Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Gentleman in Moscow: Favorite Quotes

If one wants to give oneself a treat, one should read A Gentleman in Moscow. It is elegant, beautifully written, and thought provoking.It makes you laugh and it makes you cry. If I was a writer, I would be green with envy. Mr Towles is a masterful writer!

The book abounds with quotable quotes. Here are some of my favorites:

"For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. by their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration- and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour." p. 120-21

" Now, when a man has been underestimated by a friend, he has some cause for taking offense- since it is our friend who should overestimate our capacities. They should have an exaggerated opinion of our moral fortitude, our aesthetic sensibilities, and our intellectual scope." p. 134

"If patience wasn't so easily tested, then it would hardly be a virtue..." p. 141

"I'll tell you what is convenient... To sleep until noon and have someone bring you your breakfast on a tray. To cancel an appointment at the very last minute. To keep a carriage waiting at the door of one's party, so that on a moment's notice it can whisk you away to another. To sidestep marriage in your youth and put off having children altogether. These are the greatest conveniences, Anushka- an at one time, I had them all. But in the end, it has been the inconveniences that have mattered to me the most." p. 352

" I have lured you into a life that is principally circumscribed by the four wall of this building. We all have.... We have ventured to make the hotel seem as wide and as wonderful as the world, so that you would opt to spend more time in it with us. But... One does not fulfill one's potential by listening to Scheherazade in a gilded hall, or by reading the Odyssey in one's den.One does so by setting forth into the vast unknown- just like Marco Polo when he traveled to China, or Columbus when he traveled to American." p. 387



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ese Primer Encuentro: La Historia de Abraham





Leer la historia de Abraham en el libro del Génesis me quita el aliento.
Leer la explicación de Scott Hahn aquí aún más.

    La vida de Abraham esta resumida en unos pocos capítulos en el libro Génesis. Todo comienza con un primer encuentro, un encuentro que inexorable y completamente, cambia el rumbo de su vida. Toda una vida, que de ahi en adelante, va a ser diferente, no sólo para el mismo Abraham pero para toda su familia (Qué responsabilidad!). Toda una vida pasada creyendo, esperando, confiando, comenzando de nuevo, volviendo a confiar, volviendo a esperar. Leerlo en unos pocos capítulos no le hace justicia, no acaba de darnos una idea de cómo debe haber sido para Abraham: Dejar todo por una promesa.

     Y esa promesa tarda en venir, no días o semanas, pero años.

     Sólo puedo imaginar lo que debe haber sido para Abraham (Y Sara): verse envejecer, consumirse, cansarse, esa sensación de que el tiempo se le agota. ¿Dónde esta esa promesa? ¿Realmente hubo una promesa? ¿o me la inventé yo? - esa serian las preguntas que yo me haría. Pero no Abraham.

     La vida de Abraham no es la vida tranquila de una persona mayor. Su vida está plagada de momentos difíciles, espeluznantes incluso. Dios promete una tierra, pero la tierra no esta vacía. Dios promete descendientes numerosos como las estrella, pero no hay hijo. Hay guerras, disputas familiares, momentos de debilidad, errores (Leer las peripecias de su vida me recuerda las palabras de Santa Teresa: "Señor, si así es que tratas a tus amigos, no me extraña que tengas tan pocos") Pero nunca me llevo la impresión de que Abraham duda de ese Primer Encuentro.

     Muchos de nosotros que nos llamamos cristianos, podemos mirar atrás y señalar un Primer Encuentro: ese intenso momento de acercamiento donde Dios dejó de ser idea para convertirse en persona, donde Dios dejo de ser abstracto para convertirse en Padre. Un momento de acercamiento a Jesús, donde Jesús deja de ser un personaje de un libro para convertirse en amigo. Pero al contrario de Abraham, cuando ese Primer Encuentro se aleja en el tiempo, cuando las dificultades de la vida no desaparecen, Dios vuelve a ser abstracto, vuelve a ser idea, vuelve a ser sólo un personaje de un libro.Y dudamos.


