Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Terrifying Beauty (A call to all would-be-Daniels and would-be-Joshephs)

We were, apparently, visiting my brother in Waco. We were on the Baylor Campus after receiving a long tour on a hot day. I do not recall the temperature, but I remember my Father wearing shorts and a brown and black striped athletic T-shirt. And his face was glistening. The 'we' included me and my wife, my family, but not my two youngest brothers or oldest sister and her husband. But to include who isn't there is probably more work than to include who is, however, the significance of absences in this story - while I believe significant - I have yet to make out. So there was my Father and Mother, my sister rebecca and her boyfriend James, my brother Dave and his friends who I can't put names to since I've never met them. Oh, and again, my wife and I.

We seemed to be in a parking lot, but that is impossible, for we ended up on the roof of one of the academic buildings without having moved. The tour guide or maybe it was Dave - yes, it was Dave - suggested we go for a walk around campus if we were not tired. I remember lamely joking I would go, on the condition I was carried or driven. The remark initiated the obligatory half-hearted laughs. My Dad put his glistening head, with the shades on top - it must have been a scorcher - against the wall. Than things got wierd.

I don't recall who had suggested it, but the possibility of rain was on our minds. Actually, the tour guide had prefaced his comment about a walk with something about "beating the rain" or "before it comes down" Whatever the case, rain was on our minds. The sky grew dark, but not unnaturally so. There was nothing to indicate this was more than just a passing storm. As the winds picked up we stood on the roof and the details of this roof, formerly ignored, were of a sudden fascinating. The railing was made of rounded columns supporting the heavy stone rail. This encompassed the rooftop which was tiled in square slabs of grey marble. The whole situation was somewhat classical. What struck me as even more disturbing was that the tourguide and Dave's friends were now gone and it was just our family. Yet I don't know if I made the last observation at that moment or now, in hindsight.

The clouds started to move our way, but with a rapidity I found to be not impossible but oddly unnatural. It was as if someone had put the clouds on Fast forward, but nothing else. The clouds, these dark storm clouds, were racing right above our heads and we must have been speechless because no one utters anything. The clouds slow down, or at least they must have with what happens next. It seems that whoever pressed the Fast forward also had a slow motion, and the clouds began to transform into precipitation right before our eyes. Dark masses of clouds, now close enough to touch if one dared, became as a liquid. Yet it wasn't liquid they were becoming. Their consistencies remained the same, just their shape and flow was different. It was almost as if, now that I think of it, the natural darknesss of the storm was being poured out upon the earth, not renewing the dry land, but clutching it in an ironic and cruel hug before it died.

I remember Rebecca spoke at this time, she said "It's Armageddon." I've never taken those jokes lightly at any thunderstorm, and when she said it, I started to think about things one thinks about when they hear it. Should I be happy or scared? And I know I should be happy, but the thought that this is it, time is out, the game is up, are frightening. But no sooner had she said it and these fleeting thoughts gone through my head then I dismissed the idea as rubbish. But unlike the other 1000 storms that were followed by other days, this one, at least I believe, would not.

Of a sudden there was a flash like lightening, but more intense. I could see my own face lit up and the look on my face was one of fear masked by skepticism. This is merely lightning I was thinking, but out of the corner of my eye the "lightening" continued to glow and radiate waves of intense light. Now the light was not cruel like white light, but a warm bronze light that made you shudder by its unnaturality yet warm you up.

What I saw next will never leave me. Descending from the clouds was a column of light that issued forth twisters and duststorms at its base. Cloud and Fire spiralled up and down this column and at the very top there was a cloud descending. I knew what this was .

The moment seemed unreal, and as it turned out, it was unreal. I remember wondering why we were not immediately swept up into our respective eternities, but that is not human. I had time to think, I had time to talk with my loved ones. Obviously we all gaped at the terror and the beauty of God's majesty. I remember looking around and saying 'hallelujah' but it scared me how artificial it felt. I think any words in such a presence fall dumb, but it was disheartening to feel so absolutely weak at such a time. But maybe that's the point. That is our story. We are weak.

I woke up and didn't know what to do. This is the second dream I've had concerning End Times and each one is suprisingly disturbing. But what is an appropriate response to such a dream? Crying? Fear? Joy? All three? It has really been an odd morning as I recall my dream (which i wanted to do right away since dreams are often quickly forgotten). So if anyone who reads this has any insight into the meaning of such dreams. Shoot.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

back....but for how long? More musings on literature....

