Weekly(ish) Miscellany III

Weekly(ish) Miscellany III: November 18-December 29, 2013

An Explanation

I got married November 30. Hopefully that statement adequately accounts for the long absence. I did most of the writing below prior to the wedding, but nothing was really finished, so I abandoned myself to the busyness of the season rather than try to post anything.

Key Scriptures under contemplation

Matthew 2

“Out of Egypt I called my son.” I spent some time contemplating this line this morning. The source of this prophecy is Hosea 11:1, which, rather than being an explicitly messianic passage, references Israel’s exodus from captivity as it glorifies God for his “tutorship” of his chosen nation, which has nevertheless proved obstinate and wayward. Matthew is clearly revealing Jesus as true Israel, the righteous child of God who fulfills Hosea 11 for being unlike the wandering son Israel described in that passage. The next recorded episode is his baptism (as the Red Sea crossing, the nation’s baptism, follows the exodus).

C. S. Lewis in God in the Dock (an excerpt of which was Saturday’s Advent reading) describes the Christ story as one of “descent and resurrection,” the Resurrection being simply the turning point in the larger story, in which humanity and all creation is retrieved from death, in which the finished work of man is exalted from the slime to which he had sunk. The briefly-described Egypt saga places Christ on this path of descent, continuing from the cosmic descent of his incarnation. Yet he descends that God the Father may call him out of the land of exile and captivity—and call him “my son.” Now that he has taken on Israel, Christ, the lamb, can take Israel and all humanity to the cross and fulfill Hosea 11:1 as Israel never could.

Continue reading

Weekly Miscellany II: Nietzsche and Nazism, and More on Worship

Weekly Miscellany II: November 11-17, 2013

Key scriptures under contemplation

Exodus 14-15

These chapters detail the humiliation of Pharaoh at the Red (or Reed) Sea. Again, I am familiar enough with the literal-historical aspects of the story that I am mostly interested in a typological examination. Some aspects of the story have obvious parallels: Moses leads Israel through the waters, by faith, Hebrews 11 states, as though on dry land. Water and the sea often stand for death or Hades in Scriptures and in Hebrew culture. Even so, Christ has opened a way for his people through death. Yet I find interesting as well what comes immediately after the Red Sea hymn, even in the same chapter: the cleansing of the waters of Marah. The thirsty Israelites groaned when the spring they found spewed forth undrinkable bitter water; Moses took a branch from a tree and, throwing it into the spring, made the waters sweet. Moses then preaches a God, so recently shown to be a destroyer of the wicked, who is healer of the righteous.

There is an astonishing parallel to this whole sequence of events in 2 Kings 1-2. The first chapter details how divinely-inspired Elijah rebukes the idolatrous king of Samaria by calling fire down on his armies, which have been sent to fetch the prophet. Two of the evil monarch’s captains perish with their soldiers before the angel of YHWH tells Elijah to spare the third captain, who has bowed down to him in reverent fear, and to go to the king. Elijah goes and informs the king, who is wounded and sick, that he is soon to die in his bed, and he does. Shortly thereafter, in chapter 2, Elijah is taken into Heaven by chariots of fire; divine fire, which a chapter before consumed one hundred men, has become Elijah’s gateway to paradise.

But the parallels are far more explicit in the events that follow, which employ water-imagery heavily. Elijah has been carried into Heaven by the chariots of the Almighty; Elisha, using Elijah’s mantle, parts the waters of the Jordan in a manner reminiscent of the Red Sea miracle. I was startled Tuesday when I noticed for the first time that the next thing Elisha does is cleanse the cursed waters of Jericho. The pattern of events in Exodus is followed exactly, despite the different circumstances. While the “sons of the prophets” at Jericho send out men to search for the raptured Elijah, Elisha demonstrates his true prophetic power by rescinding an ancient curse on Jericho (see Joshua 6:26 and 1 Kings 16:34). He does not use a branch, but he fills a new jar with salt and casts the salt into the waters. This cleanses the waters forever and makes the land fertile.

