Words

Life

Category: creativity

Bing Crosby remembered

by Andrea Elizabeth

Last night I watched PBS’ important Bing Crosby Rediscovered, and now I’m thinking repentance is less about going back and doing something that needs to be done (that’s inspiration), as it is about doing something because something in you needs to do it. Catholic Bing did both, as well as doing some things right the first time.

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Part way through “The First Love”

by Andrea Elizabeth

A Comedy in One Act by Scribe in Either/Or by Søren Kierkegaard. What a unique writer he is. Dostoevsky is the closest to him, in my opinion. He has freedom to not connect dots in the usual way which is to make everything come full circle with a tidy bow. But it’s not the modern alternative of meaningless chaos either. And it’s not contradiction for contradiction sake like abstract art can also be. It’s not conflict, but freedom. Freedom not to do the expected.

How funny that you can’t have “an occasion in general”. I wonder if reality is a synonym for his occasion. And the occasion can be thought to symbolize something like one’s one true love, but then later this can be denied. So did that make the first impression wrong? I think he is being apophatic. The lover may convince himself that he never loved, he may forget that he ever loved, he may indeed love the next so much more that the first no longer compares, but none of this denies the first love. But if it is denied and/or not committed to marriage, then it is set free, so then freedom becomes the first love. Free to love or not, and to remember and thus make it eternal.

Then the story about his review of The First Love follows the same pattern of loving the play because he was in love and then having the love acted on then not acted on and later denied and then remembered by constant exposure to the symbolic play and then not finishing the review and then only having it published against his will because he spilt ink on someone else’s writings and so owed it to him or else he would have been liable for someone else’s life’s work. So he was pretty much forced into consummating his writing at the pain of life or death. Perhaps his first love would have worked out if she had had no other alternative. Did Regina have too much support so that she didn’t need him enough? She wasn’t devastated enough by his withdrawal?

But she was suicidal. Why did this not matter enough? There is a theme mentioned a couple of times so far in this book about the inner pain of the heart needing to find its echo in one’s support system. Kierkegaard suffered from abiding melancholy. Maybe he had to recreate that in Regina, or maybe they already shared it. To be happily married would not have provided a suitable echo for his inner disposition. A failed engagement did. And his disposition was to find the echo in words and not in relationship.

Hearts and minds

by Andrea Elizabeth

Another thing I looked up between episodes of Elizabeth R was The Enlightenment. I think I wanted to know if this occurred during the Elizabethan era. It apparently slowly began 50 years after her death in 1603. Wikipedia shares Bertrand Russell’s belief that The Enlightenment is connected to the Protestant Reformation.

Russell argues that the enlightenment was ultimately born out of the Protestant reaction against the Catholic counter-reformation, when the philosophical views of the past two centuries crystallized into a coherent world view. He argues that many of the philosophical views, such as affinity for democracy against monarchy, originated among Protestants in the early 16th century to justify their desire to break away from the pope and the Catholic Church. Though many of these philosophical ideals were picked up by Catholics, Russell argues, by the 18th century the Enlightenment was the principal manifestation of the schism that began with Martin Luther.[6]
Chartier (1991) argues that the Enlightenment was only invented after the fact for a political goal. He claims the leaders of the French Revolution created an Enlightenment canon of basic text, by selecting certain authors and identifying them with The Enlightenment in order to legitimize their republican political agenda.[7]
Historian Jonathan Israel dismisses the post-modern interpretation of the Enlightenment and the attempts of modern historians to link social and economical reasons for the revolutionary aspect of the period. He instead focuses on the history of ideas in the period from 1650 to the end of the 18th century, and claims that it was the ideas themselves that caused the change that eventually led to the revolutions of the later half of the 18th century and the early 19th century.[8] Israel argues that until the 1650s Western civilization “was based on a largely shared core of faith, tradition and authority”.[9]
Up until this date most intellectual debates revolved around “confessional” – that is Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist), or Anglican issues”, and the main aim of these debates was to establish which bloc of faith ought to have the “monopoly of truth and a God-given title to authority”.[10] After this date everything thus previously rooted in tradition was questioned and often replaced by new concepts in the light of philosophical reason. After the second half of the 17th century and during the 18th century a “general process of rationalization and secularization set in which rapidly overthrew theology’s age-old hegemony in the world of study”, and thus confessional disputes were reduced to a secondary status in favor of the “escalating contest between faith and incredulity”.[10]

