Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


For your Monday cheer

I offer a few thoughts culled from a weekend of snow-bound reading. The ice was thick on the windows and the wind in a howl when I encountered these passages. Perhaps those elements lent a deeper sense of import to the thoughts below as I read them, yet I felt  each to be potent, words to convict, to hearten, to quicken, humor, to dare a heart to further action. First, for sheer fun, the young and scholarly C.S. Lewis' concept of a perfect day as sketched in Surprised by JoyDon't I wish this sort of day were true, at least once in awhile:

"I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a good cup of tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better... At one precisely lunch should be on the table; and by two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the out-door world...  The only friend to walk with is one... who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared. The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude... for eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably... At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies... there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven..."

From Wordsworth's The Prelude, and I challenge you to consider how Nature (and by this he means creation) has taught you joy and then I dare you to take a walk with these words in your head and see what greets you in the wind:

"...I at this time, Saw blessings spread around me like a sea. Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on, From Nature overflowing in my soul, I had received so much, that all my thoughts Were steeped in feeling; I was only then Contented, when with bliss ineffable I felt the sentiment of Being spread O'er all that moves and all that seemeth still;

 O'er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought And human knowledge, to the human eye Invisible, yet liveth to the heart; O'er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings, Or beats the gladsome air; oe'r all that glides Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself, And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not If high the transport, great the joy I felt, Communing in this sort through earth and heaven, With every form of creature, as it looked Towards the Uncreated with a countenance Of adoration, with an eye of love..."

From Julian of Norwich's famous passage in her "Showings" (or, Revelations of Divine Love):

"I saw that [our Lord] is to us everything which is good and comforting for our help. He is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us. And so in this sight I saw that he is everything which is good, as I understand. And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand….In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it. But what did I see in it? It is that God is the creator and protector and the lover. For until I am substantially united to him, I can never have perfect rest or true happiness, until, that is, I am so attached to him that there can be no created thing between my God and me."

The opening passage from Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy (revel in the sheer wordiness please, and imagine, if you can, a time in which this would count as pop lit):

"You have requested me, my dear friend, to bestow some of that leisure with which Providence has blessed the decline of my life, in registering the hazards and difficulties which attended its commencement. The recollection of those adventures, as you are pleased to term them, has indeed left upon my mind a chequered and varied feeling of pleasure and of pain, mingled, I trust, with no slight gratitude and veneration to the Disposer of human events, who guided my early course through much risk and labour, that the ease with which he has blessed my prolonged life, might seem softer from remembrance and contrast."

And last, this little gem from Whitman (chanced on when I found the enchanting online magazines at

"When I heard the learn'd astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars."