Friday, May 30, 2008

Coldplay - Viva La Vida

This is a interesting song by a popular English Rock band. Here is someone singing to give you and idea of the song.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

Chorus: I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

Chorus: I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world



Hat tip American Papist. The comments on the American papist post had this interpretation of the song.

Ya, there seems to be a lot of suggestions for the songs meaning. Most people think its about the French Revolution - and some will go as far as to suggest the last week of Jesus.

While you could force the song to fit any of these themes, I believe ITS INTENT was to be written from the perspective of Tony Blaire. That would be most fitting with regards to Chris' vocal objection to Blair and the War in Iraq.

For instance:
Puppet on a string - with reference to how Blair would respond to Bush

my head on a plate, and other lines about the fall of a king - with reference to how people wanted him out of office.

lines about not telling the truth - Blaire was well known for being able to spin media

reference to Crusades - allegory to spreading freedom in the middle east

St. Peter still not calling his name - maybe something is still on his conscious even after his conversion.
Anonymous | 05.29.08 - 10:59 pm | #

Thursday, May 29, 2008


We look in vain for an emotionally satisfying answer to suffering because suffering is inherently a matter of being separated from the good. Complaining that there is not a “satisfying” answer to suffering is like complaining that water is wet.

Suffering is a consequence of Adam and Eve disobeying God. Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge is not the bookish type of knowledge. It's the experiential type of knowing. Peter Kreeft said the following in regards to the word knowing, “The same word is used in Genesis 4 for sexual intercourse: Adam "knew" Eve and the result was not a book but a baby.”

Suffering is a result of experientially knowing what evil is. It is the experiencing of what it means to be separated from the source of all good. There had to be some type of consequence that results from our free choices for there to be any meaning behind our actions. The consequence was not just an experience of suffering but also a separation from grace. Due to original sin, human nature is a little bit off and weakened.

The experience of suffering really could have be worse. God's justice demands the consequence of suffering but there is also the mercy that we are not totally deprived of God's goodness. We are still able to know goodness and we still have the ability to be reconciled to God and His grace.

Suffering does say a lot about God. The Christian God is courageous; reckless even from the human point of view. When humans create a computer simulation of the world, we make it safe. There are reset buttons and little to no consequences.

The Christian God is not playing games with the world. There are real consequences and the stakes are high. Free will gives us the ability to love but it is not without a cost. With the ability to choose to love there is also the power to reject God and his love. We are living God's story. In this story there are real dangers with real suffering. God has allowed suffering but he has conquered suffering also. Jesus took on all the sins of humanity during His passion and as a result, all the eternal debt that justice requires. He is a God that chose to test himself through taking on human weakness. He tested himself to the point that he descended into hell. He saw the world from the view of our sin and human weakness, even to the point of a despairing atheist. He was able to say on the cross, ""My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matt 27:46 Jesus had not given up trust or faith in himself but had taken on the weakest part of humanity. He was quoting Psalm 22 which does not end in despair, surrender, or failure. (Go Read Psalm 22 to find out the full scope of what Jesus was saying)

The Christian God is strong enough even to die and in so doing Jesus conquered suffering, sin, and death when he rose from the dead. We are part of God's story and in this story it does not always make sense to us. Being separated from God -due to original sin- we are blinded by our human weakness. We have to trust and follow Christ through His-story because, “God is his own interpreter, And he will make it plain.”

(Images from Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Still Life with Gilt Cup by Willem Claesz

The overarching message of the still life is that the physical world is seductive, yet you are not to be seduced. God’s creation teems with beauty and pleasures, yet these will pass away, and you should not be so consumed by the physical world that you starve the soul. You are called as a Christian to look beneath or beyond the surface. That is why so often the interior of still-life elements are quite literally exposed to sight: We see into the lemon, the bread, the oysters; we see through the clear glass and wine, and shining surfaces reflect an unseen world.

All this was well-understood in the 17th century. Some early still lifes were more labored in advertising their moral intentions than others; the artists added crucifixes and other religious items in the shadows around the alluring foreground objects, or painted slips of paper encumbered with phrases like " Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas " or "Jesus, the most beautiful flower of all."

