Posted in book review

Teresa of Avila – book review

Teresa of Avila: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Her epithet is deservedly illustrious, equal to her protean capacities for being multifarious: saint, mystic, and artist’s muse who was a curious kind of practical mystic with vision to match – that she would talk and hear God’s words from within and share them with the crowd in practice of charity, faith, and hope but never without heart. Protestant Elizabeth I of Great Britain might have envisioned the image of a Catholic nun of Spain a night before her Tilbury address that she had a woman’s body but had the bravery of a king. She is also the Doctor of the Church. She is Saint Teresa of Avila, the headstrong founder of the Carmelite Discalced and the woman of Lorenzo Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.


My first encounter with this remarkable woman was not religious but academic; while researching women’s monasticism in the high medieval age during my college. Teresa saw many women who were too poor to pay dowry and didn’t want conjugal life found convents as shelters from social conventions without certain religious convictions. Consequently, convents became gossipy sonority houses populated with lackluster and jealous nuns backstabbing one another. The sad atmosphere of the convents used as a mere social institution propelled Teresa to establish the Carmelite Discalced – the Convent of Saint Joseph – with physical labor and disciplined monastic rules not without tenderness attended to individual nuns from all walks of life. She abolished land ownership and rent collections of and by nuns and instituted self-sufficiency of working without shoe but sandals, hence the name “Discalced.” The reformation within the Church was seismic but was a necessary medicinal receipt for the ailing monastic community.

What is most brilliant about Teresa was to create the idea of “The Interior Castle,” a philosophy that the creator of the Universe dwells inside the castle of our souls. That God is from within us, rather than the beyond betokens the idea of personal God with whom we can communicate and thus become a literal mirror image of him for what’s best in ourselves. In fact, this revolutionary philosophy is also linked to Giordano Bruno’s “The Memory Palace,” from which the knowledge needs to be unlocked to bestow upon us the power and joy of the knowledge from within. Further, it is related to the idea of the Nine Muses, whose inspirations are invoked from our minds, not from the Olympus or oracles. All of the mentioned above shares one origin in the cognitive technique employed in Christian meditation developed from the essential reading and contemplating the Bible. But Teresa’s Interior Castle is a beautiful poetic license to enrich power that is never esoterically prideful but blissfully joyful. Where Bruno’s Memory Palace and the Artist’s Nine Muses are not all-inclusive, Teresa’s Interior Castle is universal with tender charity and faith even if it is not necessarily Christian God.

Teresa of Avila was one brave and adventurous woman who was a prototype of feminist in the sense that she voiced out her mind to the patriarchal church authority in danger of being suspicious of heresy or witchcraft even in Catholic Spain, known for the Spanish Inquisition. But she was not a vociferous activist for abolishing the Church or would-be founder of an offshoot of the Church. Teresa was religious of the supreme kind. However, she never abandoned her femininity latticed with passion for helping a young priest in his spiritual crisis in war with physical temptation, tenderness for attending those in need of her consolation, and beauty that was both beautiful externally and internally. She shows us that a strong woman doesn’t need to shout out invective expletives or clamor for the reward for her damages in the name of womanhood when it is really for her sworn revenge. Aside from sectarian religious affiliations, Teresa of Avila deserves her reputation as a star in the Milky Way of the Great.



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Posted in Miscellany

today’s world in my view – news from norway

Politics comes in gray gravitas, and politicians look like seasoned actors with Tears for Fears singing in a mighty chorus of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Simply saying, a majority of elected officials are charmless. But at least not Norway’s winning Labor Party leader Jonas Gahr Stoere about whom I read from a newspaper this morning because his background and perspectives feel like, as it were, a fresh cool mint breath out of stuffy, dull air.

In the last two decades, the world has turned conservative and jingoistic in many countries due to economic and social changes. The liberals seem to clamor for ideological agendas that do not gain universal support without a structural plan concerning livelihood from healthcare to job security and social security benefits. For example, in the States, it’s all about ideology politics, not constructive reformations that attempt to narrow a wide gap of class stratification. In addition, American liberals are not closer to European liberals any more than the fashionably favorable appellation for free-thinking politicians. That said, Stoere, despite his being mega-rich with old money, has a clear vision for the universal welfare of Norwegians without antagonizing people of different classes. Stoere saw the vast difference of living qualities between the rich and the poor in France during his study at Science Po in Paris in the 80s and vowed to prevent it from existing in Norway. He also reassures that only the top 20 percent of the high-income individuals will see their taxes increased. Contrary to the vehement subjective political agendas vilifying the other with scarlet letters as an enemy of people prevalent in the States and elsewhere in the world, Stoere includes all strata with an ideal vision to match his practical campaign to distribute wealth among people evenly.

