the pleasures of solitude
October 10, 2013, 11:21 am
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: , ,

We think solitude is discipline or punishment – go and sit in the corner! Author Freya Stark says it is pleasant and ordinary and that, because we have it mixed up, we bring trouble on ourselves. So, believe it is pleasant and go into yourself.

“Solitude, I reflected, is the one deep necessity of the human spirit to which adequate recognition is never given in our codes. It is looked upon as a discipline or penance, but hardly ever as the indispensable, pleasant ingredient it is to ordinary life, and from this want of recognition come half of our domestic troubles. The fear of an unbroken tête-à-tête for the rest of his life should, you would think, prevent any man from getting married.”

–Freya Stark, The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels (1934)

the instinct to love
January 22, 2012, 2:34 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , ,

Perhaps the best function of parenthood is to teach the young creature to love with safety, so that it may be able to venture unafraid when later emotion comes; the thwarting of the instinct to love is the root of all sorrow and not sex only but divinity itself is insulted when it is repressed. To disapprove, to condemn –the human soul shrivels under barren righteousness.

Freya Stark

The instinct to love is the quick of life and the flowering of it leads to fearless living. That’s the best case scenario. But the scene is strewn with the walking wounded, and flowering and fearlessness have gone the way of the dodo, it seems.

I spoke with a friend only this week about the very real and deleterious affects, thirty years and more on, of parental absenteeism, alcohol and isolation.  I don’t know why her psychic misery, which is easily traceable as she so vividly related to me, is somehow unreal and to be denied.  She described her misery and in the same breath stated that, once past the age of eighteen, one mustn’t blame. There’s a small insanity: bearing witness to the root – and saying it’s not real and that someone can’t be blamed.  Well, you only have yourself to blame these days; an almost desperate need to which she still clings.


A girl was selling books on her stoop and I picked up a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited for $2.  Maybe it will be something like Downton, which I have been devouring – I thought.  Not two weeks later I saw the full set of Brideshead DVDs at the library and checked them out and watched all 11 episodes in three nights.

On its face Brideshead is a story, like Downton, of the waning of the British aristocracy in the early 20th century.   That’s what the reviewers and the jacket covers tell us.  But the story is really more about adolescent love, family and religion.  At its heart, it is about the thwarting of love. Continue reading