Friday, February 28, 2014

The Magnificent seven

I have a taste for lists this week.

It is said that as you grow older you find it more difficult to make new friends and that the number of truly close friends you have in a life never goes beyond the number of fingers on two hands. However true this is as a sociological observation (probably more so for introverts than extroverts), it does appear to be true, for me, in the authors that I love and return to over and over: my friends. Though it does not appear to be true with artists as I discover, and fall in love with, new ones all the time!

I came up with seven that I thought I would list roughly in chronological order.

Herman Hesse is possibly an inevitable starting place as an author you discover in youth, love in a passionate, uncomprehending adolescent way; and, if you are lucky, rediscover later and learn to appreciate the richness, the blend of classical restraint and Romantic ideal, the thought as well as the poetic narrative. I read Narziss and Goldmund first, it being about 'monks and sculptors' and equipped on the cover of its then Penguin paperback edition with a haunting ruined monastery in the winter snow by Casper David Friedrich.

Kathleen Raine was introduced to me by a  school friend through her remarkable, honest, searching Autobiographies, then in three separate volumes, available at the library, and her scholarship on Blake, whom I most desirously wanted to understand, and who is not included here, as a writer, because I realise that it is as an artist I most feel companionship with him. I came to know Kathleen and her attention restored spirit in me, for which I will remain eternally grateful, and cannot read her without hearing her voice, that carried such quiet intensity and a power of  quickening thought.

Martin Buber I read first at university through self-propelled discovery and now would be hard placed to unpick the fabric of his thought from what passes for my own! His core faith that each and every person is made after the image of God and, therefore, is both infinitely precious and always eludes our categories, rests at my core too; however, hard it is, at many moments, to live it.

Patrick White I learned of first from an essay on his novels by the distinguished French poet, Jean Mambrino, in the second edition of the journal 'Temenos', founded and edited by Kathleen. I went out and bought his 'Riders in the Chariot' immediately (quite literally) and read it, not once but twice (and subsequently repeatedly) as well as working my way through all his major works (his first novel, which he repressed, has just been republished and awaits me). 'Riders' is, amongst much else besides, one of the most penetrating studies of the nature of evil that I know and though it may be 'banal' in its origins, it does require a certain diligent attention to spin its webs.

Temenos also brought me Wendell Berry, farmer, essayist, poet and story teller, who I first heard (and bought) at the first Temenos conference held at Dartington Hall  in 1986. Of all the authors here the most grounded in the everyday realities of a crafted life and the creator, in fiction, of a living, breathing community - the Port William membership - explored in book after book - endlessly engaging and educative. An author who has repeatedly shown me what it might be like - to be an anxious parent with an anxiety that never dies for example - or who has written so movingly of the contours of our shared lives (and deaths). His quiet image of life as a room within a house, through which we pass, yet remain housed, before and after, is the most consoling of grief that I know.

Edwin Muir first appeared in an essay by Thomas Merton, then one by Kathleen (and in her Autobiographies) but it took a time before I began to read him for myself. At which point revelation broke. Of all the authors here, the one I most deeply admire and identify with. His central myth - of Eden and the Fall and the long journey back from darkness into light - is my own. His eccentric Christianity - incarnate, forgiving, fleeing any traced dogmatic certainty - is my own and his love for the 'Transfiguration' (one of his great poems) pointing at the redemption of all to come, my own to.

Ursula Le Guin is the only author here, I realise, that I discovered after university and included in the charmed circle! Nor can I recall exactly how I came by her! She was oft quoted, I remember, in the writings of the Anglican solitary, Maggie Ross, whom I knew slightly, and must have resonated and slowly stuck. I began reading her when on sabbatical and at a contemplative Dominican ashram and fell in love with her crafting of anthropologically credible yet very different worlds to our own (and from which we can look back on our own and wonder and think). I cannot think of any author who writes shorter sentences, each one usually very simple, but building to a complexity of image and thought.

None of the seven I realise are conventionally religious, though all are compellingly exploring the boundaries of the spiritual. All of them give you the sense of being, in a meaningful sense, contemplative yet all are socially engaged, though from the margins of being writers, first and foremost. All are of the liberal left though deeply conservative in important ways. All are from the last century and all of them practise/practised a range of writing disciplines - though perhaps only Berry and Buber would not have one (poet or essayist etc) as a dominant mode.

