31 October 2007

Poems and lines by Randall Jarrell

From The Orient Express

One looks from the train
Almost as one looked as a child. In the sunlight
What I see still seems to me plain,
I am safe; but at evening
As the lands darken, a questioning
Precariousness comes over everything.

From Deutsch Durch Freud

Have you too sometimes, by the fire, at evening,
Wished that you were - whatever you once were?

From A Girl in a Library

An object among dreams, you sit here with your shoes off
And curl your legs up under you; your eyes
Close for a moment, your face moves toward sleep...
You are very human.
One sees it, in the glass, in one's own eyes.
In rooms alone, in galleries, in libraries,
In tears, in searchings of the heart, in staggering joys
We memorize once more our old creation,
Humanity: with what yawns the unwilling
Flesh puts on its spirit, O my sister!

From Aging

I wake, but before I know it it is done,
The day, I sleep. And of days like these the years,
A life is made. I nod, consenting to my life.

The Meteorite

Star, that looked so long among the stones
And picked from them, half iron and half dirt,
One; and bent and put it to her lips
And breathed upon it till at last it burned
Uncertainly, among the stars its sisters -
Breathe on me still, star, sister.

25 October 2007

Quotes from Paul Tillich and a poem by Mark Strand

And, certainly, the way to maturity in thinking is a difficult path. Much must be left behind: early dreams, poetic imaginations, cherished legends, favored doctrines, accustomed laws and ritual traditions. Some of them must be restored on a deeper level, some must be given up. Despite this price, maturity can be gained - a manly, self-critical, convincing faith, not produced by reasoning, but reasonable, and at the same time rooted in the message of the divine foolishness, the ultimate source of wisdom.


From century to century it has become more and more evident that knowledge without wisdom produces external and internal self-destruction.


He who has encountered the mystery of life has reached the source of wisdom. In encountering it with awe and longing, he experiences the infinite distance of his being from that which is the ground of his being. He experiences the limits of his being, his finitude in face of the infinite. He learns that acceptance of one's limits is the decisive step towards wisdom. The fool rebels against the limits set by his finitude. He wants to be unlimited in power and knowledge. He who is wise accepts his finitude. He knows that he is not God.

Paul Tillich
--The Eternal Now

The Man in Black

I was walking downtown
when I noticed a man in black,
black cape and black boots, coming toward me.

His arms out in front of him,
his fingers twinkling with little rings,
he looked like a summer night full of stars.

It was summer. The night was full of stars.
the tall buildings formed a hallway down which I walked.
The man in black came toward me.

The waxed tips of his mustache shone
like tiny spears and his teeth glistened.
I offered him my hand which he did not take.

I felt like a fool and stood in his black wake,
shaken and small, and my tears
swung back and forth in the sultry air like chandeliers.

--Mark Strand

Quotes from Randall Jarrell and Knut Hamsun

"I lie in my own bed,"
He whispers, "dreaming"; and he thinks to wake.
The old mistake.

--From Randall Jarrell, "A Field Hospital"

We read our mail and counted up our missions-
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school-
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
When we died they said, "Our casualties were low."
They said, "Here are the maps"; we burned the cities.

--From Randall Jarrell, "Losses"

A machine-gun away
Are men with our faces.

--From Randall Jarrell, "Jews at Haifa"

Here too, though death is hushed, though joy
Obscures, like night, their wars,
The beings of this world are swept
By the Strife that moves the stars.

--From Randall Jarrell, "The Breath of Night"

[Note: Jarrell was an American control tower operator during World War II.]

The letter shot through me like a stream of light, and I heard myself give a little cry, a meaningless sound of joy: the letter was from the editor, my piece was accepted, being set in type immediately! "A few minor changes...a couple of typographical errors corrected...shows real ability...will appear tomorrow...ten kroner."

I laughed and cried, leaped in the air and ran down the street, stopped and beat my legs, swore wholesale at no one about nothing. And time went by.


For a few minutes I didn't have a single sad thought. I forgot my troubles and felt peaceful looking at the harbor that lay serene and lovely in the dusk. I had the habit of cheering myself up by reading through the article I had just written, which always seemed to my afflicted brain the very best piece I had done. I pulled my my manuscript out of my pocket, held it up close to my eyes, and read through one page after the other. Finally I grew tired and put the papers in my pocket. Everything was still; the sea stretched away like bluish mother-of-pearl, and small birds flew silently past me, going from one place to another. A policeman walked up and down a little way off. Otherwise, not a person could be seen, and the entire harbor was silent.

