The Perfect Sentence

The Perfect Sentence

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Every writer, I dare say, is in search for the perfect sentence—words stringed with meaning and laced with beauty. It is a sentence that creates a certain mystical air by words both written and implied.


To a reader, such a sentence arrests the attention and halts, for a moment, the process of reading. To a writer, the same incites jealousy and admiration simultaneously. In either case, a pause is deserved.


Though elusive, the perfect sentence is captured by the most brilliant of writers. James Salter, whom I, regrettably, was unacquainted with before his recent passing, was one. His essay, The Paradise of the Library, is to me an extraordinary piece.


The love of books, the possession of them, can be thought of as an extension of one’s self or being, not separate from a love of life but rather as an extra dimension of it, and even of what comes after. “Paradise is a library,” as Borges said.


Salter’s sentences, which he was known for, like the one above, were…magical. That essay charmed me. What bibliophile could resist giddiness in reading “the promise of solitude and discovery” in books, or the “disinclination to part with a book after it was acquired,” or “reading has the power not only to demolish time and span the ages, but also the capacity to make one feel more human—human meaning at with humanity—and possibly less savage.”


Abraham J. Heschel is another one of my favorites. I could never forget the first time I came across this sentence—I had to stop reading, jaw dropped, literally.


To become aware of the ineffable is to part company with words. The essence, the tangent to the curve of human experience, lies beyond the limits of language. Man Is Not Alone, p. 16


The entire book Man Is Not Alone is filled with stunning and solemn sentences like the one above.


The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 46



I am, in fact, a happier person because these sentences exist in the world. I am perfectly pleased that part of life’s joy is to take pleasure in other people’s creation. At the same time, I, too, am in search for my own perfect sentence. And if we can all delight in each other’s words, then paradise must be a library.



More Amazing Grace

More Amazing Grace

The longer I am a Christian
The more I find out
How much of a sinner I am
How incapable I am
To be like Jesus
My understanding increases
My nature struggles to catch up
Still wretched, still poor
Thus I fall shorter, shorter of the mark

The longer I am a Christian
The more I desire to be real
In the heart, not just on paper
In the flesh, not just in debates
But it’s easier to be an intellectual Christian than a real one
And when I go home to my mirror
The light of God shines
In my reflection I see two faces

The longer one is a Christian
They say one sees his sins even more
Because Jesus is closer
But for me that is often questionable
And it is very distressing
To be seen more pious than I really am

The longer I am a Christian
The more desperate I become
Because I am helpless
And powerless to obey

But the longer I am a Christian
The more I know the all-sufficient grace
That covers me just the same
The more I know of me
The greater I need my Savior
And He saves me
Yes, even today!

And that is why
The longer I am a Christian
This grace is just more amazing
Than when I first believed

My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things; That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour. – John Newton, author of the hymn Amazing Grace.

Sunset In My Rearview Mirror

…is the view I get when I head home from campus. I have come to associate it with the peace of homecoming, the quietness of a day’s end, and the coming rest. It is especially precious on Fridays. On this particular Friday, this certain poem seems to match the mood of my day, my week.

Intimate Hymn

From word to word I roam, from dawn to dusk.
Dream in, dream out — I pass myself and towns,
A human satellite.

I wait, am hopeful, as one who waits at the rock
For the spring to well forth and ever well on.
I feel as bright as if I tented somewhere in the Milky Way.
To urge the world to feel I walk through lonesome solitudes.

All around me lightning explodes sparks from my glance
To reveal all light, unveil faces everywhere.
Godward, onward to the final weighing
overcoming heavy weight with thirst.
Constantly, the longings of all born call out, “Is anyone around?”
I know each one is HE, but in my heart there writhes a tear;
When of men and rocks and trees I hear;
All plead “Feel us”
All beg “See us”
God! Lend me your eyes!

I came to be, to sow the seed of sight in the world,
To unmask the God who disguised Himself as world–
And yes, I wait to be the first to announce “The Dawn.”

– from “Human, God’s Ineffable Name,” by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Happy Sabbath.

My Right Brain

“I’m a left-brained girl,” is a phrase I have said often, particularly in reference to poetry. You know, being an engineer and all, I just don’t get poetry. You feed me a poem, and I would have no idea what it’s talking about.

But I think there may be some changes to my right side of the brain recently, because not only poetry, I just have increased appreciation for the arts in general.

Take paintings, for example. When someone likes a painting, I used to ask, “What do you like about it?” The person would say, “I don’t know, I just do. It’s art.” I would then think, silently or out loud, “How can you like something and not know how to explain why?”

Now I know what it feels like to experience a painting without the need to explain or interpret it. I talked about my amazing experience at Musée d’Orsay in Paris in a previous blog post, and I totally resonate with Bonhoeffer’s quote that I put in there.

Then, another surprise was when I read the poem Bright Star by John Keats the other day. Why the surprise?

The first time I came across this poem some three or four years ago, I totally didn’t get what the poem meant. I could only digest the first line, and after that, I was completely lost. The poem and I were going at different wavelengths; it just didn’t register.

But for some reason, I was drawn to it again a few days ago, and… I thought it was the most beautiful and powerful poem I’ve ever read. Absolutely magnificent. Here’s the poem for you.

Bright Star

by John Keats


Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—

Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task

Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask

Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow’d upon my fail love’s ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

I don’t know what it is, but something’s happening to my right brain. I think.

Home in Prayer

Home in Prayer

There is a quiet place, carved in neither space nor time, where two worlds meet and two beings linger. Two diametrically opposed persons, one is love and the other selfish. Yet in this quiet place, there is perfect comfort and complete acceptance.

I seem to know of this quiet place as prayer. As if encircled by a wall of light, this personal meeting with a very special Being is where I feel the safest, more at home than any house, warmer than any embrace, more secure than any guard.

My heart may wander to seek many things, carried away in excitement over the pursuit of dreams. But at the end of the day, I return to this quiet place and I am at home.

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