Nothing was planned in these connections yet they do seem to hang together even as they were found through happenstance, personal connection and a shaping (if indefinable) taste!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ten favourite poets (in no particular order except the first)

Edwin Muir enfolding our story within the pattern of the Fable.

Kathleen Raine haunting the ideal as it moves across time.

Edward Thomas shaping the pastoral of a lost country.

T.S. Eliot exploring the traced lines of history and place in the mystical.

Wendell Berry celebrating community, place and Sabbath.

Constantine Cavafy memorialising his lost time, surrendered love and a forgotten history.

William Blake finding his cleansed doors of perception and the realities of prophecy.

Angelos Sikelianos recreating mythos in a Greek village, now and always.

Mary Oliver singing from nature into her naturalness.

Rabindranath Tagore balancing between knowing and unknowing, affirming even when denying.

 Beatrice addressing Dante from the Car by William Blake
Archetype in the West of Poetic Inspiration

The Good Man in Hell

If a good man were ever housed in Hell
By needful error of the qualities,
Perhaps to prove the rule or shame the devil,
Or speak the truth only a stranger sees,

Would he, surrendering quick to obvious hate,
Fill half eternity with cries and tears,
Or watch beside Hell's little wicket gate
In patience for the first ten thousand years,

Feeling the curse climb slowly to his throat
That, uttered, dooms him to rescindless ill,
Forcing his praying tongue to run by rote,
Eternity entire before him still?

Would he at last, grown faithful in his station,
Kindle a little hope in hopeless Hell,
And sow among the damned doubts of damnation,
Since here someone could live, and live well?

One doubt of evil would bring down such a grace,
Open such a gate, and Eden could enter in,
Hell be a place like any other place,
And love and hate and life and death begin. 

Edwin Muir

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When will Uganda abolish interest?

I keep promising to myself that I will not read the commentary threads attached to newspaper articles. With honourable exceptions, they appear to be written by people of such entrenched opinion paradoxically grounded in air, whose world never made it into colour (or even shades of grey). They hurl their opinions at one another across divides, cloaked often, if certainly not always, by anonymity. I can feel the tempting power behind that very strongly!!!

Most recently I saw the threads following articles on the new law in Uganda on homosexuality. The trenches here are manifold - the 'Keep out of Uganda's business' trench (especially if you are white)' faces the 'Uganda is a beastly non de-script country occupied by bigots' trench. The former trench is noticeably supplied by the 'The Bible condemns sodomy' supply trench and the latter is happily reinforced by atheists everywhere!

It is an unedifying spectacle (as, sadly, is the law itself).

Being me, I was most drawn to the religious argument. Happily I live in a day to day world where the strange habits of fundamentalism play out at a distance; however, here they were in all their peculiar glory.

The Bible condemns 'homosexuality', here are the texts, the law is justified. The first problem with this is, even if this were true, since when have 'men' taken upon themselves to administer what ought rightly to be the judgement of God and where in the operating manual that the Bible apparently is (in this scenario) does it instruct the faithful on how such judgements ought to be applied. As my Jesuit ethics teacher constantly reminded us, it is exceptionally difficult to read ethical precepts out of the Bible (that actually help you solve problems) without bringing to the text philosophical judgement and contextual interpretation.

The second problem is, of course, that whereas fundamentalism pretends to a literal understanding of the text, they are as guilty (or innocent) of interpretation as the next man (or woman) though usually less consciously.

This brings me to my title. If you read the Bible, the condemnation of charging interest is a more persistent, well articulated and insistent theme than the rather minimalist discussion of homosexuality. The charging of interest as Christian tradition recognised into the Middle Ages (and Islamic tradition continues to recognise) has a much greater and potentially more corrosive impact on society than men and women enjoying congress with 'themselves' indeed I cannot think of any credible negative impact this would have nor, as far as I can see, can anyone else. Nobody seems to say why, in everyday human terms this is 'bad' but default to its unnaturalness, the unarticulated threat it poses to families and God says No!

However, does anyone in the Christian fundamentalist camp get worried about the prohibition against interest, campaign against it, warn us of the continuous, sustained Biblical condemnation of it - not that I can see. They usually neatly argue that what is meant is 'usury' or excessive interest. In other words because it is in their interest to do so, they interpret the Bible so that it aligns with their extra-Biblical convictions. The text is a plastic one, for everyone, when they want it to be; and, of course, it should be. No text, even a canonical one, lives outside an evolving tradition of interpretation (whether conservative or radical) and no text, on its own, can or should have the final word.