Later on, the genre did in fact descend from the higher principles it began with into the showy decorativeness and technical display its critics had said it had always evinced. The moral lessons were subordinated to trompe l’oeil illusions and amusing coded pictures of the five senses, the seasons, and the like.

But the still life survived into the Modern era, outliving much of the "serious" art of its day, which today can strike us as too limited in its appeal or subjects, too tied to issues long past relevance. Because their symbolic language is so flexible and derived from familiar sources, still lifes remain as captivating, beautiful, and enigmatic as they were for the 17th-century Dutch. The timelessness of the still life should remind us of the passage of time and the approach of eternity. (Michael Schrauzer, This Rock

Friday, May 23, 2008

Method of Inderect Apologetics: Art Links

The best defense is a good offense. Indirect apologetics through art is one of the best ways to show a truth when someone is highly biased. The following articles have to do with art and truth. I think anyone interested in art would find these articles useful.

This blog entry talks about the “uncanny valley” and how things that are close, but not close enough, to looking human cause a repulsive reaction. It gives examples through an altered Madonna photo and the movie Polor Express. I thing this idea can be used affectively to represent evil and Satan in art.

This article asks the question, why is symmetry so satisfying in art. It touches on how modern architecture tries to buck this phonomena but without much success.

This article discusses the tension that can arise between truth and facts in art. I don't know if I agree with everything said on this one but it is interesting.

In Defense of Going to Church

Mark Thoma directs us to new research showing that for some, the main reason to go to a house of worship on Sunday morning is the fact that there's nothing else to do (Church and the Bored)
As a Catholic, I go to Mass to give thanks and offer sacrifice to God, to give Him his due. These things are a part of living an authentic life. It is a natural human need much like making art. Sure you can say that people make art due to boredom but there is a deeper reason.

There is a human need for down time. There is a need to realize that life is more than the rat race of producing and consuming widgets. The oldest and most successful civilizations throughout history offer thanks and sacrifice. Jews, Christians and Muslims do this and I would guess that the other great civilizations do to.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Old Testament God of Wrath and Justice

It's often said that the Old Testament, especially Genesis, teaches a God of justice, in stark contrast to Jesus, who teaches a God of forgiveness and love. It is a lie, of course. The God of the Old Testament does all that He does out of love; and the Father of Jesus needs to satisfy justice as well as love; that's why Jesus had to die. I used to think that only those who never read the Bible could fall for this fallacy. But experience has taught me otherwise. Why is it so common?

I think it comes partly from misunderstanding the literary style of Genesis. It is not meant to be psychology, either of God or humanity. The modern style of storytelling emphasizes psychological motives and scrutinizes inner consciousness. This is simply not the style of premodern writing. Augustine's Confessions is the only personal introspective autobiography in premodern literature.

Thus the “wrath of God” is not meant as a description of God's own private feelings, but of His public deeds, of how those deeds look to fallen, “wrathful” man. Psychologically, this is “projection”. When God gave Lady Julian of Norwich a “showing” of His wrath, she said, “I saw no wrath but on man's part.” (Peter Kreeft)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Progressive Frankensteins

Progress is a rallying cry for a lot of people. Who can be opposed to being progressive? The problem is that no one really defines what the target of the progress is. What are we progressing towards exactly? There can be no progress without knowing this because we could be progressing away from what we really want. For instance in genetic engineering; is the goal to cure diseases or is the goal to create a new humanity, a different species. All things that have the potential for good also have the potential for evil. These thing are so closely connected that the more potential for good that something has the more potential there is for evil. Messing with human DNA can have unintended consequences that we can't even imagine. We are so tempted by the power that anyone that calls for caution is told by our modern day Frankensteins, “Shut up, where making progress!” and the world follows; ignorant of where they are headed.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Emmanuel Jal: War Child

This is a very sad story that has a good ending.

My Name is Emmanuel Jal, and I was born in war torn Sudan.

