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This impatient intransigence for the sublime

THESE DAYS, I feel that my life is bone-dry, empty of the excitement that always seems to grip the very depths of the lives of others. It is always the others who seem to bask in the rapture of high spiritual experience, never I. Yet I long for the experience of spiritual high, the fire of passion for God, a lasting glimpse of the Holy.

I am tired of living by rote and long for a mountain-top experience, one that lasts a lifetime. But how?

Even poets suffer this impatient intransigence for the sublime, for that “weight of glory,” as C.S. Lewis put it in a famous sermon of his. “One can even imagine a poet who experiences the sublime and demand a high style to express it,” writes the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski in Another Beauty, “but precisely because this is a rare event that requires patient waiting, in daily life he becomes one of poetry’s ironic prosecutors.”

Alas, there is the “painful world” they have to deal with, where the craft of that finely-tuned phrase is a daily and frustrating struggle. It doesn’t help that they must live through the commonplace, all the while longing for the dry bones to quicken and then to die, and then to live again, with a sensitivity to the tiniest ripple of emotions in the space of the personal: “To wake and fall asleep, drowse off and waken, to pass through seasons of doubt, melancholy dark as lead, indifference, boredom, and then the spells of vitality, clarity, hard and happy work, contentment, gaiety, to remember and forget and recollect again, that an eternal fire burns beside us, a God with an unknown name, whom we will never reach.”

When evening falls on the drudgery of the everyday, I sometimes retreat to a small corner of my thoughts, where I can listen to some Bach or Rachmaninoff on my turntable, and, like the prophet Elijah feeling that he has reached the end of his rope, I simply wait for sleep to come.


August 24, 2005.

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Written by Romel

February 20, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Ngiti ng buwan
(pasintabi sa makatang si Ted Kooser)

Kung hindi ko man nasumpungan
ang iyong ngiti
sa kabigatan ng maghapong abala,
sana, gaya ng makata’y
maging magaling ako
sa pagbubuhat ng kalungkutan;
Kung ang mukha ko ma’y
isang maskarang habi
ng mga aninong ngayo’y
lumulukob sa akin,
nawa’y ngiti pa rin ng buwan
ang pasalubong ko sa mundo
ng aking takipsilim.

2.14.10

Written by Romel

February 14, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Posted in balak, hinagpis, tula

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Recent Flights of Book-Banditry

Man, I’ve been too busy to keep track of my flights of book-banditry in the last few months. Just the other day, I bought a fairly recent American edition of Grey’s Anatomy (P225) and the feminist theologian Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s path-breaking work on feminist hermeneutics In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (P115). There’s also a collection of George Plimpton’s anthology of sports essays On Sports (P120). (Plimpton, founding editor of the Paris Review, died a few months ago, didn’t he?). Last Sunday, I made a big catch of bargain books at P20 each, including Pete Hamill’s long essay on Journalism at the End of the 20th Century, A.J. Cronin’s novel The Citadel, J.G. Ballard’s short story collection War Fever, and an O. Henry Short Story Awards anthology for the year 1984.

And I know I still have more books yet unaccounted for, including purchases made in Gensan over the Christmas holidays (surprise of surprises, the National Bookstore branch at the newly opened Robinson’s Mall there had a treasure trove of bargain-books for the picking. Among other titles I found there a hardcover new edition Oxford English Bible for P200, which is a steal).

I also see more and more back issues of Granta magazine surfacing in BookSale outlets. A good sign. They usually go for P75 but the newer editions are priced at between P115-P150. On the other hand, I hardly see back issues of Harper’s and the New Yorker magazines in the stands these days.

Written by Romel

February 5, 2010 at 7:58 am

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