Speak What We Feel: Not What We Ought to Say (Buechner, Frederick)

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David Bruce. The Autobiography of St. Saint Ignatius Loyola. The Gospel in Dostoyevsky. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. God's Workmanship. Oswald Chambers. Irene Clemons. Norma Greer. The Little Flowers fioretti. Saint Francis of Assisi. Arianna Hammond. Aria Odonnell. Robert Frost - A Boys Will.

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Alaina Mcmillan. Listening to Your Life. Frederick Buechner. Secrets in the Dark. The Book of Bebb. The Storm. The Son of Laughter. Beyond Words. Faith That Matters. Whistling in the Dark. The Longing for Home. The Alphabet of Grace. On the Road with the Archangel.

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Buechner interview with Philip Yancey

Continue shopping. Item s unavailable for purchase. An old man in poor health, like my rival, could not be expected to be so impressively feeble as a young actor in the prime of life. Then he tried to blast my claims G. Chesterton intellectually. I countered that by a very simple dodge. Whenever he said something that nobody but he could understand, I replied with something which I could not even understand myself.

But the people all around rather to my surprise seemed to remember them quite well, and the Professor, finding that the learned and mysterious method left him rather at the mercy of an enemy slightly deficient in scruples, fell back upon a more popular form of wit. The real Professor was thrown out, but not with violence, though one man tried very patiently to pull off his nose.


SPEAK WHAT WE FEEL (NOT WHAT WE OUGHT TO SAY): Reflections on Literature and Faith

He is now, I believe, received everywhere in Europe as a delightful impostor. His apparent earnestness and anger, you see, make him all the more entertaining. By the time Syme in his flight from the bogus Professor has entered Ludgate Circus, the sunset has turned a sickly green and bronze, but even so there is still light enough for him to see St. It had fallen accidentally, but just so fallen as to half drape the dome from its very topmost point, and to pick out in perfect silver the great orb and the cross.

When Syme saw it he suddenly straightened, and made with his sword-stick an involuntary salute.

Indeed, in a world threatened by Sunday can there be any hope at all? The answer, of course, depends on who Sunday is, and that is what the final chapters of the novel explore. The six members of the Central Anarchist Council, who through a series of nightmare-like adventures have by now discovered that they are all of them blue card—carrying policemen, decide to confront him once and for all at their next general meeting.

What am I? You will understand the sea, and I shall still be a riddle; you shall know what the stars are, and not know what I am. Since the beginning of the world all men have hunted me like a wolf—kings and sages, and poets and law-givers, all the churches, and all the philosophers. But I have never been caught yet, and the skies will fall in the time I turn to bay. I have given them a good run for their money, and I will now.

The thing he tells them is that he and the man in the dark who made than all policemen are one and the same. The first time I read the book I was fourteen years old and sick in bed with a cold in the Lawrenceville School infirmary—my eye had been caught by the crazy title—and although I have read it at least a dozen times since over the years, the revelation still comes upon me as no less fathomlessly suggestive than it seemed to me then and still shimmering with surprise. The voice in the impenetrable dark is also the voice of the monster reading his newspaper in the dazzling sunlight.

The G. Chesterton one they had all been battling against in the name of human decency and sanity unmasks himself as the one who had signed them up to do battle in the first place, and thus the joke of all the earlier unmaskings is transcended by a joke so vast and simple that none of them had understood it. Nor does Sunday make it any more understandable as he leads them then on a never to be forgotten chase through London. In each case it seems to be that in order for new things to start happening, old things have to be laid aside.

The one Syme is given is blue and gold embroidered with the sun and the moon, because according to Genesis it was on Thursday, the fourth day, that the sun and moon were first created, and thus, freshly attired, he sets forth into the mystery that has brought them all here. The ball takes place in an old English garden, and as Syme looks about at the great crowd of guests dancing by the flickering light of torches and bonfires, he sees that they are costumed to represent virtually every shape in nature, a scene consciously reminiscent of the concluding chapters of the book of Job, which Chesterton had written an introduction to just the year before.

