Friday, November 23, 2007

The Voyage Of Life

When it comes to art, Thomas Cole's painting series, "The Voyage Of Life" has long been one of my favorites.

The first painting in the series is an illustration of infancy. If you blow up the picture, you can see the child in the bottom of the boat. There is a guardian angel standing in the boat with the child. This angel is present in each of the pictures in the series. The figurehead on the prow of the boat symbolizes time.

The second painting in the series is an illustration of youth. In this picture, you can see that the youth is still in the same boat, traveling down the same river, (The River Of Life) and that the same angel stands near him. However, in this picture, the guardian angel is farther off and the youth has turned his head in another direction. He is chasing his "Castle In The Air," the shimmering illusion seen in the skies.

The third painting in the series is an illustration of manhood. The man is passing through wild rapids here, symbolizing the difficulty of manhood. The guardian angel is still present, as you can see, but he\she is far away and only watching from the clouds. However, far up ahead, you can see the sea through the rocks.

The fourth and last painting in the series is an illustration of old age. I don't think it needs much explanation:)

There's a lot more symbolism in these paintings that I didn't cover so if you'd like to find out more about them, I'd suggest that you read up on them here. Also, the pictures aren't nearly so beautiful when they are small like this. They are so much lovelier when they are big. The real paintings cover an entire wall! I'd sure love to see them like that!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sonnet XXIX

I'm always a little suspicious of sonnets. They tend to follow a similar pattern of admiring nature and then mourning one's rejection by one's lady-love. Furthermore, the said lady-love was very often not someone the poet cared for in the least, though, of course, many earnest lovers must have written sonnets as well.

However, despite all of these stains upon the reputation of the sonnet, I do believe that Shakespeare has very nearly managed to redeem it with his many contributions to the world of sonnets. Here is one of my favorites:

“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply, I think on thee, -- and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my place with kings.”
-William Shakespeare

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reading The Meaning...

These lines from Flannery O' Connor made me stop and think more deeply about how I read books...

"Some people have the notion that you read the story and then climb out of it into the meaning, but for the fiction writer himself the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction."
-Flannery O'Connor
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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Innocence Of Father Brown

I finished reading The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton recently and I liked it so much I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about it. I really think that Chesterton is a wonderful writer and he has a way of expressing ideas with startling clarity.

All of the stories in this book include elements of suspense and surprise that are so important in a great detective story. The plots are complex and well-organized. There is the joy of feeling smart when you finally do crack the code and solve the mystery. Even if it isn't until the end of the story, you still feel like a very accomplished detective. In fact, you feel like you solved the mystery yourself, much of the time.

I think that the greatest thing about the book is that it is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Chesterton has created an intriguing story but has also managed to weave much deeper ideas into the book. Through the conversation of Father Brown, the sweet little English priest, Chesterton manages to state many of his own beliefs. Yet, somehow, he says them in such a way that the reader does not feel at all as though he is "preaching to them." Indeed, how can they? For the author rarely states his own opinions with the omnipresent privilege he possesses, but prefers to let his star character influence the reader of each story. This is what I consider to be very good writing.

I cannot say that I agree with everything that Chesterton says - indeed, I differ with him on many points- but somehow, in this book, those differences don't really matter. Winston Churchill says of history, "Nevertheless, the broad story holds for it was founded on a true and dominating principle." I believe that the same is true of these stories. The truth behind the book is so powerful that it makes a fascinating read.

Here are some lines I particularly like:

"Reason and justice grip the remotest and the loneliest star. Look at those stars. Don't they look as if they were single diamonds and sapphires? Well, you can imagine any mad botany or geology you please. Think of forests of adamant with leaves of brilliants. Think the moon is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire. But don't fancy that all that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of pearl, you would still find a noticeboard, 'Thou shalt not steal.' "

One of the most interesting stories in the book is The Eye Of Apollo. At the beginning of the story, Father Brown asks his friend Flambeau about the new "Religion Of Apollo."

"What on earth is that," asked Father Brown, and stood still."

"Oh, a new religion," said Flambeau, laughing: "one of those new religions that forgive your sins by saying you never had any....It claims, of course, that it can cure all physical diseases."

"Can it cure the one spiritual disease?" asked Father Brown, with a serious curiosity.

"And what is the one spiritual disease?" asked Flambeau, smiling.

"Oh, thinking one is quite well," said his friend.

I sincerely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries that are more than just mere mysteries.

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