Knut Hamsun

21 October 2007

Quotes on religion, love, and int'l relations

Every summer he's on the prarie harvesting wheat and every winter in the Wisconsin forests chopping cordwood. That's his life.

A life maybe as good as any other.

--Knut Hamsun, "On the Prarie" (from Tales of Love and Loss)

The theological dimension is needed both for interpreting and for solving present day problems in human society.

--Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

The human being is made for love and cannot live without love. When it is manifested as the total gift of two persons in their complementarities, love cannot be reduced to emotions or feelings, much less to mere sexual expression. In a society that tends more and more to relativize and trivialize the very experience of love and sexuality, exalting its fleeting aspects and obscuring its fundamental values, it is more urgent than ever to proclaim and bear witness that the truth of conjugal love and sexuality exist where there is a full and total gift of persons, with the characteristics of unity and fidelity. This truth, a source of joy, hope, and life, remains impenetrable and unattainable as long as people close themselves off in relativism and skepticism.

--Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

We lived through much happiness and unhappiness,
Separations, miraculous rescues. And now, this ash.
And the sea battering the shore when I walk the empty boulevard.
And the sea battering the shore. And ordinary sorrow.

--Czeslaw Milosz, from "On Parting With my Wife, Janina"

Enemy images have a long pedigree, and some states continue to position each other in such terms today. The Greeks represented the Persians as "barbarians"; the Crusaders perceived the Turks as "infidels"; medieval Europeans feared their defeat at Liegnitz at the hands of the Mongols heralded Armageddon; later Europeans treated the peoples of the Americas as savages; conservatives thought civilization was threatened by the French Revolution; and, in our own century, we have the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the early Cold War, Northern Ireland, Pol Pot, Palestinian and Israeli fundamentalists, the Bosnian Civil War, Hutus and Tutsis - all based on representations of the Other as intent on destroying or enslaving the Self.

It is important to recognize that this concept implies nothing about whether enemy images are justified. Some enemies are "real," in that the Other really does existentially threaten the Self, as the Nazis did the Jews, and others are "chimeras," as the Jews were to the Nazis. ...Real or imagined, if actors think enemies are real then they are real in their consequences.

--Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics

16 October 2007

Readings on certainty, racism, and foreign policy

-Today's Maroon column: "Certainty is a luxury none of us has." Religious fundamentalists and secular fundamentalists are all-too-alike in their belief that they, and only they, have answers to the biggest questions in the human dialogue. What unites us all is doubt and searching. Read the article here.

-Must-read: "Principal of Arabic School Says She was Forced Out." This is what racist, nativist hysteria looks like.

-From an Economist article on the new Fox Business Channel: Mr Murdoch apparently wants his channel to be more “pro-capitalism” than CNBC—which is hardly a pinko outfit—and, sure enough, there was soon a discussion about the pharmaceutical industry entitled "Capitalism cures cancer", which—let’s be “fair and balanced”, as the Fox News slogan puts it—it does.

-MIT international relations scholar Barry Posen on "the case for restraint" in U.S. foreign policy. I haven't read this yet, but I generally like what Posen has to say. Responses from Francis Fukuyama, Stephen Krasner, G. John Ikenberry, and others are also online.

14 October 2007

UCXC: Parkside Invitational 2007

It was a beautiful fall day in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and I was reminded of why I love cross-country. The course at Wisconsin-Parkside is designed specifically for cross-country: it isn't a golf course with a white line drawn through it. It has handmade signs marking each quarter-mile, it has hills and trails through woods, and the start is sounded with a cannon rather than a gun. From the starting line, runners look forward and see an enormous hill surrounded by trees, and above the hill, the cloud-filled Wisconsin sky.

Whenever I am in Wisconsin, I feel at home. In the Aeneid, Virgil writes of people's desire for a "permanent shore." When I think of my own permanent shore, I think of the upper Midwest, and places filled with lakes and trees, where Saturday mornings in the fall are spent at cross-country meets.

