I sat in a velvety brown chair and surveyed the scene.

Chalk board-ish signs were decorated, marking the beginning of our holiday season with their advertisements of gingery and eggnogy lattes. It smelled like cinnamon and coffee in the little shop and it was warm and cozy. I sipped my americano. You drink way too much coffee, I told myself, way too much. I opened my book and read.... two words.

I was interrupted by the intelligent looking man next to me who proceeded to start a discussion about the book I held in my hands. I was reading Orthodoxy (again), by Chesterton. He wanted to know my views on Protestantism and Greek and Roman orthodoxy and Christianity: all so similar, yet possessing some tenants so widely different. What a topic. Then he went on to tell me, in his French accent, that he has (supposedly) been a professor at three different acclaimed universities and how he is writing a book on the subject of-- orthodoxy, of all things. After that long interesting conversation, I was able to pick up my book again. These are my favorite, favorite passages taken from chapter five from my reading:

On life and this world:

I felt economical about the stars as if they were sapphires (they are called so in Milton's Eden): I hoarded the hills. For the universe is a single jewel, and while it is a natural cant to talk of a jewel as peerless and priceless, of this jewel it is literally true. This cosmos is indeed without peer and without price: for there cannot be another one.

No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on. Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a Christian to die to it?

The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more.

On death by suicide:

Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.

...[He] insults everything on earth. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront.

Obviously a suicide is the opposite of a martyr. A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end... In other words, the martyr is noble, exactly because he confesses this ultimate link with life; he sets his heart outside himself: he dies that something may live. The suicide is ignoble because he has not this link with being: he is a mere destroyer; spiritually, he destroys the universe.

. . .

Simply beautiful.


I disappear into the cavern of my world. Shutting the door behind me; turning the lock on my fears and prejudices and pent up frustrations. They beat upon the door. I hear their ungracious muffled yells: "You can't stay in the there forever!" I ignore them. I breathe freely and take in the quiet. All is silence in here. A drop falls from a stalactite and drowns, noiselessly in a pool. Ripples. All is cool. And calm. It's just me in here. Just me. Alone and unafraid. Alone? You're not alone. I tense at the sound of the haunting voice. Prickles rush down my spine. The voice is familiar. Very familiar. In desperation and horror I start to run- trying to lose the voice in the maze of my world. But, somehow I cannot out run it. It berates me. It startles me around every turn; it echoes through the cavernous halls. Wasn't I the only one here? Hadn't I bolted the door?

But... who can escape one's thoughts?


"[The poet] Keats, I think, sensed man's need for the timeless. His Grecian urn is a 'foster-child of Silence and slow Time,' and it 'tease[s] us out of thought/As doth eternity.' It is surely the eternal that Keats aches for.

If, indeed, we all have a kind of appetite for eternity, we have allowed ourselves to be caught up in a society that frustrates our longing at every turn. Half our inventions are advertised to save time-- the washing machine, the fast car, the jet flight-- but for what? Never were people more harried by time: by watches, by time clocks, by precise schedules... There is, in fact, some truth in 'the good old days': no other civilization of the past was ever so harried by time.

And yet, why not? Time is our natural environment. We live in time as we live in the air we breathe. And we love the air-- who has not taken deep breathes of pure, fresh country air, just for the pleasure of it? How strange that we cannot love time. It spoils our loveliest moments. Nothing quite comes up to expectations because of it. We alone: animals, so far as we can see, are unaware of time, untroubled. Time is their natural environment. Why do we sense that it is not ours?

...It suggests that we were created for eternity. Not only are we harried by time, we seem unable, despite a thousand generations, even to get used to it. We are always amazed at it-- how fast it goes, how slowly it goes, how much of it is gone. Where, we cry has time gone? We aren't adapted to it, not at home in it. If that is so, it may appear as a proof, or at least a powerful suggestion, that eternity exists and is our home."

[Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy]


My ubiquitous circuit
among the ruins of time
cannot escape them:
roman symbols
towering like giants
six and seven, ten
and twelve.
Glass could live
if not shattered.
But, I am a shroud
of sand's seashells.
I will not last long.
And one day,
like a castle of sand
away I will be washed,
into the spectral sea.