I do not know when I was born, but I believe I took my first breath of oxygen sometime in the early 80s.

My country has been at war for over a decade. I am from southern Sudan where the people are tall and beautiful with smooth skin similar in colour and texture to that of roasted beans.

At the age of seven I, along with thousands of other children was taken from Sudan to Ethiopia, to learn to read and write. Ethiopia at that time was like a city run by children; there were over 30,000 of us in total. During my time there, I learned 8 languages, but as time passed we learned that we had in fact been bought there to be trained as child soldiers. I escaped from the growing army when people started to lose their vision and started fighting one another. Our common enemy being our Sudanese people from the north. Unfortunately I did not reach home because a number of serious events occurred as we embarked on the long journey home. I ended up in a town called Waat. It was here that I met aid worker Emma McCune. She rescued me, by disarming me and smuggling me into Kenya. Whilst in Kenya Emma put me into school and adopted me. Unfortunately a year after I was rescued Emma was killed in a fatal car accident. After this tragedy things became increasingly difficult for me.

I turned to music as a method of therapy and started singing in church. I discovered I had a talent for music at the age of 20.

I released a song in Kenya called "All we need" which became extremely successful. My second release "Gua" reached number one in Kenya, and bought me international acclaim, winning me an American Gospel Award. I then in 2005 released an album called "Ceasefire". This to was a successful project and enabled me to travel, performing in a variety of cities all over the USA and Europe. I also had the privilage of being asked to be the headlining act performing at the Eden project in Cornwall for Live 8 2005, and my track "BAAI" is featured on the soundtrack of "Blood Diamond."

I am currently working on my forthcoming album "War Child" due for release in 2008
(Emmanuel Jal)

Here is one of his songs that expresses his current temptations that he now faces.

If you would like to listen to an NPR interview with Emmanuel Jal you can go here.

In Defense of Dignity

A central concept used by Catholics in understanding bioethics is dignity. Here is some arguments against this and a response by Fr. James Martin.

Second, dignity is fungible. The Council [The President's Council on Bioethics] and [the] Vatican treat dignity as a sacred value, never to be compromised. In fact, every one of us voluntarily and repeatedly relinquishes dignity for other goods in life. Getting out of a small car is undignified. Having sex is undignified. Doffing your belt and spread- eagling to allow a security guard to slide a wand up your crotch is undignified. Most pointedly, modern medicine is a gantlet of indignities. Most readers of this article have undergone a pelvic or rectal examination, and many have had the pleasure of a colonoscopy as well. We repeatedly vote with our feet (and other body parts) that dignity is a trivial value, well worth trading off for life, health, and safety (Steven Pinker)

But voluntary relinquishments of dignity are not the point. Involuntary ones are. The fetus does not voluntarily choose to relinquish life. The worker in the developing world is not voluntarily denied a living wage. The child living in a slum does not voluntarily choose hunger. The handicapped person does not voluntarily choose to be discriminated against. The nursing-home patient does not voluntarily choose to be treated inhumanely. The torture victim does not voluntarily choose physical agony. The victim of genocide does not voluntarily choose death.

This is quite different from getting out of a small car. In Catholic social teaching, human dignity has little to do with occasionally looking "undignified" or "silly." It is about the inviolable value and worth of every human being, who is created by God. But this foundational concept in human rights is not something that appeals simply to Catholics, or Christians, or even simply to believers. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his recent speech to the U.N. General Assembly, "Human rights are increasingly being presented as the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations. At the same time, the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity." (James Martin, SJ)

Hat tip to Didymus from the Catholic Answers Form that pointed me to the article.

Its hard for me to imagine why anyone would have a problem with human dignity being a central concept in ethics.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Conversion of St. Paul by Francesco Mazzola

The Conversion of St. Paul, possibly commissioned by a Bolognese doctor (Parmigianino had fled to Bologna to escape the sack of Rome), is a bravura work whose violently asymmetrical composition, with its unique, tilted horizon, makes visible the inner upheaval Saul must have experienced upon hearing the voice of Christ whom he had been persecuting. Parmigianino shows his world being turned upside down.

