Depth in the Shallows

Month: April, 2017

Contemplative In Motion

The Wonder Of Wandering

In Defense of Sensuality by John Cowper Powys

Hemingway is reported to have said something like “never confuse movement for action.” A cousin to that line of thought, but going a step beyond, is this quote from novelist, poet, essayist, and lecturer, John Cowper Powys (1872-1963). He was born in England, lived in New York, and died in Wales. In between he traveled extensively, mostly on the lecture tours. He is best remembered for the novels, Wolf Solent, Porius, Weymouth Sands, and A Glastonbury Romance. He left a literary legacy of love and hate. Powys follows in the tracks of Thomas Hardy, especially in featuring the Wessex landscape. Powys had many other influences, yet he transcended them all. His work, even those centered on distant historical events, is quite modern. Some will come to Powys and leave, others will linger, and still others will simply stay. But the key is to read Powys patiently. His prose, sometimes clunky, digressive, and obscure, takes effort. But the payoff is paddling in some of the deepest currents of the human soul.

Here he reminds us that we are not made to do but to be. This is not to say that movement and action are unnecessary. It is to say, however, that the object of all humanity is to contemplate.

“Our rulers at the present day, with their machines and their preachers, are all occupied in putting into our heads the preposterous notion that activity rather than contemplation is the object of life.”


The Pedantry Of The Pedestrian

Life With The Walking Dead

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

Think on this one. Slowly. We often fashion ourselves smarter merely for having been born later than our ancestors. So we chuckle at their theories, assertions, and habits. We often assume, aided by science, that because we know more (debatable on an individual level) we know better. Hardly. To quote Newton, we see further because we “stand on the shoulders of giants.” We would not now be, and be where we are, and go where we are going, if those who came before had not come and went. Simple logic. But it is more than that. All the accrued wisdom of today, to the extent we bother to learn it, comes as a product of the past, of mistakes made and successes shared. We can go about our days thinking we have it figured out because we exist (and have the internet), but we do so at our peril. Soon enough, as Chesterton knew, we will be casting our votes and our voices with the Democracy of the Dead.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) is one of the many voices of the Dead that remind us of why we are alive. He was many, many things…Catholic, husband, friend, journalist, philosopher, theologian, soldier of the small, prince of paradox, critic, poet, and father of the Father Brown stories. He was a simple man, endlessly fascinated by what he saw, but more so by what he could not. A man of Mystery, not a mysterious man. A man who lived, loved, and left. But he did not leave us without. Some say he wrote too much, but much of what he wrote is worth reading.

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.”

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