I pity snails, and all that carry their homes on their backs.
I pity snails, and all that carry their homes on their backs.
Since moving to micro.blog for my personal website, I’ve thought about web design and it’s relationship to the written word (medium and message). Today, I was happy to doscover two amazing examples of well designed webpages that, in the words of Robin Sloan, behave more like a “digital book than do Kindle and Kobo.”
“Learning to Think”
There is the inner life of thought which is our world of final reality. The world of memory, emotion, feeling, imagination, intelligence and natural common sense, and which goes on all the time consciously or unconsciously like the heartbeat.
There is also the thinking process by which we break into that inner life and capture answers and evidence to support the answers out of it.
And that process of raid, or persuasion, or ambush, or dogged hunting, or surrender, is the kind of thinking we have to learn, and if we don’t somehow learn it, then our minds line us like the fish in the pond of a man who can’t fish.
-Ted Hughes, Poetry in The Making: An anthology
In Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Ministers, Hughes Oliphant Old describes the kind of things he did to improve his prayers…
He set aside time to pray. For example, he used Saturday mornings to prepare prayers for Sunday. Similarly, the puritans prayed well because they prayed a lot. They prayed alone, with their families, and in their churches.
He learned through emulation. Like an apprentice painter that learns by first painting the great works of art done by others, Old used prayers he admired from others for his own praying. He used the Psalms and the prayers of the Reformers and church fathers.
Old also practiced his ability to identify the qualities of good prayers (tone, parts, logic, imagery, etc.) and the deficiencies of poor prayers.
Old would also practice by rewriting or reworking prayers to fit modern English and the particular needs of the moment.
From the James Joyce story, “The Dead.”
Gabriel stood stockstill for a moment in astonishment and then followed her. As he passed in the way of the cheval-glass he caught sight of himself in full length, his broad, wellfilled shirt-front, the face whose expression always puzzled him when he saw it in a mirror, and his glimmering gilt-rimmed eyeglasses.
Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony and by the evocation of this figure from the dead, a boy in the gasworks. While he had been full of memories of their secret life together, full of tenderness and joy and desire, she had been comparing him in her mind with another. A shameful consciousness of his own person assailed him. He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous, well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead.
The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live. Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling. A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
A friend from church directed me to this Washington Post article about “Aging in place.” She said that reading a torrent of age-diverse people sharing their powerlessness made her less lonely. The article features a song by Kora Feder with the lyric:
I look in the mirror and all I can see is a worried old woman in a young person’s body.
The strangeness of not recognizing oneslef in the mirror reminds me of the ending to James Joyce’s story “The Dead.”
“Here’s How Time Works Now”
You may remember that a day used to take place over the course of 24 hours. We felt this was too much. A day is now over the moment you first ask yourself, “What time is it?”
It does not matter what time it actually is when you do this. As soon as you ask or think, “What time is it” for the first time that day, even if it is still ten in the morning, it will suddenly be eight at night. Does that make sense?
From Futility Closet:
Alexander Graham Bell believed that his greatest achievement was the photophone, a device that could transmit speech on a beam of light. The speaker’s voice would strike the back of a mirror, modulating a reflected ray. When the ray reached the receiver the process was reversed, producing sound waves.
“I have heard articulate speech by sunlight!” Bell wrote to his father in 1880. “I have heard a ray of the sun laugh and cough and sing! … I have been able to hear a shadow and I have even perceived by ear the passage of a cloud across the sun’s disk. You are the grandfather of the Photophone and I want to share my delight at my success.”
That idea interested me to the point that I had to shake some of the imagined, unscientific particulars out of my head. Consequently, a poem fell out:
In the sun’s setting shaft, lighted
dust and my mother’s voice I hear. My living
room full of it, which is skin, and it smells like soot
sweat, burned-out in glowing effigy. I fold. Her
voice: minivan ArmorAll and Twizzlers tasted
with Dolly Parton. Her Voice: heard over yellow
linoleum in the kitchen, greased black and scuffed. So
also, here and now it travels, as it did with car, dinner
steam, and curled plastic floor, she rolls into my ear
marbles into a black velvet bag, kept with a cinch. Leapt on
the sun stream while skating on the black
frozen pond of space’s pool, she phoned
me with light. The light and she
spoke in harmony; thus
they traveled well. Diamond-taught dance she
rasps from smoky lungs. Voice plods with camel
strength, breathed at speed, leaping
particles like lily pads
in order to sound, four
simple words, we know them well. “I love you, child,
so I’ll tell you what I just heard her
say, “Put away your socks.” Her
voice: A moth with lighting for wings
thundered thru the deep, one arc at a time.
To borrow a Christian Wiman line: Whisky is the prayer.
Their Lonely Betters by W.H. Auden
As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.
A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.
Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.
Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.