Arcadians : Lullaby in Nature by Katrina Thornley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Arcadians" is a touching and heartfelt book of poetry that is dedicated to the author's home town. You can really get a sense of passion from the poet, as if there are strong ties to the land that she shares with her ancestors. The majority of the poems touches on nature, such as deep forests and peaceful landscapes. My favourite poems often center around being still in the environment, and focusing on the subtle beauty that revolves around nature.
This book is best read outdoors. I would also recommend purchasing a physical copy of "Arcadians" since reading the e-book on my phone felt like a strange juxtaposition when contemplating the idea of self-isolation to really enjoy the stillness of nature. The front cover design is absolutely lovely! I suppose that is another incentive to purchase a physical copy of "Arcadians."
My only gripe is the poems did feel a bit repetitive at times. I believe less content could have held a stronger impact upon the reader's mind, such as selecting the strongest poems that will resonate with the intended audience. I think experimenting with different poetry styles or implementing rhyming schemes might have brought more variety to the author's poems as well. This is my own opinion, however, and not reflective of other people's experiences. I have some background knowledge in poetry, since I took some courses in University that focused on it, so I will view "Arcadians" differently than everyone else. All in all, it was an enjoyable read. If you are a fan of simplistic poetry that focuses on nature, it will be an ideal read for you. I will leave two of my favourite poems down below.
My memory lane
Is a wooded path
Bathed in grass
With your shadow
He was the tide
And I was the child
Barefoot and chasing,
For a gentle caress
But always missing
- Ocean's Love
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The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan W. Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
To me, this book felt like an unexpected left-hooked punch to my jaw, which left me dazed and defenceless. Even now, I can still feel my head spinning (figuratively speaking). "The Book" tackles some very tough issues, mostly ones that we are forcibly indoctrinated into children at a very early age, especially those that live in the Western society. Watt's words tackled my own long-held beliefs, but I chose to read them with an open mind. In the beginning, he discusses the idea of "self" and "ego" (both were intellectually stimulating, especially the analogy of the ego behaving like an onion with many layers). I am somewhat familiar with this concept, but Watts' took it a step further by declaring that the self is actually an "It" and that the individual is not separate from the environment, but ultimately a part of it. Watts' successfully challenged the pillar beliefs of Christianity, and even though I am a Protestant raised, I can clearly see that his arguments did have some merits. I also enjoyed the fact that he implemented Eastern philosophical beliefs, as it educated me on some subject matters that I was entirely ignorant of, prior to reading this book.
Still, the idea that we are not truly individuals, and that I am "It" AND you are "It," AND that this entity of "It"- God or whatever power that connects all sources of life on earth (and even beyond) has this uncanny ability of residing in all living souls while playing an "endless game of hide-and-seek with oneself" is still a difficult topic to grasp. I suppose not intellectually speaking, but the belief in Watt's philosophical arguments is something that I found myself unable to stomach fully. I suppose this is the reason, Watts' ended his book with the following passage:
Now you know- even if it takes you some time do a double-take and get the full impact. It may not be easy to recover from the many generations through which the fathers have knocked down the children, like dominoes... On the contrary, you're IT. But perhaps the fathers were unwittingly trying to tell the children that IT plays IT cool. You don't come on (that is, on stage) like IT because you really are IT, and to come on like IT- to play at being God- is to play the Self as a role, which is just what it isn't. When IT plays, it plays at being everyone else.
