10.23.2014

this is my dream home

Philipp Blom on meeting Wolf Stein (and describing my dream home, except for the last sentence): 


“When I arrived at his address … he welcomed me warmly and asked me to excuse the state of his house … What I had noticed, however, was not the tools lying about, but the books spreading everywhere like moss on wet stones. Piles of books lined the entire hallway and more were sitting on every step of the staircase leading up to the first floor. Books were creeping up the walls and occupying every inch of free space on the floor, on tables, chairs and other furniture. The rooms were accessible only through narrow canals winding through a mountainous landscape of reading matter in all shapes and sizes. He showed me around the house. There were books surrounding his bed, books on shelves above it, books in front of the bathub, and books in his study … The only room free of this growth of books was the kitchen, a desolate place not only because it was bare in contrast to the other rooms, but also because it was almost devoid of food.”

10.20.2014

these are the questions


Stringing together the intertextual mutterings of DFW-- raw and touching provocations on the basic questions of human faith and existence -- from his essay "Joseph Frank's Dostoyevsky":

"

**Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I'm bullshitting myself, morally speaking?**

**What exactly does 'faith' mean? As in 'religious faith,' 'faith in God' etc. Isn't it basically crazy to believe in something that there's no proof of? is there really any difference between what we call faith and some primitive tribe's sacrificing virgins to volcanoes because they believe it'll produce good weather? How can somebody have faith before he's presented with sufficient reason to have faith? Or is somehow needing to have faith a sufficient reason for having faith? But then what kind of need are we talking about?**

**Is the real point of my life simply to undergo as little pain and as much pleasure as possible? My behavior sure seems to indicate that this is what I believe, at least a lot of the time. But isn't this kind of a selfish way to live? Forget selfish--isn't it awful lonely?**

**But if I decide to decide there's a different, less selfish, less lonely point to my life, won't the reason for this decision be my desire to be less lonely, meaning to suffer less overall pain? Can the decision to be less selfish ever be anything other than a selfish decision?"**

**Is it possible really to love other people? If I'm lonely and in pain, everyone outside me is potential relief--I need them. But can you really love what you need so badly? Isn't a big part of love caring more about what the other person needs? How am I supposed to subordinate my own overwhelming need to somebody else's needs that I can't even feel directly? And yet if I can't do this, I'm damned to loneliness, which I definitely don't want ... so I'm back at trying to overcome my selfishness for self-interested reasons. Is there any way out of this bind?**

**What is 'an American'? Do we have something important in common, as Americans, or is it just that we all happen to live inside the same boundaries and so have to obey the same laws? How exactly is America different from other countries? Is there really something unique about it? What does that uniqueness entail? We talk a lot about our special rights and freedoms, but are there also special responsibilities that come with being an American? If so, responsibilities to whom?**

**Does this guy Jesus Christ's life have something to teach me even if I don't, or can't, believe he was divine? What am I supposed to make of the claim that someone who was God's relative, and so could have turned the cross into a planter or something with just a word, still voluntarily let them nail him up there, and died? Even if we suppose he was divine--did he know? Did heh know he could have broken the cross with just a word? Did he know in advance that death would just be temporary (because I bet I could climb up there, too, if I knew that an eternity of right-hand bliss lay on the other side of six hours of pain)? But does any of that even really matter? Can I still believe in JC or Mohammed or Whoever even if I don't believe they were actual relatives of God? Except what would that mean: 'believe in'?**

"

10.12.2014

“He had always been so strange and had lived, like a prophet, in such unimaginably close communion with the Lord that his long silences which were punctuated by moans and hallelujahs and snatches of old songs while he sat at the living room window never seemed odd to us.” 
-James Baldwin

10.10.2014

"I find that my praying turns into thinking. It’s like trying to contain something, and then perhaps it turns into prayer. It’s almost impossible for me to maintain it as a purely distinct activity."
-Marilynne Robinson

10.09.2014

“The soul knows for certain only that it is hungry. The important thing is that it announces its hunger by crying. A child does not stop crying if we suggest to it that perhaps there is no bread. It goes on crying just the same. The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.” 
-Simone Weil


"The truth is, most wisdom is embittering. The task of the wise person cannot be to pretend with false naivete that every moment is new and unprecedented, but to bear the burden of bitterness which experience forces on us with as much uncomplaining dignity as strength will allow. Beyond that, all we can ask of ourselves is that bitterness not cancel out our capacity still to be surprised."
-Phillip Lopate