Sunday, 13 April 2014

In the Body Experience on The Path to Rome by Hilaire Belloc.

Hilaire Belloc in football parlance was carrying a ‘bit of a leg’, the knee part, his pack was heavy but he was pressing on hoping to be in Switzerland by night. The quart of wine that he was carrying with him he was about to be disemburdened of, helas. Those events where you look and look at the broken glass and say ‘Oh No’, I carried you and I was saving you’. He tells us that he found better wine there. Starting at Toul he was averaging 30 statute miles a day, a modest amble for the man who held the student record for walking from Marble Arch (London) to Carfax (Oxford) in 11hours 30 minutes. Find The Path to Rome on Gutenberg:Path

I wished, as I had often wished in such opportunities of recollection and of silence, for a complete barrier that might isolate the mind. With that wish came in a puzzling thought, very proper to a pilgrimage, which was: 'What do men mean by the desire to be dissolved and to enjoy the spirit free and without attachments?' That many men have so desired there can be no doubt, and the best men, whose holiness one recognizes at once, tell us that the joys of the soul are incomparably higher than those of the living man. In India, moreover, there are great numbers of men who do the most fantastic things with the object of thus unprisoning the soul, and Milton talks of the same thing with evident conviction, and the Saints all praise it in chorus. But what is it? For my part I cannot understand so much as the meaning of the words, for every pleasure I know comes from an intimate union between my body and my very human mind, which last receives, confirms, revives, and can summon up again what my body has experienced. Of pleasures, however, in which my senses have had no part I know nothing, so I have determined to take them upon trust and see whether they could make the matter clearer in Rome.

But when it comes to the immortal mind, the good spirit in me that is so cunning at forms and colours and the reasons of things, that is a very different story. That, I do indeed desire to have to myself at whiles, and the waning light of a day or the curtains of autumn closing in the year are often to me like a door shutting after one, as one comes in home. For I find that with less and less impression from without the mind seems to take on a power of creation, and by some mystery it can project songs and landscapes and faces much more desirable than the music or the shapes one really hears and sees. So also memory can create. But it is not the soul that does this, for the songs, the landscapes, and the faces are of a kind that have come in by the senses, nor have I ever understood what could be higher than these pleasures, nor indeed how in anything formless and immaterial there could be pleasure at all. Yet the wisest people assure us that our souls are as superior to our minds as are our minds to our inert and merely material bodies. I cannot understand it at all.

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