Here are our team results for the day (out of 17 teams, 187 runners):

6. University of Chicago (154 points)
11. Ryan McCarl (Sr.) (26:06)
16. Chris Peverada (Jr.) (26:11)
41. Nick Nunez (Fr.) (27:01)
45. Adam Kaye (So.) (27:10)
54. Andrew Wells-Qu (Fr.) (27:10)
56. Brian Taylor (Sr.) (27:23)
61. Alex Garbier (So.) (27:29)

10 October 2007

Mortimer J. Adler on war and peace

"Our view of war, then, must be broadened to include both armed conflict and battles of diplomacy, economic aid, and propaganda. War is war, whether it is "hot" or "cold." The struggle for power and prestige among the nations goes on all the time. Only the means vary, and whether these be armed force or diplomatic pressure or other nonviolent means depends on the occasion.

It follows, then, that peace is not merely a negative thing - the absence of armed conflict. What real, positive peace among the nations would be we may see by considering the state of affairs in local, state, and national communities. In our civil society, peace and order, not war, are the normal state of things. The whole meaning and purpose of civil society is peace and order. Civil government creates civil peace. Individuals who violate the law are disturbers of the peace and are dealt with accordingly.
Contrary to a lot of loose talk, it is peace and not war that is proper to human nature. Cicero and many other thinkers rightly point out that fighting and snarling are the way of brute beasts, while talking things over and listening to reason are the proper way for men. Peace is required not only for our material survival but also for a really human existence."

--Mortimer J. Adler, Great Ideas from the Great Books

07 October 2007

Quotes from Mearsheimer's "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics"

In international politics, God helps those who help themselves.


Because Americans dislike realpolitik, public discourse about foreign policy in the United States is usually couched in the language of liberalism. Hence the pronouncements of the policy elites are heavily flavored with optimism and moralism. ...Behind closed doors, however, the elites who make national security policy speak mostly the language of power, not that of principle, and the United States acts in the international system according to the dictates of realist logic. In essence, a discernible gap separates public rhetoric from the actual conduct of American foreign policy.


For better or worse, states are rarely willing to expend blood and treasure to protect foreign populations from gross abuses, including genocide. For instance, despite claims that American foreign policy is filled with moralism, Somalia (1992-93) is the only instance during the past one hundred years in which U.S. soldiers were killed in action on a humanitarian mission. And in that case, the loss of a mere eighteen soldiers in an infamous firefight in October 1993 so traumatized American policymakers that they immediately pulled all U.S. troops out of Somalia and then refused to intervene in Rwanda in the spring of 1994, when ethnic Hutu went on a genocidal rampage against their Tutsi neighbors. Stopping that genocide would have been relatively easy and it would have had virtually no effect on the position of the United States in the balance of power. Yet nothing was done.


But sometimes the pursuit of non-security goals conflicts with balance-of-power logic, in which case states usually act according to the dictates of realism. For example, despite the U.S. commitment to spreading democracy across the globe, it helped overthrow democratically elected governments and embraced a number of authoritarian regimes during the Cold War, when American policymakers felt that these actions would help contain the Soviet Union.


It is difficult to imagine a modern political leader openly asking the public to fight and die to improve the balance of power. No European or American leader did so during their world war or the Cold War. Most people prefer to think of fights between their own state and rival states as clashes between good and evil, where they are on the side of the angels and their opponents are aligned with the devil. Thus, leaders tend to portray war as a moral crusade or an ideological contest, rather than as a struggle for power. Realism is a hard sell.

--John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

05 October 2007

Poetry selections from Wilbur, Basho, and Apollinaire

From Transit

A woman I have never seen before
Steps from the darkness of her town-house door
At just that crux of time when she is made
So beautiful that she or time must fade.

-Richard Wilbur

From Journey of the Year 1694

I trudged alone far into Yoshino. The mountains truly stretch on and on, and white clouds lie piled on the peaks. A smoky rain buried the valleys, here and there interrupted by the huts of the mountain folk, very small. To the west, the sound of a tree being felled; to the east, the echo. The voices of the bells of many temples found a response deep in my heart.
Weary of sleeping every night in strange lodgings, I got up from bed while it was still dark and went out onto the beach.
As the days went by in travel, untying my straw sandals at this place and laying down my walking stick at that, the year drew to a close.

-Basho (tr. Donald Keene)

From Mirabeau Bridge

All love goes by as water to the sea
All love goes by
How slow life seems to me
How violent the hope of love can be.

-Guillaume Apollinaire (tr. Richard Wilbur)