Impressions

The posts named ‘Impressions’ are collections of texts from various books that I have read at different points of time. These selected texts have stayed in my memory as someone’s peculiar feature stays in our memories after meeting them for the first time like a smile or a scar or a look of melancholy or joy.

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From Al-Anbiya – Quran

And indeed, long before (the time of Moses) We vouchsafed unto Abraham his consciousness of what is right; and We were aware of (what moved) him when he said unto his father and his people, “What are these images to which you are so intensely devoted?” They answered: “We found our forefathers worshiping them.” Said he: “Indeed, you and your forefather have obviously gone astray!” They asked: “Hast thou come unto us (with this claim)  in all earnest – or art thou one of those jesters?” He answered: “Nay, but your (true) Sustainer is the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth – He who has brought them into being: and I am one of those who bear witness to this (truth) !” And  (he added to himself,)” By God, I shall most certainly bring about the downfall of your idols as soon as you have turned your backs and gone away!” And then he broke those (idols) to pieces, (all) save the biggest of them, so that they might (be able to) turn to it.(When they saw what had happened,) they said: “Who has done this to our gods? Verily, one of the worst wrong doers is he!” Said some (of them): “We heard a youth speak of these gods (with scorn): he is called Abraham.” (The others) said: “Then bring him before the people’s eyes, so that they might bear witness (against him)!” (And when he came,) they asked: “Hast thou done this to our gods, O Abraham?” He answered: “Nay, it was this one, the biggest of them, that did it: but ask them (yourselves) – provided they can speak!” And so they turned upon one another, saying, “Behold, it is you who are doing wrong.” But then they relapsed into their former way of thinking and said: “Thou knowest very well that these (idols) cannot speak!” Said (Abraham): “Do you then worship, instead of God, something that cannot benefit you in any way, nor harm you? Fie upon you and upon all that you worship instead of God! Will you not, then, use your reason?” They exclaimed: “Burn him, and (thereby) succour your gods, if you are going to do (anything)!” (But) We said: “O fire! Be thou cool and (a source of) inner peace for Abraham!”

 

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From The Road to Mecca, Muhammad Asad

But what might appear even more strange is that despite the great variety  of human types and costumes that fills them, there is nothing of an ‘exotic’ medley in the streets of Medina: the variety of appearances reveal itself only to the eye that is determined to analyze. It seems to me that all the people who live in this city, or even sojourn in it temporarily, very soon fall into what one might call a community of mood and thus also of behaviour and, almost, even of facial expression: for all of them have fallen under the spell of the Prophet, whose city it once was and whose guests they now are. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Even after thirteen centuries his spiritual presence is almost as alive here as it was then. It was only because of him that the scattered group of villages once called Yathrib became a city and has been loved by all Muslims down to this day as no city anywhere else in the world has ever been loved. It has not even a name of its own: for more than thirteen hundred years it has been called Madinat-un-Nabi, ‘the City of the Prophet’. For more than thirteen hundred years, so much love has converged here that all shapes and movements have acquired a kind of family resemblance, and all differences of appearance find tonal transition into a common harmony. This is the happiness one always feels here – this unifying harmony. Although life in Medina today has only a formal, distant relationship with what the Prophet aimed at; although the spiritual awareness of Islam has been cheapened here, as in many other parts of the Muslim world: an indescribable emotional link with its great spiritual past has remained alive. Never has any city been so loved for the sake of one single personality; never has any man, dead for over thirteen hundred years, been loved so personally, and by so many, as he who lies buried beneath the great green dome.

 

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From The Summing up, William Somerset Maugham

I suppose it is a natural prepossession of mankind to take people as though they were homogeneous. It is evidently less trouble to make up one’s mind about a man one way or the other and dismiss suspense with the phrase, he’s one of the best or he’s a dirty dog. It is disconcerting to find that the saviour of his country may be stingy or that the poet who has opened new horizons to our consciousness may be a snob. Our natural egoism leads us to judge people by their relations to ourselves. We want them to be certain things to us, and for us that is what they are; because the rest of them is no good to us, we ignore it. These reasons perhaps explain why there is so great a disinclination to accept the attempts to portray man with his incongruous and diverse qualities and why people turn away with dismay when candid biographers reveal truth about famous persons. It is distressing to think that the composer of the quintet in Meistersinger was dishonest in money matters and treacherous to those who had benefited him. But it may be that he could not have had great qualities if he had not also had great failings. I do not believe they are right who say that the defects of famous men should be ignored; I think it is better that we should know them. Then, though we are conscious of having faults as glaring as theirs, we can believe that that is no hindrance to our achieving also something of their virtues.

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From On Providence , Rousseau’s letter to Voltaire

As to my own part, I will confess to you ingenuously, that I think neither the pro nor contrary are demonstrable merely by the light of reason; and that if the Theist founds his sentiments only on probabilities, the Atheist, still less exact, appears to found his only on opposite possibilities. Add to this, that the objections which arise, both on one side and the other, are insoluble; because they relate to things, of which mankind have no true idea. I agree to all this, and yet I believe in God as firmly as in any other truth whatever; because to believe and not to believe, depend less than anything else on myself: a state of doubt is a state too violent for my soul, but when my reason is afloat, my faith cannot remain long in suspense, but determines without its direction. In short, a thousand motives draw me to the most consolatory side, and add the weight of hope to the equilibrium of reason. . . . . It is with as much difficulty I close this tedious letter as you will have to go through it. Forgive me, Sir, a zeal which, however it may be indiscreet, would not have displayed before you, if I had esteemed you less. God forbid I should offend him, whose talents I honour above those of all my contemporaries,  and whose writings speak the most forcibly to my heart; but the cause of Providence is at stake, on which all my expectations depend. After having so long deduced courage and consolations from your lessons, it is hard for you to deprive me of them now; to give me only a vague and uncertain hope, rather by way of a present palliative, than as a future indemnity. No. I have suffered too much in this life not to expect another. Not all the subtilties of metaphysics can make me doubt a moment of the immortality of the soul, and of a beneficent providence. I feel it, I believe it, I desire it, I hope it and will defend it to my last breath: and this, of all the disputes in which I have been engaged, is the only one in which my own interest will not be forgotten.

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From The Dead,  James Joyce

The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheet and lay down beside his wife. One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live. Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling. A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspaper were right; snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, father westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon, every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the  crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

 

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Read more Impressions.

 

 

 

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