Saturday, August 23, 2014

"the bishop speaks for himself."

"He gives an account, with Episcopal self-assurance, of what Christians believe, which I, who have long answered to that description, read with true astonishment. . . . I feel I must appeal here to the kindness of my non- and post-Christian readers.  Regarding all such supposed issues of faith, believe me, to the best of my knowledge the bishop speaks for himself."

     Marilynne Robinson, "The fate of ideas:  Moses," in When I was a child I read books (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 98-99 (95-124).

Have you heard the one "about the two [Scottish] Highlanders watching the evacuation of the beaches at Dunkirk"?

"'Aye, Jock,' says one to the other, 'if the English surrender, it'll be a long war.'"

     Niall Ferguson, "A 'Miracle of Deliverance'?", New York Review of Books 53, no. 19 (30 November 2006):  28.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tip of the iceberg

"In these years of the Popular Front, the Soviet killings and deportations went unnoticed in Europe.  Insofar as the Great Terror was noticed at all, it was seen only as a matter of show trials and party and army purges.  But these events, noticed by specialists and journalists at the time, were not the essence of the Great Terror.  The kulak operations and the national operations were the essence of the Great Terror.  Of the 681,692 executions carried out for political crimes in 1937 and 1938, the kulak and national orders accounted for 625,483.  The kulak and the national operations brought about more than nine tenths of the death sentences and three quarters of the Gulag sentences."

     Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands:  Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York:  Basic Books, 2010), 107.

Dostoevsky on Katyn

"Fyodor Dostoevsky had set a crucial scene of The Brothers Karamazov at the Optyn Hermitage in Kozelsk, which in 1939 and 1940 became the site of the Soviet prisoner-of-war camp.  Here took place the most famous exchange in the book:  a discussion between a young nobleman and a monastery elder about the possibility of morality without God.  If God is dead, is everything permitted?  In 1940, the real building where this fictional conversation took place, the former residence of some of the monks, housed the NKVD interrogators.  They represented a Soviet answer to that question:  only the death of God allowed for the liberation of humanity.  Unconsciously, many of the Polish officers provided a different answer:  that in a place where everything is permitted, God is a refuge.  They saw their camps as churches, and prayed in them.  Many of them attended Easter services before they were dispatched to their deaths."

     Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands:  Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York:  Basic Books, 2010), 138, citing Vladimir Abramov, The murderers of Katyn (New York:  Hippocrene Books, 1993), 46, and Stanisław Swianiewicz, In the shadow of Katiń (Calgary:  Borealis, 2002), 63, 66.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Should not a bride love, and above all, Love's bride?"

"Quidni amet sponsa, et sponsa Amoris?"     

     St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermo 83.5, as translated in the Office of readings for 20 August, Liturgy of the hours.  Cf. the 1895 translation by Eales (Cantica canticorum:  eighty-six sermons on the Song of Solomon, trans. Samuel J. Eales (London:  Elliot Stock, 1895), 510):  "How could she do otherwise who is the Bride, and the Bride of Love?  How can Love fail to be loved?"  Opera omnia, ed. Leclercq, Talbot, & Rochais, vol. 2 (1958), pp. 300-302; Bernhard von Clairvaux:  Sämtliche Werke, lateinisch-deutsch 6, p. 616, l. 29.

"the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him" (Liturgy of the hours).
"He loves us that he may be loved by us, knowing that those who love Him become blessed by their love itself" (Eales).

     Ibid., sec. 4.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Robinson on the importance of "repent[ing] from the perspective of the [villain]"

     "There is an old saying:  Act in haste and repent at leisure.  Perhaps we understand this in an inverse and diabolical sense.  We may actually enjoy repenting.  We make it one of the more strenuous of our leisure occupations, especially when we feel we are repenting for crimes that are only 'ours' in the broadest sense.  Butoddly enoughwe repent from the perspective of the victim, which we may have acquired only on our own terms and from a comfortable distance.  Words such as 'sympathy' and 'compassion' encourage identification with the victim.   But moral rigor and a meaningful concern for the future of humankind would require that we identify instead with the villain, while villainy is still only potential, while we can still try to ensure that we would not, actively or passively, have a part in it.  It would require that we forbid ourselves to hope the offense will soon be over, the journalists will find something else to talk about.  Then we will once again have leisure to repent the neglect and abuse that has receded into the past far enough to let us, in our heart of hearts, feel the most attenuated guilt, the kind made tolerable by our knowing that only a very delicate conscience would pause over it."

     Marilynne Robinson, "Austerity as ideology," in When I was a child I read books (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 56-57.