun to change the human nature they live in and to make slightly different things seem the obvious focus of desire”.…That is the character of sainthood: “the saint isn’t someone who makes us think, ‘That looks hard; that’s a heroic achievement of will'—with the inevitable accompanying thought, ‘That’s too hard for me'—but someone who makes us think, ‘How astonishing! Human lives can be like that, behavior like that can look quite natural'—with perhaps the thought, ‘How can I find what they have?‘” Saints’ lives are made up of “incidents that make it startlingly clear how extraordinary behavior can arise in situations of extreme pressure without any apparent effort”

Peter J. Leithart, “Easy Sainthood” (2016), quoting extensively from Silence and Honey Cakes by Rowan Williams.