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Commonplace Book

Joseph Roth in “The Radetzky March” on aristocratic principles


“The morals of the time were, as we know, severe. But exceptions were made, often with alacrity. This was one of a handful of aristocratic principles, according to which ordinary citizens were second-class people, but the occasional middle-class officer was made personal equerry to the Emperor; according to which Jews were barred from claiming high honours, but the odd Jew was ennobled, and hobnobbed with archdukes; according to which women were expected to be first chaste and then faithful, but this or that particular woman was afforded a cavalry officer’s licence to love. (All these principles we like to call hypocritical today, because we are so much more unyielding, implacable and deadly earnest.)”

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Commonplace Book

Clea from Lawrence Durrell’s “Justine” on amorality



‘It is our disease’ [Clea] said ‘to want to contain everything within the frame of reference of a psychology or a philosophy.  After all Justine cannot be justified or excused.  She simply and magnificently is; we have to put up with her, like original sin.  But to call her a nymphomaniac or to try and Freudianise her, my dear, takes away all her mythical substance – the only thing she really is.  Like all amoral people she verges on the Goddess.  If our world were a world there would be temples to accommodate her where she would find the peace she was seeking.  Temples where one could outgrow the sort of inheritance she has: not these damn monasteries full of pimply little Catholic youths who have made a bicycle saddle of their sexual organs.’

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Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh on the absence of God

“Try and think about the absence of God, and do realise that before you can knock at the door – and remember that it is not only at the door of the Kingdom understood in the general way, but that Christ really says ‘I am the door’ – before you knock at the door, you must realise that you are outside.  If you spend your time imagining that in a mad way you are already in the kingdom of God, there is certainly no point in knocking at any door for it to be opened.  Obviously, you must look round trying to see where are the angels and the saints, and where the mansion is which belongs to you, and when you see nothing but darkness or walls, you can quite legitimately find it surprising that Paradise is so unattractive.  We must all realise that we are not yet in it, that we are still outsiders to the kingdom of God, and then ask ourselves ‘Where is the door and how does one knock at it?’”