linger a while, thou art so fairessay

January 13, 2009

Reading John Lienhard's Inventing Modern. It's one of those books with a giant scope, but sometimes you're not sure if the particular artists or creators discussed are the true central figures of Modern or just people Lienhard finds interesting.

In the book he quotes a WW2 movie that quoted a bit of Faust: "Linger a while, thou art so fair". In an anecdote he has put on the web as well as in the book, he discusses how that line resonated when he decided to accept a position in Houston, paradoxically after witnessing a moment of almost surreal beauty in his beloved Kansas. The enecdote is worth reading.

He attributes the ideal to the Romantics:
Goethe was a Romantic poet, and this was a primary Romantic sentiment. A driving restlessness is the mainspring of the creative person. Faust hurls his challenge at Satan: "When did the likes of you ever understand a human soul in its supreme endeavor?"
I think there's also a bit of the Eastern caution against over-attachment to the transient beauty of this moment. Of course, there's a longstanding Western ideal of turning one's eyes and heart to matters of Heaven "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal", but you know, I think the Eastern interpretation catches the mixed feeling of that moment, more fully recognizes the divided heart we can have at this time, the legitimacy of that beauty of the world around us, not just the need to not let that beauty sway us from what needs to be done.

The line is so powerful because it asks for a respite; a time to hold time still. Only the context holds the tragedy of the condition, the need to move on.

Blog of the Moment
Slate is hosting a new blog The Happiness Project. I think I'll start keeping up with it for a while.

harveyjames 44 minutes into 2001? So what was that, like the space stewardess shuffling around the circular walls->floor?
"Linger a while, so fair thou art" --Faust. Lienhard show it as a warning lesson against over attachment to transient beauty.
Reliability is one of the finest of all the virtues. But I need to learn to relax and not fly off the handle when it's not there.
Humans see in stereo, but I think that implies that nothing is in perfect focus. We don't notice, because seeing is more like thinking.
cracked Generation Gap: 30-somethings maybe played TMNT on NES, 20-somethings know their names / colors / weapons / personalities.
Bush: "I believe this- the phrase 'burdens of the office' is overstated." I believe this- that Bush believes that.