Well my computer apparently has an attitude problem. It hasn't turned on for over two months and just now I randomly hit the power key and here I am. But it's too late, this will be the last blog ever typed on this computer. Good riddance.

I am also now officially banned from a tiny computer store called HOUR COMPUTERS where they fix your computer in an hour. My Ass. I went there three times for a simple diagnostic (a.k.a. tell me what is wrong) and never got a clear answer despite forking out over 90 dollars for a can of compressed air and a laptop that won't turn on. I demanded my money back and asked the guy how he could seriously charge me 90 dollars for hitting the reset key (0.8 seconds) and cleaning the fan with air (2.2 seconds). He gave me my money back after some not-so-friendly "banter" back and forth and finally told me he never wanted to see me come in his shop again to which I willingly agreed.

So that is done.

On with bigger better things. I am loving my two month break from classes. I just finished reading a George Bush read a little too much like a long resume of self praise and self creation, but deep down I think his message was to show he's a sincere man who sticks to his guns and he's one rich s.o.b. Good stuff. I reread a Mark Haddon book the other day...A curious incident of the dog in the night....not so good the second time. Can't believe that won the Whitbread award. Read a book suggested to me by my wife..the Chrysalids by John Wyndam, I really enjoyed it and its a quick read. If you like Christianized science fiction check it out. not too much is new with me but new books. ah well, bear with me. Read an AMAZING book by Italo Calvino called If on a winter's night a traveler. I suggest anybody who wants to know how and why they read this is a book for you. It is frustrating because it follows a man trying to read the "new Calvino" and each time he is frustrated by some type of error in publishing or translating that leads him to a new work. So there is some crazy play between the fictional story and this man's constant interruptions into the text that connect in some cool ways. It definitely needs a reread, so i will return it to my friend and put it on my list of books i want to buy (or recieve as gifts).

Even more exciting I started a book I bought a long time ago but never sat down to read it. It's called The Christian Imagination and is an anthology of Christian aesthetic / literary theories. I just finished the first part yesterday and it has blown open my mind about how
Perhaps the most interesting part was Dorothy Sayer's belief that the creation of literature is Trinitarian. It starts with an IDEA which has relation to the overarching power of the FATHER. Than there is a CREATIVE force which takes this abstract idea (or ideas) and incarnates them into images, characters, settings, dialogues (the basic parts of literature) which is analogous to the work of the SON. Finally, this demands a RESPONSE from the reader, a phenomenon quite similar to the work of the SPIRIT in our lives. Now Rankin mentions that this may be extending Tolkien's idea/metaphor of sub-creation too far, but what if she is only getting at the beginning...what if we went even farther... I think we can in interesting ways.

If all literature (as Sayers argues) is sub-creation and not only Fantasy (as Tolkien argues) than each text we read from an author along with that particular author's entire corpus, constitutes a world. The author as sub-creator is a "god" of that work in the sense that he/she has created it (not ex nihilo...that is only the work of capital "G" God) out of the raw materials of art. Now while the potter uses clay, the painter uses paints and canvas, the material of literature is words and language to communicate something (than would finnegan's wake be fiction? I'm not sure on this yet myself). The abstract of ideas. However, unlike philosophy it does not lay it out in a logical framework; rather, its task is (to me at least) much more difficult since it has to give the idea flesh in a character. So where can we expand on this?

If literature is like a world that suggests one should also read the text as he/she reads the world? It seems that some of the problems that Philosophers like Wolterstorff, Kierkegaard, Kuyper, Dooyeweerd (I'm showing how limited my philosophy is to REdeemer curriculum..AHHH) have with reductionistic philosphical systems has translated almost wholesale into literary theory. Marx says that the world can be reduced to economical systems and the literary criticism deemed "Marxist" also attempts, quite wrongly, to reduce the components of literature to compteting economic systems. This holds true with Freudian Psychoanalysis and other theories - when we reduce the world we live in we tend to also reduce the worlds we write and read.

