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Thoughts On And For A Structured Existence

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Men

“Walking The Walk With Dante” On The Camino De Santiago In Spain

raymond-meeks-on-the-camino-de-santiago-nyt-magazine On the last page inside the back cover of the New York Times Magazine, in Part 6 of “The Voyages Issue“, photographer Raymond Meeks walked the 500-mile road in Northwest Spain that for 1200 years been one of the great spiritual quests.

Dante, in Canto XXV of the The Paradiso, stated:

“…in the narrow sense, none is called a pilgrim
save him who is journeying towards the sanctuary
of St. James, or is returning.”

The monks of Cluny built monasteries along the trail with the new “pilgrim funds” that flowed after the discovery of the tomb of St. James, apostle to Jesus Christ, was discovered in 814.

“The Poem of the Cid”, written in the mid 12th Century, was a true story of a Castilian hero El Cid during the Reconquista of Spain from the Moors.

It was a sight to see the lances
rise and fall that day;
The shivered shields and riven mail,
to see how thick they lay;
The pennons that went in snow-white
come out a gory red;
The horses running riderless,
the riders lying dead;
While Moors call on Mohammed,
and ‘St. James!’ the Christians cry,
And sixty score of Moors and more
in narrow compass lie.”

walking-the-walk-with-dante-on-the-camino-de-santiago

“To Read, Perchance To Write”: The Eloquent Life Of Editor And Avid Reader Robert Gottlieb

The New York Times “Books” section featured a review of the life and work of Robert Gottlieb, the accomplished editor and publisher for 60 years at Simon & Schuster, Knopf and The New Yorker. His memoir “Avid Reader” was published this month.

The message that resonates from this narrative of interaction with loyal best-selling authors and robert-gottlieb-new-yorkerwriters, is the inestimable value of focused reading and attention to detail in the world of literature.

Gottlieb thrived in the realm of eloquence, finding a “cognitive music” in the structuring of sentences, paragraphs and edited manuscripts.

In the book, he discusses editing Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22“:

“I wasn’t experienced enough back then to realize how
rare his total lack of defensiveness was, particularly
since there was never a doubt in his mind of how
extraordinary his book was, and that we were making
literary history. Even when at the last minute, shortly
before we went to press, I told him I had always disliked
an entire phantasmagorical chapter—for me, it was a
bravura piece of writing that broke the book’s tone—and
wanted to drop it, he agreed without a moment’s hesitation.”

robert-gottlieb-editor

Hemingway And Montaigne: Do Actions Or Thought Maketh A Man?

   It can be very useful to contrast human character types, such as in Ivan Turgenev’s “Hamlet and Don Quixote” essay (1860). The lives of Ernest Hemingway and Michel de Montaigne highlight the dual nature of what it is to be a man.

To Hemingway, it is “…much better to die in all the happy period of undisillusioned youth, to go out in a blaze of light, than to have your body worn out and old and illusions shattered…”. His writing venerated the “…macho façade of boxing, bullfighting, big-game hunting and deep-sea fishing…”, primarily outdoor activities requiring courage and “grace under pressure“. One had to stare danger in the face to feel alive.

As for Montaigne: There is no exercise that is either feeble or more strenuous…than that of conversing with one’s own thoughts. The greatest men make it their vocation, “those for whom to live is to think. He sought the contemplative life, inside his tower and surrounded by books, valuing contentment in “…a private sphere in which individuals can attempt to realize that happiness without having to contend with the interference of society..”.

Hemingway lived life on the outer edge, while Montaigne preferred the calm of the center.

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