There was a man dressed as a windmill with enormous sails, a man dressed as an elephant, a man dressed as a balloon; the two last, together, seemed to keep the thread of their farcical adventures. Syme even saw, with a queer thrill, one dancer dressed like an enormous hornbill, with a beak twice as big as himself—the queer bird which had fixed itself on his fancy like a living question while he was rushing down the long road at the Zoological Gardens. There were a thousand other such objects, however.

There was dancing lamp-post, a danc G. Chesterton ing apple tree, a dancing ship. One would have thought that the untamable tune of some mad musician had set all the common objects of field and street dancing an eternal jig.

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On a green bank at one end of the garden there are seven great chairs, the thrones of the seven days, and one by one, to the wild cheering of the dancers, Syme and his companions take their places in them until only the central one is empty. Whether it was but recently for time is nothing , or at the beginning of the world, I sent you out to war. I sat in the darkness, where there is not any created thing, and to you I was only a voice commanding valour and an unnatural virtue.

You heard the voice in the dark, and you never heard it again. The sun in heaven denied it, the earth and sky denied it, all human wisdom denied it. And when I met you in the daylight I denied it myself. But you were men. You did not forget your secret honour, though the whole cosmos turned an engine of torture to tear it out of you. Full of hate and with his red hair flaming, he curses Sunday, more than for anything else, for never having known the agony that he, Gregory, had suffered, and it is Syme who, remembering the agony of his own nightmare, confronts Sunday with the charge directly.

It grew larger and larger, filling the whole sky; then everything went black. I was not [in the novel] considering whether anything is really evil, but whether everything is really evil. On the contrary, it frightened me because it was so beautiful, so good. But also, like dreams, books can on occasion bear a message from a remoter and more mysterious region still, and in that case they become a message not just from the writer but also to the writer, revealing things that the writer was not fully aware of knowing before.

It seems to me that these concluding scenes at the fancy dress ball are a case in point and that in the process of writing them Chesterton discovered a previously unsuspected depth of beauty and goodness in the figure of Sunday which—along with the influence of his new young wife, Frances—had much to do with his moving from a vague religiosity to becoming a true believer and ultimately a devoted member and champion of the Catholic Church.

Chesterton the reason he so treasured the remark was his realization that one of the madmen who had been saved was himself. It was undoubtedly the first stirrings of this renewed and deepened faith that helped him survive his near breakdown, but there was also the influence upon him of two writers whom he alludes to in the dedicatory poem to Bentley, the first of them in these lines: Not all unhelped we held the fort, our tiny flags unfurled; Some giants laboured in that cloud to lift it from the world. I find again the book we found, I feel the hour that flings Far out of fish-shaped Paumanok some cry of cleaner things; And the Green Carnation withered, as in forest fires that pass, Roared in the wind of all the world ten million leaves of grass.

I am drinking with you. I am as drunk as you are. I see you are inhaling tobacco, puffing, smoking, spitting I do not object to your spitting. You prophetic of American largeness, You anticipating the broad masculine manners of these States, I see in you also there are movements, tremors, tears, desire for the melodious; I salute your three violinists, endlessly making vibrations, Rigid, relentless, capable of going on for ever; They play my accompaniment; but I shall take no notice of any accompaniment; I myself am a complete orchestra.

So long. But behind the laughter there was enormous appreciation of the man whose roaring affirmation of life and the world and humankind in all its endless variety provided such a welcome antidote to the negativism and ennui of the s. In the section G. By the summer of , the year he turned twenty, Chesterton had more or less recovered from his own personal nightmare, left art school, and decided that he might possibly turn instead to a career in writing.

Having been given back his life and sanity, he was filled with both an enormous sense of thankfulness and an enormous need for someone or something to thank, which he expressed in a number of the random pieces that the notebook contains, including the following three: You say grace before meals.