Stoere is indeed undeniably rich himself with the wealth that will support at least three generations of his family. It is also true that not many politicians pinpoint another country’s quirks and make an example out of it for the betterment of their countries. Social reformation of narrowing a wide wealth gap has been a duty of politicians since the age of reason. Still, it never comes to realize without determination and intention to make it happen. As a cosmopolitan citizen of the world, I vote for Store for being refreshingly innovative and nobly aspirational.

Posted in book review, 미분류

Democratizing Delicacies

The delicacy of life that sprinkles flavors to our otherwise mundane routine of everyday life is not a prerogative of the rich. American Catholic saint Dorothy Day once gave a diamond ring donated by a wealthy woman to a poor demented old lady and riposted to a chiding onlooker thus: “Do you suppose that God created diamonds only for the rich?” In this light of democratizing luxuries, Chef Marie-Antoine Careme championed the world of haute cuisine available to all walks of life and shared his knowledge and experience of Haute culinary arts for the use and enjoyment of the public.

Born into a poverty-stricken peasant family in 1784, Crame was abandoned at ten by his father, who told him to make use of his cleverness for his future. Before long, Careme found an apprenticeship to a famous patisserie. That was the beginning of his long, epoch-making legacy of master patisserie. With an innate intelligence and passion for culinary art, he opened his patisserie within a couple of years. His ingenuity for culinary art and a happy chance led him to a top diplomat’s chef to cook diplomatic banquets, for which he became the most sought-after chef in Paris. The success catapulted him to opening a famous patisserie at 19 on the rue de la Paix, baking the wedding cake for Napoleon and Marie-Louise of Austria. If Napoleon conjures up an image of a scrumptiously layered piece of Napoleon, Careme is smiling in a constellation of artists in heaven. Careme’s popularity endowed him with a celebrity figure in post-revolution, industrial age Europe where the luminary la dolce vita aristocrats commandeered was beginning to shine on those on the low rungs of social ladders. Careme might have been an ambitious entrepreneur to mark his name all over Europe with the crowning glory of lucrative success, but no one else but he tried to share the taste with the crowd indiscriminating class distinctions in his time.

Careme’s success story has a familiar rags-to-riches repertoire with a combination of chance and apposite time surrounding his rise to success interacting with his talents. But why not the taste of the fame when his triumph of will over strife inspires achievable hopes and approachable aspirations? Careme personifies overcoming the mantra of existentialism that experience precedes essence. The fact that his own indigent family abandoned Careme didn’t dispirit his connatural intelligence nor did it plunge him into a Slough of Despondency. Or that didn’t really matter to Careme with his eyes, nose, and hands tuned for the world of delicacy that used to be exclusive for the rich and whose heart made it accessible to all. Indeed, the man was not a saint, nor do I intend to canonize him. But at least his actions and legacy deserve appreciation and admiration adorned with flowers and bonbons.

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‘Conan Doyle for the Defense’ by Margalit Fox- Book Review

Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer by Margalit Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction, imitating art, and vice versa. Picture this. A man on losing streaks decides his last bet on life in the New World. But, instead, he finds on arrival himself surrounded by the grim-faced henchmen of law with the gray eyes scanning the debonair foreigner’s appearance, measuring his moral value, judging his life at face value. The compass of Goddess Fortuna’s Wheel indicates the downfall of Oscar Slater in the direction of HM Prison Peterhead in Scotland. But, even though fortune’s malice has thrown Slater overboard, it certainly has not deprived him of a lifeboat in the person of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The case of Oscar Slater is often dubbed a sensational Edwardian murder mystery characterized by a scandalous wrongful conviction by the stupendousness of a miscarriage of justice in the history of any subject related from social justice to penal system, from police investigation procedures to forensic science. It follows from a death of a wealthy elderly woman brutally assaulted in her Glasgow home in 1908 when the Victorian prejudice against poor immigrants and foreigners, especially Jewish extraction, was PC all over on the isles. Slater being a secular German Jew with dark eyes and hair contrasted with the fairness of angelic British blonde, the blue-eyed ideal figure was the poster man of a criminal among the police and became their convenient suspect without due diligence and beyond a reasonable doubt. The Scottish police applied none of the evidentiary truth to the Slater case. On the contrary, they projected all of prejudice and complacency into the person of Slater, who was a sort of likable roguish streetwise swinger whose attractive suaveness and sleekness are reminded of Puck in a Midsummer Night’s Dream. But Arthur Conan Doyle s helped Slater set free after twenty years of hard labor at the prison for the crime he had not committed. Suppose a true writer sees the world’s corruption at its heart and stands furious with people instead of grandstanding with rants and slurs. In that case, Conan Doyle stands along with Voltaire, George Orwell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the pantheon of the great writers who lived in the crowd of life.

