Casuistry: From Ayesha to Ted Cruz

imagesWe all run across words when we’re reading that are familiar enough to accept unconsciously whatever vague idea we have of what they actually mean … and keep on reading without hardly a pause. Now we have digital books and if a word pops up that we are curious about, a couple of quick taps and the dictionary definition is in an adjunct window. If we are still curious (or befuddled), another tap takes us to the internet withe the word in question already discovered in many many websites.

The other day I ran into this passage while reading H. Rider Haggard’s She:

I felt it was hopeless to argue against casuistry of this nature, which, if it were carried to its logical conclusion, would absolutely destroy all morality, as we understand it.

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Is Poetry Dead?

The aim of writing poetry is, for the most part …

  • To make money,
  • To expose the poet’s thinking and feeling,
  • To allow the reader to share the poet’s experience,
  • To impress chicks.

Well, if you said, “To make money” you are a true capitalist but somewhat of an idiot. Here’s what John Keating says about poetry in the film, Dead Poet’s Society:

Dead PoetsWe don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

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Comes the blind Fury

MiltonWhen I was studying literature many many years ago, I loved poetry. It was the sixties so William Blake was very popular (along with J. R. R. Tolkein) but my favorites were Alexander Pope, John Keats, and John Milton. You might wonder how a devout Atheist with tendencies toward anarchism and a penchant for bizarre fiction can even read John Milton, let alone declare that Milton is a favorite poet. To keep it simple: Milton is a great poet.

Even if I don’t exactly agree with his religious or political practices or even find that he was a nice guy: his poetry is great!

I was looking up something earlier and ran across a copy of Milton’s Lycidas. I read through it three times and each time became more and more aware of my life-long love of literature and a certain regret for all the aspirations I had in my early twenties that are now just a fading memory. You might have your Prufrock or your Howl, but for me it’s Lycidas. Remember how it goes …

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