All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, And grace before the concert and the pantomime, And grace before I open a book, And grace before sketching, painting, Swimming fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; And grace before I dip the pen in the ink. I thank thee for the hay-carts yonder and for the houses built and half-built That fly past me as I stride. But most of all for the great wind in my nostrils As if thine own nostrils were close.

It was at this time also that he met Frances Blogg, whom, after a long engagement, he married in The startling wetness of water excites and intoxicates me; the fieriness of fire, the steeliness of steel, the unutterable muddiness of mud. I will G. Chesterton not ask you to forgive this rambling levity. I, for one, have sworn, by the sword of God that has struck us, and before the beautiful face of the dead, that the first joke that occurred to me I would make, the first nonsense poem I thought of I would write, that I would begin again at once with a heavy heart at times, as to other duties, to the duty of being perfectly silly, perfectly trivial, and as far as possible, amusing.

I have sworn that Gertrude should not feel, wherever she is, that the comedy has gone out of our theatre. Sunsets, schools of philosophy, cathedrals, operas, mountains, horses, poems—all these are mainly disguises. One thing is always walking among us in fancy-dress, in the grey cloak of a church or the green cloak of a meadow. Walking through the green fields of Surrey to the house where the fancy-dress ball later takes place, Syme talks to himself about Sunday.

England was afflicted at the time by the worst plague since the Black Death, so that by September of that year one out of every fifteen people in the parish was infected, but the Shakespeares, including the new baby, were spared. His mother was born Mary Arden, the daughter of a rich farmer from nearby Wilmcote, and his father was John Shakespeare, by trade a glover and whitawer, or dresser of soft, white leather, who kept the borough accounts for three or four years and was prosperous enough to have loaned the town money on several occasions.

Less than ten years later, however, when William was entering adolescence, he fell on evil times—he was behind in his taxes, owed money, stopped attending meetings of the corporation—and in was removed from the board of aldermen altogether. She was seven or eight years older than her new young husband, and about six months after the marriage gave birth to the first of their three children, a daughter whom they named Susanna. Four years later his only son, Hamnet, died at the age of eleven. His first published works were long, semierotic poems—Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece—both dedicated to a beautiful young man, nine years his junior, named Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton.

As to the plays, starting in they seem to have been written at the rate of about two a year. In addition to that, he must also have been almost unimaginably busy as an actor and theater manager. It has been estimated that leading actors like Edward Alleyn and Richard Burbage memorized about eight hundred of them for each part they played, which meant keeping some forty-eight hundred in mind every week.

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It was not until about , when he was approaching his mid-forties, that he gave up London as a place of residence and settled down to spend more or less the rest of his days in Stratford, where he invested wisely in real estate and interested himself in such local affairs as a bill for the improvement of highways in and a proposed enclosure of the open fields of Welcombe in By this time not only had his parents both died but so had three sisters and three brothers, leaving him and his younger sister Joan the sole survivors of the family.

The next year they produced their one child—a daughter named Elizabeth—who was the only grandchild Shakespeare lived to see. Six years later Susanna was involved in a bizarre law case in which she sued a drunken rowdy named John Lane for having slanderously accused her of sexual misconduct with another man, but when Lane failed to show up in court, the case was dismissed.

In January of Shakespeare called in Francis Collins, a friend and attorney, in order to sketch out a draft of his will because his second daughter, Judith, had announced her intention of marrying a vintner named Thomas Quiney, and he wanted to leave her a marriage portion. He died only a few weeks later on April 23, —his fifty-second birthday if you accept the tradition that he was born on St.

Eventually a monument was erected there, presumably commissioned by the immediate family, who must have considered the likeness acceptable. Shakespeare is depicted as standing, but with only the upper half of his body showing. He has a quill pen in his right hand, and there is a piece of paper under his left; both hands rest on a cushion. But who Shakespeare was inside himself, as a human being, can only be guessed at from the works he left behind and particularly from King Lear, which more than any of them seems to have come straight from his heart.

