The constant, obvious flattery, contrary to all evidence, of the people around him had brought him to the point that he no longer saw his contradictions, no longer conformed his actions and words to reality, logic, or even simple common sense, but was fully convinced that all his orders, however senseless, unjust, and inconsistent with each other, became sensible, just, and consistent with each other only because he gave them.”

Leo Tolstoy
Hadji Murat (New York: Vintage Classics, 2009), 70

On your exceedingly great mercy rests all my hope. Give what you command, and then command whatever you will. You order us to practice continence. A certain writer tells us, ‘I knew that no one can be continent except by God’s gift, and that it is already a mark of wisdom to recognize whose gift this is’ (Wisdom 8:21). By continence the scattered elements of the self are collected and brought back into the unity from which we have slid away into dispersion; for anyone who loves something else along with you, but does not love it for your sake, loves you less. O Love, ever burning, never extinguished, O Charity, my God, set me on fire! You command continence: give what you command, and then command whatever you will” (X.40, emphasis added).

St. Augustine
Confessions (New City Press), 263

This was the single great informing conflict of the American psyche.  The management of insignificance.  It was the great syncretic bond of US monoculture.  It was everywhere, at the root of everything–of impatience in long lines, of cheating on taxes, of movements in fashion and music and art, of marketing…

And it was also the world altering pain of accepting one’s individual flaws and limitations and the tautological unattainability of our dreams and the dim indifference in the eyes of [others]” (emphasis added).

David Foster Wallace
Oblivion (New York: Back Bay Books, 2004), 284-285

dylanI wanted to write poetry in the beginning because I had fallen in love with words.  What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mold, coil, polish, and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly realized truth I must try to reach and realize.

Artists are often found at the margins of society, but they are, like the shepherds, often the first to notice the miracles taking place right in front of us.  Since sensationalism, power, and wealth dominate our cultural imaginations, we may not be willing to journey to the ephemeral, as the Japanese poets of old have, to see beauty in the disappearing lines or to see poetry in a drying puddle of water.  The world seems to demand of us artist-types that we be able to explain and justify our actions, but often the power and mystery of art and life cannot be explained by normative words.”

Makoto Fujimura
Refractions (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009), 27-28

Beauty often resides in the peripheries of our lives.  We walk past such humble miracles, such as the babe in the manger in a little village of Bethlehem, all the time.  In the frantic pace of life, we need to slow down and simply observe natural forces around us and create out of that experience.  What makes us truly human may not be how fast we are able to accomplish a task but what we experience fully, carefully, and quietly in the process.”

Makoto Fujimura
Refractions (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009), 27

The beauty of the world is Christ’s tender smile for us coming through matter. He is really present in the universal beauty. The love of this beauty proceeds from God dwelling in our souls and goes out to God present in the universe. It is also like a sacrament.”

Simone Weil
Waiting for God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009)

Abelard raised a very foolish question when he asked:  ‘What has Horace to do with the Psalter, Virgil with the Gospel, Cicero with the Apostle?’  The answer is simply that Horace, Virgil, and Cicero clarify the human situation to which the salvation of God is addressed through the Psalter, Gospel, and Apostle.”