Loose ends

"Edinburgh Lecture diagram: Decorated cusped gothic window" by John Ruskin and Sir John Everett Millais, assisted by Euphemia Chalmers Ruskin; from here


This winter has been especially boring, both in terms of inner life and outward activity. But spring is coming, and with it, the longed-for quickening of energy and spirits.

I came home last night to a blooming amaryllis (a little late, but very welcome), and an e-mail asking if I would be interested in leading an alumni seminar on a topic of my choice. Of course I would! We have an interesting and varied group of people who come to these seminars and engage in some wonderful discussions (this is the alumni group of my graduate work at St. John's College, not my undergraduate work).

I immediately remembered a half-formed idea I had been playing with earlier: a visit to the Cloisters and a reading of excerpts from Ruskin's Stones of Venice. And so I may be working through some of my ideas and/or problems in these pages.

I have also been engaged in a series of thought-provoking comments with Mr. Waggish (comments found here), which I wanted to link up so that they aren't lost in the caverns of archived web pages.

With that conversation in mind, here is this week's quote from Man Without Qualities:
What he wanted to bring out was the inability to get hold of individual experiences, those experiences that for obvious reasons one has to go through alone and lonely, even when one is with another person. He repeated: "The self never grasps its impressions and utterances singly, but always in context, in real or imagined, similar or dissimilar, harmony with something else; and so everything that has a name leans on everything else in regular rows, as a link in large and incalculable unities, one relying on another and all penetrated by a common tension. But for that reason," he suddenly went on, differently, "if for some reason these associations fail and none of them addresses the internal series of orders, one is immediately left again to face an indescribable and inhuman creation, indeed a disavowed and formless one"
...
"Understanding gives way to irrepressible astonishment, and the smallest experience--of this tiny blade of grass, or the gentle sounds when your lips over there utter a word--becomes something incomparable, lonely as the world, possessed of an unfathomable silence and radiating a profound narcosis...!"