Saul, having fallen from his horse, lies sprawled on the ground, his blinded eyes dazzled by the divine light. The horse, with its disproportionally small head, rears up above him. Saul’s outstretched limbs set up powerful zig-zagging diagonals for the eye to follow onto the horse’s body. The dynamic poses of the figures are awkward and untenable: The horse must either continue to rear up even higher or quickly drop its hooves back to the ground.

But the horse only appears to be rearing up: A comparison of the angle of its body with that of the horizon reveals that the two are actually parallel, so it must be the ground that is falling away beneath the horse’s feet. A close inspection at the background reveals further spatial distortions: The landscape seems to warp and melt below the angle of the horizon, leveling itself out just to the right of Saul’s jutting knee; the small figures and animals there stand aligned with the vertical side of the painting. The clouds in the sky too are strangely horizontal from our point of view. Nothing here is as it seems.

The biblical account, of course, makes no mention of a horse; the tradition of depicting the episode as an equestrian scene dates from the 12th century. But the image of the fallen rider has important symbolic meaning. A rider on a horse represents man in control of nature, or the spiritual man in control of his own fleshly nature. Thus, a man thrown by his horse is a man no longer in control of himself. Saul is becoming Paul, the slave of Christ, and his sword, a symbol of power and one of Paul’s pictorial attributes, lies useless on the ground. (Michael Schrauzer, This Rock)

Conversion: We have to change...not the Church

I really agree with what is being said at the first part of this song. We are called to be changed by Christ. I am still in the process of conversion to the Catholic Church.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Constantine and the Catholic Church

As Constantine rode victorious into the city, Maxentius’s head, raised on spear point, followed him – a trophy for the conqueror, a warning to rivals, a target for the spit of the Roman mob, and something more than all this. For Constantine gave no thanks to the Roman gods. If Maxentius was their champion, here was his head.

Triumphant Constantine, Augustus Maximus of the empire, was about to inaugurate a revolution in the history of the world. Shortly after his victory, Constantine and his fellow Augustus, Licinius, met in Milan to discuss imperial problems. Constantine’s priority was a guarantee of religious freedom, which became known as the Edict of Milan. It is the first legal affirmation of religious liberty, issued more than 1,400 years before a similar idea would be promulgated in America. But what is equally interesting about the Edict of Milan is that it mentions only one specific religion – Christianity – and it is mentioned repeatedly…..

The Edict of Milan, issued by two professing pagans, was the first royal proclamation in a series that would establish Catholic Christianity as the religion of empire, an empire of which it remains the living embodiment, from a beginning that stretches before all time. (H.W. Crocker III)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

St. Luke by El Greco

A beautifully simple depiction of this harmonious relationship can be seen in a painting of St. Luke made by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopolous) between 1605 and 1610. Tradition says that Luke, besides being the author of the Gospel that bears his name, was an artist. Who better to appreciate the equality of words and images? Here he holds a book in one hand, and a brush—or is it a pen?—in the other. The book is open to reveal a page of text, presumably his Gospel, which so vividly describes in words the Annunciation and Nativity of Christ; on the facing page, there is a painted representation of the Madonna and Child. "Word and image illuminate each other." Luke himself is portrayed against a dark backdrop, with slightly diverging eyes that lend him an air of reverie or abstraction; perhaps he is contemplating the word with one eye and the image with another. Overall, El Greco’s sensuous, expressive technique reminds us of the physical, sacramental quality of art(Michael Schrauzer, This Rock).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sister Wendy on Sacred Art

Sister Wendy says some insightful things in regards to sacred art.

Lame Art

Jimmy Akin on his blog asks this question, "Why Is Christian Art So Lame These Days?" I'm no art expert but I gave it a shot in the comments. Here is what I said...

