Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"A Preacher ought to be good-looking..."

Recently I came across and am enjoying 'The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon' (c.994). It is a vast collection of personal notes, witty observations and commentaries on Imperial Japanese court life in the golden Heian period of Japan. Written in the vernacular by Sei Shonagon, a Court lady of the time, the writing is vivid, poetic in turns, wry and sharp in others, witty at times and beautiful always.

It seems that it was en vogue for Court ladies keep miscellanies such as the 'Pillow Book' although this is the only one to have survived. The title is transliterated as 'Notes of the Pillow' and this was probably a generic term to describe a type of informal book of notes which men and women composed when they retired to their rooms in the evening and which they kept near their sleeping place, possibly even in the drawers of their wooden pillows, so that they might record stray impressions.

Not quite a diary, it is more a collection of these impressions, anecdotes, opinions, comments etc. As such, it occured to me that the style of the 'Pillow Book' was rather more akin to our modern-day weblog!

The following 'post' from Sei Shonagon's writings (translated by Ivan Morris) caught my eye and rather amused me. As you attend Mass this Sunday, you may want to keep her observation in mind!

"A preacher ought to be good looking. For, if we are properly to understand his worthy sentiments, we must keep our eyes on him while he speaks; should we look away, we may forget to listen. Accordingly an ugly preacher may well be the source of sin..."

I hope that she is not accurate in saying so though, for I would hate to be a source for sin, in the course of my preaching!!

Apart from Sei Shonagon's book, I am also reading 'The Tale of Genji', another Heian Japanese book by Murasaki Shikibu and reputedly the oldest existing novel in world literature. It is a fascinating journey into an ancient and lost world and I've found the writing to be poetic, touching and still very fresh.


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