Continue reading

Weekly Miscellany I

Introduction and disclaimer to the series: Weekly Miscellany

In the spirit of the title of this blog, I intend to use the space afforded me as a kind of sanctuary for unhurried meditations which I will post weekly. These meditations may be short or lengthy depending on the week. They will probably not be very organized, most of the time, and may vacillate between incoherence and simplicity. They will not be driven by argument or trying to prove a point; if anyone would wish to raise questions or disagreements in the comments, I will read and gladly respond, but probably not allow myself to be sucked into debate, because this is intended to embody a slow process of learning and fermenting ideas, and I do not have time or energy for too much debate too often. This is merely an externalization of internal thought processes, as well as an eclectic chronicle of weekly aesthetic and intellectual stimuli. I am hopeful that this will force me to express my thoughts more often by lifting from my conscience the compulsion for everything to be perfectly ordered and lucid, as well as make explicit and preserve to me some of the jumble of connections that form a part of transient life experience. Whether or not anyone chooses to read occasionally or frequently is extraneous, though there might be coincidental benefit through exposing the reader to ideas or associations not previously within his or her scope of experience.

Christ have mercy upon us.

Weekly Miscellany I,

November 4-10, 2013

Key scriptures under contemplation

Exodus 12-14

The basic Christological significance of the Passover lamb is so obvious and so well known that I will not attempt to elaborate on it here. However, I would like to briefly expand this typological scope to other aspects of the story, to the ransom pattern visible. When the Israelites leave, they have plundered the treasures of Egypt, as Christ plundered the treasures of death, and they bring Joseph’s bones, for Christ has redeemed the dead and the living. Moreover, the firstborn, specially redeemed from death by blood, are now consecrated to God; they have not been merely “set free,” but they are bound and made holy. The descent to death has resulted in a glorious arising; the dying of the seed has yielded rich harvest.

Hans Urs von Balthasar equates orthopraxy with “theo-drama,” in which we are each called to play a unique part, but also one that follows the basic typological structure of redemption: “Death turns into life, and this is something that also takes place in our hearts so that, drawn into the action, they can look toward that center in which all things are transformed” (16-17). There is a certain narrative structure of descent and arising that characterizes redemption; it is the arc between creation and deification, between the activity of God and the union of the divine and the created, mediated most fully in the Godman, Christ, and consequently by the God-imaged priesthood of man. The destructive forces unleashed by Adam on the world are themselves destroyed in death, in the death of baptism, in the daily dying to self that takes place in regenerate man, and finally in the physical death that brings renewal.

Continue reading

CW Capstone Essay: Light of Suns As Yet No Man Has Seen

This essay was meant to accompany my creative writing senior project, The House on Samarkand Hill. It took a different direction than it originally intended, and much more might have been said, but as it is the fruit of two very late nights, and there are several points that came out of it of which I am particularly proud, I count myself satisfied overall.

You may recognize that large portions of the text are lifted directly from honors essays and other papers of mine. If you see a reference that seems unnecessary, that’s probably because it is, and it was merely required that I cite the book somewhere in the essay.

 

Light of Suns As Yet No Man Has Seen: A Personal Aesthetic Philosophy and Justification

Abstract

This paper discusses my personal philosophy of aesthetics. I focus especially on the drive to creation, the actual creation, and its significance on various levels. As an artist, I believe my primary appointed duty is to respond to the creative urges within me and manifest my subjective experience with objective reality. In so doing, I fulfill the triple responsibility to glorify the God who engendered both, increase my understanding of my own full self, and offer what insights I may have into the world for those readers willing to accept them. I also examine in this paper my position as an writer in time and space and the influences that have formed, and continue to form, my artistic process. Taken altogether, this paper is an exploration of meaning in art—how it is provided, from what, and to whom.

Continue reading

M&C Art Theory Paper: Simmel

Just a short paper I wrote tonight. I had to point out three important/relevant things in a 1902 essay by Georg Simmel and briefly discuss them. I haven’t done the honors readings yet, but I understand we’ll be reading some very parallel texts.

Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life”

It would be hard indeed, I think, to pluck from Simmel’s article what is not directly or indirectly applicable to contemporary metropolitan culture. However, there were several items that particularly struck me.

First, the differentiation of sensory experience with rural and metropolis lifestyles. In the slow, rural life, one naturally takes the time to become very familiar with one’s surroundings. The “rhythm,” as Simmel says, is more even and consistent, and allows for a greater absorption of detail. But in the metropolis sensations are “the rapid crowding of changing images, the sharp discontinuity in the grasp of a single glance, and the unexpectedness of onrushing impressions.” There are always new faces and new sights that hit us so often that we become numbed to them and we cease to notice things. Consciousness is forced to withdraw into itself to avoid the madness of complete observation; this leads to a fatal indifference.

This relates to another important point, that of the impersonality of the structure of metropolis life paired with a “personal subjectivity.” Everything is perceived equally, “flat and gray,” and in this surface interaction, not only is sensory absorption limited, but so is human interaction. We cannot expose our souls to every cold mask we pass on the street—it is necessary. Those who ignore this rule initially are swiftly jaded. How do we protect ourselves? “A latent antipathy and the preparatory stage of practical antagonism….”

Third, the discussion on how the division of labor hurts the development and expression of individual personality inspired fresh thoughts. Simmel believes that, given such impersonality, the city-machine pours men into molds. In such strata as they are placed or into which they place themselves, they find their purpose. Specialization is efficient, and in some ways allows one to pursue one’s own destiny; but it also can reduce men to ciphers. Each man is at war with his competitors, and this constant struggle to be the best in a field means that the rest of a man’s personal development often goes neglected.

These three in particular seem to highlight what may be the key problem with the metropolis lifestyle: impersonality, which can and commonly does lead to indifference, loneliness, and even a loss of some level of humanity. In our own time we experience this kind of madness, when regularly we hear from the news of “quiet city people” trying the most desperate and insane things to escape the soul-tearing blasé. Already we have begun to look for gods and saviors among men, and it can only be a matter of time before we are willing to make greater concessions for such a hope.

Aesthetics Paper: “Art” versus “art”

One thing I thought I might post regularly are Honors essays. Aesthetics isn’t really Honors, but this essay is similar in some ways to an Honors essay. The assignment was to write two-three paragraphs on my perception of the difference between “art” and “Art” (note the capitalization), as well as what an aesthetics class covers. Dr. H has been particularly generous toward how I tend to go on and on, but I hope she notes this time that I did fit it all into three paragraphs. Here it is. It is rough, unorganized, and contains many half-baked thoughts, but Dr. H requested nothing more.

I cannot say the subject of the differences between the capitalized Art and the non-capitalized correspondent has ever been processed by me in any depth; however, I have some very vague impressions on the subject, and these I hope to clarify as I proceed. For instance, I tend to believe that an “art,” as we say in the phrase “the art of…,” we identify as a skill and more than a skill. We also identify it as an expression of the joy of creation, or ordering, or another of the God-given talents involving a modification of pre-existent matter to suit our desire and intention. This usually, as with the visual objects, entails the manipulation of physical objects and substances to create something that the fashioner finds appealing or representative of an idea or other physical bodies. On the other hand, the art of writing, to which I especially adhere, involves the ordering of words to effectively transmit ideas or record thought. The nonfiction writer, even the student working on an essay, is by necessity an artist (though not necessarily a proficient) if he is able to use words in an original way to convey meaning. The fiction writer is substantially the same in intent, though he explores not only the world around him but to a greater degree filters it through the fantastic landscape of his own mind. The separate art of ordering and adornment of the written word is traditionally assigned elsewhere, but in some cases the author works on this as well. Beyond these traditional arts there are of course crafts; a common expression of someone who loves and invests in his or her work to a special and unique creative degree is that he or she makes it an art. And we must keep in mind that “art” originally referred to a skill or science in general, from the Latin ars, artis; we would not usually, for instance, refer to the “art of history,” though we might say the “art of cooking.” Thus I would repeat my original supposition that “an art” refers to the exercise of divinely-inherited creativity and “art” is the product of such activity.

Continue reading