To quote Chesterton, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. So we should not be so hard on lame music. People are just doing the best they can with what they got. I agree in it's lameness but I would say 90% of all art is lame. The problem is that contemporary styles have the emotional range of a tea spoon. Lust, anger, and despair is about the full range but it is good in that range. But if you try to fit Christ into this limited range it is a recipe for lameness. So what are the options for Christian? You can ether create a brand new genre which is very hard to do or go back to the old stuff and sound out of date.

I think the other problem is that our taste in music has to do with our identities. With the fragmentation of Christianity into all these little churches there is not a shared Christian identity making it harder to make a workable genre.


I guess what I’m saying is that a gangster Jesus, a pop Jesus, a thrash guitar Jesus, and a country Jesus is all going to be, at some level, inherently lame. No amount of effort or skill will change this inherent lameness. But given this, there is still some value in going there because that is where people are at.

Lameness has a lot to do with what someone can relate to and identify with. The problem is with the audience and our culture as much as the artist. It is going to require a new genre and a new culture around this genre to be able to make really great (un-lame) Christian art.


A genre has unspoken rules that come from the world view of its culture. If you break these rules the audience will not have ears to hear and will not identify with the music and it will sound lame. All secular genres have as an unspoken rule that God is a private matter that should be compartmentalized outside the music. This rule is so consistently applied that people are conditioned to hear the music in this way, even religious people. A Christian that is going to work within secular genre is handicapped because he/she has to try to stay within the genre rules while at the same time express the truth in an indirect way that avoids breaking the rules. You have to be really good to pull this off.

The other option is to break the rules of the secular genre. To explicitly break the rules of a genre is to create a new genre and this only works within a different culture/community.

For example Phatmass does Catholic hip hop. It is explicit about Christ in its lyrics. For me it is not lame. I can identify with it and they are not trying to be something they are not. I would say, even from a small pool of artists, that it is just as good as secular hip hop. But if you play this music to the secular audience of hip hop it will sound lame and they won’t identify with it. Phatmass has its own culture and it is interesting to me that it is drifting toward a lot of classical instruments and sounds in their tracts. Give it enough time to develop within its culture; it would end up sounding little like current hip hop. There are a lot of talented people who are a part of Phatmass. They would love to be able make music full time but there is not a large enough audience to support this. Christian culture is too fragmented. Secular culture is not and this is why they are producing better art in most cases.

Rightous Anger or Insecurity

Here is my comment from this statement from another blog;

Agitation and annoyance when others don’t share one’s beliefs is the surest sign, and not from above, of a hollowness to one’s convictions. (Paul from Original Faith)

I think what you are saying can be true in some situations but not all.

There can be a legitimate reason to be angry about being presented with what one sees as a lie. To honor Truth demands this at times. Take for example someone teaching creationism as science in a public school biology class. People will get made at this and rightfully so. To respect truth demands this. I try not to do comparative religion because of this. To put the deposit of faith that I received from Christ on the same level as other religions -to be compared- just makes a mockery of the faith. It's like comparing science with alchemy from my perspective. Comparative religion in a real way makes you comparatively religious no matter what revelation you hold to.

It can just get old as well. To be told every other day, “have you taken Jesus as your personal lord and savior” can be annoying. I don't blame someone who is constantly asked this in getting mad. Sometimes one just needs respite to live ones faith without always having to question ones own premises. It's like never being able to start a race because someone is always challenging that you left before the gun went off.

When I say comparative religion I mean placing two religions on the same level. Let me give an example. I own and have read some of the Koran and the Book of Mormon. But I don’t read them in the same way I read the Bible. The Bible is the sacred word of God. It is a love letter that God has given me. God speaks to me through the Bible. By contrast when I read the Koran and the Book of Mormon it is in the context of an un-sacred un-inspired human creation. To ether lower ones revelation to the context of human creation or lift these other text up as equal to ones revelation does a great injustice to Truth and ones own faith. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. Comparative religion tries to have both and in so doing fails.

