A Handful of Buttons

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August 30, 2013 by lucieromarin

My grandmother used to keep a jar of miscellaneous buttons; sometimes, I’d tip some of them onto the table and try to sort them by colour or texture or size, but they could never be sorted; they were all different. This is the metaphor for today’s post, brought to you from the swamp of indestructible bacteria that I have become, and which have rendered me incapable of sustained thought…


While we’re talking travel narratives, I should also give an honourable mention to Bernard Lewis’ ‘Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of Life, Letters and History.’ It’s a collection, not only of samples of Western travel writing about the Middle East, but also of Middle Eastern writings about the West. It needn’t be read it from cover to cover, but can pick it up and read a passage or two at any time, choosing your century, your perspective, your attitude…it’s fascinating.


For any person being patronised (whether by a religious or a non-religious person) for his or her state in life (and that’s not just single people), here’s St Anthony Mary Claret: “Our Lord has created persons for all states in life, and in all of them we see people who have achieved sanctity by fulfilling their obligations well.” So there.


Am I the only person who did not know that the Arden Shakespeare series has released a play called ‘Sir Thomas More’, about the life and execution of the man later canonised? Turns out the play has multiple authors (rather like a modern television series) and only parts of it seem to be in Shakespeare’s hand – so it’s hard luck on the other authors, I guess! I’d like to think that this lent weight to the Shakespeare-was-a-Catholic theory, except that the chief playwright was no friend of Catholics, so perhaps they were all just writers who knew an injustice, and, thus, a good story, when they saw it.


Wondering why people don’t change their ways immediately, just because you told them to, or because you told them they were stupid for not doing so? Here’s Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch on speech:

No two men (unless they talk Jargon) say the same thing in the same way. As is a man’s imagination, as is his character, as is the harmony in himself, as is his ear, as is his skill, so and not otherwise he will speak, so and not otherwise than they can respond to that imagination, that character, that order of intellect, that harmony of his soul, his hearers will hear him.

This isn’t just a piece about the great possibilities of language; it’s about the truth that words express not only ideas, but the souls of their speakers, too. In other words, sure, they can hear your argument. They can also hear if you’re an untrained choleric/belligerent jerk/entranced by the luminous wonder of your own intellect. And that might be why they don’t do what you tell them to.

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