Thursday, August 11, 2005



I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

-- Wendell Berry, from Given: Poems

* * *

"Uncertainty as to life's purpose is much in vogue today. So too are the relativistic notions that would consign life's purpose to a matter of taste. The agony of life is uncertainty and the rationalization is that uncertainty is certain. However, the plain truth is that for all our anguish we treasure uncertainty. Doubt forestalls action. The problem with life's purpose is that we know damn well what it is but are unwilling to face the changes in our lives that a commitment to self-transcendence, to being the best human being we could possibly be, would entail. It wearies us just thinking about it. So we rationalize that it's all "relative," or that we're already doing enough and don't have time. Worst of all we rationalize that those who do accept the challenges inherent in self-transcendence are uniquely gifted and specially graced."

-- August Turak, from "Brother John"

* * *

"Americans, unhappily, have the most remarkable ability to alchemize all bitter truths into an innocuous but piquant confection and to transform their moral contradictions, or public discussion of such contradictions, into a proud decoration, such as are given for heroism on the field of battle."

-- James Baldwin, from "Many Thousands Gone," in Notes of a Native Son

* * *

"To be impenitent is not (or not always) to be bold and hardened in vice, a Byronic villain shouting defiance; it is more often to be afraid of looking at yourself and afraid of changing yourself."

-- Rowan Williams, from The Truce of God

* * *

"It is a good lesson--though it may often be a hard one--for a man who has dreamed of literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the world's dignitaries by such means, to step outside the narrow circle in which his claims are recognized, and to find how utterly devoid of significance, beyond that circle, is all that he achieves, and all he aims at."

-- Nathaniel Hawthorne, from The Scarlet Letter

Collective Improvisation:

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