An awesome solution to these reductionistic tendencies is Dooyeweerd's Cosmonomic Philosophy. If his system of modalities is a viable and refreshing way to engage the pluriformity of the world God created (and I'm sure those with more sophisticated knowledge of Dooyeweerd would debunk this or, more positiviely, nuance it) than wouldn't Dooyeweerd's philosophy be translatable into a literary theory that enjoys the pluriformity of meanings in texts? I think it could work. We could enjoy the biology, the social structures, the economics, the theologies, etc. in the worlds of Tolkien, Dickens, Pullman, Woolf, the Pearl Poet, Bissoondath, Ondaatje, WHOEVER. and once we start to pull on various threads they lead us. They are, like Dooyeweerd's modes, anticipatory in the sense that they lead us to something, not an absence at the end of the road, but the mind of the author.

hmmm...well i had some more to say about the idea of reading from an Archimedean point, but i just decided to erase the whole paragraph and start over. If any reader has a suggestion of the archimedean point for reading i'm all ears. Well, honeymustard pork chops are on the grill and it is the American Idol finale.. Boo ya.

hmm. ok, this blog entry needs some work. \i'll be back on this later.


Friday, April 13, 2007


If there were another world what do you think is the most likely way you could get there?
Would it be through an enchanted wardrobe, a subtle knife made of "dark materials," a rabbit hole, a mirror, a drug induced dream, a nightmare turned real, a book that swallows you, a door you never noticed before, a tunnel you unearth while gardening, a tunnel you unearth after decifering some obscure riddles, an angel coming down, a devil coming up, traveling to the edge of the world and dropping off into the abyss? A House that enlarges, a space ship to mars, a cinema screen collapsing on the front row, death, a cave in a forest? All of the above? These questions can keep you up at night.

What if one day you looked in the mirror, and looked down and looked up and there was something you didn't see before, a tiny black patch. You're curiousity gets the best of you and you go the mirror and touch the patch this a reflection or is it on the mirror. You turn around and see that there is now a black square patch in your room as well, but the wall isn't a wall, the wall is now a mirror, reflecting yourself, and the black patch is over your eyes..but no matter how hard you try to shake it it follows your eyes. You touch your face and wonder, perhaps the blackness is on my face (but that is did it get there). You touch your face and realize there is nothing there..or at least your hand has gone through where your head should be. Not through your head you realize, but into the black space. you know this now because now the blackness is fading and you see your reflection, but its you and its not you. Your double is there but he's much more real. He looks at you and you feel naked, a smudge on the landscape. And he takes your hand and says, you have made it. Come quick, there isn't time, you...or I should say we..are the last. And with that he runs with you and into the dark. but now it isn't dark anymore, not overwhelmingly so, there is glimmers of light of objects. You wonder is this the darkness of my fantasia? Or I am the darkness of this Fantasia? You realize its the latter.

You are in the first of three worlds. There can't be more than three worlds, anyone else who tells you that there are is lying. Some people think there are as many worlds as there are decisions made. but that would mean, in millions of worlds you would not even exist. I don't believe it. But, if there are other worlds, there can only be 3. 3 is the perfect number. In the one you live your everyday life. In the next you are a god in so long as you have made something in your image or the image of other men. In the last you aren't the Creator, but the created. Well you are always the created, but here you are nothing more...and nothing less I guess.

Each world is unreachable from each other no matter how far you travel. Each has its own time and its own space, but while they are their own, they are all linked. and there are certain places (but they are hard to find) and certain times (which are much harder to find) when you can breach these borders.

So, if there were other worlds, how would you get there? What would they be like? Who would come and get you? Why would they get you? How does the possibility of "an end" change the dynamic of the world?

Now some may see this as an urge to escape, but its not. It's the exact opposite. We dream of other worlds only because we know of a world, the one we live in. Other worlds do not degrade this world (or shouldn't) but give us a renewed vision of them. Who after reading Alice can look at a rabbit hole the same? Who after reading Narnia prayed the same? After those experiences the creation and its Creator were made real. And in our increasingly secularized world we need such works to keep us awake.

We can't make a new shape or create a new colour, but we use the shapes and colours we have to make something original. Not original in the Romantic sense that our art is idiosyncratic and derived from our unique "selves"; but original in the sense of going back to the origin. To reiterate my other blogs...we create because we are created. All our journeys out, if they are towards some truth, can only be journeys home: the source and end of all our searching...but when we get there, we might only being seeing it again for the first time.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Well, as those who may or may not check this blog will know by now, I am either very lazy at blogging or busy with school. I think it is both. I just finished my first paper (one of three) this morning, which is a cause to celebrate since it is one day ahead of schedule. Woo. But the celebration is short-lived because I am now researching another paper. Both of these papers interest me, so it actually is more of a pleasure to do this than anything. The first paper was unique (at least I hope so). I compared Tolkien's short story Leaf by Niggle with Joyce's novel "A Portrait of the Artist" using Dante's Divine Comedy as a common reference since both previous works use Dante intertextually. Fun stuff! My next Paper is looking at the Monstrous body in John of Salisbury's Policraticus. I just want to explore a paradox I found in the work where John is calling men to apply their learning to the public realm of politics (which is what he is) and he describes the ideal prince as one who is a sort of Platonic Philosopher King; however, he concludes that anyone who tries to be both learned and politicaly active is in danger of becoming a monster - a thing opposed to nature, since, like a hydra, they will have two heads that lead them in different directions. This is also a fun paper to write because the Medieval Studies I have been looking at are filled with cool tales of monsters and the afterlife that are just bizarre. Actually, one tale about journeying to the edge of the world was really illuminating of my reading of Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Anyways, tomorrow my students hand in their final papers. So with marking, reading, writing...and sleeping/eating, I probably won't get another post in till May.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The fun stuff we MA students get to do

