"The theological perspective of participation actually saves the appearances by exceeding them. It recognizes that materialism and spiritualism are false alternatives, since if there is only finite matter there is not even that, and that for phenomena really to be there they must be more than there. Hence, by appealing to an eternal source for bodies, their art, language, sexual and political union, one is not ethereally taking leave of their density. On the contrary, one is insisting that behind this density resides an even greater density – beyond all contrasts of density and lightness (as beyond all contrasts of definition and limitlessness). This is to say that all there is only is because it is more than it is. " - John Milbank, Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology
"This inert political atmosphere fits James’s outlook on life. In his letters, he often complained about politics. He resented the way in which election seasons tend to monopolize attention. Otherwise witty, entertaining conversation turns into tense, sometimes bitter political disagreements. During one of the crises that punctuated late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century English political life, James wrote to a friend in despair of the power of political partisanship to eclipse all else: “Literature, art, conversation, society—everything lies dead under its black shadow.” He was not someone who liked talking politics, which is no doubt why the long passages in the novel in which various characters declaim their political convictions are so empty of warmth and interest.
It was that black shadow to which James wished to give fictional form in The Bostonians. His story draws attention to the universalizing, abstracting, and depersonalizing political imagination of New England progressivism, a sensibility that he feared (rightly) would come to dominate the modern era. But James wants to do more than observe and depict. He also wants to resist—resist the imperial ambitions of political ideology. The Bostonians provides a powerful and poignant literary defense of love’s privacy against the progressive’s demand that every sphere of life be subdued by justice’s demands. It is as if James anticipated the feminist battle cry—“the personal is the political”—and wrote a novel to forestall its triumph."
[image: Dora Maar - 'Double Portrait' - 1930]
Michel Houellebecq : Can the restoration of Catholicism to its former splendor repair our damaged civilization? Here we are in agreement—it’s much simpler, almost self-evident. The answer is “Yes.”
"The point is that when I walk into a place of sacred beauty, the ideas I bring with me really matter. Irreverence grows out of ugly ideas I have about creation, the human person, and God’s saving providence. These misconceptions make it difficult for me to recognize beauty no matter how much of it I see around me. Becoming aware of my own misconceptions can open me to the experience of beauty in its three traditional properties – proportion, integrity, and clarity – and serve as a remedy for irreverence itself."
One such example of the exquisitely crafted style comes late in the story, when Rikio wanders around the film studio and, amid the industrial nondescript non-space, observes the production company’s “sapphire flag flapping from a pole at the peak of the roof.” This minor observation becomes the novella’s epiphanic high point, a mundane moment made magnificent through its structural placement after the fray of the plot has subsided, made beautiful through the author’s heightened sensibility:
The flag spasmed on the breeze. Just as it would seem to fall limp, it whipped out smart against the sky. Its cloth snapped between shadow and light, as if any moment it would tear free from its tethers and fly away. I don’t know why, but watching it infused me with a sadness that ran down to the deepest limits of my soul and made me think of suicide. There were so many ways to die.
Mishima’s sensibilities are too complex to be boiled down to mere symbolism; the flag is not just a stand-in for humanity’s hopeless condition of being simultaneously animated and static, like a flag tied to the pole of existence while violently yearning to flap free and thereby terminate itself. The flag punctuates and accentuates Rikio’s yearning, his extreme desire for both beauty and death, and how sometimes these are inextricably interconnected.
Calasso calls the eager denizens of this new world, practitioners of this tautological bid for control, Homo secularis. “Unlike Vedic man,” Calasso explains, “who was born with the burden of four rnas, ‘debts’—to the gods, to the rsis, to ancestors, and to mankind in general--Homo secularis owes nothing to anyone. He stands by himself. He has nothing behind apart from what he himself does. There is an inevitable sense of uncertainty, since he rests on something unstable—and perhaps insubstantial. The pleasure of arbitrary will is marred by the lack of substance.”
This “substance” which Calasso understands to be lacking in the world Homo secularis has created might be called renunciation. But it might just as easily be considered the meaning, the world, gained from that renunciation. Or, the ardor gleaned from sacrifice. In what Calasso calls “the new cult of the society,” happiness is all. But in taking the secret of happiness from outside of happiness (or bringing the meaning of the world back from outside of the world, as Wittgenstein expresses a similar notion), happiness has been destroyed. Calasso writes that “… the secularists are not happy. Nor do they feel relieved of great burdens. They feel the insubstantiality of all that surrounds them. At times, they recognize something ominous in it. But in what respect? The same insubstantiality exists in they themselves. Personalized.”
"When forming our literary, cinematic, and artistic canons, it’s important to remember that if you want a canon of saints, you’ll end up with a canon of zero. Rather than recoil from an artist’s grotesqueries and let them destroy otherwise interesting and nuanced work, or rather than hold an artist at arm’s length and pretend there’s an impenetrable wall that separates creator and creation, embracing the bramble of imperfections and idiosyncrasies of an artist tends to make the work prick with even more strangeness and complexity, mystery and negative capability. Not only is an artistic canon of saints untenable, but it’s undesirable.
By canceling and deplatforming artists, even when we feel morally and historically justified to do so, aren’t we in some way mirroring Wayne at his worst? As a vocal supporter of the Hollywood Blacklist, Wayne too at times fought for other artists to be silenced because of their beliefs and deeds. These actions may not be alike in degree, but aren’t they at least alike in kind? I possess neither the moral authority nor the ideological certainty necessary to feel comfortable determining who gets to have a platform and what ideas should be out of bounds—and I’m wary of anyone who claims they do. I concede that may be my failing."
"Poets do not become themselves all at once. They proceed crabwise, by small advances and reversals, and their gifts come into focus through the cryptic, piecemeal evolution described by Stephen Jay Gould as punctuated equilibrium. “The Seafarer” in 1911 was one kind of advance; “In a Station of the Metro,” finished the following year, another; but the subtle artistry in scenes of complaint and affection, of doubt and consequence in “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter,” “Song of the Bowmen of Shu,” “Lament of the Frontier Guard,” “Exile’s Letter,” and other poems in Cathay were a great leap toward the broad sweep of history, the clatter of different tongues, the painterly landscapes and spotlit details that marked his poetry ever after. Cathay showed how to let one world be penetrated by the literature of another, the driving mechanism behind The Cantos. The poet who emerged from the Chinese poems was not yet whole; but the Pound of 1910 and that of 1920 would hardly have recognized each other, and Cathay was largely responsible."
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor