From chapter 5 of the autobiography…
On happiness through ignoring yourself:
|The enjoyments of life (such was now my theory) are sufficient to make it a pleasant thing, when they are taken en passant, without being made a principal object. Once make them so, and they are immediately felt to be insufficient. They will not bear a scrutinizing examination. Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and if otherwise fortunately circumstanced you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe, without dwelling on it or thinking about it, without either forestalling it in imagination, or putting it to flight by fatal questioning. This theory now became the basis of my philosophy of life. And I still hold to it as the best theory for all those who have but a moderate degree of sensibility and of capacity for enjoyment, that is, for the great majority of mankind.
|The only one of the imaginative arts in which I had from childhood taken great pleasure, was music; the best effect of which (and in this it surpasses perhaps every other art) consists in exciting enthusiasm; in winding up to a high pitch those feelings of an elevated kind which are already in the character, but to which this excitement gives a glow and a fervour, which, though transitory at its utmost height, is precious for sustaining them at other times. This effect of music I had often experienced; but like all my pleasurable susceptibilities it was suspended during the gloomy period. I had sought relief again and again from this quarter, but found none. After the tide had turned, and I was in process of recovery, I had been helped forward by music, but in a much less elevated manner. I at this time first became acquainted with Weber’s Oberon, and the extreme pleasure which I drew from its delicious melodies did me good, by showing me a source of pleasure to which I was as susceptible as ever.
On finding enjoyment in simple things:
|Relieved from my ever present sense of irremediable wretchedness, I gradually found that the ordinary incidents of life could again give me some pleasure; that I could again find enjoyment, not intense, but sufficient for cheerfulness, in sunshine and sky, in books, in conversation, in public affairs; and that there was, once more, excitement, though of a moderate kind, in exerting myself for my opinions, and for the public good.
On poetry (and mountains):
|This state of my thoughts and feelings made the fact of my reading Wordsworth for the first time (in the autumn of 1828), an important event in my life….
| In the first place, these poems addressed themselves powerfully to one of the strongest of my pleasurable susceptibilities, the love of rural objects and natural scenery; to which I had been indebted not only for much of the pleasure of my life, but quite recently for relief from one of my longest relapses into depression. In this power of rural beauty over me, there was a foundation laid for taking pleasure in Wordsworth’s, poetry. the more so, as his scenery lies mostly among mountains, which, owing to my early Pyrenean excursion, were my ideal of natural beauty. But Wordsworth would never have had any great effect on me, if he had merely placed before me beautiful pictures of natural scenery. Scott does this still better than Wordsworth, and a very second-rate landscape does it more effectually than any poet. What made Wordsworth’s poems a medicine for my state of mind, was that they expressed, not mere outward beauty, but states of feeling, and of thought coloured by feeling, under the excitement of beauty. They seemed to be the very culture of the feelings, which I was in quest of. In them I seemed to draw from a Source of inward joy, of sympathetic and imaginative pleasure, which could be shared in by all human beings; which had no connexion with struggle of imperfection, but would be made richer by every improvement in the physical or social condition of mankind. From them I seemed to learn what would be the perennial sources of happiness, when all the greater evils of life shall have been removed. And I felt myself at once better and happier as I came under their influence. There have certainly been, even in our own age, greater poets than Wordsworth; but poetry of deeper and loftier feeling could not have done for me at that time what his did. I needed to be made to feel that there was real, permanent happiness in tranquil contemplation. Wordsworth taught me this, not only without turning away from, but with a greatly increased interest in the common feelings and common destiny of human beings. And the delight which these poems gave me, proved that with culture of this sort, there was nothing to dread from the most confirmed habit of analysis.
Saw the old, original version of The Blob this weekend. Three notes:
1. It’s surprisingly mediocre–not bad, but not great.
2. There’s a Criterion Collection edition.
3. The best part is the opening theme song, a catchy ditty by young Burt Bacharach. It’s a perfect late 50’s tune. Seriously, try getting this thing out of your head for the rest of the day!
Recently found this stirring group rendition of my favorite song, a folksy bit of homesickness for Scotland:
One of my favorite R&B songs, from the early 90’s (of course). Does anybody write stuff like this anymore?
Thanks again to the good people at the Thistle & Shamrock, I have another great contemporary Scottish folk song to love. Last Sunday I heard “The Sang o the Saracen Maid” and fell for it hard; it’s about all I’ve listened to for a week.
Here it is:
I was prompted to do some research about the background of this heartrending tale.
This YouTube video directly precedes the one above; the author of the original poem introduces it.
Here’s a written story of the poem’s origin.
Here are the words to the poem.
And the lyrics to the song.
This is the old legend being retold here. Isn’t it sad? I’d never heard this before. Local folklore is the best!
Here’s another telling of the same story.
Talking to a student a few weeks ago about The Catcher in the Rye segued into the movie Finding Forrester, which reminded me of the clip of this song used near the end of the film, which led me to look it up on YouTube, which is how I found this wonderful video:
Lindsey Stirling’s done some entertaining stuff:
I still think this is catchy and sweet as all get out.
I’ve watched this whole concert many times. Beautiful. And it doesn’t hurt that it was in my neck of the woods!
Still one of the coolest, catchiest songs ever.
I didn’t even know that these two had teamed up to record together until I heard an ad for a show they’re doing next week at the Smith Center here in Las Vegas. Here’s a couple tracks from the album they’re touring for:
Decent 80’s track; excellent live acoustic performance.