Friday, March 4, 2016

some things remain

Rather than painting, drawing and writing blog posts these past few days I've found myself reading books and finding thoughtful passages here and there on the internet. Here's something I think is worth sharing:

From Keeping the Faith Without a Religion by Roger Housden:

"It seems to me that a materialist view of the universe is reductionist. It makes every kind of experience subservient to the laws of matter. It applies the tenets of the known to the mystery of why we are here at all.  It chases away not only the old gods and spirits and half heard whispers in the night; it chases away the mystery of life and being itself. For a materialist, there can be no mystery that will not eventually be made clear in the light of reason and critical intelligence.

"Ultimately, what is in danger of being excluded from the cultural conversation is not the old gods, but the quality of imagination that gave birth to them; an imagination that sees and feels humanity to be part of a living, breathing world with an intelligence that we will never fathom; full of qualities that our ancestors gave names to, but that live on as always even as their names have fallen away.

William Wordsworth gives voice to this imaginative faculty in this excerpt from his poem, 'Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey':

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of the setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of thought,
And rolls through all things."

The beautiful bones of Tintern Abbey (pictured here) rise from the banks of the River Wye on Welsh side of the English-Welsh border. The abbey was founded in 1131 for the White Monks of the Cistercian Order, followers of the Rule of St. Benedict, whose silent and austere way of life was devoted to prayer, scholarship, agricultural labor and self-sufficiency.

Quote of the week:
“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake” 
~W.C. Fields


Tom said...

Such lovely words from both Roger Housden and Wordsworth.

MRMacrum said...

The trick as I see it is too always look for the explanation, but be comfortable knowing you might never find it.

susan said...

I'm happy you enjoyed them, Tom.

susan said...

I agree.

L'Adelaide said...

Just have to tell you that your little Fields quote at the end is fabulous. WW isn't too shabby either... Naturally. What a spectacular set of architectural bones... Truly amazing it must be to see in reality. We sure don't have anything like that around these parts! ;)

Should Fish More said...

I'm interested in the setting of the ruins of the abbey...I assume it's intentional? The grass for the floor? Well done, I'd say.
I have to get over there again, while I can. I've missed a bit over the decades.

susan said...

W.C. Fields came up with so many truly great quotes it's hard to pick a favorite. 'Hell, I never vote for anybody, I always vote against.' is another good one.

Yeah, the old countries definitely have some magnificent ruins. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

susan said...

As I remember all of the ancient ruins in England are grassed - probably all part of the National Trust. Of course, the Catholic abbeys and churches were all destroyed when Henry VIII insisted on divorcing his first wife and the pope disagreed. It appears the stonework was too solid to be destroyed by fire.

I hope you do get to visit there again. There's much to see away from the cities.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Great post, pics and quotes. I especially liked seeing those ruins which reminded me our visit to Ireland where stopped off after visiting the walled city of Tenby to look at the ruins of Castell(Llawhaden )Castle built for the bishops of St David’s to afford protection.
But I understand Tintern Abbey suffered very little as a consequence of the frequent Welsh uprisings of the medieval period.
Best wishes

Vincent said...

Thanks for these three things—the Abbey ruins, the quotes from Wordsworth & Housden. They fit well together & tell a tale about something seemingly endangered.

To explain what I mean by ‘seemingly’ would take a lot of space. Won’t presume on your hospitality here.

marja-leena said...

I love those ancient churches even as I am no longer a church-goer. There is something awesome in the mystery of how amazing all creatures are and how they came to be, how the world came to be, which drives mankind to create these glorious temples and other creations in response...from Stonehenges to cathedrals, mosques, even simple little wooden churches.

susan said...

Hi Lindsay, I'm glad you enjoyed the combination this time. While most all the Catholics were removed from Great Britain by one means or another after Henry VIII's dispute with papal authority and his subsequent excommunication, Eire did become the place of refuge for many priests. All in all it was a terrible time that left only magnificent ruins for us to admire and wonder at. I've always had a certain sympathy for Henry VIII. He lived with Catherine of Aragon for a long time but the fact he needed an heir in order to hold the country together after the War of the Roses made the divorce necessary. What came after that is well known. One has to feel sorry for the Catholic families, their priests and great abbeys.
All the best

susan said...

Hello again, Vincent. Nice to see you've been by. You don't have to attempt an explanation of your 'seemingly'. The problems are glaring at this point in time and I find it ironic that atheism as it propounded by its most vocal adherents also looks much like a religion.

susan said...

As your comment shows, Marja-Leena, the fact of not being a church goer has nothing to do with the awe we feel when we witness the great works created in worship of the Unknown Divine. It seems we have an innate need to manifest Beauty in honor of Mystery, don't you think?

troutbirder said...

Wonderfully thoughtful post. That gorgeous abbey reminded me of several my wife and I saw on our trip to Ireland...;)

susan said...

Thank you, TB. There's something unfathomably marvelous about ancient ruins - especially those that are set aside from modern civilization.