S.T. Georgiou on Lightness and Soul

Your book is a fine read. I like your casual-precise-witty-candid-introspective-wide ranging-ever percolating style. An excellent choice of writers, and all marvelously interconnected. Your nicely arranged informative chapters provoked me to do a quick Wiki-Scan on most of the writers. I just wish you had a photo of each author, but I understand this increases the cost of production.

Very much liked your first chapter. Your love of books is wonderfully palpable, tactile, and brings to light the wonder of the book. I like the phrase “built by books” (good for a T-Shirt!) & the “slow dreaming that accompanies the turning of the pages,” sadly absent in today’s e-book (the slow dreaming that accompanies the scrolling of the document…? And is there time enough to dream in a world wired to the internet?). I liked your father’s influence in the book, helping you to appreciate thoughts such as “Read as though all your ancestors were living again through you.” “Carry on your back the poetry you have listened to.” Regarding the Jewish connection to the mystique of the book, pages 23-25 are profound.

Your second chapter (on Alberto Manguel) is likewise stirring, inspiring. That books are leaves of blessing, rich pulps of inner illumination is evident throughout. Really dug pages 28-31, sacral is the book indeed, sacred the journey through the long library stacks, how much can be gleaned simply by stroking the bindings. Brings back such happy memories of hunting for books in grad school, physically finding them, cracking open the dusty covers, then later bearing the best of the horde to the check out stand and bringing the choice volumes home, pouring over them atop a bed illuminated by a single amber-toned lamplight, already dreaming before the dreams had begun. And again, the contrast between book & e-book/internet sources: “The Web promises eternity but delivers ephemera.” Nice quotes throughout: “The Web has the document but not the soul of the document…” “Reading and writing are affairs of the whole body…” “Generation after generation of librarians wander through the library in an attempt to find the Book…”

Chapter 3, on Lax, once again a powerful read. Good synopsis, analysis. You do see (even very familiar) things new after reading/listening to Lax. “Greatness Strikes Where It Pleases” a fine story in relation to the innocence & holiness of the dreamer-sage-poet who ever falls into grace as he waits on the God of the Heart… Lax’s poems are indeed “little boxes of spirit & magic,” and surely because “he fusses over each word, as though it were an icon.” And yes, there’s Lax, putting lone words and syllables on a page, just as he similarly placed himself in the distant poverty of Patmos, emptying himself, happily becoming poor because he is rich in God, rich in the sacred beauty of a sea-world spun out of the core of the Creator, listening-searching for the first sounds of the cosmos, the light-word that began life. And yes, Lax is indeed the “one indispensable commentator on Merton’s life & work, the one who sees a hidden wholeness & holiness.” Pages 53-55, so nice.

Chapter 4, on Berger & Weil, a great tapestry highlighting the fabric of their being. Awesome quotes, “Every being cries out silently to be read differently” (Weil) and “The number of lives that enter into anyone’s life is incalculable” (Berger). In a sort of infinitely deep way, both selections profoundly interrelate and imbue a mystic holiness.

In Chapter 5, on Rukeyeser, I like much her purposeful attempts to leave out words, making the untouched words shine out of the night sky of consciousness like stars. Page 82 real good summary analysis of her work. Mythic, transcendent.

Chapter 6, on Leonard Cohen, well, I discovered Cohen in GTU grad school (a Pakistani friend gave me a tape & I was totally seduced by the poetry-music of this sleight of hand artist). How many times did I hear his songs crossing the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge going to Berkeley then back to San Francisco? Songs that, as one critic said, draw the listener in, like a moth to flame. We know we will die listening to Cohen, yet the dying is sweet. Pleasurable melancholy in the least; and most profoundly, well, let me put it this way: blossoms open in fire. Yes, “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” so awesome. “It is in love that we are made; it is in love we disappear.”

In Chapter 7, on Harold Bloom, I like how he balances his “slouching toward Nazareth” with “If you are to grow in self-knowledge, become more introspective, discover the authentic treasures of insight and of compassion and of spiritual discernment and of a deep bond to other solitary individuals.” Thus Bloom turns toward (is subliminally-overtly drawn to) the incarnate Author of Life.

Chapter 8, on Sontag-Said, most of the info was all new to me, quite absorbing. I think a lot of writers can relate to not wanting to sleep much, lest they lose something in their creative output; yet perhaps the creative drive thrusts them out of their slumber in a perfectly natural manner. Lax would rise at 2-3-4AM and write “flashlight poetry” (or notebook writing), couldn’t help himself. But he was comfortable to go with the flow of things, wherever sleeping-waking would take him. On Said & the Intellectual, pages 121-123 illuminating.

Like how you chose Cohen’s song title “Closing Time” for the book’s conclusion. You sing of Berger through the pages, but that last line by Berger, “A likeness, once caught, carries the Mystery of Being,” brings to mind the first part of your book; it returns my thoughts, at least, to Alberto Manguel. And yet, in an even wider scope, these final words delicately interweave every chapter of your fine & rewarding book. Thank you for celebrating the mystery of the written (printed) word through writers emanating from a tradition wherein the word is so highly revered. The reader is left with a marvelous sense of wholeness and integrated holiness. Words can indeed brings things to life. After all, they created the universe. “Let there be Light!”

Steve T. Georgiou is a lecturer in Religion and the interdisciplinary Humanities at San Francisco City College, San Francisco State University and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California; author of _The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Spirit-Lessons with Robert Lax, Mystic Street: Meditations on a Spiritual Path, and The Isle of Monte Cristo: Finding the Inner Treasure, all published by Novalis.

More Lightness and Souls |

Search this Site