Well, as of this morning there are still over 80 pages worth of papers to be written, and probably around 1000 pages of reading I could do, but I decided to do one of the Progymnasmata exercises we need to hand in around April. It isn't due for a while, but seemed like a fun thing to do to give me a break before this afternoon (after I TA...Blah) and start a seminar. Anyways, Progymnasmata are Medieval learning exercises to Teach children how to read coupled with a moral. It is a mental exercise of sorts (hence the word gymnastics in it). Our prof thought it would be fun to make us write one and since its only like 5percent of a mark they are just supposed to be fun. Being the hardworking student I am I didn' get past the first page of the possible Progymnasmatas and chose to write a fable. This seemed to be easy, and it was. So I googled up our good friend Aesop and found a list of about 800 fables and there are many awesome ones. But I decided to use one by Ambrose Bierce called "A confrontation of Moral Principle and Material Desires" If that doesn't hit you over the head with the moral I don't know what will. Anyways, here is my adaptation, enjoy,


(ps. I felt like I was back in gradeschool while doing this, and since I am nothing of a poet, the simple AABBCC rhyme scheme might also bring you back to those glorious days of being in gradeschool).


If any of you will claim to be wise
It is my hope that you will not despise
This simple tale. For as Hugh once told us
“Read everything, nothing is superfluous.”
So I ask those drinking from cups of gold
To take a moment, listen, as I unfold
A story sweet with bitter truth; which may
Let you once again value those old cups of clay.
Yet to those who are young, this is but a taste,
If you never get ahead, your life will be a waste
For as the Good Book says in words none to mild
“When I was young, I thought and acted as a child,
But when I became a man, put those ways behind me
And began a pursuit of the joys of Philosophy.”
And to those who claim possession of a superior wit
Forgive me for the fictional things I have writ.
Yet, if offended by fiction and its deceptively sweet taste,
The words of wise Plutarch might have your inhibitions erased
“For Lies will surely make the best philosophers frown,
But a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”


Our story begins with a bridge and a river,
On a day so cold it made each timber shiver
As the river rushed by, treacherous, dark and cold,
The bridge just waited, tired, firm, and old.
Till from the East a sheep came walking
With an indifference to the cold you might find shocking,
But unlike you or me, this sheep was well clad
For days such as this, when the weather was bad.
The sheep was wrapped in a thick coat of wool
That was just as white as it was rich and full.
But don’t just use your mind’s eye, use its ear,
Move closer to our friend the Sheep and hear
How he faithfully recites as he carelessly frolics
All the good creeds: Athanasian, Nicene, Apostolic.
Along with these he cites writings in Greek
Of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, we can hear him speak
For this little sheep is on his way to classes
Where his teachers range from owls to asses.
But to get to the school, the river he must cross,
Yet to do so he must be pure, gold without dross,
For this is a world where such things matter
Even for a young sheep at the base of his ladder.

Yet, while the sheep sings, out of the West a goat walks
Going straight to the bridge, she neither sings nor talks.
In silence the goat approaches the bridge’s firm middle
Why she says nothing is so far a riddle.
Impatiently she stomps, which catches the sheep’s ear
He looks up, startled; what did he just hear?
He sees the old goat that is blocking his path
And his virtuous being is filled with holy wrath
With growing confidence, our friend makes his way
To find the bridge barred on this cruel winters day.
Boldly approaching, the sheep cries out loud
With the moral authority to which he’s endowed
“On your knees goat and let me pass over you
You know this bridge was not made for two!”

