I'll never believe I'm any older than 18. I get angry when my body can't do what an 18-year-old's does. And looking in the mirror is really a tragic sight. There are many consolations to getting older, but physically, it's quite unkind. I find that I have as much mobility, but it takes longer to get pretty.
The joy resulting from the diffusion of blessings to all around us is the purest and sublimest that can ever enter the human mind, and can be conceived only by those who have experienced it. Next to the consolations of divine grace, it is the most sovereign balm to the miseries of life, both in him who is the object of it, and in him who exercises it.
You are inhuman brutes determined to rob us of our spiritual consolations and sweep away the moral foundations of our civilization, and on the other: You are obscurantist ignoramuses who'd like to shut down progress and drag us all back to the 16th century, with kings and priests telling us what to think.
There are many who say to the Lord, "I give myself wholly to Thee, without any reserve," but there are few who embrace the practice of this abandonment, which consists in receiving with a certain indifference every sort of event, as it happens in conformity with Divine Providence, as well afflictions as consolations, contempt and reproaches as honor and glory.
Saint Francis de Sales
For Leopardi, unhappy hedonist that he was, what is unknown is always more attractive than what is known; hope and imagination are the only consolations for the disappointments and sorrows of experience. Man therefore projects his desire into infinity and feels pleasure only when he is able to imagine that this pleasure has no end.
It seems to me that your doctor [Tronchin] is more of a philosopher than a physician. As for me, I much prefer a doctor who is anoptimist and who gives me remedies that will improve my health. Philosophical consolations are, after all, useless against real ailments. I know only two kinds of sickness--physical and moral: all the others are purely in the imagination.
All spiritual strength for ourselves, all noble ties to one another, have their real source in that inner sanctuary where God denies His lonely audience to none. Its secrets are holy; its asylum, inviolate; its consolations, sure; and all are open to the simple heart-word, "Thou art my hiding-place.
My heart sings of your longing for me, and my thoughts climb down to marvel at your mercy. I do not fear as you gather up my days. Your name is the sweetness of time, and you carry me close into the night, speaking consolations, drawing down lights from the sky, saying, See how the night has no terrors for one who remembers the name.
You never get to the end of Christ's words. There is something in them always behind. They pass into proverbs--they pass into laws--they pass into doctrines--they pass into consolations; but they never pass away, and, after all the use that is made of them, they are still not exhausted.
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley
Reading Chekhov, I felt not happy, exactly, but as close to happiness as I knew I was likely to come. And it occurred to me that this was the pleasure and mystery of reading, as well as the answer to those who say that books will disappear. For now, books are still the best way of taking great art and its consolations along with us on a bus.
I think instead writers and publishers and readers need to go to the places where people are, and make the argument that there is great value to the quiet, contemplative process of reading a novel, that reading great books carefully offers pleasures and consolations that no iPad app ever can.
I can imagine that the oceanic feeling could become connected with religion later on. That feeling of oneness with the universe which is its ideational content sounds very like a first attempt at the consolations of religion, like another way taken by the ego of denying the dangers it sees threatening it in the external world.
Some things can't be explained. They just are. And after a while they disappear, usually forever, or become interesting in another way. Literature's consolations are always temporary, while life is quick to begin again. It is better not even to look so hard, to leave off explaining. Nothing makes me more queasy than to spend time with people who don't know that and who can't forget, and for whom such knowledge isn't a cornerstone of life.
As artists, are we quasi psychiatrists who mend the soul? Do we provide the consolations, escapes, and reassurances which enable us to survive? Or are we reporters of the truth, assembling the multiple shards of reality into intricate portraits which seek out the connections between misery and blessing, violence and wisdom? Do we protect or investigate the heart?
The consolations of the vulgar are bitter in the royal ear. Let physicians and confectioners and servants in the great houses be judged by what they have done, and even by what they have meant to do; the great people themselves are judged by what they are. I have been told that lions, trapped and shut up in cages, grieve from shame more than from hunger.
Sharona Muir has written a gripping personal memoir about her odyssey to rediscover and reclaim her father. Along the way she uncovers some hard truths about the heroic founders of Israel and the Beginnings of Israeli science. The Book of Telling keeps in all the fears and resentments and consolations and warmth of such a process-at once her own story and the tale of a nation.
This deep agnosticism is more than the refusal of conventional agnosticism to take a stand on whether God exists or whether the mind survives bodily death. It is the willingness to embrace the fundamental bewilderment of a finite, fallible creature as the basis for leading a life that no longer clings to the superficial consolations of certainty.
I would be quite content to go to their children's bar mitzvahs, to marvel at their Gothic cathedrals, to 'respect' their belief that the Koran was dictated, though exclusively in Arabic, to an illiterate merchant, or to interest myself in Wicca and Hindu and Jain consolations. And as it happens, I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition - which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing.
