Three Day Quote Challenge – Day One

I’d like to thank akkoanime for challenging me to this contest.  Be sure to look at her blog, especially to see the quote she chose for day three.  It’s perhaps the wisest utterance ever made in Avatar, and delivered by its best character.  Anyway, here are the rules:

  • Post one quotation a day for three days (they can be from other sources or one of your own).
  • Nominate 3 other bloggers to participate per post.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.

Theodore Roosevelt as Governor

Quote for the First Day

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

–Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt is often moving and inspiring, but the above quote is one of those moments where he hits the sublime.  That the last clause appears to refer to the evil angels who refused to take sides in Dante’s Inferno makes it even better.

My three nominees are as follows:

  1. Animecommentary of Anime Commentary on the March
  2. Feidor S. LaView
  3. Thompdjames of The Dusty Thanes

I hope those gentlemen will be able to participate at some point, because I’m sure that they have some interesting quotes they can mention.

 

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De Hilaritate

My dear readers, unfortunate gravity and perfectionism have seized and bound my pen of late.  The desire to write well has stymied me from writing at all.  As the Italian proverb has it, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  The only solution, since I cannot convince myself that I write well, lies in writing badly.  After all, Theodore Roosevelt advises that the best thing to do in any situation is the right thing, the next best is the wrong thing, and the worst is to do nothing at all.  This advice may actually be false in regard to politics, but in the realm of writing it bears certain truth.  And so, I have proposed to myself to write one post per diem–not necessarily on this blog–for a fortnight.

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The title of this post, “De Hilaritate,” is the closest I could translate “On Levity” into Latin.  If I had written “De Levitate” instead, the present article would be praising fickleness or changeableness, which deserve no praise at all.  When I speak of levity, I speak of that virtue related to cheerfulness and humility, which all the saints have and often reveal in the most dour of times–as when the martyr St. Lawrence, as he roasted alive over a grill, said: “I’m well done on this side.  Turn me over and eat!”  At the same time, the excess of gravity, rooted in pride and despair, is shared by all the citizens of hell.  This might strike many of you with surprise as many religious types, myself included, have a tendency to face life with a serious countenance, as seems reasonable considering an eternity of heaven or hell awaits us depending on how we have lived.  However, the devout always carry joy in them–the joy of being united to Christ, and extra seriousness at the beginning of conversion must give way to levity as our faith in God’s goodness and salvific will increase.

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Soo-Won’s Rejection of the Will of Heaven

At last, I have caught up with Akatsuki no Yona.  This is a fun fantasy adventure, despite the faults in pacing and overabundance of flashbacks.  *Spoilers from here to the end.*  Soo-won’s claim that he assassinated King Il in order to avenge his father fascinates me.  He pretends to the justness of his action, but refuses to declare his filial piety openly.  Why?  Does one meting out justice act in this manner?  Did Orestes deny his killing Clytemnestra and Aegisthos?  No, one acting in the light of justice does not hide his deeds.  Soo-won’s conduct makes me think that his father was in some way culpable for being slain.  After all, if King Il had been vicious enough to commit the crime of kinslaughter in the case of his brother, then why did he not kill Soo-Won?  Decimating a family line was not unheard of in ancient China, where this anime seems to be set.

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The coronation scene in episode six answered some of these questions for me.  Soo-Won rejects being crowned by a priest.  Then, he denies that he needs Heaven to maintain his throne, saying that, even if Heaven is against him, he means to triumph over his enemies.  (Crunchyroll translates Ten (天) as god or gods, but 天 literally means Heaven.)  And, this elicits loud cheers from the crowd, which prompt the new head of the Wind tribe to ask Son Monduk if they can leave such annoying people at once!  I am forcibly reminded of when a crowd of people during Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign broke out into a loud cheers and applause after hearing a speaker proclaim: “Vote for my Colonel and he will lead you just like he led us: like sheep to the slaughter!”

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Indeed, I myself should prefer to cheer the second speaker over Soo-Won.  The ancient Chinese in particular would not have known what to make of Soo-Won’s declaration to rule in defiance of Heaven.  The emperor ruled by the Will of Heaven, which he was supposed to follow.  Discovery that the emperor had lost the Will of Heaven was sufficient grounds for revolt.  (Natural disasters, famine, and pestilence might be adduced as evidence for this.)  For a Chinese emperor to claim that the Will of Heaven is immaterial to his reign is to deny all legitimacy.

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In Soo-Won’s heart of hearts, he knows that he cannot justly claim the right to rule.  His throne is built upon treachery and maintained by tyranny.  He has gained the whole world at the loss of his soul, shown very well by him trampling the memory of Hak and Yona prior to being crowned.  But, it is impossible that a ruler can maintain the throne without the Will of Heaven.  The first six episodes reveal the vanity of Soo-Won’s actions and foreshadow his downfall.  Tempus incerta, sed finis certa.  The builder builds in vain unless the Lord builds with him, and Soo-Won has rejected God in his quest for power.

