Saturday, October 31, 2009

Matthew Arnold


   "These are damned times -- everything is against one -- the height to which knowledge is come, the spread of luxury, our physical enervation, the absence of great natures, the unavoidable contact with millions of small ones, newspapers, cities, light, profligate friends, moral desperadoes, our own selves, and the sickening consciousness of our difficulties..."

    Thus wrote my newest literary find: Matthew Arnold. 

    He was no stereotypical English poet who sacrificed his life to poetry and literature. Arnold was described thus by Lionel Trilling, as "one of the first of modern writers who undertook to maintain, by means extraneous to literature, both a literary career and a respectable life in the world." 

    Matthew Arnold was an inspector of schools for the Education Department for 37 years, which left him little time for his writing. His canon of works is therefore quite small, but of what I've read of him in my Viking edition of the Portable Matthew Arnold, he is a most rewarding author to read. His views on society, politics, and literature as a vital part of civic life, are close to my own. 

   A champion of humanism, he believed that the arts served as "mute measures of what life may be and is not." In his essay, "Culture and Anarchy," I have finally found an author who set out clearly my own belief that the only way to improve our country (and the world) is not through violent revolution, but through a "perfection" of individuals which will be achieved through education and culture. His analysis of the different classes of society is more coherent (I believe) than the Marxist model, and his insight is penetrating. "All of us," he said, "imagine happiness to consist in doing what one's ordinary self likes." Arnold claims that culture/education leads men to their best selves, which takes them out of petty class interests and inspires them to pursue truth and justice in the world, to make it more humane. Ordinary people desire mere power and wealth. They must be taught to desire equality and justice instead.

    Arnold is not all sweetness and light. He remarked upon the modern age as being "arid" and "unpoetical," a time when science and technology and business matters were becoming the new gods of man, robbing the cosmos of its beauty and mystery, increasingly dehumanizing and isolating man from himself as well as the rest of the universe.

    Here are some excerpts from his poems:

   "I, on men's impious uproar hurl'd,
   Think often, as I hear them rave,
   That peace has left the upper world,
   And now keeps only in the grave...

   ... Calm soul of all things! Make it mine
   To feel, amid the city's jar,
   That there abides a peace of thine,
   Man did not make, and cannot mar!

   The will to neither strive nor cry,
   The power to feel with others give!
   Calm, calm me more! nor let me die
   Before I have begun to live."

             --  Lines Written In Kensington Garden

   "This is the curse of life: that not
   A nobler calmer train
   Of wiser thoughts and feelings blot
   Our passions from our brain;
   But each day brings its petty dust
   Our soon-chok'd souls to fill,
   And we forget because we must,
   And not because we will..."

       -- Absence

   Weary of myself, and sick of asking
   What I am, and what I ought to be,
   At the vessel's prow I stand, which bears me
   Forwards, forwards, o'er the starlit sea...

   ..."Ah, once more," I cried, "ye Stars, ye Waters,
   On my heart your mighty charm renew:
   Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,
   Feel my soul becoming vast like you..."

   From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of Heaven,
   Over the lit sea's unquiet way,
   In the rustling night-air came the answer --
   "Wouldst thou BE as they are? LIVE as they...

   ... Bounded by themselves and unobservant
   in what state God's other works may be,
   In their own tasks all their powers pouring,
   These attain the mighty life you see."

   O air-born Voice! Long since, severely clear,
   A cry like thine in my own heart I hear.
   "Resolve to be thyself! And now that he
   Who finds himself, loses his misery."

                      -- Self-Dependence

   I think it is quite wonderful to spend my long weekend (which is all that I had to count for my "sembreak") letting a wise man such as Matthew Arnold speak to me by reading him. His observations and insights are still meaningful today, if not more than ever. And his life serves as an inspiration to everyone who has ever felt the tiniest bit weary of a full-time job (it happens to the best of us).

   Lionel Trilling wrote about Arnold: 

   "It is impossible not to regret the curtailment of his poetic life that Arnold's educational work brought about; yet it is equally impossible not to find a notable heroism and an antique propriety in a poet thus involving himself with the civic life." 

(Which is not something that can be said about Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, etc.)

