Sunday’s Sermon: Samuel


Born 13 April 1906. Became one of the most influential writers of the 20th century; Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is a modern masterpiece.


Read Beckett’s Godot: A Bundle of Broken Mirrors” written  for the North American Beckett Festival, at the University of Victoria. Click on godot. Enjoy!!

7 thoughts on “Sunday’s Sermon: Samuel

  1. Is there some way to hear the taped readings that are indicated in the text of your paper? It’s a good paper but would be better if I could hear the poems.


  2. Robert Earleywine writes: On the quotes from Stevens and Beckett I’m reminded of the more simple minded Alan Watts who said that to free the mind of conceptual limitation was to hear the sound of one hand clapping. Watts, I think it was Watts, says somewhere else that language is a net that tries to hold reality–and of course fails … Maybe I’m missing, but now I feel ready to take on your paper.


    • Robert Earleywine: This is a quite a paper. Such deep thougts … I wonder if they make you feel lonely. There’s more here than I can take on at once, but it holds me in fascination.
      I have several naive Christian relatives whose posts on FB drive me up the wall. The other day I thought of posting, copying, the last two pages of Joyce’s “The Dead,” because it seems to me to be the closest we can get to, forgive me, the Holy Ghost as we can get to in language, but your quotes from Wordsworth make it clearer.
      A fair perusal of your moving paper is going to take me a while. Let me to get back to it via an email, which will take more room that FB tends to allow. And I need to let it spin out in my head.


  3. Robert Earleywine: Now that I’ve slept on it I’d like another shot at it.

    With Hamlet’s mirrors: If the actors show affectation, we see not the play but the actors acting–and this breaks the mirror? (I think of the old black and white Julius Caesar with Brando as Antony. Even Gielgud looks affected.)

    With Wordsworth: We see a give and take between us and all else, what Shelley calls a universal strength of things, and Emerson says, “I become a transparent eyeball.” This, that I believe, is a faith without a creed, and we find meaning in a random universe.

    What I think I get from what you’re saying about the postmodernists is that the connection has been cut off, the connection between us and Nature, so we’re aware of ourselves in an indifferent cosmos, and nothing means anything, so slashes on a page are equivalent to literature. (I’m reminded of Robert Persig’s efforts to define quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.)

    Beckett is aware of all of this. I find him a supreme ironist, don’t believe he believes most of what he’s saying on the surface, as when he casts his almost helpless old men in dazzling light. The despair of the old man is evident, but the brilliant light denies it. I love such sentences as, “The scene was the usual one, of grandeur and desolation,” and I always want to twist it: The scene was the usual one, of desolation and grandeur.

    There was a book in the 60’s by psychologist Rollo May–I think it was Love and Will–in which he claims that a piece of art exclaiming the negative is really a positive act because something has been made of the negative. I think of “Prufrock,” though God knows I don’t understand it. But what seems on the surface despair is overcome by the sheer beauty of the language, the images, the mood. In “Preludes,” Eliot says, ”

    I am moved by fancies that are curled
    Around these images, and cling;
    The notion of some infinitely gentle
    Infinitely suffering thing.

    Then he denies it in the last stanza,

    Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
    The worlds revolve like ancient women
    Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

    Too bad about this attitude, it seems to me. Beckett wouldn’t go there. Godot and Endgame are just entirely too funny. Back to Hamlet, “By indirections find directions out.” By putting the thing out there, if only the waiting, we can see through it because, as you say, we are the clowns’ betters, so we see through them and realize we don’t have to live like that, and that there is a connection between us and the nature of the cosmos. It may not be something we can see as meaning, but we know there’s something there besides us and including us, perhaps as in the Buddhist notion of “The universe is an extension of my arms and legs.” This said in all humility.

    Where have I missed?

    How was I?


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