Thursday Thoughts: Marilynne Robinson

A million quotes from Gilead, Home, and a few from Lila. I don’t know what they will mean to you out of the context of the hauntingly beautiful narratives she provides in these great works, so you should read them all. Jack just came out recently.

Robinson Quotes

“… I realize there is nothing more astonishing than a human face…. It has something to do with incarnation.  You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it.  Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it.  But this is truest of the face of an infant.  I consider that to be one kind of vision, as mystical as any.” 

“People don’t talk much now about the Spanish influenza, but that was a terrible thing, and it struck just at the time of the Great War, just when we were getting involved in it.  It killed the soldiers by the thousands, healthy men in the prime of their life, and then it spread into the rest of the population…. People came to church wearing masks, if they came at all.  They’d sit as far from each other as they could.  There was talk that the Germans had caused it with some sort of secret weapon, and I think people wanted to believe that, because it saved them from reflecting on what other meaning it might have.”

(in context of scrapping preaching about the immortality of war) “But Mirabelle Mercer was not Pontius PIlate, and she was not Woodrow Wilson, either.” 

“There is a reality in blessing, which I take baptism to be, primarily.  It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is power in that.  I have felt it pass through me, so to speak.  The sensation is of really knowing a creature, I mean really feeling its mysterious life and your own mysterious life at the same time.”

“Dear Father, you are patient and gracious far beyond our deserving.  You let us hope for your forgiveness when we can find no way to forgive ourselves.  You bless our lives even when we have shown ourselves to be utterly ungrateful and unworthy.  May we be strengthened and renewed, to make us less unworthy of blessing, through these your gifts of sustenance, of friendship and family…”  (Jack reading his blessing at dinner with Boughton and Ames.)

“…God does not need our worship.  We worship to enlarge our sense of the holy, so that we can feel and know the presence of the Lord, who is with us always.  He said, Love is what it amounts to, a loftier love, and pleasure in a loving presence.”

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten, as a dream

Dies at the opening day. 

“Good old Isaac Watts.  I’ve thought about that verse often.  I have always wondered what relationship this present reality bears to an ultimate reality.

A thousand ages in Thy sight

Are like an evening gone…

“No doubt that is true.  Our dream of life will end as dreams do end, abruptly and completely, when the sun rises, when the light comes.  And we will think, All that fear and all that grief were about nothing.  But that cannot be true.  I can’t believe we will forget our sorrows altogether.  That would mean forgetting that we had lived, humanly speaking.  Sorrow seems to me to be a great part of the substance of human life.”

“I heard a man say once that Christians worship sorrow.  That is by no means true.  But we do believe there is a sacred mystery in it, it’s fair to say that.” 

“In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence.  Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable….” 

“There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality.  It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal”

“Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration.  You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see.  Only, who could have the courage to see it?”

“There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world’s mortal insufficiency to us.” 

“What could the old man say about all those people born with more courage than they could find a way to spend, and then there was nothing to do with it but just get by?”

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