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My guess is that what makes it the most moving of the tragedies is that it is the one Shakespeare himself was most moved by as he wrote it. I would guess also that what drew him to the story of the old king and his daughters in the first place was that in Elizabethan terms he was on the threshold of old age himself and that his relationship with his own Judith and Susanna for one reason or another so preoccupied him that the complex father-daughter bond became an almost obsessive theme in his last plays.

Johnson, audiences would find the original simply more than they could stomach. Possibly he did it in order to show Lear as all the more towering a figure by contrasting him with Everyman. If you are William Shakespeare none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Is the truth beyond all truths that the gods, if they exist at all, are sadists, so that all of us, the good and bad alike, end up as their victims?

Gods or no gods. Life as a divine comedy or life as a black comedy. The Fool has been pining away for Cordelia because she has been banished and also, one comes to realize, for Lear because he is aware that Lear is secretly pining away for her too. Nor is Lear any less aware of what is going on inside the Fool. As soon as he enters, he starts trying to face him with the truth about himself through riddles and jingles because he knows that Lear is too proud and too stubborn to listen to it in any other form.

The relationship between them is as moving and convincing as any other in the play. Thou climbing sorrow! But I will tarry; the fool will stay, And let the wise man fly. The knave turns fool that runs away; The fool no knave, perdy. Only a fool, in other words, would stay with a man who is down on his luck when the wise thing is clearly to abandon him before being sucked down into his bad luck with him, and yet in the long run the ones who abandon him are not only knaves in so doing, but also fools in the sense that they do not see that they are dehumanizing themselves in the process.

It is almost possible to think of Shakespeare as having written the entire play as a gloss on St. Paul, adding to it such other paradoxes of his own, as that it is the sane who are mad and the mad sane, just as it is also the blind who see and the seeing who are blind. The scene in which that question is first answered through dramatic action marks what is in a sense the turning point of the play. There are two trials in the third act.

They vilify him. Regan wrenches hair from his beard. There is not even the pretense of justice. And then in a scene that even on the printed page makes the blood run cold, Cornwall, egged on by Regan, has him pinioned to his chair and with his own hands gouges out one of his eyes. Up to this point, it is the strong ones who have prevailed over the weak, the wise ones over the foolish, but then, suddenly and unforeseeably, the tide turns.

Piercing as the eyes of Cornwall and Regan are and wise as they are to the ways of others as ruthless and duplicitous as themselves, what they are completely blind to is that, in addition to ruthlessness and duplicity, there also dwells in the human heart an essential humanness by disregarding which—not only in the unnamed servant but also in themselves—they bring about their own downfall. And the same is true also of Edmund. If anything can explain his sudden change of heart in attempting at the last moment to save the lives of Lear and Cordelia, whom he had ordered slain, it is that here at the end he discovers for the first time that he has a heart to change.

The good ones and the evil ones alike, what do they see and what do they fail to see? What in particular does Lear fail to see when he first gathers his court about him to witness the ceremonial passing on of power to his daughters, and what does he gradually come to see better and better until it drives him mad and all but destroys him?

In the dark world of the play—a great deal of which takes place in literal darkness— what hope is there that somewhere there is light? The reason that Lear does not see that Goneril and Regan are duping him is that he does not want to see it, and the reason he does not see that Cordelia is the one who really loves him is that she so hurts his pride by not being willing to dissimulate like her sisters that he angrily refuses to see it. Take physic, pomp; Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayst shake the superflux to them And show the heavens more just.

This is farther than he has ever seen before, and it opens up that one part of his heart that is sorry for the Fool to include multitudes. It is the last time that Shakespeare shows him and Cordelia together. The British forces have defeated the invading French, Edmund has ordered the pair of them to be taken away under guard, and what Lear says as they wait to go gives a sense less of words written for effect by a great dramatist than of words the dramatist was great enough to be able to step back and leave the old king free to speak as if out of his own truth.