The Bible constantly warns against a merely mercenary relationship with God - a friendship of convenience or self-interest. We should not love God simply because doing so will produce many consolations in our life. We must enter a true relationship, were we fall in love not with His benefits, but with Him.
The widespread interest in gossip is inspired, not by a love of knowledge but by malice: no one gossips about other people's secret virtues, but only about their secret vices. Accordingly most gossip is untrue, but care is taken not to verify it. Our neighbour's sins, like the consolations of religion, are so agreeable that we do not stop to scrutinise the evidence closely.
People will tell us that without the consolations of religion they would be intolerably unhappy. So far as this is true, it is a coward's argument. Nobody but a coward would consciously choose to live in a fool's paradise. When a man suspects his wife of infidelity, he is not thought the better of for shutting his eyes to the evidence. And I cannot see why ignoring evidence should be contemptible in one case and admirable in the other.
History has taught us that often lies serve her better than the truth, for man is sluggish and has to be led through the desert for forty years before each step in his development. And he has to be driven through the desert with threats and promises, by imaginary terrors and imaginary consolations, so that he should not sit down prematurely to rest and divert himself by worshipping golden calves.
We should fix ourselves firmly in the presence of God by conversing all the time with Him... we should feed our soul with a lofty conception of God and from that derive great joy in being his. We should put life in our faith. We should give ourselves utterly to God in pure abandonment, in temporal and spiritual matters alike, and find contentment in the doing of His will, whether he takes us through sufferings or consolations.
We should fix ourselves firmly in the presence of God by conversing all the time with Him...we should feed our soul with a lofty conception of God and from that derive great joy in being his. We should put life in our faith. We should give ourselves utterly to God in pure abandonment, in temporal and spiritual matters alike, and find contentment in the doing of His will,whether he takes us through sufferings or consolations.
If there are words and wrongs like knives, whose deep inflicted lacerations never heal - cutting injuries and insults of serrated and poison-dripping edge - so, too, there are consolations of tone too fine for the ear not fondly and for ever to retain their echo: caressing kindnesses - loved, lingered over through a whole life, recalled with unfaded tenderness, and answering the call with undimmed shine, out of that raven cloud foreshadowing Death himself.
We would either have a silent, a soft, a perfumed cross, sugared and honeyed with the consolations of Christ, or we faint; and providence must either brew a cup of gall and wormwood, mastered in the mixing with joy and songs, else we cannot be disciples. But Christ's cross did not smile on him, his cross was a cross, and his ship sailed in blood, and his blessed soul was sea-sick, and heavy even to death.
Nowadays this is the way everyone loves himself; people wish to live with God in consolations and repose, in wealth and power, and to share the fruition of his glory. We all indeed wish to be God with God, but God knows there are few of us who want to live as men with his Humanity, or want to carry his cross with him, or want to hang on the cross with him and pay humanity's debt to the full.
In this life there is no purgatory; it is either hell or paradise; for to him who serves God truly, every trouble and infirmity turns into consolations, and through all kinds of trouble he has a paradise within himself even in this world: and he who does not serve God truly, and gives himself up to sensuality, has one hell in this world, and another in the next.
It is good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men.
Thomas e Kempis
Some gentlemen have made an amazing figure in literature by general discontent with the universe as a trap of dulness into which their great souls have fallen by mistake; but the sense of a stupendous self and an insignificant world may have its consolations. Lydgate's discontent was much harder to bear; it was the sense that there was a grand existence in thought and effective action lying around him, while his self was being narrowed into the miserable isolation of egoistic fears, and vulgar anxieties for events that might allay such fears.
Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path... This Easter week and always, may we stand by Jesus Christ 'at all times and in all things, and in all places that (we) may be in, even until death,' for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone.
Jeffrey R. Holland
I do nothing, with as little shame as satisfaction. It is the state that suits me best. I write the odd poem when it is there, that is the only thing worth doing. There is an ecstasy of accidia - will-less in a grey tumult of idees obscures. There is an end to the temptation of light, its polite scorchings and consolations. It is good for children and insects. There is an end of making up one's mind, like a pound of tea, an end of patting the butter of consciousness into opinions. The real consciousness is the chaos, a grey commotion of mind, with no premises or conclusions or problems or solutions or cases or judgments.
My God, Sweetness beyond words, make bitter all the carnal comfort that draws me from love of the eternal and lures me to its evil self by the sight of some delightful good in the present. Let it not overcome me, my God. Let not flesh and blood conquer me. Let not the world and its brief glory deceive me, nor the devil trip me by his craftiness. Give me courage to resist, patience to endure, and constancy to persevere. Give me the soothing unction of Your spirit rather than all the consolations of the world, and in place of carnal love, infuse into me the love of Your name.