Nevertheless I look forward to President Museveni outlawing interest (at least possibly it will be a law easier to enforce than peering into people's bedrooms)...

Finally a word on those other trenches - Uganda for the Ugandans and are they not all beastly. If I had thought either I would not (as a very young but 'important' person [sic]) have persuaded my then trustees to help fund one of the first effective HIV/AIDS awareness programmes (and NGOs) in Uganda when, ironically, those rather staid trustees thought that AIDS (from a Western European perspective in the late 80s) was a disease of gays and drug addicts (or both) of whom they heartily disapproved but loved nonetheless because they were Christians! Nor have helped found one of Uganda's most effective micro-finance organisations (though I may have to suffer in purgatory over the 'interest' question)!

I love Uganda and have demonstrably helped its people and that gives an all too sharp edge to my sorrow at this new law that despoils its image so markedly, based in part on a distorted (and frankly hypocritical viewing) of the Bible. The Bible ought always to rest in the transforming light of God's ever present love and forgiveness. If it does not, it usually becomes a continuing instrument of our own sinfulness.


A Book of Silence

When I went on my sabbatical into silence, six months at the Friends of God Dominican Ashram, by the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the things I expected to be able to do with all my freed time was read more. This proved an illusory hope as, in fact, my average one and half books a week slipped away to probably half of that even though my only outward obligation was cooking for our community on Thursdays!

As Sara Maitland discovers on her own exploration into silence in her 'A Book of Silence', you find yourself slowed, you read with more attention and greater care. Unlike her, who sought the different dimensions of silence and adjusts her reading accordingly - the Desert Fathers to explore the self-emptying silence of the desert or the Romantic poets and the 'self' conforming genius of creativity when faced with the solitude of nature  - mine changed not an iota. It continued in its wayward substance, reading along in what I now see is my haphazard fits of bundled enthusiasms that circulate around each other loosely.

It is a beautiful and honest book about a dimension - the conscious seeking after a structured silence and solitude - that is deeply counter cultural. Though I confess, her friends are not mine. Several of hers questioned the validity of her quest, even questioning its sanity, whereas mine were all full of cheering enthusiasm and curious enquiry! Not for the first time, reading this difference, I imagined that I live in a 'bubble', a sustaining one, but somewhat remote from the patterns of 'ordinary life' (that given an engagement with it, through work, at some of its hardest edges, is a continuous surprise)! It is presumably a product of my mostly seeking the good in people that even guilty peeks at the comment streams in newspapers refuses to displace!

In her careful 'phenomenology' of silence, read across both religious and secular practitioners (such as lone yachtsman and Arctic explorers), I was taken both with how familiar it was and how it 'missed' my most striking feature which was the release of dreaming. I would dream, vividly, seven or eight times a night, waking each time to notice before lapsing into another cycle. I would take such dreams as I could remember or fitfully note down on my morning walks with me, around the harbour lighthouse and back, dialoguing with them as you would on a slightly wild evening of conversation with an enthusiastic friend! Each night, they would 'answer back' continuing the unfolding conversation. On it went except for the two occasions when I stepped back into the world when they came to an abrupt halt resuming equally abruptly on my return. It was deeply ironic that in the wider, embracing silence of community and lakeshore, prayer and solitude, I was caught up in such a vivid act of conversation!

No wonder desert monks, I thought, imagined assaults by 'demons' (and ministration by angels) as I appeared addressed by 'daemons' - the rich patterning of a creative, polytheistic self given the space to be heard. As the psychologist and cultural critic, James Hillman, remarked the soul is always a polytheist, even as the spirit may seek oneness.

Interestingly, though Maitland skirts dreams, she does find herself hearing voices - that proves, through other accounts, to be a common pattern and gives a very honest and compelling account that brings them back within the bounds of 'normality'!

My most lasting impression of the book is the revelatory nature of silence. It, in time, given time, reveals our deepest interest and that is, often, I expect, in need of radical purification. If we choose silence, rather than have it imposed on us (or choose it even if it is imposed), after the initial euphoria, we find it peeling away the layers of 'psyche' either to reveal the Spirit in the self-emptying silence of religious practice or 'a self' that is a creative agent as in the solitary searching of the artist or, if we are especially conscious of its rhythms, as Maitland argues, potentially both.