      Esta nueva lectura de la vida de Abraham me han dejado con una profunda admiración por ese hombre, miles de años atrás, que se atrevió a dejarlo todo por una promesa. Por años- Años!- se alimentó de esa promesa. Su vida no fue perfecta. Su fe no fue perfecta. Su fe no era ciega. Y es que fe no es la ausencia de duda, sino escoger creer a pesar de las dudas. Abraham escogió creer. Abraham se aferró a ese Primer Encuentro. Y escogió no dudar, pero seguir adelante.







Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Three Questions to Guide Literature Discussions

Three questions to keep in mind while discussing Literature with students according to Joshua Gibbs from The Circe Institute:

1. What does the author want me to feel?

2.How does the author actually make me feel?

3. Why am I failing to feel the way the author wants me to feel?

Some clarifications: Gibbs is not talking about feelings in the way we normally do. For him feelings are  the posture of the soul against the shape of the cosmos. " Some of the questions to ask then would be: 

"Has the soul born witness to tragedy? Then the soul’s posture is prostrate, anguished. Has the soul born witness to just one sinner turning from his wickedness? Then the soul’s posture is dancing, jubilant"

In more prosaic terms then, I would say, the first question to ask is: What is the author trying to say? What direction does he want to lead us? Do we see sadness? redemption? Suffering? How do we respond?

"While a discussion of “feelings” could be endless, let us at least say that the fruits of the Spirit are proper feelings. A man may feel love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, prudence. Every good writer wants to lead his readers to these feelings, to train the spirit of the reader to respond to the cosmos in a way which is sympathetic to the nature of God."

Maybe this is a way of discriminating between literature worth reading and literature best left out of our shelves.

The second question has to do to our response. Has the author accomplished what he set out to do? Are we moved in the direction seemly intended by the author? Are we failing in let our soul be moved towards those  "proper feeling"?

The final question is to find out Why are we not being moved?
Interestingly, Mr. Gibbs places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the reader. It is not an analysis of the literary merits of the author. Because Mr. Gibbs is talking about Classical Literature, it is a given that these texts have endured the test of time. They do move the soul. They do - in maybe mysterious ways- point us to God. Therefore this last step is more like an examination of conscience: what in me prevents me to be moved by these texts?

Interesting approach.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Literatura Latinoamericana y Leyendo a Macondo

La literatura latinoamericana no es mi favorita.No se por qué. Quizas la crudeza del lenguaje, la tristeza y desesperanza que muchas veces trasciende en las obras, o la primacia del sexo.. En fin.. No se.  No es que no me guste. Hay que reconocer la maestría de un Vargas Llosa ( aunque últimamente no lo trago por su cruzada contra la República Dominicana) o la genialidad de García Márquez.

En los últimos dos años he tratado de leer más literatura de los países latinos. Por aquello de llenar un hueco en mi educación. En fin que hasta escuché algunas de las charlas de este curso de la Universidad de Houston

Latin American History Through the Novel

Aqui está en Youtube

Pero no lo acabé. Mucho que leer y no mucho tiempo. Pero me introdujo a la prosa de Galeano y a un ensayo interesante de Carlos Fuentes. Algún día quizas lo retomaré. Es interesante ver Latinoamérica a través de los ojos de un no latino.

Mi nuevo proyecto es un menos ambicioso. El curso Leyendo Macondo, un esfuerzo colaborativo de varios profesores de la Universidad de Los Andes.

Aquí esta en Coursera. (El curso acaba el 17 de abril - no se si lo remueven de Coursera o lo dejan accesible).

En preparación o complemento, dos entrevistas a Garcia Márquez:


http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/escritores-en-el-archivo-de-rtve/especial-dedicado-gabriel-garcia-marquez-1982/353148/


Y del curso de la Universidad de los Andes, una linea de tiempo de la vida del autor:


Friday, March 4, 2016

Lo que dice Garcia Marquez de leer literatura

"Debo ser un lector muy ingenuo, porque nunca he pensado que los novelistas quieran decir más de lo que dicen"

Y acerca de los cursos de literatura:
"un curso de literatura no debería ser mucho más que una buena guía de lecturas. Cualquier otra pretensión no sirve para nada más que para asustar a los niños"

Leer el resto aqui

Sunday, January 17, 2016

¿Cómo se Aprende a Amar? Amando

Hoy te pregunté:" ¿Cómo se aprende a amar?"

"Amando" - me dijiste.

Simple. Aprendemos en la acción.