Unlikely Animal Lovers

While watching Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, I came across a curious scene.  Samson (Obviously what the Japanese intended despite the sub’s transliteration of Sanson)  grows irritated with the three square meals of fish offered by the Nautilus every single day.  His complaints influence Captain Nemo to put in for an island so that the crew can have some R&R.  Samson, exuberant for the chance to obtain fresh meat, shoots a fawn.  For which feat, he is applauded by the boat’s crew.

Samson on left.

Samson on left.

I had quite the opposite reaction to this: “Man, you shot a fawn?  Couldn’t you have checked your impatience for meat long enough to have found an adult deer?  How unsportsmanlike!  Quam crudelis!  How many people is that even going to feed?”  The character which shared my distaste for the killing was none other than Nadia, a thoroughgoing vegetarian and against harming any form of life higher than a plant.  She becomes so enraged that she leaves the camp for the whole evening.

When Nadia's angry, no one is safe.

When Nadia’s angry, no one is safe.

This shared opinion reminds me of the curious fact that the people who love animals the most fall under two extremes: 1) the kind who would never harm one and 2) those who love hunting them.  The notion of hunters as animal lovers might appear strange to some, but consider that their love for hunting and the outdoors places them in closer contact with a greater variety of animals than the average man experiences.  Take the case of Theodore Roosevelt, probably America’s most famous hunter after Davy Crockett.  Many of the hundreds of animals he brought down during his lifetime may be seen in the Smithsonian Museum; yet, his great fondness for animals of all sorts is testified to in both the myriads of hunting sketches he wrote and all his biographical writings.

TR in Yellowstone

American hunters have been painted in dark colors in many films.  Yet, another kind of hunter, a person belonging to a tribal group, is shown as having a particular reverence for the animals they dispatch.  (Who can forget the hero of The Gods Must be Crazy giving a lengthy apology to an animal he kills for the sake of his family?)  Your typical American hunter is no different.  Few will kill a very young animal, and many adhere to the idea that one should only kill an animal one intends to eat.  (I even remember the story of one child who, having downed a crow with an air rifle, was then given the distasteful task of eating it by his father!  A real case of eating crow!)  Perhaps the most famous story about a hunter refusing to kill a young animal comes from Theodore Roosevelt himself, who was told by a hunting companion to kill a bear cub.  Roosevelt found the idea unsportsmanlike and refused.  A toymaker catching wind of this story is why Teddy bears now exist.

 

 

Feeding Frenzy at the Book Sale

Hello, dear readers!  I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting as regularly as I used to on this website.  So, I promise a few more serious articles in the future.  At the moment, there’s a book sale going on at the Eastern Branch Public Library in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.  They shall be running this book sale until the end of this week.  After reading what I deemed a sufficient amount of Plato and a book on the Hellenistic Age, I went down to browse the books here.  On the way in, a sign saying “one dollar per bag” intrigued me.  When I asked the cashier to explain precisely what this meant, she replied that all the books I could fill in a rather large bag would cost one dollar.  In a most abrupt manner, I snatched a bag and began perusing the books.  It began with a volume of Wordsworth’s poetry and ended like this:

IMG_0562Well, three of those books I got for other people.  My sister dreams of going to Switzerland and has an interest in designs of all sorts.  Therefore, that book on how to design gardens and the one on Switzerland were for her.  Then, the picture book on Bl. Pope John Paul II was given to my grandmother.  The rest intrigued me in one way or another, and one day I intend to read them.

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The books on Tokyo, Japan, and Ireland I got for myself, thinking that one could at least walk about the streets of Akihabara, admire the cherry trees of Kyoto, and be seated in a classic Dublin pub vicariously–even if yours truly finds it doubtful that such a trip can be made any time soon.  Though, a good friend of mine also dreams of going to Japan, and it might be possible to pool together enough money in a few years.

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Some of these other books demonstrate my eclectic tastes.  I’ve always wanted to read Theodore Dreiser, if only to see why his books have been added to the list of perennials.  So, you can see Sister Carrie in the second picture.  I also love histories of war.  People show their true colors when placed in such stressful circumstances.  As Joshua Chamberlain said: “War makes good men great and bad men worse.”  So, I have a history of an American Civil War battle, WWII in the Pacific Theater, the Roman Civil War toward the end of the Republican period, and Theodore Roosevelt’s account of his actions in the Spanish-American War.  Also, I couldn’t resist adding Walter Lord’s account of the sinking of the Titanic to my collection, A Night to Remember.  I’ve also read his history of Midway.

