Tuesday, 29 June 2010
Thursday, 24 June 2010
I found this from the old blog archive today, and went to check on the smells. They haven't changed to much actually. Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness, smells of cigarette smoke. Herbert McCabe, Law, Love and Language, smells of wax.
I got a book I have been waiting a long time for today. It has been shipped especially from India for me. Whenever I buy new books the first thing I do is smell them. The time has long since past that I could afford to buy many books first hand, and so mostly I collect second hand publications in good condition. The best thing about these books, when they first arrive is their smell. Paper takes on the odour of its surroundings very quickly, and mixes it with a dusty, musty smell all of its own. Weirdly, I often organize my bookshelf by smell - musty on the left, dusty on the right, smells of persil in the middle, hippy shop that burnt incense at the top, was left out in the rain and then dried on radiator at the bottom. There is a special place on my bookshelf for Adam Bede (George Eliott), which was kept in the kitchen of a student flat full of heavy drinking, drug taking, under graduate smokers (all my friends), got Vimto spilled on it, was dried out in the microwave and then hung out the window in Aigburth, Liverpool on fireworks night. It has a unique smell of its own.
Anyway, the book I got today, Under Satan's Sun - Georges Bernanos, smells. There is an undertone of mothballs, which I haven't smelt since I was a child. Frankincense, possibly, and something much more chemical, like a newly opened jar of paint. I am not sure where it will go on the shelf. The Intimate Merton smells of a hot pavement in the city just after a summer storm. I 'liberated' Jesus the Liberator (Jon Sobrino) from school when I was 17, and it smells of classroom. Perhaps I should bring it back? Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal (J K Rowling), was the first book I bought in Salamanca, Spain and I walked around the city gardens with it for weeks trying to read in a language I hadn't learnt yet. It has crushed jasmine in it from my favourite walled hideaway courtyard in the shadow of the Cathedral. Tom Sawyer (Samuel Clemens) belonged to my dad, he got it for Christmas in 1948. It smells of wood, as though the paper still hankers after the branches it was cut from. I suppose paper refinement was different back then.I guess the way you organise your bookshelf is personal. I read in The Guardian once about a woman who organised her books according to which books would 'get on' with each other. John Donne next to DH Lawrence because their conversations would be interesting. Leave Jane Austen away from Henry Fielding because he would bully her. For this the books have to be alive. I am sticking to my system, smells and size. I like the place to look neat, after all.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
WARNING: By definition theological jokes are not funny. This one comes to me by way of my good friend Angharad and her rather marvelous blog. I like it, but then again that is probably another sign of its definite unfunniness. No laughs here. None. :)
A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."
"Okay," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"
"Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service."
"Terrific!" says St. Peter, "that's certainly worth a point."
"One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."
"Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says.
"TWO POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!"
"Come on in!"St Peter replies with a grin.
Monday, 21 June 2010
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. The days are long, but the years are short, she realised. Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter. In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as "Julie and Julia", "The Year of Living Biblically", and "Eat, Pray, Love". With humour and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Rubin didn't have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her - and what didn't. Her conclusions are sometimes surprising - she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that 'treating' yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn't relieve them; and, that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference - and they range from the practical to the profound. Written with charm and wit, "The Happiness Project" is illuminating yet entertaining, thought-provoking yet compulsively readable. Gretchen Rubin's passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire you to start your own happiness project.
Sunday, 20 June 2010
ConfessionWhen you go to confession on a Saturday night, you go into a warm, dimly lit vastness, with a smell of wax and incense in the air, the smell of burning candles, and if it is a hot summer night there is the sound of the great electric fan, and the noise of the streets coming in to emphasize the stillness. There is another sound too, beside that of the quiet movements of people from pew to confession to altar rail; there is the sliding of the shutters of the little window between you and the priest in his 'box'.Some confessionals are large and roomy - plenty of space for the knees, and breathing space in the thick darkness that seems to pulse with your own heart. In some poor churches, many of the ledges are narrow and worn, so that your knees almost slip off the kneeling bench, and your feet protrude outside the curtain which shields you from the others who are waiting. Some churches have netting, or screens, between you and the priest and you can see the outline of his face inclined toward you, quiet, impersonal, patient. Some have a piece of material covering the screen, so you can see nothing. Some priests leave their lights on in their boxes so that they can read their breviaries between confessions. The light does not bother you of that piece of material is there so that you cannot see, or be seen, but if it is only a grating so that he can see your face, it is embarrassing and you do not go back to that priest again.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
A short advert for a blog called My Way, God's way by two brothers in the Dominican order, Peter and Isidore Clarke OP. Their reflections on the world, religious life and life in general are very cool. With one of them based in Leicester and the other in Grenada, the blog also has the flavour of family communication, which I like - the personal sharing of daily lives, the you'll never guess what has happened to me! Well worth your time.