28 June 2018

A Very Different Life

Leslie Frost, Fighting Men (Toronto: Clarke Irwin & Co. Ltd., 1967), p. 10:
People nowadays sometimes look back nostalgically to the good old pre-war days [i.e., before the First World War] and they remember a very different life. The welfare state was not even contemplated. The Orillia Town Council had in its organization a Charity Committee which dispensed a few dollars a year to those unfortunates who were in dire need, in most cases through no fault of their own. There were no mother’s allowances. Pensions for the aged, disabled, the blind, and assistance for the afflicted were a generation away. Children looked after their parents and their disabled ones. The effects of sickness could be, and were, devastating. Still, people were confident. They were self-reliant. They had strong moorings in their religious faiths and beliefs. The magnificence of Europe was not theirs and they had little understanding of it all. Canada was new. Its people had come up the hard way. Most of their fathers and grandfathers had come from the old land because of sheer necessity. They had successfully created a new way of life in Upper Canada and Ontario and they were satisfied with it.

"Old Man Ontario" as a young officer

27 June 2018

Room with a View

A lithograph by Franz Xaver Hoch, from Hochland; Ein Ausflug ins Land der Berge voll Alpenzauber und Höhenluft (München: Verlag des deutschen Spielmanns, 1903):

Franz Xaver Hoch, Hoch Fensterbild (1903)

According to the German Wikipedia entry, Hoch was associated with Die Scholle. He served with the Landsturm-Infanterie-Bataillon Mindelheim (2. Kompanie) and died at Châtas on 18 June, 1916.

25 June 2018

Football and Beer

George Orwell, 1984, in The Penguin Complete Novels of George Orwell (London: Penguin, 1976), pp. 784-785:
In reality very little was known about the proles. It was not necessary to know much. So long as they continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern. They were born, they grew up in the gutters, they went to work at twelve, they passed through a brief blossoming-period of beauty and sexual desire, they married at twenty, they were middle-aged at thirty, they died, for the most part, at sixty. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.

20 June 2018

The Demon Titivillus

Marc Drogin, Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Technique (New York: Dover Publications, 1989), pp. 17-18 (footnotes omitted):
Titivillus was born in the minds of medieval monks  created in jest to make a serious point. The repetitiveness of monastic life took its toll. Monks would occasionally cease to pay precise attention and words were mutilated, misspelled, and misplaced. Monks had to be reminded of the sin of inattentiveness. The earliest recorded mention of Titivillus by name appeared c. 1285 in John of Wales' Tractatus de Penitentia. And the comment about him was repeated early in the next century when, in a sermon, Petrus de Palude, Patriarch of Jerusalem, commented, “Fragmina psalmorum / Titivillus colligit horum" which, loosely translated. says that Titivillus collects bits of the psalms. Slipping about unseen he listened for each and every verbal atrocity that occurred in the services. But the monks deplored copying and writing errors as much as those in reading and singing. While no record of his interest in scribal errors was found until the 15th century, it is logical to assume that he may have followed the monks from services to see what was amiss in the scriptorium.

What Titivillus did when he heard or saw an error gave him demonic status. John of Wales' early description added another fact corroborated in several manuscripts (among them London, British Museum, Arundel 506, folio 46): "Quacque die mille / vicibus sarcinat ille." Titivillus, it explained, was required each day to find enough errors to fill his sack a thousand times. And these he hauled to the Devil below where each sin was duly recorded in a book against the name of the monk who had committed it, there to be read out on the Day of Judgment.

Titivillus keeping a watchful eye

A related post: It Makes the Kidneys Ache

19 June 2018

A Refusal to Live

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 86:
Interviewer's remark: When you think of the pictures of Van Gogh, even the most melancholy are full of energy and force and emotion.

Yes, even desolation is fully experienced and even what is lost is fully expressed, in contrast to this [refusal to participate fully in life]. Sometimes, one thinks how much more alive such people would be if they suffered! If they can't be happy, let them at least be unhappy, really unhappy for once, and then they would become human. But many pueri aeterni cannot even be quite unhappy! They have not even the generosity and the courage to expose themselves to a situation which could make them unhappy. Already, like cowards, they build bridges by which they can escape — they anticipate the disappointment in order not to suffer the blow, and that is a refusal to live.

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows (1890)

A related post: The Religion of Smug Ease

13 June 2018

Father's Day

Friedrich Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (§ 318), from Vol. VIII of the Musarion edition (München: Musarion Verlag, 1920), p. 288 (my translation):
Correcting Nature — If you do not have a good father, then you should acquire one for yourself.