I can affirm and respect the truth that is in other traditions. I respect Muslims prayer to the one true God. I respect Mormons focus on family. I am free to respect these truths because I am grounded in my own faith tradition. These truths have there source in Christ and to pay them respect is to pay Christ respect. But I think this line of reasoning goes only one direction. You have to be first be grounded. Let me give an example of how I see this. It's like learning to play classical music as a child which can prepare her to play jazz as an adult. But flipping this around doesn't really work.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Manga Bible - Extreme

From what I can see, this looks like some really cool manga style Bible art. Here is some pictures that I found on another blog.

This is David and Goliath. Goliath reminds me of Sauron in the movie Lord of the Rings.

This is the websight that I got the images

And here is the web sight that makes the Manga Bible

There is also this Catholic vocations manga

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mary's Love and Obedience

This picture of Mary holding the corpse of Jesus is very moving to me. The absence of detail and the deep red that permeates the picture seems to become a part of me. As if, in closing my eyes, the picture would still be present.

The love that Mary has for Jesus comes though. It is a picture of a mother's love. Mary didn't fight God's will by demanding that Jesus turn away from what he was called to do. She did not demand that Jesus submit to her though the commandment, honor thy father and mother. Instead she was obedient to God's will so that her son could be given for all humanity.

Mary's head is in line with Jesus' head in the picture, like she is ready to follow him even in death. Mary is cradling Jesus like she must have done when she presented the infant Jesus at the Temple. The following was said to her...

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)
This picture, I believe, depicts Mary's pierced soul. Through it -in my heart- thoughts are revealed. Thoughts of God's love and what has been done for me. It makes me sad in that I have fallen short and betrayed Christ. But it also gives me hope for the coming resurrection. Thanks Mary for your Son, prayers, and obedience.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

I'm currently reading a book on the Bible by Peter Kreeft. I'm only a couple of chapters into it but it is good. It goes book by book through the Bible and touches on the basics. I think it's important to always go back to the basics. Anyway, the quote I'm going to post, from the book, is talking about this following passage...

But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death. (Gen 2:17)

And from the book...

By the way, the word knowledge here means "experience". God wanted to keep us from the knowledge of good-and-evil that comes from experiencing and tasting it (thus the image of eating fruit), not from the knowledge that understands it. The same word is used in Genesis 4 for sexual intercourse: Adam "knew" Eve,and the result was not a book but a baby.(Peter Kreeft)
I always read the word knowledge in verse 17 as a mental understanding. I also got a chuckle out of how Kreeft explains it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Physical Graffiti: The Souls Material Manifestation

Here is a cool video,physical graffiti, which makes me think of the theology of the body. Our bodies are not machines operated by persons. The body is the material manifestation of our soul. So anyway, enjoy the video then read an interesting quote that follows.

It is something of a modern habit of thought (strange to say) to conceive of the soul—whether we believe in the soul or not—as a kind of magical essence or ethereal intelligence indwelling a body like a ghost in a machine. That is to say, we tend to imagine the relation between the soul and the body as an utter discontinuity somehow subsumed within a miraculous unity: a view capable of yielding such absurdities as the Cartesian postulate that the soul resides in the pituitary gland or the utterly superstitious speculation advanced by some religious ethicists that the soul may “enter” the fetus some time in the second trimester. But the “living soul” of whom scripture speaks, as John Paul makes clear in his treatment of the creation account in Genesis, is a single corporeal and spiritual whole, a person whom the breath of God has awakened from nothingness. The soul is life itself, of the flesh and of the mind; it is what Thomas Aquinas called the “form of the body”: a vital power that animates, pervades, and shapes each of us from the moment of conception, holding all our native energies in a living unity, gathering all the multiplicity of our experience into a single, continuous, developing identity. It encompasses every dimension of human existence, from animal instinct to abstract reason: sensation and intellect, passion and reflection, imagination and curiosity, sorrow and delight, natural aptitude and supernatural longing, flesh and spirit. John Paul is quite insistent that the body must be regarded not as the vessel or vehicle of the soul, but simply as its material manifestation, expression, and occasion. This means that even if one should trace the life of the body back to its most primordial principles, one would still never arrive at that point where the properly human vanishes and leaves a “mere” physical organism or aggregation of inchoate tissues or ferment of spontaneous chemical reactions behind. All of man’s bodily life is also the life of the soul, possessed of a supernatural dignity and a vocation to union with God. (David B. Hart)

Nietzsche, Christianity, and Art

The following is a summary and commentary on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals...

