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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Found Books

What an amazing city! In the past two months I've picked up at least 18 abandoned books (worth reading) off Brooklyn sidewalks.

Check out this passage from yesterday's find, a study of the Metaphysical Poets and religious experience by Helen C. White:

Mysticism and Poetry

Poetry and mysticism have, to begin with, this in common, that both alike belong to the field of contemplation rather than of action. Both are concerned primarily with the recognition of pattern, of significance, ultimately of value, in the world about them and within them. As distinguished from the man of action, say, the contemplative is concerned not with the conquest of the external world but with the understanding of it. Not possession but appreciation is his goal. The poet does not wish to carry the sunset home in his hat but with the eyes of his body and his mind to seize upon it so that the memory of it will abide with him. The mystic does not think of his God as a faithful genie to answer the rubbing of some Aladdin's lamp of prayer. He does not pray that his God will do his will, but only that He will give him Himself that he may behold Him face to face. The hunger for God is the basic human hunger, so every mystic of every tradition agrees. "Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee," is the way Saint Augustine puts it. "Beauty is its own excuse for being," said the poet Emerson as he looked upon the woodland flower. But in each case the satisfaction of the hunger, the final justification of the experience, is to be found in the experience itself.

Once aboard ship I heard a spiritual globe-trotter, famous for the catholicity and zest of his religious appreciation, tell a curious audience of American tourists about the almost miraculous energy and accomplishments of an Oriental mystic. It was at the height of our late prosperity when anything seemed possible to the aggressive disciple of the strenuous life, and it was frightening to see the intentness with which that audience listened to the speaker's suggestion of undreamed-of energies to be discovered in the mystic's contact with God. One of that audience at least was reminded of the enthusiasm with which Milton's fallen angels set about prospecting the burning fields of hell for gold and silver and precious stones. So the dupes of a power-maddened age listened with bated breath to this news of a super-source of power waiting to be tapped and exploited. Damming Niagara Falls to turn a wheel seemed a puny thing to the possibilities of this super-dynamo of God, and focusing the rays of the universal sun to roast an egg a triumph of the fitness of things.


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