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Monday, January 30, 2006

It's Hegel time

Well, and Goethe and another guy, but they're connected.

Against the great superiorities of others
There is no remedy but love.
--Goethe (later quoted by Hegel)

Is it possible to know and doubt simultaneously?
That, Hegel tells us, is what knowing in the fullest possible sense really is.
--Frederick G. Weiss

And now the man himself in a lengthier passage; stay awake now, it's worth it:

Time was when man had a heaven, decked and fitted out with endless wealth of thought and pictures. The significance of all that is lay in the thread of light by which it was attached to heaven; instead of dwelling in the present as it is here and now, the eye glanced away over the present to the Divine, away, so to say, to a present that lies beyond. The mind's gaze had to be directed under compulsion to what is earthly, and kept fixed there; and it has needed a long time to introduce that clearness, which only celestial realities had, into the crassness and confusion shrouding the sense of things earthly, and to make attention to the immediate present as such, which was called Experience, of interest and value. Now we have apparently the opposite of this; man's mind and interest are so deeply rooted in the earthly power that we require a like power to have them raised above that level. His spirit shows such poverty of nature that it seems to long for the mere pitiful feeling of the divine in the abstract, and to get refreshment from that, like a wanderer in the desert craving for the merest mouthful of water. By the little which can thus satisfy the needs of the human spirit we can measure the extent of its loss.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006

explanation below

 Posted by Picasa

Another arty shot. . .

. . .from the other day, exploring Saanich with the kids in foul weather. We had a surprising amount of fun, thanks to this farm which had a cool animal-visiting area for the kids (utterly abandoned except for us) in which were two bubblegum machines (outside! in the middle of the animal pens!) which -- oh rapture -- sold not bubblegum but goat and duck treats! Then even cooler -- there was this little pulley system which the kids could work themselves which featured a little 'delivery truck' and you put some food in there and winch it up to the goats' upper level!It was neato! I guess you will have seen a pic of that 'above' since I am going to put one up after this. Here I go to do that. Weird.
Unfortunately, I didn't think to get a shot of the whole system. Too busy being arty. Sigh. Posted by Picasa


I opened a poetry anthology at complete random for something to go with this image (an experiment in -- whatever) and I'm not kidding you -- this is what I saw first:

. . .a deep radiance lay
Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
Through the late twilight. . .

That's Coleridge, This Lime Tree Bower My Prison
(has anyone since the 19th century read this poem?)

I like the lines a few steps on:

Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, but be Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to love and beauty! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A couple of things

I've been a bit lackadaisical (sp?) about the ol' blog lately and thinking I can't be really bothered anymore -- at least not on a daily basis. I have a lot of stuff to do, and there are a lot of great blogs out there to read so I will perhaps just post every week or so now, if that. Any less and I will probably just can it altogether. This is not me feeling all glum or anything -- just that life is so full and I have a lot of other very good ways to use my limited energy!

Anyway, enough of that: here are some nice snippets from my Christian Imagination book.
Oh, just before that: where I said 'snippet' there -- I know that is an annoying word, but have you noticed that EVERY word for something small is annoying!? Here are the others I considered and rejected:
morsels (yuck)
tidbits (totally unacceptable)
bits (er. . .)
bon bons (retch)
quotes/quotations (can't stand either word, don't really know why)
sushi rolls of thought (what the!?)

So you see it could have been much worse. Maybe just 'timbits' would be good. Very Canadian, not too serious . . .

Okay, let's try this again.

A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, "Do you think I could be a writer?" "Well", the writer said, "I don't know. . . Do you like sentences?"

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

It is easy to forget that the man who writes a good love sonnet needs not only to be enamoured of a woman, but also to be enamoured of the Sonnet.

C.S.Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Memory Eternal

The father of my dear friend Gregory Scratch, the priest John Scratch, died in Ottawa in the early hours of Sunday January 15, 2006.

I remember him mostly by voice, since we used to talk on the phone whenever he called Greg at our shared house in Vancouver. I was puzzled at first at why someone I had never met, living all that distance away, would ask to converse with me merely because I was a pal of his son. After a few talks I gave up wondering and just accepted his love -- for that of course was the reason -- a broad mind and a huge heart. I never got to know him very well, and we met in person only once, but these characteristics of openness and good will are, in my experience, reflected in all his children -- who dropped in and out of Vancouver to visit their dear big brother fairly often. (A favourite moment from one visit was the younger John Scratch acquiring a beer for himself in a restaurant -- even though he was only about 15 -- because he looked the waitress right in the eye and requested a "Czechoslovakian Pilsner"! That, I thought, as the drink was duly delivered, was style.)