Die Natur corrigiren — Wenn man keinen guten Vater hat, so soll man sich einen anschaffen.

Josef Thorak, Friedrich Nietzsche (1944)

10 June 2018

Once Upon a Time

Sister Miriam Joseph, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2002), p. 5:
The utilitarian or servile arts enable one to be a servant — of another person, of the state, of a corporation, or of a business — and to earn a living. The liberal arts, in contrast, teach one how to live; they train the faculties and bring them to perfection; they enable a person to rise above his material environment to live an intellectual, a rational, and therefore a free life in gaining truth.
Edward Irvine Halliday, Worcester College Room (1952)

Not unrelated: They Are Scum

6 June 2018

Pluralistic Ignorance

Professor Dan Ariely on how he teaches his students about pluralistic ignorance, from the 33m55s mark in his interview on The Knowledge Project podcast:
I start the class by taking a paragraph from some post-modern literature text generator, something crazy, you know, so you don't understand what's going on — every sentence looks like it's constructed appropriately but there's no flow, there's Foucault and Derrida from time to time, and I just add some words about economics and behavioural economics, and Becker... It's the first class, people sit in, [there are] 500 students, and I say,"Let me start by explaining to you what behavioural economics is." And I just read this nonsense for five minutes. Then I stop and ask, "Why didn't you stop me? How many of you would have stopped me if there was only one person in the room?"
A related post: A Fool's Trick

4 June 2018

How to Gain Time and Tranquility

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.24, tr. Gerald H. Rendall (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 36:
"Do few things, if you would have cheer." A better rule methinks is to do only things necessary, things which in a social being reason dictates, and as it dictates. For this brings the cheer that comes of doing a few things, and doing them well. Most of the things we say or do are not necessary; get rid of them, and you will gain time and tranquility. Thus in every case a man should ask himself, Is this one of the things not necessary? and we ought to get rid not only  of actions, that are not necessary, but likewise of impressions; then superfluous actions will  not follow in their train.

30 May 2018

Uprooted, Anonymous, and Pushed About

James Rebanks, The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2015), p. 51:
I sometimes think we [shepherds from the Lake District] are so independently minded because we have seen just enough of the wider world to know we like our own old ways and independence best. My grandfather went as far afield as Paris for a trip to an agricultural fair once. He knew what cities had to offer, but also had a sense that they would leave you uprooted, anonymous, and pushed about by the world you lived in, rather than having some freedom and control. The potential wealth on offer counted for little or nothing set against the sense of belonging and purpose that existed at home.
Hat tip: Laudator Temporis Acti

25 May 2018

Worth the While of Every Lover of Truth

John Smith Gilderdale, Disciplina Rediviva (London: Bell and Daldy, 1856), pp. 51-52:
Were it indeed only for its use in enabling us to detect the fallacies which may arise out of a singularity of idiom, in the case of a person knowing one language only, the value of this power of translating one language into another would make it worth the while of every lover of truth to retain his knowledge of Latin and Greek. In the act of passing out of one language into another the idea appears for a moment in its naked form, stripped of the accidental gloss of idiom. We see what is of the essence of the idea and what not — the thing in itself, not merely what it was to the Greek or to the Roman, at the same time that this very exhibition of its several phases, under the aspect of varied national influence, is a most valuable commentary on the res itself, of which those idiomata are but the versions.

Besides this, are there not some thoughts which seem so connected in their nature with the mind that gave them birth, that they refuse to be clothed in the new languages of the Western world?

The connection of the dead and the living languages is seen only by those who have carried a continued knowledge of the one into the study of the other. The ease with which the latter are acquired on the strength of a knowledge of their archetypes, along with the philological value of a classical illustration, goes a great way towards persuading most men of the indirect advantage of a life-long familiarity with Greek and Latin.

24 May 2018

Read Much, Reflected Little

William Ellery Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, Vol. I (Boston: Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1850), p. 154:
It is easy to read, but hard to think. Without thinking, we cannot make the sentiments of others our own. Thinking alone adopts them into our family. It is my misfortune, that I have read much, but have reflected little. Let me reverse this order. I prefer strength of impression to superficial knowledge, however extensive.

17 May 2018

The Statistical Mood

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 86:
You do not realize what it does to you when you read statistics. It is a completely destructive poison, and what is worse is that it is not true; it is a falsified image of reality. If we begin to think statistically, we begin to think against our own uniqueness. It is not only thinking, but also a way of feeling. If you go up and down the Bahnhofstrasse, you see all those stupid faces and then look into a window yourself and say that you look just as stupid as the others, if not worse! And then comes the thought that if an atom bomb destroyed all that, who would regret it? Thank God, those lives have come to an end, including my own! In the statistical mood, one is overwhelmed by the ordinariness of life.