If The Enlightenment during the 18th C was the age of reason, and was replaced by Romanticism/Idealism in the 19th, then could it be that before that, people’s hearts and minds were more united, hence Elizabeth, Shakespeare and co.? Next time I read or watch one of his plays, I’ll look for that. Oh I remember now, the Shakespearean language in Elizabeth R is so beautiful, I wanted to know what influenced it. Intelligent hearts.

efficiency as the highest ideal

by Andrea Elizabeth

Still in chapter 1 of Atlas Shrugged (ibooks free sample), I am thinking of how the two sympathetic characters, Eddie Willers and Dagny Taggert, insist on efficiency. Everything depends on the trains running on time. I am usually an efficiency fan too. Having 6 kids and not very much energy has made me sort of good at it. But now I’m thinking prioritizing efficiency can foster impatience and frustration with others. When you are used to and expect 70mph uninterrupted interstate smoothness, next day free delivery, and 30 minute, tops, meal preparation, anything slower feels like someone is sabotaging your day. Since my husband and I spend a lot of time commuting, these things have indeed become necessary to us or we would not be able to spend as much time with our families and at Church. But I believe these modern conveniences are a necessary evil for the lack of the type life we have prioritized. It is not available locally. But to move closer to work or Church would be to give up our lovely rural setting, and the roots I have put down since my eldest (who is now our third born) was born 21 years ago.

But back to sabotaged days, what about 2 hour traffic jams, on the negative side, or more primitive, less efficient styles of travel and of acquiring food and shelter? While reading, I was wondering if Ayn Rand experienced what I have heard about conditions in Russia where things break and are left broken for long periods, and the fix is by Jerry-rigging. Should one get so upset at this? It goes against American ideals, but could it be an alternate good where people learn to do without what they think would bring them our expectation of happiness? Other cultures are labeled as lazy for not emphasizing efficient, high production. But Russian Churches are prettier, and their people seem tougher.

Just for laughs

by Andrea Elizabeth

I heard a comedian* On the radio say today that self deprecating humor is more endearing in comedy than confidence. This is largely true, and many use it, especially women comics, but it seems backwards and calculating to use it for that reason. Wanting to be popular and for people to like you is the opposite of self-deprecation. Steven Wright is self-deprecating, but he is so creative with it, that he comes off sounding unconventionally superior, yet in pain so you really don’t want to go where he goes in reality. The conventional self deprecators are trying to relate to the common man, not come off as if they were from another planet like the comic geniuses do.

*I’m not saying who because it would seem too critical of him as a person. Comedy of this sort can effectively make people laugh at themselves, and displays linguistic talent, and is often the fruit of hard work and powers of observation, so it’s not nothing.

Pages

by Andrea Elizabeth

I’ve watched the last two episodes of Masterpiece Contemporary on PBS: Page Eight, and A Song of Lunch, this one sans kids. They are impressive, apathetic statements about modern morality. Intelligent, poetic, but resigned to emptiness, which I guess is the new state of virtue. Nothing lasts. All life is a shell of beauty, then decay. Once the latter happens, at least you have a memory, but better shed that too. Sigh.

Still, there is something to witnessing things done well. Hopefully it inspires one to do well too.

Cliff Lee and David B

by Andrea Elizabeth

My curiosity about what David B. Hart is up to and my subsequent curiosity on whether Cliff Lee is going to stay with the Rangers (probably not) met each other in the former’s First Things article, “A Perfect Game”. He is a delight to read. However, I’m glad he identifies his views as Platonic, and not Orthodox in the piece. My intuition lines up more with his Buddhist and Biblical comparisons with baseball, which seem more incarnational than his elusive Platonist forms.