There is nothing high-flown about what he says. It is not a tragic hero speaking blank verse that we are given here, but simply an old man speaking as he might in life itself. It was out of his own deepest humanity that Shakespeare dreamed these lines, and few he ever wrote are as moving or ring as true. In Huckleberry Finn virtually everybody lies, the innocent like Huck and Jim in order to survive in a hostile world and the corrupt like the Duke and the Dauphin in order to take advantage of the innocent.

In King Lear, much the same is true.

Speak What We Feel (Not What We Ought to Say): Reflections on Literature and Faith

Edmund, in fact, lies on such a heroic scale that he himself would appear to be the only one in the play to know who he truly is if it were not that he fails until almost the end of his life to realize that, scoundrel though he recognizes himself to be, there is something in him that Goneril and Regan did not just lust for, but actually loved enough to kill for. He was blind, in other words, to something human and capable of stirring love that was buried so deep within him that it had somehow survived all that he had done to destroy it, and in this he resembles Lear.

The world that drives Lear mad is a world where not only do William Shakespeare evil ones like Goneril, Regan, and Edmund lie in order to dupe the unwary, but a good one like Kent is obliged to lie in the sense of disguising himself as Caius, the plain-spoken servant, because Lear has banished him under pain of death for having tried to save him by telling him the plain truth. No one loves Lear better than Kent does, but such is the madness not only of Lear, but of the whole world of the play that he does not dare show it openly and honestly any more than the Fool dares show his love of Lear by confronting him with his folly openly and honestly.

It is only at the end that, like Edmund, Lear sees for the first time that in spite of all the darkness within him there is also, though he never guessed it, something that others find precious enough to give their lives for. When the Doctor and Cordelia wake him with music after his ordeal on the heath, it is at first only the darkness that he can see. Nor is there any doubt in his mind as to the nature of that love. None of them in the play, neither the good nor the evil, are entirely what they seem.

Nor is it by any means only love that hides its face. Lear especially is the one who inveighs against humans for hiding the beast in themselves. Strip thine own back. Fie, fie, fie! As Lear sees it, exactly the reverse is true. But perhaps most importantly of all, clothes represent defense against what the play portrays as a world full of darkness and threat. But not so King Lear. Nor is it just the innocent who are vulnerable to its raging. Ultimately they all of them, the good and FREDERICK BUECHNER the bad alike, prove defenseless against the hostility of the world, but what Shakespeare seems to be saying as he weighs the sadness of it is that Edgar in the rags of a Bedlam beggar, the Fool soaked to the skin in his motley, Gloucester in his blindness, and Kent and Cordelia in their banishment are all somehow ennobled by their battle with it even though it ends in defeat.

Paul put it, and it is perhaps the central paradox of the play. The first King Lear I ever attended was an amateur production at Princeton University either during my senior year there or shortly afterwards. Johnson was unable to read that scene again or why even after countless readings it remains so devastating. Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, And thou no breath at all? Look on her! Her lips! By the time the curtain falls the evil ones have all died and most of the good ones too. It was simply too dark for audiences to endure. What Shakespeare asks of his audience is a suspension not only of disbelief—and belief along with it—but of the inclination to view life as either tragic or comic, or as sometimes one and sometimes the other.

It is also to be noted that in every scene of great suffering, he has someone enter from the wings to relieve it. Life is tragicomic at best, he seems to be saying, but if people like Cordelia, the Fool, Edgar, and Kent keep being born into it, and if Lear is right about what the gods hallow, then perhaps not quite everything is lost. The despondent little Jesuit drudge in his rusty black clericals and gaping dog collar.

