Alexander Crompton

📚 23 - June

François Fénelon (1710). The Royal Way of the Cross.

A collection of excerpts from letters-of-advice/consolation a Roman Catholic theologian wrote later in his life.

Interestingly, there seems a lot in this book similar to contemporary "empirical" psychology—urging simplicity in the face of self-conscious anxiety, and generally advising to keep an even keel in all things. Be humble, love yourself as a part of extending universal charity. If you're in the habit of resentful thinking, it can be hard to break the habit, but gently try to guide yourself away if you catch yourself in that loop. "People pour themselves out too much" (pg. 51). Simplicity is an uprightness of soul that prevents self-consciousness. "Self-love would rather find fault with itself than abide silent and ignored" (pg. 83). Virtue is a practice; it takes repetition. Don't reflect uselessly or excessively on the past. Don't be ashamed of your weakness.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, given the title, but honestly—this text was too obsessed with suffering and the cross!! Though interestingly Fénelon urges us not to take up "false crosses"—if you feel hopeless, it's probably a cross of your own making, since crosses laid upon us bring grace and God's yoke is light. Do not mistake your will for God's!!

As a note about the practice of reading—with the mystical/theological/religious books, I've been making liberal use of underlining and chapter-summary-notes, and it's made revisiting them to reflect on their wisdom a lot easier.

Tove Jansson (1972). The Summer Book.

What a charming read! I liked this book very much. Vignettes of the self-contained world of a Finnish summer island (and beyond), where little Sophia and her grandmother explore, quarrel, nap, build, abide.

An introduction in the translation made hay with the fact that the book is engaged with death and grief—little Sophia's mother died recently (a fact which is more or less parenthetically introduced and then not mentioned again). I think this is a sentimental reading—of course, there's a wistfulness to stories of summers—joy, fun, seasons in the Sun, but those hills that we climbed were just seasons out of time, etc. But for me the book was about life: saying yes to life without sentimentality, and dealing with life's little disappointments stout-heartedly.

A funny moment is when Sophia, wild child, ends up in an unexpected conversation with neighbors she doesn't like and is rude. Her grandmother thinks something like, "Hmm, we've neglected to teach her social graces, like interacting with people you don't like. If we wait much longer, it will be too late." Interesting way to think about social behavior.

Tove Jansson (1948). Finn Family Moomintroll.

The further adventures of the Moomins in Moominland! A fun read. These books would make a great gift for children.