Both heart what it means to be human and from both, the 'aloneness' of both, can, paradoxically, come speaking witness. It was Pascal who said that all the problems of the world arise from people who cannot sit quietly, alone, in their rooms. For if we cannot, we are too easily 'confiscated' by the ebb and flow of the world. A world that happens to us rather than one we choose and construct out of being anchored in an identity beyond 'myself', in the silent creativity that is the Spirit. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wilding poetry

We imagine the wild to be 'out there' in a wilderness beyond the usual domain, even if, in truth, there is no where we, as humans, have not been, touched and, sadly, often despoiled. Alternatively the wild is something that breaks in, from an 'out there' that is 'in here', disturbing our orderliness - the drunk on a Friday night say disrupting our walk home, aggressively advertising his presence. 'He behaved like a wild animal,' we say, even though this is usually a most inaccurate comparison.

But, in truth, the wild is amongst us, within the heart of the very nature of things, everywhere.

In David Hinton's superlative, 'Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape', he tells us that in China (of whose ancient poetry he is a distinguished translator) there is a mountain revered by artists, poets and monks and called 'Thatch-Hut' (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The ideogram that depicts this name is a stylised roof of a hut, combined with a kitchen vessel on a pedestal and...a tiger! The mountain is a home, the rightful dwelling place of monks and poets, yet every domestic home contains something other - the dynamism of a tiger, universally admired for the spontaneous nature of its movements and the clarity of its mind. The domestic being just so is always complemented by the wild that eludes description, that bursts forth into any complacency. There is always a tiger in our tank!

Hinton's book is full of such magical explorations of how the thinking and cosmology of China structured its language and the possibilities of its art and expression. At the heart of which is the sense that everything that is shown forth emerges out of mystery, out of an 'absence', a 'void' that can never be named only lived. We live always out of the 'wild' - that which fails our categories - and in doing so, we are invited always to live out of a vulnerable compassion that never seeks the closure of our opinions.

It is a beautiful book - explorations of Chinese poetry and of the Taoist/Ch'an mind woven into the fabric of meditations on language and poetry and on the walks he takes, to and fro, on his own mountain - Hunger Mountain in Vermont, his home.

Evening Landscape, Clearing Snow

Walking-stick in hand, I watch snow clear.
Ten thousand clouds and streams banked up,
woodcutters return to their simple homes,
and soon a cold sun sets among risky peaks.

A wildfire burns among ridgeline grasses.
Scraps of mist rise, born of rock and pine.
On the road back to the monastery,
I hear it struck: that bell of evening skies!

From 'Mountain Home the Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China' translated by David Hinton

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Art and action

Hermann Hesse: Baum, Häuser, 1922

I recall my first reading of Hesse's 'The Glass Bead Game' (the third of his books that I read) as a seventeen year old, fledged Romantic, and being shocked at the death of Joseph Knecht its central charcter. I had not realised that the book comes in three parts - Knecht's biography, his poems and the three lives, exercises in imaginary biography that he wrote as a student. I was expecting a continuance of his life, now that he had laid down his position as Master of the Glass Bead Game and taken on the challenge of tutoring his friend's gifted, imperious, problematic son. I had not expected his death. I remember it as a wrenching shock accompanied by a real grief. No rejoinder that this was 'merely' a book and Knecht a character would have made any difference to me. I had stepped into the book's life and it had become my own.

This is the theme of Sven Lindqvist's classic text, 'The Myth of Wu Tao-tzu' that I have just read. Wu Tao-tzu was a legendary Chinese painter who having one day painted a beautiful landscape on a wall, clapped his hands and walked into his own painting. Lindqvist's book is an extended meditation on what this might mean: what does it mean to inhabit a work of art and what might its relationship be with a fracturing, conflict bound world? Like all Lindqvist's work this book is an unclassifiable melange of reflection, travelogue, philosophy and reportage but the work that most helped him ponder his questions was Hesse's last, great novel.

Lindqvist's 'answering' is that inhabiting a great work of art does offer the possibility of helping shape a self responsive to its values and yet, as you step into the world, you find a tragedy that is not receptive to being moved from its course of violence by transformed selves. It is in the grip of structures of collective human life that cannot easily be diverted.