The coda for essay three is straightforward: The human will needs a goal. Is this so difficult to understand, asks Nietzsche? We want to make something out of our lives; we want to add up to something. But do we really understand what it means to "make something of our lives," to achieve something "worthwhile," to choose something "meaningful," to create something "beautiful"? Do we realize how difficult it is to have an ambition or a goal that does not require us to sacrifice our individuality, our polymorphous instincts, our spontaneous freedom? Do we really know how hard it is to make something of ourselves without cutting into ourselves, carving and sculpting with disciplinary strategies of self-denial? Do we not see that wanting to be something — anything — involves obedience to an ideal? Modern fantasies about post-Christian ways of life make men and women into the most deformed of all possible creatures: ignorant slaves of slave morality.

Take, for example, Nietzsche's two digressions into art and philosophy. Both have served as modern alternatives to Christianity, and both promise their followers a purpose free from the degrading necessities of obedience. As Nietzsche shows, neither can deliver.

Art for art's sake, devotion to form, discipline of voice, clarity of vision, all defined and redefined in endless discussions of artistic integrity and purpose — this and more defines the artistic vocation. As Nietzsche observes, the atmosphere of urgency gives art its ascetic character. Our painting must render what is real. Our poetry must serve the muse. "The musician himself" must become "a kind of mouthpiece of the ‘in itself' of things, a telephone from beyond." The composer is a "ventriloquist of God." The listener is no less subservient. We must put ourselves entirely at the disposal of the music. "Not my will but thine" remains as the covert imperative.

Nietzsche finds Wagner emblematic. One can hardly accuse Wagnerian opera of cold formalism and constrained expressive range. Yet, according to Nietz­sche, Wagner's late embrace of Christianity was entirely in keeping with the logic of all art, which is characterized by a will to power expressing itself as self-denial. We can build new temples to art (museums, concert halls); found new monasteries of art (conservatories, artist colonies, studios); fund new programs (writers' workshops, endowments for the arts, musical competitions); we can even refashion the funding of art, education, and practice to serve moral and political ideals (urban art projects, AIDS tapestries, agitprop theater), but we cannot escape from the self-denying trajectory of art. The artist serves art. Wagner only followed his vocation back to its source. (R.R. Reno)

It seems to me that sacrifice is at the core of being human.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Sister Annette Morgan

I just found out that a professor I had at Carrol College died a year ago. Here name was Sister Annette Morgan and I learned a lot from here. She had breast cancer when I was her student and she battled cancer for 11 years before she went to Christ. I just wanted to pay my respects to her. Here is a beautiful poem that she wrote...

To Christ, On Death
Open to thunder,
sun and lightening, grace
that spills out of all my
inward being.
I will not run from
stones and scrapes
and scars that
speak of wrestling
with an Incarnate God.
Not closed and drawn small
but open wide,
eyes seeing, ears hearing
arms reaching wide, cross-wide
to love the world.
Only then will I be shaped
enough for the final openness
to dark, for the reluctant offering up
of so loved self and world
to a final, total grasp of grace,
Becoming finally Me,
Given back, most beautiful in Thee.

Lord, let perpetual light shine upon her.

Modernism's Existential Crisis

This quote is from a book review...

For all its erudition, Modernism can never quite capture the profundity of the modernist moment, its intense disillusionment with the social world, and its concomitant yearning for its re-enchantment - or, paraphrasing Baudelaire, to find the ‘beauty’, ‘the eternal’ and ‘the immutable’ in ‘the transient, the fleeting, the contingent’. Reducing the modernist sensibility to something that often seems no more than a psychological impulse – the lure of heresy – Gay misses the great historical, existential crisis that modernism expresses. (Tim Black)

I tried to find the original quote by Baudelaire but I was only able to find this small snippet...

Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immovable.