His tea has gone cold at his elbow. His eyes are redrimmed and watery from the endless papers. He has laid his pencil down and is watching the movement of a raindrop on the windowpane as it zigzags its way in fits and starts until it meets another, hesitates for an instant, merges, and is lost. The air is blue with pipe smoke. He has kicked off his shoes and is wearing the pantoufles that Joe Twichell bought him in Paris once.

It is getting on toward the end of a summer afternoon and soon he will amble down to the main house to join Livy and the girls, but for the moment he is aware only of the power of the great current that carries him along like a raft. Who can possibly guess where Chesterton is? In a tea room with a cigarette between his lips and one eye squinted against the smoke?

In Kensington Gardens with his slouch hat on the bench beside him and, wrapped up in it, a buttered scone? He is so massive in his flowing cape that his penny exercise book looks more like a penny stamp, or maybe he is writing on the back of his program during an intermission at Covent Garden. In the margin he has inked in two or three goblin faces on a curlicue vine. The domed forehead, the owlish gaze, the skimpy whiskers— did the man who wrote the plays look anything at all like the Droeshout engraving that adorns their first collected edition?

Even the ordinary sounds and smells and sights of his time can only be guessed at—the way the English language sounded when Gloriana spoke it, the way the city of London looked before it burned down, the cries from the streets, the quality of darkness when there were nothing but flames to light it, the very scent of the air before the Industrial Revolution changed it forever.

All we can be sure of is that he had a pen in his hand, a mind to move it, and a heart weighed down by whatever the saddest things were that had ever happened to him, which, like the Duke of Albany, he felt he could honor best by opening a vein and writing about them not as he ought, but as a tale of treachery and self-sacrifice, of love and lust, of madness and blindness, of wisdom and folly, in a world where nothing is entirely what it seems.

Never before and never afterwards did he write any- Afterword thing with such extraordinary care—the intricately recurring images, the fuguelike themes, the meanings within meaning. To what extent and in what ways it was also the tale of his own life is left for us to guess at along with his sexual tastes and the identity of the Dark Lady.

To think of these four superstars as having come somehow to terms with the weight of their sad times in writing these four very different works is to ask myself to what extent, in a minor role, I have done something of the same in writing this one. But this book I thought of as a kind of vacation from all that—a chance to shift my gaze from inward to outward, to the shadowy side of lives other than mine.

And so it turned out to be, but with an added reward that I did not see coming. Death, on the other hand, seems less of a negative to me now than it once did. If somebody a while back had offered me a thousand more years, I would have leapt at it, but at this point I would be inclined to beg off on the grounds that, although I continue to enjoy things a good deal most of the time and hope to go on as long as I can, the eventual end to life seems preferable to the idea of an endless and endlessly redundant extension of it.

But maybe that is just as well. They say that we are never happier than our unhappiest child, and if that is expanded to include the next generation down, the result is unthinkable. There is sadness too in thinking how much more I might have done with my life than just writing, especially considering that I was ordained not only to preach good news to the poor, but to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned, and raise the dead. If I make it as far as St. I have never looked into the abyss, for which I am thankful.

But I wish such faith as I have had been brighter and glad- Afterword der. I wish I had done more with it.

The Entrance to Porlock: A Novel | Frederick Buechner Books | Frederick buechner, Novels

I wish I had been braver and bolder. I wish I had been a saint. This, in short, is the weight of my own sad times, and listening to these four voices speaking out from under the burden of theirs has been to find not just a kind of temporary release, but a kind of unexpected encouragement. Take heart, I heard them say, even at the unlikeliest moments. Fear not. Be alive. Be merciful. Be human. Visit www. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen.

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Must we mean what we say? What We Choose To Hide. What We Keep. What Once We Loved. Chesterton and Shakespeare. I know my mom's favorite poet was Hopkins. The introduction talks about the process of writing opening the vein. Now I may know be able to discern why Hopkins was my mother's favorite poet. I think I may take this book back with me to DC.