Portal Of Wisdom (Inspiration Series Book 1)


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So seemed Fair of the flying fiend… Book II, ll. That passage stayed with me for years, and still has the power to thrill me. Ply stemming nightly toward the pole — in those words I could hear the creak of wood and rope, the never-ceasing dash of water against the bows, the moan of the wind in the rigging; I could see the dim phosphorescence in the creaming wake, the dark waves against the restless horizon, the constant stars in the velvet sky; and I saw the vigilant helmsman, the only man awake, guiding his sleeping shipmates and their precious freight across the wilderness of the night.

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To see these things and hear them most vividly, I found that I had to take the lines in my mouth and utter them aloud. A whisper will do; you don't have to bellow it, and annoy the neighbours; but air has to pass across your tongue and through your lips. Your body has to be involved. Book III, ll. The experience of reading poetry aloud when you don't fully understand it is a curious and complicated one.

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It's like suddenly discovering that you can play the organ. Rolling swells and peals of sound, powerful rhythms and rich harmonies are at your command; and as you utter them you begin to realise that the sound you're releasing from the words as you speak is part of the reason they're there. The sound is part of the meaning and that part only comes alive when you speak it. So at this stage it doesn't matter that you don't fully understand everything: you're already far closer to the poem than someone who sits there in silence looking up meanings and references and making assiduous notes.

By the way, someone who does that while listening to music through earphones will never understand it at all. This etching shows him playing the bass-viol, while his daughters sing from a song-sheet. We need to remind ourselves of this, especially if we have anything to do with education. I have come across teachers and student teachers whose job was to teach poetry, but who thought that poetry was only a fancy way of dressing up simple statements to make them look complicated, and that their task was to help their pupils translate the stuff into ordinary English.

It had the effect of turning the classroom into a torture chamber, in which everything that made the poem a living thing had been killed and butchered. No one had told such people that poetry is in fact enchantment; that it has the form it does because that very form casts a spell; and that when they thought they were bothered and bewildered, they were in fact being bewitched, and if they let themselves accept the enchantment and enjoy it, they would eventually understand much more about the poem.

But if they never learn this truth themselves, they can't possibly transmit it to anyone else. Instead, in an atmosphere of suspicion, resentment and hostility, many poems are interrogated until they confess, and what they confess is usually worthless, as the results of torture always are: broken little scraps of information, platitudes, banalities. Never mind! The work has been done according to the instructions, and the result of the interrogation is measured and recorded and tabulated in line with government targets; and this is the process we call education.

Once you do love something, the attempt to understand it becomes a pleasure rather than a chore, and what you find when you begin to explore Paradise Lost in that way is how rich it is in thought and argument.

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You could make a prose paraphrase of it that would still be a work of the most profound and commanding intellectual power. But the poetry, its incantatory quality, is what makes it the great work of art it is. I found, in that classroom so long ago, that it had the power to stir a physical response: my heart beat faster, the hair on my head stirred, my skin bristled. Ever since then, that has been my test for poetry, just as it was for A E Housman, who dared not think of a line of poetry while he was shaving, in case he cut himself.

The opening governs the way you tell everything that follows, not only in terms of the organisation of the events, but also in terms of the tone of voice that does the telling; and not least, it enlists the reader's sympathy in this cause rather than that. Get out! They're coming! And from then on, part of our awareness is always affected by that. This is a story about devils. It's not a story about God.

The fallen angels and their leader are our protagonists, and the unfallen angels, and God the Father and the Son, and Adam and Eve, are all supporting players. And we begin in medias res , in the middle of the action, with the first great battle lost, and the rebel angels just beginning to recover their senses after their vertiginous fall.

What an opening! And what scenery! Satan first looks around at:. The dismal situation waste and wild, A dungeon horrible, on all sides round As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames No light, but rather darkness visible Served only to discover sights of woe, Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can never dwell, hope never comes That comes to all; but torture without end Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed… Book I, ll.

C S Lewis remarks that for many readers it's not just the events of the story that matter: it's the world the story conjures up. The same thing is true for some writers of stories. They are drawn to a particular atmosphere, a particular kind of landscape; they want to wander about in it and relish its special tastes and sounds, even before they know what story they're going to tell.

Books I and II are full of these magnificent and terrifying landscapes, and when the tale reaches Paradise itself, in Book IV, the descriptions reach a peak of sensuous delight that we can almost taste. But landscapes and atmospheres aren't enough for a story; something has to happen. And it helps the tightness and propulsion of the story enormously if it's the protagonist himself who sets the action going, who takes the initiative. It also encourages our interest in the protagonist to develop into admiration. That is exactly what happens here, as the fallen angels, who are devils now, gather themselves after their great fall, and begin to plot their revenge.