No es la primera vez que tú y yo tenemos esta conversación. Yo diría que la tenemos varias veces al año: cada vez que me siento inadecuada, o cada vez que miro hacia adentro y no me gusta lo que veo, cada vez que me enfrento a mis inseguridades, mis motivaciones imperfectas; cada vez que descubro que el centro de mi vida soy yo y nadie más.

Y no es la primera vez que siento tu voz en lo profundo de mis ser: "Se aprende a amar, amando"

La vida es escuela de amor. No los libros. No las ideas.

Pero todos vivimos y no todos aprendemos a amar. ¿Por qué?

-Porque no vivimos la vida conectados a la Fuente de Amor.
-Porque aunque todos queremos ser amados, amar-y amar bien- parece ir en contra de nuestro instinto.
-Porque tenemos miedo de no ser amados en la misma medida que amamos.
-Porque en el mismo centro de nuestras vidas está nuestro ego- desmesurado, grande- que no  deja lugar para otros.

Lo que no nos damos cuenta es que amor genera amor.
Lo que no me doy cuenta es que el amor genera amor.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Notes on Dominum et Vivificantem (Part 5 and Final)


  • Jesus is not with us as a visible human being, but he is present and active in the Church. This is possible through the H.S.
  • The "most complete sacramental expression of the departure of Christ through the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection is the Eucharist." It is through the Eucharist that the H.S. accomplishes that strengthening of the inner man (Eph 3:16). 
  • This giving of life promised by Jesus is accomplished through the Eucharist because the Spirit constantly draws from the wealth of Christ's redemption..
  • "The Church is the visible dispenser of the sacred signs (sacraments), while the H.S. is the invisible dispenser of the life they signify. Through the sacraments the Church accomplishes her salfivic mission to man.
The breadth of the divine life, the Holy Spirit, in its simplest and most common manner, expresses itself and makes itself felt in prayer.
'...if prayer is offered throughout the world, in the past, in the present and in the future, equally widespread is the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, who "breathes" prayer in the heart of man in all the endless range of the most varied situations and conditions... Many times, through the influence of the Spirit, prayer rises from the human heart in spite of prohibitions and persecutions and even official proclamations regarding the non-religious or even atheistic character of public life."
 "The Holy Spirit is the gift that comes into man's heart together with prayer. In prayer he manifests himself first of all and above all as the gift that "helps us in our weakness." 
The Holy Spirit enables us to pray but also guides our prayers from within. "Prayer through the power of the Holy Spirit becomes the ever more mature expression of the new man, who by means of this prayer participates in the divine life."

This following passage is encouraging for a member of a charismatic community
[In] recent years have been seeing a growth in the number of people who, in ever more widespread movements and groups, are giving first place to prayer and seeking in prayer a renewal of their spiritual life. This is a significant and comforting sign, for from this experience there is coming a real contribution to the revival of prayer among the faithful, who have been helped to gain a clearer idea of the Holy Spirit as he who inspires in hearts a profound yearning for holiness. In many individuals and many communities there is a growing awareness that, even with all the rapid progress of technological and scientific civilization, and despite the real conquests and goals attained, man is threatened, humanity is threatened. In the face of this danger, and indeed already experiencing the frightful reality of man's spiritual decadence, individuals and whole communities, guided as it were by an inner sense of faith, are seeking the strength to raise man up again, to save him from himself, from his own errors and mistakes that often make harmful his very conquests. And thus they are discovering prayer, in which the "Spirit who helps us in our weakness"manifests himself. In this way the times in which we are living are bringing the Holy Spirit closer to the many who are returning to prayer."
I wonder if the Pope was thinking of the Charismatic Renewal and charismatic communities when he wrote this.


  • The Pentecost that occurred in the Upper Room is not an event of the past, In a real sense, the Church is always in the Upper Room praying, together with Mary awaiting the coming of the H.S.
  For the Spirit is given to the Church in order that through his power the whole community of the People of God, however widely scattered and diverse, may persevere in hope: that hope in which "we have been saved."288 It is the eschatological hope, the hope of definitive fulfillment in God, the hope of the eternal Kingdom, that is brought about by participation in the life of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, given to the Apostles as the Counselor, is the guardian and animator of this hope in the heart of the Church.