Although Conan Doyle himself could not entirely be free from the conventional preconception about lower-class foreign immigrants and the jews, his integrity and charity exceeded the flaws. They changed the fate of the wrongly convicted man, which should be highly esteemed for universal recognition of all times. In the particular alchemy of literature as connecting the reader to the universal empathy, Doyle’s support of Slater’s innocence seems particularly conspicuous in the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The British general whose Toyota Jeep took up the already limited space could have held more Afghan evacuees in an airplane. Also, the former British Royal Marine chose to take 200 dogs and cats from the shelter with him over his Afghan workers and their families. But that’s not the end. The former Afghan employees of the British Embassy in Kabul are still clinging onto a thin ring of hope that their British ambassador boss for whom they had worked even during the Covid-19 pandemic scare would come to rescue. Would there be another Arthur Conan Doyle who would act on his principle of morality in the spirit of humanity who regard the lives of the oppressed Afghans as equally valuable as their own or similar kinds- that is, white and Christians?

My reference of Doyle’s involvement in the Slater case to current Afghanistan and refugee situations may seem a bit of a stretch with over-flowing maudlin sentimentalism. But I think Doyle’s determination to help Slater cause following the case of George Edalji, another miscarriage of justice based on racial discrimination, stems from his good natural good-heartedness aided by the brilliant mind searching for truth. It is a triumph of good over evil in the semblance of law and order. Unfortunately, I have a hard time finding a famous writer or poet who actively puts thinking into action, just as Doyle, Voltaire, Dickens, and Sand, whose brilliance of the minds resembled the magnificence of the Sun benefitting the life on earth. Where are such great writers now?



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Posted in Miscellany

the world in my eyes

On one fine day, a tiny Bushman in Southern Africa comes upon an empty coke bottle thrown from the cockpit of an airplane to desert sand. Thinking it is a gift from the gods, the man sets out a journey to return it to them. Along the journey, the Bushman encounters a pastiche of humanity in a kaleidoscope of the events he comes upon till he reaches an edge of a high cliff mysteriously enveloped by the rings of clouds and throws the bottle into the deep, exclaiming, “The Gods Must Be Crazy!” As I see now, I am in the chorus with him on the top of the cliff overlooking the world.

Nevermore than now have I witnessed the epic moments of history that appear to be atavistic in terms of nature, motive, and consequence. A convenient way of relating the human tragedies to the scourge of gods and God will only put me on a par with Pangloss, the ever-positive pious philosopher who thinks all is God’s will for the best in the best of all possible worlds. The Taliban chanting the name of Allah in their will, Christians taking pride in being a new chosen people, and other zealots of any religion all have had recourse to their deities and used their belief systems as weapons of dominance over others. From the Coronavirus pandemic that forever changed our ways of life to the collapse of democratic Afghanistan by the Taliban and the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, I see a phantasmagorical display of people’s faces in sorrow and distress in my mind’s theater.

Following the news about the current situations of Afghanistan and its people links me to the Trojan War, which lasted about ten years with the Greek allied powers destroying Troy in the end. From the burning city of Troy comes Aeneas, a royal warrior who escapes the mayhem with his family, carrying his elderly father on his back, holding his little son’s hand besides. That image is always particularly heartfelt because of the Trojan hero’s humanness, unlike his more glamorous Greek victors. What happened in the past happens now and will always, such as the images of parents passing babies to soldiers across the sharp razor wire two young, Afghans falling from a plane climbing high in the sky, and the lifeless bodies of the young and the old, women and men strewn over the dusty ground outside the airport in the aftermath of suicide bombing.

Back in the States, Hurricane Ida ravaged Louisiana, leaving thousands of people stranded, homeless without power (for about a month from now), and sufficient supplies of sanitation, clothing, and food. They lost everything, and nothing is what they have now. I cannot erase the image of a woman from a news interview who said the hurricane took everything from her family, then breaking into tears. Then there is news about an elderly man viciously attacked by an alligator in a flood presumed dead while his wife took a little boat to get help outside their flooded isolated community. Would the man have been swept away by the rapid stream of the flood? Would the alligator that had attacked the man have returned to him for more? Or would the man knowing or believing that was his end have let himself dissipated into the murky waters?

Is this the same kind of significant feeling of epic moments I am experiencing as what George Orwell should have felt when witnessing the death of a Burmese condemned man on his way to the gallows, the carnage of WWII, and the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War? Orwell posited that one of the reasons he wrote was to record historical moments he was living with his own perspectives and feelings, not necessarily popular or compromising. My intention to write this essay is similar to Orwell’s but more with sheer egotism of getting the heartfelt sorrow off my chest and tears away from my eyes. But I am not so sure if that proves effective with the images still vivid in my mind.