14 May 2018

Favere Lingua

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Aphorism XXXIII," Aids to Reflection (London: William Pickering, 1839), p. 79:
It is characteristic of the Roman dignity and sobriety, that, in the Latin, to favour with the tongue (favere lingua) means to be silent. We say, Hold your tongue! as if it were an injunction, that could not be carried into effect but by manual force, or the pincers of the forefinger and thumb! And verily — I blush to say it — it is not Women and Frenchmen only that would rather have their tongues bitten than bitted, and feel their souls in a strait-waistcoat, when they are obliged to remain silent.

7 May 2018

A Slight Sense of Nausea

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Books Unread," Part of a Man's Life (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906), pp. 163-164:
Books which we have first read in odd places always retain their charm, whether read or neglected. Thus Hazlitt always remembered that it was on the 10th of April, 1798, that he "sat down to a volume of the 'New Éloise' at the Inn at Llangollen over a bottle of sherry and a cold chicken." In the same way I remember how Professor Longfellow in college recommended to us, for forming a good French style, to read Balzac's "Peau de Chagrin;" and yet it was a dozen years later before I found it in a country inn, on a lecture trip, and sat up half the night to read it. It may be, on the other hand, that such haphazard meetings with books sometimes present them under conditions hopelessly unfavorable, as when I encountered Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" for the first time on my first voyage in an Azorian barque; and it inspires to this day a slight sense of nausea, which it might, after all, have inspired equally on land.

3 May 2018

The Blind Fight the Blind

Charles Hamilton Sorley, "To Germany," The Muse in Arms, ed. E. B. Osborne (London: John Murray, 1917), p. 149:
You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But, gropers both through fields of thought confined,
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other's dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.

When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other's truer form,
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm,
We'll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But, until peace, the storm,
The darkness, and the thunder and the rain.

A Canadian lights a German's cigarette at Passchendaele, November 1917

30 April 2018

Outdoor Erections

Bernard E. Jones, The Practical Woodworker, Vol. II (London: The Waverley Book Company Ltd., 1920), pp. 417-418:


It could be exciting to build a bicycle shed...

A related post: Portable Cold Frame

27 April 2018

Don't Go Back

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (London: Archibald Constable, 1912), p. 97:
As a rule, it is better to revisit only in imagination the places which have greatly charmed us, or which, in the retrospect, seem to have done so. Seem to have charmed us, I say; for the memory we form, after a certain lapse of time, of places where we lingered, often bears but a faint resemblance to the impression received at the time; what in truth may have been very moderate enjoyment, or enjoyment greatly disturbed by inner or outer circumstances, shows in the distance as a keen delight, or as deep, still happiness. On the other hand, if memory creates no illusion, and the name of a certain place is associated with one of the golden moments of life, it were rash to hope that another visit would repeat the experience of a bygone day.
Not unrelated: Let the Past Remain in Peace

24 April 2018

Mere Treasures of Words

Isaac Watts, Improvement of the Mind (New York : A. S. Barnes & Co., 1849), p. 73:
When you have learned one or many languages ever so perfectly, take heed of priding yourself in these acquisitions: they are but mere treasures of words, or instruments of true and solid knowledge, and whose chief design is to lead us into an acquaintance with things, or to enable us the more easily to convey those ideas or that knowledge to others. An acquaintance with the various tongues is nothing else but a relief against the mischief which the building of Babel introduced: and were I master of as many languages as were spoken at Babel, I should make but a poor pretense to true learning or knowledge, if I had not clear and distinct ideas, and useful notions in my head under the words which my tongue could pronounce. Yet so unhappy a thing is human nature, that this sort of knowledge of sounds and syllables is ready to puff up the mind with vanity, more than the most valuable and solid improvements of it. The pride of a grammarian, or a critic, generally exceeds that of a philosopher.

20 April 2018

A Troublesome Companion

Maurice Rollinat, Ruminations: prose d'un solitaire (Paris: Eugène Fasquelle, 1904), pp. 20-21 (my translation):
Hate is a troublesome companion who awakens in solitude, gives soliloquies in complete silence, and is never more agitated than when you are in peaceful places.

La haine est une inquiétante compagne qui se réveille dans la solitude, soliloque dans le  plein silence, n'est jamais plus agitée que dans les endroits paisibles.

Maurice Rollinat, photographed by Félix Nadar