Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"A thrill like music"

Today, as in the age of Shakespeare, when Right and Wrong seem almost to have lost their names and naked power threatens to become a universal wolf and eat up mankind, thoughtful people turn naturally to biography and history, seeking in the historians and the poets a truer insight into human nature and a clearer hope of the triumph of the human spirit. (From James G. McManaway’s preface of Shakespeare: The Histories, published by Easton Press)

Four winters ago I became a “serious” collector of books. I decided to join the Easton Press’s “100 Greatest Books Ever Written” club. And what books they were! Not just due to their literary achievement but because of EP’s ability to produce books that are almost instant heirlooms. Leather covers, gold inlaid, raised hubs of the spine, ribbon markers, acid free paper and moiré endleaves. And such smells. Nothing can beat the smell of leather and ink and paper all joined into one glorious volume. The picture to the right is of one of my bookshelves, along with my just emptied bottle of my favorite Kentucky whisky...perfect for cold winter's nights and a good book.

And so I began with Melville’s Moby Dick. Now, almost fifty books later, the first of three volumes that I had anticipated those four years ago finally arrived today. There will eventually be three Shakespeare volumes adorning my shelves: The Comedies and The Tragedies will join The Histories in the coming months. I read through the preface (yes, I read the preface and the forwards) and came across the quote at the top of the page at preface end.

I don’t point it out in order for it to be used politically, although it certainly could be used against politicians off all stripes and parties. Certainly it can be applied to all facets of life and its areas where human beings interact with or are dependent upon one another.

I have always been a student of history. As a child I was always reading and referring to my parent’s set of 1974 Encyclopedia Brittanica. Many a person has heard me preach that if we do not know our own history, it will be impossible to learn the necessary lessons from it and then ultimately will we be doomed to repeat history’s failures. Example after example could I place within this writing. And yet all of us, myself included, will continue to stumble along blindly through this life until we either learn, or give up and consign ourselves to fate.

I am an admirer of the written word, when it is done well. In a letter to Arthur Greeves in 1916, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Isn't it funny the way some combinations of words can give you — almost apart from their meaning — a thrill like music?" The poetry of Yeats, the sonnets of Shakespeare, the storytelling of Washington Irving, the complexity yet pure enjoyment that is Chesterton, all of these and so many more bring me pause and consider carefully what I’ve read before daring to turn the page and discover what come next. And yet I cannot turn the page fast enough, so greedily do I desire to devour. It is a paradox. You cannot help but linger to admire where you are, but cannot wait to be lead to where next the author wants to lead you. Indeed a life well lived is like that. We should always take the time to pause and linger over each moment of our days, drinking them in as the freshest water on a hot summers day. But always looking to what life has in store for us as we turn the page to the next day, looking back only to draw upon the lessons we learn and take with us across the page into the new day…in order to continue the storyline of our lives.

3 Comments:

At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well said !

 
At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading that wonderfully articulated wisdom, I felt compelled to remember another's...Care to remember with me?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all doing direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

 
At 10:46 AM, Blogger No gift to bring.. said...

Amen.

Whew!! Well said indeed!!

 

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