I envied my friend his large and loving and funny family. But the more Orthodox I have met in my life the more I have come to realize that Matushka Suzanne and Fr John were in a sense the parents of an even larger family -- the archdiocese of Canada. I know I felt that parental tenderness even at such a distance; how much more so those close to them. And now Fr. John will be missed keenly along with his wife. God grant that we complete our race with even a portion of the love, humour, and yes, even style, of those beloved and loving god-parents in Christ.

God, lover of souls, swaying considerate scales,
Complete thy creature dear O where it fails,
Being mighty a master, being a father and fond.

(from In the Valley of the Elwy --Gerard Manley Hopfins)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Finally Flannery

First I should mention that this is from a great anthology of essays and excerpts on the subject of literature and Christianity called "Christian Imagination". It's edited by Leland Ryken and includes writings by Denise Levertov, CS Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Luci Shaw, George Macdonald, Tolkien, Chesterton, TS Eliot, Peter J. Leithart, Chad Walsh and my latest discovery, Janine Langan of the University of Toronto, among others. I picked it up on sale at Regent College and I have spent many happy hours in it so far. It's a nice source of Good Thoughts on the relationship between art and faith, or whatever you want to call that mystery --usually whenever I hear about it my eyes start to roll upward from the cliche of it all, but nearly everything in this book is fresh and real. Not least, of course, St. Flannery. So, fighting the temptation to write out the entire essay, here's a delicious bit of Novelist and Believer:

At best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily. The fiction which celebrates this last state will be the least likely to transcend its limitations, for when the religious need is banished successfully, it usually atrophies, even in the novelist. A kind of reverse evolution takes place, and the whole range of feeling is dulled.

The searchers are another matter. Paschal wrote in his notebook, "If I had not known you, I would not have found you." These unbelieving searchers have their effect even upon those of us who do believe. We begin to examine our own religious notions, to sound them for genuineness, to purify them in the heat of our unbelieving neighbour's anguish. What Christian novelist could compare his concern to Camus'? We have to look in much of the fiction of our time for a kind of sub-religion which expresses its ultimate concern in images that have not broken through to show any recognition of a God who has revealed himself. As great as much of this fiction is, as much as it reveals a wholehearted effort to find the only true ultimate concern, as much as it in many cases represents religious values of a high order, I do not believe that it can adequately represent in fiction the central religious experience. That, after all, concerns a relationship with a supreme being recognized through faith. It is the experience of an encounter, of a kind of knowledge which affects the believer's every action. It is Paschal's experience after his conversion and not before.

Bliss and something amusing

The bliss part is it is only 8:00 and my kids have already been asleep for over half an hour. Time to par-tay!

The amusing thing (yes, I will get to Flannery, but after this -- keep your hair on) is a dialogue from one of The Daily Show's interviews (one of the few things in the universe worth watching on the evil box). The scenario is that there is a town in Texas that just sold its name to a satellite dish company -- that is, it changed its name from "Clarke" to "Dish" in exchange for everyone in town getting a free dish. That actually happened.

So on the show (if you haven't seen it, it's a VERY clever satirical news show) they dispatch one of their 'reporters', Ed Helms, to act as a buffoon who can't see what the big deal is, and he interviews the local beard and tweed sporting bleeding heart intellectual, here abbreviated as BHI:

Ed: I guess I just don't get what the big deal is. TV is great! (I'm paraphrasing a bit, obviously)

BHI: Well, it's just that there are a better thing to spend money on in this town than satellite dishes.

Ed: Name one problem your town could have that can't be solved by TV.

BHI (already looking bewildered) Ummm -- education!?

Ed: The Learning Channel.

BHI: Proper policing!?

Ed: Law and Order.

BHI: Okay, I have a good one. Garbage removal.

Ed: Oscar the Grouch.

BHI:(pauses) What?

Ed: Oscar the Grouch! He lives in a trash can, eats all the trash -- it's how he survives.

BHI: But what does that have to do with --

Ed: He can eat all the garbage!

BHI: No. . . no, he can't eat the plastic (clutches head) -- I can't believe I'm having this conversation!

One of the interesting things is that the Daily Show is the ONLY thing I have ever seen on TV that points out how stupid and stupefying TV is. There is a creepy conspiracy of silence about TV addiction -- I doubt there's ever been an Oprah about it, despite it being a HUGE problem in our society. Okay, enough soapbox. I have a few things to do, then I'll come and put up that Flannery thing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Back to work

Okay -- thanks guys. I was taking a Christmas/New Years/ Old calendar Christmas/Theophany break, heh heh. I guess taking a break through OC Theophany would be pushing it. Ella is clamouring to do video games (viz Elmo on the sesame street site, etc.) at this moment but watch this space for a most excellent post from a Flannery O'Connor essay -- soming soon to a blog near you!