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The interest here is in how Milton handles the narrative. How well does he tell the story? I think it could hardly be told any better. We can see and hear the plan taking shape, we can feel the surge of determination and energy it brings, and inevitably that makes us curious to know how they'll bring it off. There is a sort of curiosity that isn't short-circuited by our knowledge of how things did, in fact, turn out: Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal demonstrates that although we know full well that General de Gaulle was not assassinated, we are still eager to read about how he might have been.

And Milton is careful to remind us that it was Satan himself who first thought of this plan, and it is Satan who sets out across the wastes of Hell to find his way to the new world.


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The hero is firmly in charge. If the opening of a story is important, the closing of one part of it, a chapter, a canto, is important in a different way. The purpose here is to charge the forthcoming pause with tension and expectation. Popular storytellers have always had a firm grasp of this principle; it's exactly what Conan Doyle does, for example, at the end of first episode of The Hound of the Baskervilles , in the Strand Magazine for August Dr Mortimer has just been describing the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville and mentions the footprints nearby.

Storytelling principles hold true, whatever the subject, whatever the medium. Time the pause right, and the audience will be eager for what follows. The break after the end of the second book of Paradise Lost is powerfully charged with tension because it obeys that principle. After his journey to the gates of Hell, and his encounter with Sin and Death, Satan sees the distant vastness of Heaven:. And fast by hanging in a golden chain This pendent world, in bigness as a star Of smallest magnitude close by the moon.


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  7. And there Book II ends, and we pause with that image in our minds. This newly created world, suspended in its golden chain, so beautiful and fresh, knows nothing of what is coming towards it. But we know.

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    To cite Alfred Hitchcock again, who knew more about suspense than most other storytellers, you can depict four men sitting around a table calmly playing cards, and the audience will be on the edge of their seats with tension — as long as the audience knows what the card-players don't, namely that there is a bomb under the table about to go off. Milton knew that too. There are examples of his great storytelling power all the way through — far too many to mention here.

    But one we should look at is the very end of the poem. Adam and Eve have chosen to disobey the explicit command of God, and the consequences of this have been laid out for them not only by their own experience of guilt and shame, but also by the narrative of the future they've heard from the angel Michael. They must leave Eden: Paradise is now irrecoverably lost. This is a part of the story that has often been illustrated, and in a picture the scene is indeed intensely dramatic, with the man and woman in tears and the angel with the fiery sword expelling them — just as it is in Burghers's engraving.

    William Strang also depicted the famous scene in this 19th-century etching. The angel raises his mighty sword to expel Adam and Eve from Paradise, Book Richard J. Davidson, Ph. This edited volume contains a wide range of papers by Buddhist scholars, contemplatives, philosophers, scientists, clinicians, and educators addressing various perspectives on mindfulness.

    It was originally published as a special issue of a journal, Contemporary Buddhism , Volume 12, That issue was so popular and sold out so quickly that it was decided to publish its contents as a book so that it would be much more widely available as a resource for anyone, scholar or practitioner alike, who might be interested in taking their personal understanding of mindfulness to a deeper level by encountering differing views. All of the contributions break exciting new ground: in our understanding of the various ways in which mindfulness has been understood within the Buddhist traditions themselves; in how those traditional views may be changing; in regard to the ways in which the cultivation of mindfulness can transform our relationship to suffering; in terms of technical questions concerning whether and how mindfulness might be directly and indirectly "measured;" and in terms of specific innovative applications in different contexts in education and leadership.

    This is not an instructional book for those who wish to bring mindfulness into their own lives.

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    Rather, it is for those who wish to broaden their horizons around the practice of mindfulness itself within different frameworks and disciplines. A final chapter by Jon Kabat-Zinn recounts some of the history of MBSR and how it came into being, its universality, the different dharma streams on which it is based, and some of the challenges associated with becoming an effective MBSR instructor. This book is meant to be a doorway into the cultivation of mindfulness for both beginners and for those who have a long-standing relationship the practice of mindfulness.

    It is accompanied by a CD of five meditations guided by Jon [mindfulness of eating; of breathing; of the body as a whole; of sounds, thoughts, and emotions; and as pure awareness] that, as part of a two-CD set, was the original ground for this book. The material of the introductory CD has been expanded and refined to become the book's text. Brief chapters invite the reader to drink in, explore, and experiment with embodying a range of essential dimensions of mindfulness, including formal meditation practices and the cultivation of mindfulness in everyday life.

    Since the cultivation of mindfulness in one's life always follows a non-linear trajectory, it only matters that one begins.

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