“Such was the inexhaustible power of art that Hokusai believed that he–and perhaps even we–could become one with an image. Every morning he drew a Chinese lion then threw it out the window to ward off disaster…Hokusai’s final image–wintry, transcendent–shows an inky-black dragon rising about the snow-capped circumflex of a tiny Mount Fuji. He gives his exact age on the page as eighty-nine. He is as we all should be when contemplating our end, our aspiration undiminished. These were his last words: ‘If heaven will afford me five more years of life, then I might manage to become a true artist!’ “
–From “Thunderclap: A Memoir of Art and Life & Sudden Death,” a wonderful book by British art critic Laura Cumming, ostensibly about the Dutch Golden Age, but as well about her love for her late father, the mysterious life and death of the painter Carel Fabritius (“The Goldfinch”), the power of art, and the human quest for meaning…
There’s a nice First Things review, hot off the press, by Bishop Erik Varden on philosopher Zena Hitz’ book, The Religious Life. (Though not in their league by a long shot, I’ve written of Bishop Varden’s The Shattering of Loneliness and of another book by Hitz, Lost in Thought).
Zena is on sabbitical and driving cross country and, after a mutual friend introduced us, took the time to stop in to my place for a meal and coffee over the weekend. That was a lovely treat!
Other than that, trying to keep body and soul together. After mentioning Fr. Donald Haggerty’s book, Conversion, I’ve had two reports of sightings: one reader recently attended a retreat given by Father, and another caught one of his Masses at St. Patrick’s over the weekend. Mystical Body. Together in the Eucharist. I’m continuing to move through his book slowly and will have more to say. Meanwhile, I’m very grateful to him.
Who can plumb this mystery of suffering, in the middle of which is love? It hurts. This morning, momentarily overcome, I looked up and saw the photo of Caryll Houselander that hangs to the left of my desk (the gift of another priest, and a friend).
I knew to the marrow of my bones, though I’ve hardlly glanced at the image in weeks, that Caryll has been interceding for me, praying for me.
She is a Dear Companion, and one day we will get to sit down, swill tea (we’ll have tea cause she’s British, or maybe I’ll have coffee and she can have tea), and laugh and cry our heads off!