In his later philosophy, Heidegger liked to indulge in eccentric etymologies because he was certain that there are truths deeply hidden in language. It is one of the more beguilingly magical aspects of his thought and therefore—to my mind—one of the more convincing. Consider, for instance, the wonderful ambiguity one finds in the word invention when one considers its derivation. The Latin invenire means principally “to find,” “to encounter,” or (literally) “to come upon.” Only secondarily does it mean “to create” or “to originate.” Even in English, where the secondary sense has now entirely displaced the primary, the word retained this dual connotation right through the seventeenth century. This pleases me for two reasons. The first is that, as an instinctive Platonist, I naturally believe that every genuine act of human creativity is simultaneously an innovation and a discovery, a marriage of poetic craft and contemplative vision that captures traces of eternity’s radiance in fugitive splendors here below by translating our tacit knowledge of the eternal forms into finite objects of reflection, at once strange and strangely familiar. The second is that the word’s ambiguity helps me to formulate my intuitions regarding the ultimate importance of baseball.

There are things I recognize in the above as pertaining to being made in the image of God, but the pathos and melancholy he describes throughout is about the elusiveness. One can tell he identifies with the batter in his descriptions and how low the odds are that he’ll hit a home run when he comes to bat. While I was watching the playoffs this year, I was identifying with the pitcher. Here is my psychological evaluation of Mr. Hart.

He has a very complicated relationship with his father and thus with God. The pitcher to him is the powerful almighty who is trying to trip him up, but if he’s good enough, he can anticipate and use the pitcher’s power for his own ends. He can’t win his approval, but he can beat him. This possibility sustains him even when most efforts fail. These failures inspire him to constantly outdo himself. Hence DBH’s over achievement in reading and writing. I think his writing can be classified as pretty consistent home runs though. Face to face, maybe not so much, which is what he’s upset about with his dad.

The pitcher to me has to be constantly aware of everyone and what they are doing. Pitching is like serving dinner on time while making sure the laundry’s done and the pool filter behind my back isn’t getting clogged up with leaves. One miscalculation or negligence will ruin everything and it’s “Good-bye baseball” as my favorite announcer, Dick Risenhoover, RIP, used to say.

It’s a Small World

by Andrea Elizabeth

If Disney really wanted to point out that there’s “so much that we share that it’s time we’re aware . . . . . .” they shouldn’t have made the ride’s dolls representing all the countries so (refraining from more heartfelt adjectives) robotically … monotonous. There, now that I’ve vented, I can tell about our trip more positively.

We went to Disney World for my son’s World Cheerleading finals. The event was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports which is one of the parks in the complex. Therefore between his two performances (they finished fourth in the world! – in their division: large coed), my husband, two daughters and I were able to go to the other parks included in the Cheerleading packaged and discounted accomodations.

This morning I’m coming off of a four-day weekend of busy, high energy, enthusiasm-inducing events, which I either fully participated in or did tongue in cheek, so bear with my bouncing from subject to subject. I was enthusiastically engaged in my son’s team’s performance and whooped it up with the other Maverick parents. I was very motivated to see and do all the major venues in the four Disney Parks and pretty aggressive about making sure it all happened. The girls are worn out.

First, I am impressed with how Disney “spares no expense” to make sure that things look and act their best, including the crowds. They pay attention to the minutest details of scenery and movement, even in the waiting queues. I have never seen animatronics so lifelike, being used to Chuck E. Cheese types of stage productions. I’m still not sure what to think of it. There were several times when the characters seemed to look right at me and twinkle. Was I right to smile back? Walt Disney wanted people to feel like they were in the movies that he had created. Yet no matter how 3-D or realistic the characters were, you’re still just an observer being shuffled through in a boat or car. The later parks are more interactive with the Toy Story Ride at Hollywood Studios allowing you to compete with your seat mate in shooting 3-D images on the screen arcade style. Animal Kingdom had live performers at the two well-done shows we went to, Nemo with the performers holding fish puppets on a stick (hey, fish sticks) and The Lion King show where you’re encouraged to do motions, sing along, and cheer for your section’s character. But still your interaction is as a passive, though participating, audience member, not a player. At least you get better exercise walking all those miles and miles than you do playing games at home or watching movies. Crowd watching is interesting too.

