In this entry, I will share an anecdote taken directly from the farce of my daily life. Then I will quote a generous amount of words from a text that gave me pleasure. And I will end by relaying a funny moment from a movie. But first, here’s a red arrow in daytime:
The weather where I live is never as warm as I want it to be. So, if I look outside and see that the thermometer is displaying a temp in the single digits, I always add one hundred degrees to the actual number when I give my morning report to the members of my household. For instance, if the temperature is only seven degrees, I very cheerfully shout: “Hey, it’s 107 degrees out there today – what a scorcher!” And this lie helps me to forgive John Milton’s God for breaking our world.
The text by Jorge Luis Borges called “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” ends with its narrator revising “an uncertain Quevedian translation” of Thomas Browne’s Urn Burial. The writing by Borges has always mesmerized me, but not until after my most recent reading did I decide to check out the work that it mentions by Browne, whose full title is Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or, a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk. I shouldn’t have waited so long to read it, because I loved it – I’ll give a couple of quotes from it right here:
There is no antidote against the opium of time, which temporally considereth all things; Our Fathers finde their graves in our short memories, and sadly tell us how we may be buried in our Survivors. Grave-stones tell truth scarce fourty years. Generations passe while some trees stand, and old Families last not three Oaks.
[ . . . ] In vain we compute our felicities by the advantage of our good names, since bad have equall durations; and Thersites is like to live as long as Agamemnon. Who knows whether the best of men be known? or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot, then any that stand remembred in the known account of time?
[ . . . ] Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us. A small fire sufficeth for life, great flames seemed too little after death, while men vainly affected precious pyres, and to burn like Sardanapalus; but the wisedom of funeral Laws found the folly of prodigall blazes, and reduced undoing fires unto the rule of sober obsequies, wherein few could be so mean as not to provide wood, pitch, a mourner, and an Urne.
I forgot to announce the above picture before it appeared, so allow me presently to say that what you just saw was a red arrow at night. Now here are the rest of the quotes that I wanted to share from Thomas Browne’s Urn Burial:
Pious spirits who passed their dayes in raptures of futurity, made little more of this world, then the world that was before it, while they lay obscure in the Chaos of pre-ordination, and night of their fore-beings. And if any have been so happy as truly to understand Christian annihilation, extasis, exolution, liquefaction, transformation, the kisse of the Spouse, gustation of God, and ingression into the divine shadow, they have already had an handsome anticipation of heaven; the glory of the world is surely over, and the earth is ashes unto them. [ . . . ]
To live indeed is to be again our selves, which being not only an hope but an evidence in noble beleevers, ’Tis all one to lye in St Innocents Church-yard, as in the Sands of Aegypt: Ready to be any thing, in the extasie of being ever, and as content with six foot as the Moles of Adrianus.
I meant to write more of my own words here instead of spending so much screen estate quoting the dead; but now I’ve run out of time, so I’ll conclude by sharing a moment from a favorite film, Duck Soup (1933), which I watched for the 107th time yestereven – it’s a Marx Brothers comedy.
Since the Wikipedia entry for the film does a fine job describing the cast, I’ll copy it verbatim, by way of an intro:
Margaret Dumont plays Mrs. Gloria Teasdale, a rich widow who underwrites the budget of Freedonia; Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly who, at Mrs. Teasdale’s insistence, becomes the leader of Freedonia; Harpo plays Pinky, a spy for Sylvania who never talks; and Chico plays Chicolini, another spy for Sylvania who never stops talking. Now here’s what Thomas Browne might call the wisedom—
Rufus T. Firefly: “Which one of us is going to have the rare privilege of sacrificing his life for his country?”
[Chicolini fakes a random procedure and chooses Pinky for the task.]
Rufus [to Pinky]: “You’re a brave man – go and break through the lines. And remember, while you’re out there risking life and limb through shot and shell, we’ll be in here thinking what a sucker you are.”