August 2013


Oh, the littles that remain!

Scent of mint out in the lane;

Flare of window; sound of bees; —

These, but these.


Three times sitting down to bread;

One time climbing up to bed;

Table-setting o’er and o’er;

Drying herbs for winter’s store;

This thing; that thing;—nothing more.


But just now out in the lane,

Oh, the scent of mint was plain!

Lizette Woodworth Reese, After




unfurling like a green prayer, or a question mark
in a world of answers, or a poem in a world of prose,
cramming his vamped exuberance like a camel
through the eye of a needle, which Jesus thought unlikely,
but not inconceivable, at least for a miracle-worker like himself,
who made wine from water, and hope from hate, and fishermen saints,
and, who knows, maybe redwoods from weeds, which poets
also do, metaphorically speaking, shattering figurative sidewalks
with their strapping saplings– of words, words, words.
You can get drunk on that kind of wine. Like the dandelion,
so intoxicated with its own insignificance in the greater scheme
of things that it forgets where it cannot grow,
and it grows there anyway.

from Richard Schiffman, Clever stalk

Red Rose[1]

They say eyes clear with age,
As dew clarifies air
To sharpen evenings,
As if time put an edge
Round the last shape of things
To show them there;
The many-levelled trees,
The long soft tides of grass
Wrinkling away the gold
Wind-ridden waves–all these,
They say, come back to focus
As we grow old.

Philip Larkin

Unsolved bunch of puzzles

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.

Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke


A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;

How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more

than he.


I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green

stuff woven.


Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,

A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,

Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners,

that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

from Walt Whitman, Song Of Myself




In his  book The Triumph of the Therapeutic, Philip Rieff captured a major cultural theme of the last five decades of the twenti­eth century.

Therapy’s triumph in an age of radical individualism has enriched our lives in numerous ways. Almost every facet of our lives has been touched, and in many cases, reshaped by the therapeutic mindset. Thanks to psychology’s therapeutic focus we understand


In the therapeutic world of psychology, what is good for the per­sonality and soul of an individual becomes an entitlement one is free to pursue directly and with all the energy one can muster. In fact, one is not only free to pursue it, one has a responsibility to pursue it, and so we see countless people declare that they will settle for nothing less than the good life: a life of happiness, relative ease, and the joy of in­timacy and love. And the pursuit of these goods is direct and focused.

From the perspective of social science, that is, from a rational point of view, there is a certain logic here. If something is good and noble, beneficial and even essential, one would be foolish not to set out on a holy quest to obtain it. It seems that our therapeutic culture has not yet discovered the paradox of the Gospel: some things are achieved only when they are surrendered.

Happiness follows the forgetting of one’s de­sire to be happy and living in such a way as to foster the happiness of oth­ers. Holiness follows the desire to live in harmony with God’s will in selfless praise and thanksgiving. It is best pursued indirectly. Intimacy follows when one trusts that it will come once it is not directly pursued. For like so many of life’s true blessings, intimacy is primarily gift. One prepares oneself through prayer and right living—and one waits.

There are, of course, skills that can be acquired to facilitate relationships and even the attainment of intimacy and union, but they are at best tillers of the soil. Intimacy, like all things that really matter, is a gift of the spirit that cannot be fully earned or merited by one’s sin­gular efforts.


David Jones Artist 1895-1974

Art for David Jones is a sacramental process – the record of interface with God.

Artworks are the fragments of traces left over from this colloquy.  These residues are in exact remains and it is their very imperfections that compel artists obsessively to continue with this process of creating each day; and indeed in all of our life it is our failures that are the catalyst to regain the contact we seek from the luminous.  This is the second universal role of art; it takes us away from sectarian divisions into the unifying reality of the divine.  Jones explains religion as a splint (religio:  to bind) which binds all things together, or unifies.  When an artwork succeeds it transcends the maker and even ostensible concerns of style or subject.  By the very nature of its process art is an accessory and transcendent in its function.



Some artists therefore have used the apposite analogy with prayer.  To enter into either significantly, the chief problem is to silence our chattering minds.  We pre-empt the challenge of the new or unexpected by filling in the silences needed in order for us to be reflective.  Instinctive reaction is to close down the danger that wonder or mystery presents through unguarded associations, by describing categories and familiar explanations.  Instead as, Metropolitan Anthony insists, our approach should be as if into a cave from which the roar of a wild beast admits.   All our senses alert, the expectation is that anything there emerge from the darkness.  The prayerful approach places the open empirical experience of the artwork first and the verbalising analytical dissection second.

Sanctus Christus de Capel-y-ffin 1925 by David Jones 1895-1974

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