Thomas e Kempis
And now I am eking out my days in my corner, taunting myself with the bitter and entirely useless consolations that an intelligent man cannot seriously become anything; that only a fool can become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent nineteenth-century man must be, is morally bound to be, an essentially characterless creature; and a man of character, a man of action - an essentially limited creature. This is my conviction at the age of forty. I am forty now, and forty years - why, it is all of a lifetime, it is the deepest of old age. Living past forty is indecent, vulgar, immoral!
Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. But it cannot achieve its end. Its doctrines carry with them the stamp of the times in which they originated, the ignorant childhood days of the human race. Its consolations deserve no trust. Experience teaches us that the world is not a nursery. The ethical commands, to which religion seeks to lend its weight, require some other foundations instead, for human society cannot do without them, and it is dangerous to link up obedience to them with religious belief. If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man's evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity.
But the Esquire passage I found most poignant and revealing was this one: Mister Rogers' visit to a teenage boy severely afflicted with cerebral palsy and terrible anger. One of the boys' few consolations in life, Junod wrote, was watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood. 'At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room and talk to him. Mister Rogers didn't leave, though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, 'I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?' On his computer, the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said: I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?' And now the boy didn't know how to respond. He was thunderstruck... because nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn't know how to do it, he said he would, he said he'd try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn't talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean that God likes him, too. As for Mister Rogers himself... he doesn't look at the story the same way the boy did or I did. In fact, when Mister Rogers first told me the story, I complimented him on being smart - for knowing that asking the boy for his prayers would make the boy feel better about himself - and Mister Rogers responded by looking at me first with puzzlement and then with surprise. 'Oh heavens no, Tom! I didn't ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.
Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?... Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price, " and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
It happens that in our phase of civility, the novel is the central form of literary art. It lends itself to explanations borrowed from any intellectual system of the universe which seems at the time satisfactory. Its history is an attempt to evade the laws of what Scott called 'the land of fiction'-the stereotypes which ignore reality, and whose remoteness from it we identify as absurd. From Cervantes forward it has been, when it has satisfied us, the poetry which is 'capable, ' in the words of Ortega, 'of coping with present reality.' But it is a 'realistic poetry' and its theme is, bluntly, 'the collapse of the poetic' because it has to do with 'the barbarous, brutal, mute, meaningless reality of things.' It cannot work with the old hero, or with the old laws of the land of romance; moreover, such new laws and customs as it creates have themselves to be repeatedly broken under the demands of a changed and no less brutal reality. 'Reality has such a violent temper that it does not tolerate the ideal even when reality itself is idealized.' Nevertheless, the effort continues to be made. The extremest revolt against the customs or laws of fiction-the antinovels of Fielding or Jane Austen or Flaubert or Natalie Sarraute-creates its new laws, in their turn to be broken. Even when there is a profession of complete narrative anarchy, as in some of the works I discussed last week, or in a poem such as Paterson, which rejects as spurious whatever most of us understand as form, it seems that time will always reveal some congruence with a paradigm-provided always that there is in the work that necessary element of the customary which enables it to communicate at all. I shall not spend much time on matters so familiar to you. Whether, with Luke¡cs, you think of the novel as peculiarly the resolution of the problem of the individual in an open society-or as relating to that problem in respect of an utterly contingent world; or express this in terms of the modern French theorists and call its progress a necessary and 'unceasing movement from the known to the unknown'; or simply see the novel as resembling the other arts in that it cannot avoid creating new possibilities for its own future-however you put it, the history of the novel is the history of forms rejected or modified, by parody, manifesto, neglect, as absurd. Nowhere else, perhaps, are we so conscious of the dissidence between inherited forms and our own reality. There is at present some good discussion of the issue not only in French but in English. Here I have in mind Iris Murdoch, a writer whose persistent and radical thinking about the form has not as yet been fully reflected in her own fiction. She contrasts what she calls 'crystalline form' with narrative of the shapeless, quasi-documentary kind, rejecting the first as uncharacteristic of the novel because it does not contain free characters, and the second because it cannot satisfy that need of form which it is easier to assert than to describe; we are at least sure that it exists, and that it is not always illicit. Her argument is important and subtle, and this is not an attempt to restate it; it is enough to say that Miss Murdoch, as a novelist, finds much difficulty in resisting what she calls 'the consolations of form' and in that degree damages the 'opacity, ' as she calls it, of character. A novel has this (and more) in common with love, that it is, so to speak, delighted with its own inventions of character, but must respect their uniqueness and their freedom. It must do so without losing the formal qualities that make it a novel. But the truly imaginative novelist has an unshakable 'respect for the contingent'; without it he sinks into fantasy, which is a way of deforming reality. 'Since reality is incomplete, art must not be too afraid of incompleteness, ' says Miss Murdoch. We must not falsify it with patterns too neat, too inclusive; there must be dissonance.