I, though a 'idealistic pessimist', as I think Hesse was, hoping for everything because it is possible but expecting nothing, beg to differ.

One differing is given by history. One of Lindqvist's negative scenarios is South Africa (he is writing in the the late 60s) and yet see what was wrought there with the connivance of two very different yet sympathetic leaders. One of whom, Nelson Mandela, had endured a forced inhabitation in the art that is making, surviving a life in prison (and importantly the creating of a work of art in his gardening - a great working that Hesse, gardener and celebrator of gardens, painted and written of, would have recognised. If you have not read Mandela on the importance of his gardening, do, it is an eye opening account of the meaning of creative making and its relationship to self-making, forgiveness and subsequent action).  South Africa's outcome was transformed by men, at least one of whom, had inhabited a work of art and found their selves there.

The other differing is my own witness. When Joseph Knecht stepped out into the world from the safety of his contemplative and cultured order, so did I. In parallel to reading Hesse, I had wanted to step out and back into monastic life: a form of habitation that struck me then, and now, as eminently attractive and yet every attempt to do so, beyond necessary and temporary retreat, has been marked by a threshold I cannot cross. I was compelled to follow Knecht out into the world. Does the reading of the Glass Bead Game create or reinforce the conviction? Probably both. Out I went and the consequences, though less world shaping than the history above, have, to my great surprise, been shaping of better possibilities in the world in whose participation I am and remain deeply grateful.

Art can shape lives but only if the understanding of what is seen is matched with a will to bear the responsibility of it. Hesse's Glass Bead Game is a classic account of the nurturance, practice and traditions that need to be in place (or created) to make that so. It is a deeply 'contemplative' novel yet all true contemplation can only find its reality in action.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

One Foot in Eden

I remember a conversation with Wendy Robinson, Orthodox Christian and unconventional Jungian analyst, on the poetry of Edwin Muir, that we both immeasurably loved, and we settled on this poem, "One Foot in Eden", as his greatest achievement. For here there was an absolute balancing between his underlying Platonism - that there is another world, ideal, paradisal of which this is a moving image - and his Christianity - that in this moving image, in its compromised, messy suchness, just being so, is to be discovered the fullness of reality.  
The mystery of creation, our creatureliness, is to be revealed no where else but 'here' and, if there is to be a 'new creation', it starts, sprouts, now in these 'beclouded skies' and no where else. The 'world' is neither an occluded meaningless landscape nor a waiting station for 'heaven'. It is the place, seen aright, where the fullness of being reveals itself  when we meet it in the openness and vulnerability that is navigating "charity in the midst of sin". 

As Wittgenstein remarked (to paraphrase) - the solution to the mystery of life must be lived now for there is never anywhere but now in which a 'solution' might be discovered and that 'solution' is not an 'answer' but an attitude 'of hope and pity and love'...

"One foot in Eden still, I stand
And look across the other land.
The world's great day is growing late,
Yet strange these fields that we have planted
So long with crops of love and hate.
Time's handiworks by time are haunted,
And nothing now can separate
The corn and tares compactly grown.
The armorial weed in stillness bound
About the stalk; these are our own.
Evil and good stand thick around
In fields of charity and sin
Where we shall lead our harvest in.
Yet still from Eden springs the root
As clean as on the starting day.
Time takes the foliage and the fruit
And burns the archetypal leaf
To shapes of terror and of grief
Scattered along the winter way.
But famished field and blackened tree
Bear flowers in Eden never known.
Blossoms of grief and charity
Bloom in these darkened fields alone.
What had Eden ever to say
Of hope and faith and pity and love
Until was buried all its day
And memory found its treasure trove?
Strange blessings never in Paradise
Fall from these beclouded skies."
Here is Nicholas Maw's setting of Muir's poem, placed in song:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Librarian genes overcome their selfishness

It would not be strange to find that Richard Dawkins is not on the side of the angels (as he undoubtedly does not believe in their existence) but it is to find that he is not on the side of 'nature' either. But this is one of the themes of Colin Tudge's excellent "Why Genes are not Selfish and People are Nice: A Challenge to the Dangerous Ideas that Dominate our Lives".

