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Hic Sunt Dracones

"In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, and thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.

I cannot rightly say how I entered it. I was so full of sleep, at that point where I abandoned the true way. But when I reached the foot of a hill, where the valley, that had pierced my heart with fear, came to an end, I looked up and saw its shoulders brightened with the rays of that sun that leads men rightly on every road. Then the fear, that had settled in the lake of my heart, through the night that I had spent so miserably, became a little calmer. And as a man, who, with panting breath, has escaped from the deep sea to the shore, turns back towards the perilous waters and stares, so my mind, still fugitive, turned ba…

Batter My Heart

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new. I, like an usurp'd town to'another due, Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end; Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue. Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain, But am betroth'd unto your enemy; Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again, Take me to you, imprison me, for I, Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
John Donne

Gwyneth, Joanna, and Tolstoy: Pilgrimage to Magnolia and Goop

I often revisit the final scene of War and Peace. Tolstoy concludes his epic about the Napoleonic wars with a goofy scene about parenting.  The exquisite Natasha has put on a few pounds and is married to Pierre, literature's favorite bumbling dork with a huge inheritance (sorry Mr. Bingley, we love you too).  The novel's oscillation between the battlefield and the ballroom (war and peace - get it?) shows the similarities between the two worlds, especially the way glory and self-promotion are at the heart of each.  After the fighting concludes, Tolstoy seems to say that domestic happiness is the only happiness.  This point is made more concretely in (the less romantic but superior work of art) Anna Karenina. The novel begins, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  No matter how glorious our worldly activities, it all comes down to the home and family.

Today I consider Tolstoy's idea in the context of two visits I recently m…