The rest of the items on the table reflect my tastes in literature.  I’ve always loved Dryden’s wit and want to read more of him.  I picked up the Dorothy Sayers work because I want to give her another chance.  I found her writing style a bit pretentious and overly judgmental in the first work of hers I read.  If I don’t like it, I’m sure I can find someone else who will.

So, has anyone else gone on a book shopping spree lately?

The Timeliness of Books and the Insidiousness of Vanity

My TR Quote App came up with a great passage today.  Here it is along with some thoughts of mine about it:

“A book must be interesting to the particular reader at that particular time.  But there are tens of thousands of interesting books, and some of them are sealed to some men and some are sealed to others, and some stir the soul at some given point of a man’s life and yet convey no message at another time.  The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be.  He must not hypocritically pretend to like what he does not like.  Yet, at the same time he must avoid that most unpleasant of all the indications of puffed-up vanity which consists in treating mere individual, and perhaps unfortunate, idiosyncrasy as a matter of pride.”  – from Teddy Roosevelt’s autobiography

This quote brings up a couple of points on which I’d like to remark: 1) The importance of timing in a book’s effectiveness and 2) how easily people become infected with various forms of vanity.  Concerning the first point, a novel called Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov comes to mind.  Among the classics, this work rates so low that I cannot in good conscience recommend it; but, it aided me a great deal in changing my attitude toward friendship and socializing with others, which rather approximated that of Squall from Final Fantasy VIII, Allanon of The Sword of Shanara, Raskolnikov of Crime and Punishment, or–to use a current reference from pop culture–Twilight Sparkle in the first episode of My Little Pony.  (And my readership suddenly plummets. 🙂  Let me just say that this is an amusing little show, and I’ve only watched four or five episodes.)

Squall’s the guy looking at his shoes in the lower left.

Ivan Goncharov’s only successful work spawned the term Oblomovism, which is defined as indolent apathy or benign self-neglect.  (Apparently, the Russian form of this word is still often used in that country.)  Oblomov, the main character of this story is said to have answered the question “To be or not to be?” by saying “No!”   This story contains a sagging middle and may be summed up as follows:

A young nobleman with a large inheritance spends his days collecting dust on his bed and only gets up to eat.  He also passes the time by complaining to his only valet–often about certain pests, to which his valet responds “Did I invent them?”  One day, a friend from his university days comes to see him.  Seeing his horrid state of indolence, he cajoles him to reenter society and read books, which Oblomov dutifully accomplishes until his friend leaves him for a time in order to do business.  Oblomov relapses into his indolence and cements this state by marrying a homely German woman who cooks good food.  His friend and his friend’s fiancee find Oblomov thus and lament that there is no longer any hope for him.  Oblomov vegetates in obscurity to his last days.

This rather lame sounding work moved me to tears!  Finishing this work the day before I left for college, I resolved not to end my days in a similar manner, and went on to form many friendships at college, being much more active than I would have been otherwise.  Unfortunately, I slipped back into a form of Oblomovism in my last two years of college which continued until May last year.  But, fear not, dear readers, my life has turned much more interesting since then and promises to become even more so in ten days.  And ironically, if my next steps in education turn out successful, I will not have to worry about slipping back into Oblomovism until retirement.

So, even though this work stands as one of the most influential in my life, I do not want to read it now and will not recommend it to anyone–unless you’re an Oblomov.

On to the second point: how easily people may be moved to vanity, especially concerning their tastes.  Concerning this kind of vanity, your writer happens to be rather guilty.  I can only console myself by remembering how G. K. Chesterton remarked that most men are made of petty vanities and, fortunately, most are harmless.  To use myself as an example again, I tend to prefer subs to dubs, but I pride myself at being willing to watch a good dub.  So, I consider myself a discriminating individual who doesn’t blindly prefer one or the other.  I particularly enjoy it when someone who refused to listen to my advice is forced to change the audio track after listening to what is usually an awful dub–though, there are times when the dub is really better.  In any event, this vanity leads to me being annoyed with the other viewer or viewers, silently grumbling against them, and maintaining an unchristian attitude of superiority.  But, I must confess that I don’t see an easy way out of this vanity besides refusing to watch foreign films with other people.  Any ideas?

And the inability of escaping from many forms of vanity without drastic change stands as one of the worst things about them.  If one considers this quotation from the Imitation of Christ: “Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone,” this indicates that only lifestyles which are entirely focused on serving God can be entirely free of vanity.  Such lifestyles are characterized by poverty, self-sacrifice, charity, and self-effacement.  Any striving to gain one’s own comfort or to rejoice in one’s achievements or talents opens the door to vanity.  While the excellence of such a life is apparent to all, only a few achieve it perfectly, and these require special graces from God.  So, I suppose the most we weaklings can do is to recognize our vanity and not think too much of ourselves.

So, what books have come at opportune moments to change your life for the better?  Any vanities you want to share? 🙂