June, 1837

I badly miss regularly writing on this blog – I started it as an outlet, to encourage myself to be intellectually creative, and now I find that I really miss having time to delve into a topic and logic out things for fun. So in the interest of re-connecting, despite something of a time crunch in my life lately, I’ve started digging up some history I have from various projects I did primary source research for. Bit by bit I will carve out more time to explore things in depth, but in the meantime I can amuse myself and others with primary sources and the occasional random science.

The below is an excerpt I found while developing curriculum materials several years back. I should probably save it for Valentine’s Day, but hey, the author didn’t wait for February to express these ideas. And surely we could all use a hopeless romantic sigh during this week of almost-Spring, non-stop rains.

June (no day given), 1837. Pg. 144 of James Bryce’s personal journal
(copied from Curator’s transcription)

“Two weeks ago last Thursday my wife left here on a visit to her parents in Ohio. the first time we have been parted for many days since I first called her my own. and though I was willing. and anxious. she should go from a principle of duty. and from love to her. and to them. still I miss her much. the time hangs so heavy on my hands. at work it is least irksome. for there is employment. and that always gives at least comparative peace. under any circumstances– but when idle I feel her absence most sensibly. then memory is busy and the longing desire to see her again. become almost a painful feeling.

Mysterious (tie??) that gives being and blessedness to married life. a few short years ago. we were nothing to each other. then gradually more and more interested in. and knit to each other by trusting love. until now after more than a year of the most intimate acquaintance with each others characters. I can realize the force of the truth of the Divine ordinance that twain shall become one flesh…other relations of life are near and dear.. but in this. the fountains of hope and happiness of life itself are intermingled. the very being. the views and feelings. the hopes and prospects. the whole character in short. are blended and merged in one–and so must be to enjoy happiness for there is no greater mistake. than to suppose the mere ceremonial of marriage sufficient. or even tolerable. without the union of the heart.”



I’ve always made a habit of carrying a notebook around with me for thoughts I wanted to capture. But I recently bought a notebook dedicated to quotes and ideas I wanted to remember from the books I’m reading. It seemed a bit luxurious – all that paper and ink – but I retain things, and process them, by writing. So for me, writing is an intrinsic part of learning and enjoying what I read.

Not every book I read gets into the notebook, but so far it has things from:

  • Brave New World
  • The End of Your Life Book Club
  • Nudge
  • Finny
  • … and His Lovely Wife
  • Affliction
  • No Exit
  • Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
  • The Flies (amazing play)
  • Dirty Hands
  • The Rose and the Beast (an utterly depressing book)
  • The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman
  • Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity

Here are some of my favorite of the favorites so far. This doesn’t reflect which books/plays were my favorite, though at times it does sum up why I liked a particular book:

“They’re about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now.”

“But God doesn’t change.”

“Men do, though.”

“What difference does that make?”

“All the difference in the world.”

– Brave New World

“…Books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books … is how you take part in the human conversation.” – quoted in The End of Your Life Book Club

“… Having the people you love tell you they love you and mean it … it never goes out of style. Since we’re made in God’s image, this must be from Him, so even God must need an ‘atta-boy,’ an out-loud, in-your-head, ‘Thank you, great job on that sunset, and the platypus was a brilliant fun idea.’ Maybe that’s why we’re supposed to pray the way we do, because without it God would be lonely.” – Affliction

“One always dies too soon – or too late. And yet one’s whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, reading for the summing up. You are – your life, and nothing else.” – No Exit

“The junk piles became so bad that at one point there were billboard ads urging people to DUMP BOYFRIENDS, NOT APPLIANCES. It was a strange campaign – stranger when half the lights on the billboard went out, leaving only the illuminated command DUMP BOYFRIENDS.” – Farm City

“I suddenly saw my neighborhood for what it was: an artifact, an abused landscape. But it could morph again.” – Farm City

“They knew that the passing is a reflection of the lasting, that tables in our humble homes may become sacred altars, that a single deed of an individual man may decide the fate of all mankind.” – “No Time for Neutrality” in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity

“… she felt his strong heart beating like the sound of all the stories she could ever hope to tell.” – “Glass” in The Rose and the Beast

“And I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but
has reference to the soul,
Because having look’d at the objects of the universe, I find
there is no one nor any particle of one but has reference
to the soul. – “Starting from Paumanok” by Walt Whitman