The rhetorical flourish of the 'selfish gene' is precisely that a literary flourish with only a minor strand of substance to give it factual weight and yet it is the bearer of a long history in thinking about evolution. Thinking that is grounded in political and philosophical speculation about the nature of the human rather than in the experience of the actual texture of nature. That thinking has tended to imagine that 'at bottom' the world is rooted in competitive struggle, of nature battling it out 'tooth and claw' (an image coined, as it happens, by a poet, Tennyson) and that was endorsed tentatively by Darwin, more enthusiastically by Huxley.

Yet, as Tudge repeatedly shows, this image, borrowed from certain habits of 'Enlightenment' thinking (and early nineteenth century history), is, at best, a limited picturing of how the world actually unfolds and, at worst, a severe and debilitating distortion. We are much more the fruits of collaborative, co-operative endeavour than of struggle, indeed our very bodies came into existence as different kinds of cell began to cumulatively interact, collaborate and specialise. We are co-operative assemblies, both within and without our skin.

Why should this matter outside the portals of biological knowledge? Because, of course, ideas have a habit of spreading beyond their domains, reinforcing certain habits of imagination and of argument.

If nature tells us we are inherently competitive and it is from this we gain our principal advantages, then we will be tempted to draw up our economic and social arrangements on that basis. If, however, our coming to be is a process grounded in widespread co-operation and it is this that grounds our mutual best outcome then we might be encouraged to explore different paths for our 'economy' - our common home.

Tudge's book is a clear sighted, and compellingly argued, challenge to do precisely this - to revision our understandings of what counts as who we are - both on natural and metaphysical grounds - so that we might align our human society on better grounds more likely to yield sustainable and lively outcomes.

For me, the case has always been unarguably so, and when I might be tempted to doubt it, I take the simple expedient of considering my journey to work that day. What does it most closely resemble (even if it included a stuffy underground journey)? A collaborative endeavour made possible by the labour of many co-operating hands or a competitive struggle? That there are elements of the latter is a truism, especially within the stresses of our modern age, but as an underlying account of how it comes to be possible co-operation is only possible way to go.

Meanwhile, I loved Tudge's re-visioning of 'genes' not as selfish manipulators, in charge of their robotic hosts, securing the best outcome for themselves but as 'librarians' that carry information that each part of the system needs to perform certain key tasks. In a sense both are 'rhetorical' flourishes (and anthropomorphic) but I know which one chimes more closely with my felt sense of the nature of things!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

'Nothing ever happens'

My mother recalls when I was ten or eleven passionately (and surprisingly) disclaiming that 'nothing ever happens'!

This might have been simply the plaintive cry of a bored child excepting that I remember it vividly too, the very moment, where I was and how I was.

I was reminded of it today reading an essay by the esotericist and scholar, Richard Smoley, entitled 'On Encounter with the Ancient Wisdom', where he describes that his first lesson from ancient wisdom was acquiring a 'sense of scale' - 'the recognition that earthly not the only, or even the most important, reality.' This world, our everyday place in which 'nothing ever happens', is a filtered out and down version of the 'real thing' that waits upon us beyond a thin veil.

This sense of scale is a common experience, though its usual fleetingness often relegates it to the realm of the forgotten. I remember sitting in a doctor's surgery listening to a young man calm his pregnant girlfriend with his story of it - swimming in a lake when everything became light, lightened - whilst his 'other eye' kept watch on his illegally parked motorcycle outside! It was such a surprising moment that I sometimes want to persuade myself that I dreamt it but I know I did not. I remember the errand that took me to the surgery and vividly recall the couple's physical presence.

I remember my cry was not in search of adventure in time - though, ironically, that has come in abundance - but for signs that my childhood sense of the scale of things, fleetingly glimpsed, might become a conscious connection. I remember also, at this same age, discovering there were people called 'atheists' who did not 'believe in' God. This was a mighty puzzle to me: how could they be so obtuse and not notice? And when did God become a question of 'belief'  - I did not believe that my parents loved me or that the padding of the furniture in the breakfast room was blue: I knew.

I keep a glimmering affectionate envy for those for whom it is the normal vision of things, as here above, with my beloved Blake and his painting of Jacob's Ladder. This is a beautiful image of conscious connection - heaven and earth bound by angelic messenger.

Thus far I must be content with a something that elusively happens when I taste and see the world's radiance, fleetingly yet repeatedly. Happily! 

Everyone is interesting, even if to requires a few sherries to find out how

V.S. Naipaul, who died recently, once asked one of his interviewers, before he would permit them to start, "What have you read? And do...