"This reality which Proust expresses, beyond both symbol and surface, Weil takes as the supernatural. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Weil takes our reading supreme reality through the movements of the material world as a supernatural act. Weil writes in The Need for Roots, “The operations of the intellect in scientific study makes sovereign necessity over matter appear to the mind as a network of relations which are immaterial and without force. Necessity can only be perfectly conceived so long as relations appear as absolutely immaterial.” A dense couple of sentences, but illustrative of Weil’s contrast of the limited and unlimited. Picking up shades of contemporary object-oriented ontology (but actually hearkening back to Greek conceptions of how humans read the natural world), Weil is saying that brute matter is not itself able to be penetrated by thought. Thought, being immaterial, understands in ratios and proportions. And so it is through this immaterial thought that the brute and unlimited chaos of the material world becomes ordered cosmos. The better we think, or read, the limits of nature and the unifying associations between phenomena, the more our own minds cohere with the immaterial mind of the Creator."
"Woven into his writing is a gnawing sense that something grand, something infinite, some great connective tissue, some veiling gossamer, with each fiber affixing itself to the myriad other fibers, spider-silk threads enveloping and intertwining everything that is and ever was and ever will be, has been lost—and a hope beyond reason that that which has been lost may perpetually have a chance for recovery, if only for a moment.
“In the grand cosmology of John McPhee,” writes Sam Anderson, “all the earth’s facts touch one another—all its regions, creatures, and eras. Its absences and presences. Fish, trucks, atoms, bears, whiskey, grass, rocks, lacrosse, weird prehistoric oysters, grandchildren, and Pangea. Every part of time touches every other part of time.”
McPhee’s found connections and juxtapositions, entanglements and familial resemblances, influences and complications, analogies and reverberations hint at the ever-yearned-for major complex weave of the universe. Our spot as spiders, though not necessarily at the center of the web—for McPhee, unlike some contemporary purveyors of the personal essay and the memoir, is no narcissist—is somewhere among those silk-spun cables, simultaneously the weavers of meaning and the ones for whom this has been woven."
"The most surprising fact about the lectures, however, is how they conclude: with a meditation on death. This move spares Czapski the accusation that he was merely escaping into the sensory, bourgeois richness of Proust’s art. He is not afraid to confront the specter of his own death head-on, and to use literature to do so. He broaches the topic by evoking the death scene of the writer Bergotte, in a section of “Remembrance” that Proust was editing in the final weeks before he died. Bergotte, by this point in the novel an invalid and shut-in, steps out to see an exhibition that includes Vermeer’s “View of Delft,” which Czapski, borrowing from Proust, describes as embodying a “mysterious charm,” a “Chinese perfection and delicacy.” Having taken in that sight, Bergotte quickly suffers a fatal stroke and dies in the gallery, overwhelmed by his senses. Czapski notes that Bergotte’s last wish is to view the paintings “one more time … though he knows well enough that, given his health, it’s risky for him to go out to see the exhibition.” A good death becomes linked to the experience of good art."
"Absent clarity about how to use decentralization to solve some of America's problems, conservative policymakers often find themselves a bit lost. When progressive legislators offer ideas, conservatives either join the centralizing bandwagon in the name of compassion, or demur and appear cold-hearted. When given the chance to advance proposals of their own, they often come up empty, appearing indolent or indifferent. Conservatives need a small-government agenda that consists of more than the promise to roll back federal initiatives and regulations, coupled with the hope that local authorities will step up.
Bringing an energetic, productive form of decentralization to life will entail combining lessons from two extraordinary resources: the scholarship of Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek and the concept of subsidiarity. Though the former emanates from the classical and Austrian schools of economics and the latter from a branch of communitarian Catholic social thought, both speak to the distribution of authority. Their complementarity is unexpected but illuminating."
"Because of Kenner and Davenport’s shared sense of trust, these letters show both scholars working out their thoughts, unafraid to express ideas that are incomplete, messy, even downright wrong. After Kenner outlined some ideas he wanted to include in one of the books they worked on together, he admitted, “Many of these mutually incompatible, I know. Just stabs in the dark.”
The dashed-off quality of a letter invites such stabs in the dark. In comparison to an essay—which needs a thesis and some sort of structure, and is written over hours, days, weeks, sometimes years—a letter is a half-formed thing, made in the warm lamplight of a moment, and describing nothing definitively except its moment. Whereas an essay is an expression of pride—those of us who write and publish them are either explicitly or implicitly saying, “Here are my thoughts, laid out in a crystallized argument, which I deign to offer up for public consumption”—a letter is a thing of shame, often betraying a writer’s insecurities, uncertainties, eccentricities, contradictions, imperfections, antipathies, and prejudices, unadorned with the normal niceties and lacking any softened edges. “Sorry for all the acid I manage to spill into letters,” Davenport wrote."
asolo altarpiece, main panel: scene of the assumption with st. anthony the abbot and st. louis of toulouse - lorenzo lotto - 1506