I am a little torn between which I like better, beautifully naturalistic Animal Kingdom, or man-made achievement oriented Epcot Center. I’d have to say that in addition to the beautiful jungle created at Animal Kingdom, part of my attraction is for the gorgeous Asian temple ruins and detailed African village ambiance. Still these seem more “natural” than more “civilized” developments at Epcot.

The big golf-ball looking “Spaceship Earth” at Epcot Center animatronically detailed human progress from caveman times to the printing press to personal computers to space travel, and on the way back down they let you sort of plan what you think should be in mankind’s future. Epcot’s “World Showcase” reproduces many of the famous beautiful buildings around the world set like jewels in their own little city squares. I’m not sure what to think of all these marvels. According to the Hollywood Studios Walt Disney museum presentation, Disney had affection for the past, but also believed very strongly in progress. This is probably highlighted best in the “Carousel of Progress” which Disney originally created “as the prime feature of the General Electric Pavilion for the 1964 New York World’s Fair” (from Wikipedia). The first stage is a 1900 home with its primitive but very decorative ice box, wringer washing basin, and kerosene (or was it gas) lighting. Then there are the awkward attempts of electrifying Victorian homes, then modern homes with hidden electric wiring and plumbing. The mother’s plight is the one with which we are supposed to sympathize. How she had to spend two days breaking her back over the laundry, only having it ruin if it rained, etc. and how she didn’t have time for anything but the most arduous of tasks. Walt was born at the turn of the century and spent his childhood in poverty first at a failed farm in Missouri, then in Chicago where his father couldn’t make ends meet either. A young boy must be very conflicted by loving the rugged, strenuous outdoor life of a farm while watching his frailer mother wear herself out taking care of everyone. Dostoevsky also wrote sympathetically about the toll so much hard labor takes on women.

More primitive societies such as are found in Africa and Native America don’t seem to be as hard on women though. If you don’t have all that Victorian finery to keep perfect, then you don’t worry so much. Perhaps the problem is with civilized standards which seem to require slave labor to keep up. Which brings me to Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and then European sophistication showcased at Epcot. They all had slave labor to tote those barges and lift those bails. Human life was cheap to them and many died erecting those fine monuments. Now we have technological machines that do it for us. This way we don’t have to feel guilty about the blood and sweat of others, and still get to do massive things. We have stress and anxiety though. Perhaps this is because our bodies are meant to move, maybe just enough to grow or hunt for our own family’s or small community’s food?

But what about Disney’s dreaming? We have a great capacity to dream, plan, and build on a very large scale. Surely there is a proper way to do this too. I don’t know. I’m torn.

The girls and I had a lot of fun with the Carousel of Progress’s theme song, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”, and I still perk up when I sing it,

The creative power of words (3)

by Andrea Elizabeth

God created the universe through words. As was pointed out in the last post, He did not need to do this based on any existential lack on His part. I also talked about not using words to advance onesself or gain a better position. But if one is to use words, besides in praise, then one is probably engaging in creativity. Even if one is quoting someone else, one is bringing a certain reality to the context in which one finds onesself. This is why we have to be careful what we say.

Corrective words are based on fixing contextual unrightness, which fixing is a kind of creativity – one is helping bring about order out of chaos, provided one has correctly diagnosed chaos and correctly prescribed order.  There is also non-necessity based creativity. Childbirth comes to mind, as does art. Yet many have children and create artwork out of necessity. They want someone to always be with them and love them, or they want to work out their problems through a character or through manipulating a medium to express their own anxiety, unrightness or passions – catharsis. As we said in the last post, God does not create children or the cosmos for these reasons.

