Month: March 2014

A Smattering of Flannery

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. – Flannery O’Connor

I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial. – Flannery O’Connor

I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one. – Flannery O’Connor

All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal. – Flannery O’Connor

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“A number of years ago, after their album Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic, John Frusciante, the Chili Pepper’s guitarist walked out on the band … and he headed to Amsterdam … and ended up completely strung out on heroin. I saw an interview with Frusciante toward the end of his time in Amsterdam, and it was frightening. In this interview, Frusciante was literally nothing but skin and bones, and he looked like he could die at any moment. The interview was so taken aback by Frusciante’s appearance that he asked Frusciantes about his drug use, and why he kept using. And Frusciante’s response was, “It’s because it’s beautiful and it make me feel alive.”
…That, my friends is a picture of where idolatry leads. “Our thinking becomes futile … we become fools … and our hearts are darkened” (vv. 21-22). And as a result, we call up down, right wrong, good bad … and we are convinced that we are alive, when in reality we are just a hairsbreath away from death.” – Jeff Wilkins

Years ago, when I was not yet a teenager, my father nearly died. He had a series of heart attacks, but then a triple bypass saved his life. There is so much to say about the weeks he spent in the hospital and the months he spent in recovery, as well as the miracles of medicine and the mysteries of the human body, but I want to say something about when his failing heart first shot pains through his left arm.

It was early in the morning, but he knew exactly what was happening in his chest and woke my mother to ask her to call an ambulance. Our telephone was in the living room, but before she could leave their bedroom to use it, he asked for something else. My father asked that the ambulance not use its siren.

Weeks later, when the fear of death had receded like some strange tide, my mother asked him about the siren. My father said simply that he worried it would have woken and frightened his three sleeping daughters. It is true that we were all light sleepers and that our farm was usually blanketed by the polite silence that comes from having no close neighbors, but what impossible kindness there was in my father’s request.

Your Kindness Is Good for You – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

The well-trod Pelagian controversy, turbid from centuries of philosophical churnings, is recast by Brown in terms that practically all of us can understand. We forget that the precipitating event was the sack of Rome, which sent the rich flying to African shores, theological tutors in tow. The star financial moralists of the 4th century, Jerome and Pelagius, played guru to these extremely wealthy ladies, peddling an ascetic extremism mined from their dabblings amongst the monks of mysterious “East” but tempered for the comforts of villa life. Their conscience-panged pupils gazed benevolently toward distant horizons full of do-gooding potential. These super-rich, with their old and timeless money, were used to spreading it as they pleased. And if their high-minded life-coaches assured them that God demanded every last solidus for their salvation, well, why shouldn’t they slough off wealth with aristocratic ease?
So when some mediocre African bishop started pushing back at the likes of Melania the Younger (one of those richest landowners of all time), insisting that getting rid of sin was not so easy, and that wealth had its good uses—alms for the poor, for example—it was every bit as much a class conflict as it was about the human capacity to will the good. Our own self-help literature, inane as much of it is, is geared to the same sort of audience as Pelagius addressed, who had gazed upon the world from a distance and could envision the higher ground of moral simplicity. The notion of insurmountable sin is anathema to this imagined option of personal social mobility.
Andrew L. Wilson, “Follow the Money”

CONDUITS OF GRACE

We lost our oldest child, our daughter Anna, suddenly in April 2008 at the age of 27; our other three daughters and three sons lost their beloved sister. Two months later, a longtime, long-distance friend of my husband was visiting us. As we sat together on our screened porch after dinner, he confided that he had been so shocked when he first received the news of Anna’s death in an accident halfway around the world that he almost didn’t respond at all. What immobilized him initially was the unimaginable thought of such harm coming to his own oldest daughter.
But he had gathered himself up and sent an eloquent letter to us, accompanied by one of the most beautifully specific gifts we have ever received – a gift rich with profound meaning. We were so moved at the time; even now, this powerful symbol and the thin stuff of words never fails to bring comfort and provide a window into that greater life. “What if,” I mused with him that evening, “you had kept silent? What part of us might not have mended, or been carried even for that day?” I know that my husband and I have survived the pressing weight of this profound grief in large part because of the grace of God conveyed through those who have gracefully moved toward us and chosen to sit alongside us.
How much grace do we withhold when we hold back? How much more might this suffering soul, this wounded Body, this broken world be healed if we who belong to Christ would simply move toward instead of holding back, or even retreating, in the face of anguish? How often do we respond not in any sort of “fullness of time,” but only at our convenience, restrained by our measured degree of comfort, if at all? Sometimes I wish He didn’t trust us so much. Sometimes I wish He didn’t entrust us with so much. – Mary Woodiwiss

“The world looks for happiness through self-assertion. The Christian knows that joy is found in self-abandonment.” – Elisabeth Elliot

“Choices will continually be necessary and — let us not forget — possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.” ― Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender

“I know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for slavery. You’re looking for a person to whom you can surrender and submit. You’re a child and you can’t be trusted to be left alone all by yourself. You’re wrong about most things, and you’re really wrong about a few things in particular. Your opinions are foul. Your judgements are negligent. You’re entirely unable to elect a suitable master for yourself. Thank God your life is not you’re own! ..thank God, you’re life is not left up to you!” – THMD

“Yes, we take pleasure in color, integrity, harmony, radiance, and so on; and yet, as anyone who troubles to consult his or her experience of the world knows, we also frequently find ourselves stirred and moved and delighted by objects whose visible appearances or tones or other qualities violate all of these canons of aesthetic value, and that somehow “shine” with a fuller beauty as a result. Conversely, many objects that possess all these ideal features often bore us, or even appall us, with their banality. At times, the obscure enchants us and the lucid leaves us untouched; plangent dissonances can awaken our imaginations far more delightfully than simple harmonies that quickly become insipid; a face almost wholly devoid of conventionally pleasing features can seem unutterably beautiful to us in its very disproportion, while the most exquisite profile can do no more than charm us. The tenebrous canvases of Rembrandt are beautiful, while the shrill daubs of Thomas Kinkade, with all their sugary glitter, are repellant. Whatever the beautiful is, it is not simply harmony or symmetry or consonance or ordonnance or brightness, all of which can become anodyne or vacuous of themselves; the beautiful can be encountered—sometimes shatteringly—precisely where all of these things are deficient or largely absent. Beauty is something other than the visible or audible or conceptual agreement of parts, and the experience of beauty can never be wholly reduced to any set of material constituents. It is something mysterious, prodigal, often unanticipated, even capricious. We can find ourselves suddenly amazed by some strange and indefinable glory in a barren field, an urban ruin, the splendid disarray of a storm-wracked forest, and so on.” – David Bentley Hart