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Luminous Wisdom

From the December 2011 Print Edition

Treasury of the True Dharma Eye:Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo by Dogen, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi (multiple translators) Shambhala, 2 volumes, 1280 pages, $150 Dogen lived from 1200 to 1253 and is generally regarded as the father of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism in Japan, and, according to . . . . Continue Reading »

Mediocrity’s Tribute

From Web Exclusives

Along the coast, it was the sort of morning one can describe only as “Homeric.” You know what I mean: rhododactylic Dawn rising from her loom to spread her shimmering gossamers over the shadowy mountains and echoing sea, dark-prowed fishing-barks drawn up on the milky strand and caressed by the golden foam, the distant thunders of ennosigaean Poseidon and argikeraunic Zeus vying above the wine-dark waves, and so on. Or so I imagine. I was actually a few hundred miles inland, in a montane grove of loblolly pines and mixed deciduous trees, awash in flickering sunlight, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper… . Continue Reading »

Lupinity, Felinity, and the Limits of Method

From Web Exclusives

Sometimes, late at night, when the branches of the large pine outside my window are swaying in a hot breeze and brushing with a sinister whisper against my window panes, and sleep seems to loom far above me like some inaccessible peak floating in the cerulean depths of the Himalayan sky, I find myself worrying obsessively about the thylacine and the fossa. What accounts for them? Are they perhaps signs of some cosmic mystery that the sciences will ultimately prove impotent to penetrate? Are they quadrupedal portents of the transcendent? Or are they signs of a physical determinism so absolute as to be indistinguishable from fate? … Continue Reading »

Aloysius Bentley’s Melancholy

From Web Exclusives

Certain readers have requested in various ways (pseudonymous emails, menacing telegrams delivered in the dead of night, and so on) that I supply a few more details from the biography of my great uncle Aloysius Bentley (1895-1987). As you may recall, he was the last practicing pagan in my extended family; once his obsequies had been performed, and the last flickering embers of his funeral-bark had disappeared beneath the waves of the Chesapeake, the old faith had no remaining votaries in the clan… . Continue Reading »

Saith the Prescriptivist, There is nothing new transpired under the sun

From Web Exclusives

Not to rouse bad memories, but you may recall that my last column contained a list of complaints regarding the misuse of certain words. You may also remember other things about it: Cuchulain battling the sea, mention of “psychotic episodes,” uncongenial dictionaries described as “scented and brilliantined degenerates” … Or perhaps my assertions that grammatical laxity leads to cannibalism … Continue Reading »

Le Mot Juste

From Web Exclusives

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is only a short road that leads from grammatical laxity to cannibalism. At least, it should be universally acknowledged. Human beings are linguistic beings through and through, after all. Because of our miraculous, almost certainly extra-natural capacity for symbolic communication”uttered, written, or mimed”we are the only terrestrial species that possesses a history… . . Continue Reading »

Seven Characters in Search of a Nihil Obstat

From Web Exclusives

The muses are gaily capricious in the favors they bestow upon us, but humorlessly imperious in the demands they make of us. One never knows when inspiration may strike; one knows only that, when it comes, it must not be resisted. In my case, the occasion was an idle afternoon this past week, as I was irascibly considering the reaction of a few conservative Catholic critics to Terrence Malick’s strange, beautiful, perhaps slightly mad, and deeply Christian film The Tree of Life… . Continue Reading »

A Splendid Wickedness

From the Aug/Sept 2011 Print Edition

The literature of Spain’s “Golden Age” produced two figures—Don Quixote de La Mancha and Don Juan Tenorio—who quickly escaped the confines of the works that gave them birth and took up exalted but previously unoccupied stations in the Western imagination. Each soon became as much . . . . Continue Reading »

Great Uncle Aloysius

From Web Exclusives

In one of my columns last January, I mentioned that there had been no practicing pagans in my family since the death of my great uncle Aloysius Bentley (1895-1987), who liked to welcome in the New Year by sacrificing a goat or a pair of woodcocks to Janus and Dionysus on the small marble altar he kept in his garden (carved for him by a sculptor who specialized in funerary monuments)… . Continue Reading »

Patrick Leigh Fermor, RIP

From Web Exclusives

I had other intentions for this column, and I am entirely unprepared for the change in direction I have elected to take. I have just moved houses, I have to catch a plane, and I scarcely have time to compose my thoughts. So I write in perilous haste. But I have no choice, at least emotionally speaking. What has made my well-laid plans gang so suddenly aglae is my discovery this morning (15 June) that my favorite living writer is, in fact, no longer living… . Continue Reading »