Quotes from Randall Jarrell, Herman Melville, and John D. Caputo

From Next Day

Wisdom, said William James, Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise If that is wisdom. Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves And the boy takes it to my station wagon, What I’ve become Troubles me even if I shut my eyes. … Imaginings within my imagining, I too have taken The chance of life. Now the boy pats my dog And we start home. Now I am good. The last mistaken, Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind

Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm Some soap and water - It was so long ago….

–Randall Jarrell

The overt Godlessness of our world is a latent Godliness. To an eye keen for things theological, religion is most present where it is least visible. That “secularism” blinds us to the theological order everywhere implicit in the secular order is the “central” player in (Mark C.) Taylor’s dialectic. After God is full of illuminating narratives generated by this hypothesis, the central story being how much “modernity” goes back to the Reformation: Luther’s assertion of subjectivity, his rejection of tradition in favor of personal experience, his media-savvy insistence on the vernacular and use of the printing press….

John D. Caputo –Review of Mark C. Taylor’s After God in The Journal of the American Academy of Religion 77:1

Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp - all others but liars!

Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia’s Dismal Swamp, nor Rome’s accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true - not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. “All is vanity.” ALL. … There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.

Hermann Melville – Moby-Dick

From 90 North

I see at last that all the knowledge I wrung from the darkness - that the darkness flung me - Is worthless as ignorance: nothing comes from nothing, The darkness from the darkness. Pain comes from the darkness And we call it wisdom. It is pain.

–Randall Jarrell

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Ryan McCarl
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