Saturday, May 30, 2009

More thoughts on Rome #2

More treasures from Doerr:

He spends much of his year in Rome reading Pliny the Elder’s, Natural History:

Read in a certain way, the Natural History is preposterous, full of erroneous assumptions and cast-off mythology. Read another way, it is a window into Roman understanding two millennia ago. Read another way, it is a tribute to wonder itself.

Later he will write of his boys:

Diaper rashes creep up the boys’ chests and backs. Still, their enthusiasm for the world astounds. Everything—a role of tape, a telephone jack, each other’s hair—warrants investigation. Whoever says adults are better at paying attention than children is wrong: we’re too busy filtering out the world, focusing on some task or another, paying no attention. Our kids are the ones discovering new continents all day long. Sometimes, looking at them, I feel as if Henry and Owen live permanently in that resplendent, taut state of awareness that we adults only reach when our cars are sliding on ice through a red light, or our airplane is thudding through turbulence.

“Paying attention” – it comes up in the work of Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch, and in the advice of spiritual directors and counselors. Danny Gregory wrote a lovely little book about how paying attention to the world around him and drawing it helped him to make sense of the new reality of his life when his wife was left in a wheelchair after falling in the New York subway.

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