October 2011


“I know” seems to describe a state of affairs which guarantees what is known, guarantees it as a fact. One always forgets the expression, “I thought I knew.”

 

—Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty

 

 

 

Are they shadows that we see?
And can shadows pleasure give?
Pleasures only shadows be
Cast by bodies we conceive
And are made the things we deem
In those figures which they seem.

But these pleasures vanish fast
Which by shadows are expressed;
Pleasures are not, if they last;
In their passing is their best.
Glory is most bright and gay
In a flash, and so away.

Feed apace then, greedy eyes,
On the wonder you behold;
Take it sudden as it flies,
Though you take it not to hold.
When your eyes have done their part,
Thought must length it in the heart.

 

Samuel Daniel (1562–1619), Are they shadows?

 

 

Compton Verney House  is an 18th century country mansion at Compton Verney near Kineton in Warwickshire which has been converted into the Compton Verney Art Gallery.

The building is a Grade I listed house built in 1714 by Richard Verney, 11th Baron Willoughby de Broke. It was first extensively extended by George Verney, the 12th baron in the early 18th century and then remodelled and the interiors redesigned by Robert Adam for John Verney, the 14th baron, in the 1760s. It is set in more than 120 acres (0.49 km2) of parkland landscaped by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in 1769.

The house and its 5,079-acre (20.55 km2) estate was sold by Richard Greville Verney, the 19th baron, in 1921 to soap magnate Joseph Watson who was elevated to the peerage as 1st Baron Manton of Compton Verney only two months before his death in March 1922 from a heart attack whilst out hunting with the Warwickshire Foxhounds at nearby Upper Quinton. George Miles Watson, 2nd Baron Manton sold the property to Samuel Lamb. It was requisitioned by the Army during World War II and became vacant when the war ended.

In 1993 it was bought in a run-down state by Littlewoods millionaire Sir Peter Moores and restored into a gallery capable of hosting international exhibitions. It is now run by Compton Verney House Trust, a registered charity.

The collections include Neapolitan art from 1600 to 1800; Northern European medieval art from 1450–1650; British portraits including paintings of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Edward VI and works by Joshua Reynolds; Chinese bronzes including objects from the Neolithic and Shang periods; British folk art; and 20th century textiles including creations by Enid Marx.

 

 

All of us outgrow some of our beliefs.

 All of us hatch theories in one moment, only to find that we must abandon them in the next.

Our tricky senses, our limited intellects, our fickle memories, the veil of emo­tions, the tug of allegiances, the complexity of the world around us: all of this conspires to ensure that we get things wrong again and again.

 

  

 

Michel de Montaigne, the great Renaissance philosopher and essayist, inscribed above the door of his study que sais-je?—what do I know? And thus Descartes set himself the task of doubting everything, up to and including his own existence .

These thinkers weren’t nihilists, nor even skeptics. They believed in truth, and they wanted to discover it. But they were chastened by the still-palpable possibility of drastic error, and they understood that, from a sufficiently distant vantage point, even their most cherished convictions might come to look like mistakes.

Something different, set apart, special
this single room in the house, a sanctuary, a refuge
a place where the spirit, palpable, real, living
where this presence is felt, alive
Under the gaze of angels, a collections of guardians
symbols, metaphoric, talismans, a row of saints
connecting her to her heritage, shaman,
things of the earth too, sage, scents
a warmth to the space, calm, serene
angels watching over her nascent ministry
finding her way, hearing the angels’ voices
listening to their call, as if in a dream.

Raymond A. Foss, Under the gaze of angels

 

Love is not condescension, never
that, nor books, nor any pencil trace

on paper, no; nor in how we talk
about each other. Love is a tree

with branches reaching out to always
with roots that come from everywhere,

and no trunk. Have you seen it?
No. You can’t. Your deep desire

can’t find it. The longing you feel for
love is who you are. No other.
 
When you become the Lover, your
longing will be like this:

a man in the ocean, holding a plank.
Soon, the plank, the man,

the sea itself, all of it, are one:
one being, one communion;

the swaying sea, the teacher,
the secret of God.

 

Rumi

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