If Liturgical prayer is a creative act in the worshiper, on one hand it can be in the context of problem solving – it informs us and shows a contrast between holiness and sinfulness – our current problem. On the other hand it is inviting God’s kingdom to come into our lives – creating deified reality, which would be more beautiful, true, and good than fallen reality. When I say one must humbly accept where one is at, that does not preclude God placing someone somewhere else, or increasing His kingdom in them. In humbly yielding to God’s will, one places onesself in His hands and creatively says, ‘wherever thou placest me’ and stays put. The stability of monastics.

Another View of Allegory

by Andrea Elizabeth

This post by Sister Macrina on Andrew Louth’s chapter called The Return to Allegory provides another perspective on Allegory. Most of it is a criticism of historical criticism, but this passage points to how to read the Scriptures,

Christianity is not, properly speaking, a ‘religion of the Book’: it is a religion of the word (Parole) – but not uniquely nor principally of the word in written form. It is a religion of the Word (Verbe) – ‘not of a word, written and mute, but of a Word living and incarnate’ (to quote St. Bernard). The Word of God is here and now, amongst us, ‘which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled’: the Word ‘living and active’, unique and personal, uniting and crystallizing all the words which bear it witness. Christianity is not ‘the biblical religion’: it is the religion of Jesus Christ. [Exégèse Médiévale, II/1 (Paris, 1961), pp. 196-9.]

And in those words de Lubac echoes the cry of St. Ignatius of Antioch: ‘For me the archives are Jesus Christ, and the inviolable archives his cross and death and his resurrection and faith in Him.’ [Ep. Philad. VIII. 2.] The heart of Christianity is the mystery of Christ, and the Scriptures are important as they unfold to us that mystery, and not in and for themselves.

Andrew Louth, Discerning the Mystery. An Essay on the Nature of Theology, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983). 101-102.

Christ unites the words in us. That is a mystery indeed. Not that our minds are passive, we constantly pray for His will to be done as we attend to the Scriptures and other words and messages, even pictorial. I don’t see this as allegory in that characters in Scripture personify a particular passion or thing, they are more complicated than that. But meaning must be revealed to us as we read. Meaning is subjective in that it is personal and imparted with relationship. Yet it will not contradict what has been revealed to others, namely what the Church says is true. So if the Scriptures teach that “Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3, they point to a person who demonstrates meekness. But do we learn meekness by rationally studying Moses in the Bible? Perhaps, in that we believe our rational minds are commonly grace endowed. We can come to a certain understanding, but will this impart to us salvific meekness? No, we have to have a similar relationship with God as Moses had, which lead to his glowing face. So our faces wont glow if we rationally understand meekness, but if we develop the same relationship with God through desire, prayer and obedience. So I don’t see the Scriptures as Allegory in the same way as “My love is like a red, red rose.” Yes meekness is like Moses, and both point to something invisible, but there is more of a literal Incarnation of Presence – the love of God is actually in a rose. It is not just a utilitarian means of speaking about something else where it’s hypostasis of being a rose is irrelevant. The rose is love enough in itself. Light, color, beautiful scents and softness are gifts from God. But I can say, thank you God for roses and Moses (Singing in the Rain, anyone?) and meekness and beauty, please make me meek and beautiful unto your glory. Then there’s the lillies of the field. God gives them their beauty while they remain still – yes that ties in with the above quote. Christ arranges the words that we hear while we look with open faces at Him. So we come into communion with flowers when we acquire similar attributes to them, who are alive and prospering by His grace. Perhaps my distinctions are right and the above mentioned poem should be corrected by saying,

[By not resisting Me (Christ), she] is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
[And] like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonny [Church],
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only love!
And fare thee weel awhile!
For I [am with thee always even unto the end of the age]

Borrowed from Robert Burns

I do not know how roses that fade and sparrows that fall and seas and sand and rocks will fare in the new world and the final resurrection. I believe somehow they will be made new and that their decomposition does not mean annihilation.