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Mr. Blue

Night had smothered the city, and the city gave up its protest in uncountable millions of bubbles and gasps of light.  Below was glittering Manhattan.  The east was black.  The opaque hilly horizon of the west was razor-edged against a last gleam of cold white light.  Destroyers rode the unbridged Hudson; ferries and small craft flecked her with light.  The East River lay her dark secretive self…a cool, lamp-spotted, many-bridged stream between the sprawling white conflagrations of Brooklyn and Manhattan.  It was terrifyingly beautiful up on the roof, four hundred feet above the gaudy streets, four hundred feet up in the cool dark silences, four hundred feet up nearer the stars….

Mr. Blue put his hands into his trouser pockets and leaned backward, his face toward the heavens, now filling with stars.

“I think,” he whispered half to himself, “my heart would break with all this immensity if I did not know that God Himself once stood beneath it, a young man, as small as I.”

Then, he turned to me slowly.

“Did it ever occur to you that it was Christ Who humanized infinitude, so to speak?  When God became man He made you and me and the rest of us pretty important people.  He not only redeemed us.  He saved us from the terrible burden of infinity.”images-1.jpg

Blue rather caught me off my guard.  I might have admitted in him a light turn for philosophy.  I did not expect any such high-sounding speculation as this.  But he was passionately serious.  He eyes were glowing in the dark.  He threw his hands up toward the stars:  “My hands, my feet, my poor little brain, my eyes, my ears, all matter more than the whole sweep of these constellations!” he burst out. “God Himself, the God to Whom this whole universe-specked display is as nothing, God Himself had hands like mine and feet like mine, and eyes, and brain, and ears!….”  He looked at me intently.  “Without Christ we would be little more than bacteria breeding on a pebble in space, or glints of ideas in a whirling void of abstractions.  Because of Him, I can stand here out under this cold immensity and know that my infinitesimal pulse-beats and acts and thoughts are of more importance than this whole show of a universe.”

–Myles Connolly, Mr. Blue, published in 1928

  1. Dave Carter
    C

    Oh my soul that is wondrous!   And it’s on Kindle!  Thank you, Peter!  

  2. Susan in Seattle

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful.  Thank you and Happy Easter.

  3. dogsbody

    Thank you, Peter.   That’s a wonderful passage.

    I can’t find it on Kindle, though.  Dave, any hint where you found it?

  4. WalkStar

    Happy Easter, Peter! Thank you for this marvelous excerpt … From a Castilleja alum. Wish you could come to the San Diego meetup!

  5. Nanda Panjandrum

    Thank you, Peter!  Happy Easter!

  6. Dave Carter
    C
    dogsbody: Thank you, Peter.   That’s a wonderful passage.

    I can’t find it on Kindle, though.  Dave, any hint where you found it? · 10 minutes ago

    Upon further review,…Kindle only has a Summary and Study Guide of the book.  I’m forlorn.  Sorry to get your/our hopes up.  Here’s the link to the relevant page.  Scroll about a third of the way down.

  7. Aaron Miller

    Thank you, Peter. That’s one to remember.

  8. raycon and lindacon

    Thank you from so many of us Ricochettians.  To be reminded that the Creator of all that immensity came among us, and made Himself one of us, is awe inspiring.

    Keep reminding us in ways like this.  We need it every day.

  9. St. Salieri

    Wonderful, a wonderful passage, thank you for sharing it, and Happy Easter!

  10. Shane McGuire

    What a sweet story.

  11. James Lileks
    C

    F. Scott Fitzgerald, 3 years later:

    “From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building and, just as it had been a tradition of mine to climb to the Plaza Roof to take leave of the beautiful city, extending as far as eyes could reach, so now I went to the roof of the last and most magnificent of towers. Then I understood — everything was explained: I had discovered the crowning error of the city, its Pandora’s box.

    “Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he had supposed but that it had limits — from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless. And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining edifice that he had reared in his imagination came crashing to the ground.”

  12. Ansonia

    Wow. I just ordered a used copy of “Mr Blue”. That passage is beautiful. Thanks. Happy Easter.

  13. dreamlarge

    Thank you Peter.  Now I want to share that passage with everyone I love. 

  14. shelby_forthright

    Thank you, Peter. Hope yours was a happy Easter.

  15. Starve the Beast

    Absolutely lovely. Thank you.

    And to my fellow Richoteers, if this passage moves you, please pull your bibles off the shelf and read John 3:16. No, don’t Google it just because you’re sitting in front of your computer. Go and actually read it. How long has it been….?

    Too long…?

  16. Valiuth

    Hm…there is too much congratulation here for my taste. Where is the sharp and piercing sting of dissent?  

    “Without Christ we would be little more than bacteria breeding on a pebble in space, or glints of ideas in a whirling void of abstractions.  Because of Him, I can stand here out under this cold immensity and know that my infinitesimal pulse-beats and acts and thoughts are of more importance than this whole show of a universe.”

    –Myles Connolly, Mr. Blue, published in 1928 · · 12 hours ago

    Is the sense of our own self worth so little that in the absence of God we would count ourselves so much less? I mean I find I place much value on those things near and dear to me (both people and objects) more than I do on whole galaxies. I don’t see my opinions changing in God’s absence. 

    It seems too often we judge the relative value of things by their size. We may be small compared to the universe and maybe even insignificant, in that our action can not possibly effect its operation, but then again its actions have little consequence on us also. 

  17. Grendel

    I don’t buy it.

    If burial practices are any indication, people were figuring out that  Man is the odd-fish in the awesomely vast cosmos 20,000 years ago.  We don’t need Jesus to tell us that, if the Incarnation means anything like that at all.

    Mr. Blue’s self-centered self-affirming reflection on the Incarnation misses the boat in at least two ways.  First, the problem for which the Incarnation is part of the solution is not that man is small and the universe is vast.  As David Berlinski remarked in a debate with Christopher Hitchens, “the fact that the Earth is a small part of the physical universe does not mean it is not the center of the universe”.  The problem (as put, e.g., in Genesis and restated in Revelation) is that both man and the whole universe are broken and need fixing; the Incarnation occurred so Jesus could redeem the whole world.

    Second, the sign we are “more than bacteria breeding on a pebble in space” is not that Jesus took on human nature but that the man Jesus died and rose from the dead, promising that we too can live forever.

  18. Richard Stewart

    Indeed, thank you, Mr. Robinson. I am compelled to say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Paul the Apostle said that first, in 1 Timothy 1.15, but it’s true of me as well. The reality that God came in person in order to conquer sin speaks volumes about his just character and about the significance of every person to him.

  19. Douglas

    I enjoyed the piece, but less than I perhaps would have because of my serious doubts about the Trinity doctrine. I know a Christology debate is not what Peter wanted, but for me, after reading the New Testament for myself, referring to Jesus as God Himself just doesn’t ring right. I am, however, firmly onboard with the tone of the piece. Without God… whatever He really is… we’re just a cosmic accident.

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