From Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore’s 1895 book The Rod, the Root, and the Flower:
Plato’s cave of shadows is the most profound and simple statement of the relation of the natural to the spiritual life ever made. Men stand with their backs to the Sun, and they take the shadows cast by it upon the walls of their cavern for realities. The shadows, even, of heavenly realities are so alluring as to provoke ardent desires, but they cannot satisfy us. They mock us with unattainable good, and our natural and legitimate passions and instincts, in the absence of their true and substantial satisfactions, break forth into frantic disorders. If we want fruition we must turn our back to the shadows, and gaze on their realities in God.
It may be added that, when we have done this, and are weary of the splendors and felicities of immediate reality, we may turn again, from time to time, to the shadows, which, having thus become intelligible, and being attributed by us to their true origin, are immeasurably more satisfying than they were before, and may be delighted in without blame. This is the ‘evening joy,’ the joy of contemplating God in His creatures, of which the theologians write; and this purified and intelligible joy in the shadows–which has now obtained a core of substance–is not only the hundredfold ‘promise of this life also,’ but it is, as the Church teaches, a large part of the joy of the blest….
“‘Detachment’ consists, not in casting aside all natural loves and goods, but in the possession of a love and a good so great that all others, though they may and do acquire increase through the presence of the greater love and good, which explains and justifies them, seem nothing in comparison.”
In Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows, he has a fascinating section on the difference between reading online and reading offline, which supplements some of the observations I made in my Touchstone article ‘Scripture in the Age of Google.’ The study Carr sites can be found here.
During the presidential election cycle, American politics feeds on fomenting the public’s sense of dissatisfaction and highlighting problems that each candidate claims to be the answer for.
Unfortunately the public tends to buy into this doomsday rhetoric.
Every four years I have at least one or two friends who tell me “This is our final chance – this election will determine whether or not our nation even has a future.”
Various Christian end-times scenarios have contributed to the same pessimism about the future, so that it takes only a strange weather pattern or a report about a tragedy somewhere in the world to justify the pronouncement that “This surely proves we’re living in the end-times!”
Paul Johnson makes reading history feel like reading gossip.
I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend some good novels that have recently blessed me.
But first, a few words about my approach to reading in general.
As far as my reading habits are concerned, I’m a recovering pragmatist. That is, I used to choose which books to read based on a rational calculation of how they would benefit me, rather like someone whose eating habits are based entirely on calorie counting and health considerations. So instead of reading Paul Johnson’s enjoyable books in which history comes alive and almost feels a bit naughty (he makes history seem like gossip) I might read a boring monograph instead.
One of the things I said I would do with this new blog is to give my readers regular updates on what I’m reading. I’ll start the ball rolling by sharing something I was reading last night.
Last night I was reading Nicholas Carr’s 2008 book The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google. Having enjoyed his earlier book The Shallows, I thought it would be fun to read one of his earlier works. The Big Switch is particularly enjoyable because of all the fascinating comparisons and contrasts he makes between the rise of electrification in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and computing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.