As you can see, Watts' tends to speak in parables and analogies, but it works because of the difficulty of his complex ideas, much of which derived from Buddhism teachings. After all, how am I supposed to believe that God is not only in me, but that I AM God? As a matter of fact, he is in everyone of you? From the small grasshopper, to the farthest galaxy, there is a part of God's spirit or soul that resides in these things. It is difficult to comprehend, but I am slowly coming to terms with Watts' philosophy. As a man that holds a master's degree in Theology and a doctorate of divinity, he is a man well versed in Christianity thinking. I find it interesting that he goes against his own religion later on in life, and that he leans more towards the teaching of Zen Buddhism. Watts' is a highly knowledgeable man, and a wise one at that. I suppose I will take what I can from "The Book" and brood over it for a couple of days. It is not a light topic, and it is one that goes against Westernized teaching. I do agree, however, with the importance of living in the present moment and the common fear of death among people in North America. The idea of purgatory/heaven/hell does create a sense of unease for people, since they fear their sins will condemn them to a certain place for all eternity (i.e. Heaven or Hell). Alan is correct in stating that death is a certain "Taboo"- a topic that no one wants to speak about, and that we vainly contrive to use all modes of life/artificial technology to extend it to the last possible second. Does everyone fear death? No, not exactly, but I believe it is because of people's fears or beliefs which compels them to take on a certain view of departing from this world. I suppose this is the reason I enjoyed one of the final segments of Alan Watts' passages as he closes up his last argument about "It" and the idea of "It" reincarnating itself into a different selves (i.e. person or animal after death). This passage was written not so long after he passed away. I will leave this remarkable speech down below for you to ponder over, as I still do even after the final page.
"I presume, then, that with my own death I shall forget who I was, just as my conscious attention is unable to recall, if it ever knew, how to form the cells of the brain and the pattern of the veins. Conscious memory plays little part in our biological existence. Thus as my sensation of "I-ness" of being alive, once came into being without conscious memory or intent, so it will arise again and again, as the "central" Self- the It..."
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Clarimonde by Théophile Gautier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Clarimonde" is a fantastical tale that undoubtedly falls into the Gothic horror genre. Gautier's story is incredibly short, but it leaves a firm impression upon the reader's mind. The last lines are a harrowing reminder of the great tragedies of a wandering eye, especially when it lands upon a beautiful woman like Clarimonde. Gautier's final lines are the following:
Never gaze upon a woman, and walk abroad only with eyes ever fixed upon the ground; for however chaste and watchful one may be, the error of a single moment is enough to make one lose eternity.
This short story recounts the memories of a priest, Romuald, and his chance encounter with Clarimonde. Their eyes meet at the most inopportune time, right when he is about to make his sacred vows to chastity and to live out a religious life for all the rest of his days. He utters the holy vows mechanically, but already his heart is lost to the great beauties of this young woman. He chances to meet her yet again, a year later at Clarimonde's death bed where she is covered over in a white veil and adorned with flowers in her hair. Her beauty is so exquisite he can hardly believe that she is truly dead- the absence of her breath and the cold skin feel like a betrayal when he looks upon the gorgeous face of this woman that has left an everlasting place in his heart. In a moment of profound passion, Romuald digresses:
Ah, must I confess it? That exquisite perfection of bodily form, although purified and made sacred by the shadow of death, affected me more voluptuously than it should have done, and that repose so closely resembled slumber that one might well have mistaken it for such. I forgot that I had come there to perform a funeral ceremony; I fancied myself a young bridegroom entering the chamber of the bride...
In a state of despair he passes out over her bed, unable to chant the holy prayers to let her spirit depart from her body. Days later he chances to meet her yet again! Is it really Clarimonde that has come back from the dead? Or is this all a maddening form of fanatical illusions in the dead of night? In vain, he tries to forget the young woman's promise that she will return to him on the 'morrow, hoping it was just some sensuous dream, but in his soul Romuald knows that everything about Clarimonde is not as it appears to be...
I highly recommend this story for anyone that is a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." There is a similar theme prevalent between the two, where the characters cannot fathom how they are capable of such evil, and yet, be also morally good. There is a lot of inward conversations about morality and philosophical questions about the lives that people are able to lead. Romuald had wanted to be a priest, it was supposed to be his life's calling, but the second he laid his eyes on Clarimond it forces his heart to change. He could not love or worship God, or even sacrifice his life to chastity and loneliness once this beauteous woman caught his eye. The Gothic horror element of night creatures, evil spirits and vampires added a paranormal/supernatural element to this short novel. I recommend this read to all that have a fascination with this type of genre. Furthermore, I look forward to reading more of Gautier's work in the future.
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