   On a more shallow note: only 3 more days to go until Starbucks releases their Christmas drinks! (Toffee-nut Latte, here we come!) :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Young Victoria

I want to watch this NOOOOOOOOW!!! :)

Piazza Pazzo

Cuisine: Italian
Location:Powerplant Mall, Rockwell, Makati
This is my new favorite restaurant.

Piazza Pazzo not only has extremely delicious food (heck, the BREAD itself is to die for... not to mention the delicious pastas and the scrumptious gelato!), but the service is also par excellence. A winning combo!

For more info, check out this link:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Post - Disaster Thoughts

   It's been quite a while since my last "real" blog post, and for good reason. First there were the typhoons, and then an unusual amount of work.  There were times that I would have an hour free during the weekends, which I'd normally utilize for blogging, but then I would sit in front of my Lappy Toppy and feel at a loss. What to write? What to say that hasn't already been said? 

   But last night's sermon by Fr. Mario on the good that came out of Ondoy made me reflect on the day's experiences.

   I was quite weary when I attended the 7 pm mass with my family, as I had risen early that morning in order to line up for COMELEC registration at 6:45 a.m. Lining up for government offices is not something new for me, as I've done my fair share since starting to work in 2008. I was expecting a lot of irritable clerks, impatient and "kapal mukha" people, long lines, etc. But I am happy to report that my voters' registration experience was quite painless and downright full of surprises.

    For instance, I witnessed a young man (dressed in foppish clothes; someone who'd easily fit the mental image of a stereotypical "vain and shallow metrosexual") help an old lady go up the staircase. I was also the recipient of gentlemanly assistance, offered twice by unassuming young men who would make way for me in a crowded line at the photocopying machine or at the corridor. The ladies who manned the faulty photocopying machine booth were also kind and patient despite the huge number of people they had to service.

    Of course, we had the usual "kapal mukha" people who'd try to cut in line if they could get away with it, but it seemed to me that they were less than the usual amount. And I was surprised with the COMELEC people who serviced us. They were quite pleasant and polite. You see, I've gotten used to being screamed at like cattle in government offices, so it was a refreshing change to have people treat you decently as a human being.

   All this was fresh on my mind when Fr. Mario read the gospel (Mk 10:46-52) on Jesus and Bartimaeus. He reminded us how timely the blind man's prayer was: "Lord, that I may have eyes to see." 

   In the aftermath of such widespread devastation, now more than ever we need to have the eyes of faith, to keep believing that God will make good come out of Ondoy, and to hold on to such faith in the absence of evidence.

   Fortunately for me, I can easily believe this because I have seen proof of the good that Ondoy has brought. I have witnessed people's outpouring of generosity and neighborly love. I have seen changes in strangers' behavior. People are now more considerate, and altogether more kind and patient. When I think of the behavior I witnessed in yesterday's registration and compare it with my other pre-Ondoy government office experiences, I can't help but acknowledge the considerable changes for the better. And it gives me hope for our country. :)

   A side story:

   I need to vent out my frustration, although this is several weeks late. The week after Ondoy, my family and I attended a different mass than usual. The small-minded priest (who shall remain anonymous) spoke up during his sermon about the RH Bill, and how the typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng were signs of our country's lawlessness and faithlessness, and that it was due to the priesthood's unfailing prayer vigils that Pepeng re-routed and avoided Manila. "We have done our part," he said. "Now let us hope that the politicians and people in power will do their part, and stop this RH Bill from being passed."

    When I heard this, I think my eyeballs were bulging out abnormally and the expression on my face was far from my peaceful default mode. AAaaaaaaAAAA!!!

   Thank goodness this priest is not representative of the entire Catholic church.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nokia Fugue (Op. 31)

At some points, it actually sounds like Bach! Ang galiiiiiing!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Still : Hillsong (Ondoy)

This has been one of my favorite songs for the longest time, and it now takes on special meaning.

Hide me now
Under Your wings.
Cover me
Within Your mighty hand.
When the oceans rise and thunders roar,
I will soar with You above the storm.
Father you are King over the flood.
I will be still and know You are God.

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone.
Know His power
In quietness and trust.
When the oceans rise and thunders roar,
I will soar with You above the storm.
Father You are king over the flood.
I will be still and know You are God.
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