Memory is salvation –John Donne
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T S Eliot Little Gidding
I picked up a few ideas and have some thoughts about Wordsworth: he wrote, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.” He sees human nature as out of tune and he doesn’t see himself in the beauty of the natural world (Vaughan wrote that prayer is the world in tune). Wordsworth’s sentiment is the opposite of Whitman, who at ease in nature. Whitman expressed the American sublime weird and disparate things coming together in a transcendental harmony. Kant formulated the mathematical sublime (infinity) and dynamic sublime (overhanging cliff). Hopkins teaches us that everything that seems to be an awkward mess comes together for the glory and splendour of God.
Thoreau said Wildness is the preservation of the world. Read The Big Sky BY Guthrie where he wonderfully expresses how wildness (the frontier, powerful emotions) is what makes life worth living, but also threatens life.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is about not taking yourself too seriously
Chaucer’s ‘the pardoner’s tale is about the power of art—how when something is graceful it is irresistible!
Hemingway’s stories are about catching a fish that you can’t land (big two hearted river and the old man and the sea- but the friendship between Santiago and manolin and the dreams of lions are what makes it special) (E J Pratt epitomizes Hemingway’s theme in his poem ‘Overheard by a Stream’ ) and ‘Out of Season’ is about feeling out sync.
In ‘youth,’ Conrad likens youth to a burning ship being engulfed by the crashing waves of the sea—so evocative
The chapter ‘The Lee Shore’ in Moby Dick tells us what is safe, easy, and familiar can be bad for you at times and life requires faith to put effort into a mystery (the poem of the same title by E J Pratt also wonderfully expresses this theme)
Yeats’s big idea was imaginative refuge: whether it is Lake Isle of Innisfree or Byzantium, he imagines a place where time doesn’t wear you down and everything has a part to play in a grand order, but that all of this comes from the messiness of human veins and it’s impossible to completely transcend social and bodily frustrations
‘The Winter’s Tale’ is about the miracle of spring- a renewal of childlike perspective (reunited with a lost child) that makes love possible again by softening a hardened heart. Romeo and Juliet is about the difference in how the young and the old perceive time and change.
Dickens’ ‘Christmas books’ are about the miraculous power of memory—even bad memories—to make us better and give more to others
Joe Gargery is the exemplary gentlemen in ‘great expectations’ because he has a gentle heart and a manly will- it is also about the miraculous effect of secret good deeds
hard times is like john stuart mill’s realization that powerful emotions are important and make life worth while- and it’s about how a touch from someone who loves you can make you smile and forget yourself- all dickens’ stories have ghosts and angels- his stories show us different possibilities- a tale of two cities is about the joy and peace that comes from living motivated by love and turning energy toward others (what makes Sidney Carton such a hero) (resurrection- thankfulness) and he shows us the two extremes of possibilities with the broken wine cask and the carriage accident (harmony, joy/ discord, callousness
Leacock taught me everything I know about economics in ‘how to borrow money’: the more personal money is, the more it is meaningful and respected (‘sunshine sketches’ is about knowing your value without false comparisons) and that simple and familiar things can give you a deeper feeling of thankfulness and joy than worldly, sophisticated things)
John Donne expresses the desire for God to ‘burn of his rust’ so that he could become himself again and have intimacy with God
Christina Rossetti felt emotional weariness and coldness and yearned for the warmth and rejuvenation of religious experience
No Great Mischief is about loving too much- how love overwhelms reason- but still fulfills
Stephen Heighton teaches us that it is best to be a giver in Shadow Boxer
In The Yellow Briar, Paddy’s teacher, Michael, tells him that it’s possible for the mind to be so filled with the trifling gear of knowledge that there is no room for sane thinking to be done… some very learned men have minds that look like a jackdaw’s nest
Carver’s ‘cathedral’ is about the limitations of language- how the best way to seek the truth is through a relationship and the body
Wiebe’s Peace Shall Destroy Many and Richards’s Mercy Among the Children both ask the question What does Christian charity look like in a fallen, violent world? Like tolstoy’s the forged coupon, a story a character in Mercy among the children recommends, you see that true strength comes for a free soul.
Cormac McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses illustrates how the pursuit of beauty on the frontier causes trouble and it is hard to hold on to it for long