But the goat did not budge; she just stared into his eyes,
Which, to the young sheep, was a horrible surprise.
He looked up at the sun and noticed the time,
“Alright you horned fiend, listen now to my rhyme.
Since I am late for my Grammatical instruction
And neither of us can swim this river, due to its suction
I propose to settle this dispute as peacefully as can be
Which means that you must abide by the rules set by me.
What I suggest is pulling strings of hay,
Whoever pulls the long one must yield the way”
Turning to a gamble was as far as the sheep dared,
Yet the goat kept her silence and simply just stared.

“Alright this is ridiculous, how much more can I take?”
The sheep quickly thought of one more offer to make.
“Alright,” said he, “since I am known as such a peaceful creature
And to fight such an old goat would bring shame to my teacher
I will offer you a choice, but only today
In order that both of us can get our way
Since we both know this bridge was not made for two
I’ll lie flat on my belly in order that you
May cross.” So without regarding his wool so white
The young lamb laid down, avoiding a fight,
But while his face stuck to the cold, muddy planks
He did not hear hoofsteps let alone a “thanks.”
Twisting his neck, he looked up dismayed
The goat with her horns looked down unafraid.
Than finding a voice, which turned out to be her own
The goat began talking in a sweet, treacherous tone,
“No, no, no, this will never do
I can’t just simply step on top of you,
See, unlike you, I watch what goes underfoot
I hope before we proceed you have that understood.
Now get up, never mind the mud that mars your coat,
It will soon be cleaned depending on if you sink or float,
For, since I am immoveable, what I suggest
Is putting the strength of your legs to the test.
Now jump off this bridge, get out of my sight
And never forget you chose not to fight.”
The sheep stood up, his energy spent
And as the goat dictated, that’s exactly how it went.


Now on a literal level we can enjoy this tale
Of two common animals who can’t share a trail,
But since stories are means and never just ends
There is more here than a story of those who are not friends.
On another interpretive level, each “thing” in the story
Can work together as a sustained allegory,
Where the sheep is virtue and the goat is vice
Where the goat is pure evil and the sheep only nice,
But I’ll stop here for now, and let the industrious go on
For to give you all the answers would simply be wrong.
Alone, the good reader must mine , finding treasures untold
And bring them to light; determining whether iron or gold.
Yet the numerous questions that readers ask today
Are important, but also may hinder the way.
Questions regarding the importance of gender
Or who in this tale is the real offender.
Again, what can we make of the East and the West?
Why is the sheep a he and is that why he’s blest?
Or the she-goat from the West, how is that relevant
There are numerous trails to which our energy can be spent
But to the simple of mind and simple of heart
There is an obvious lesson I wish to impart
That though the pathway of learning and life is straight,
Do not let the tempting tangents make you hesitate
For though they are sweet they may come at a price
As the sheep soon found out, virtue is often weaker than vice.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Word to Study and Live By

I just finished reading a book called the Didascalion by Hugh of Saint Victor. The title of the book literally means "teaching" (Dida...think didactic) "ladder" (scal..think climb? not sure, because my latin is non-existent). Hugh's mind is limitless when it comes to lists and he records detail with the scholastic anal retension that is amusing at times. Especially interesting is his discussion of the mechanical knowledge of "Fabric Making" He writes:

Fabric making includes all the kinds of weaving, sewing, and twisting which are accomplished by hand, needle, spindle, awl, skein winder, comb, loom, crisper, iron, or any other instruments whatever; out of any material made of flax or fleece, or any sort of hide, whether scraped or hairy, out of cane as well, or cork, or rushes, or hair, or tufts, or any material of this sort whihch can be used for the making of clothes, coverings, drapery, blankets, saddles, carpets, curtains, napkins, felts, strings, nets, ropes; out of straw too, from which men usually make their hats and baskets (75).

Yes, that is one long sentence, and yes, it has changed my life.

Seriously though, his discussion of academic humilty is important and quite life-changing, if you believe it and try to appropriate it. I hope I can and hope anyone who reads this will want to as well.

He says:

"There is no one to whom it is given to know all things. The wise student, therefore, gladly hears all, reads all, and looks down upon no writing, no person, no teaching. From all indifferently he seeks what he sees he lacks, and he considers not how much he knows, but of how much he is ignorant. For this reason men repeat Plato's saying: 'I would rather learn with modesty what another man says than shamelessly push forward my own ideas.' Why do you blush to be taught and yet not blush at your ignorance? The latter is a greater shame than the former. Or why should you affect the heights when you are still lying in the depths? Consider, rather, what your powers will at present permit: the man who proceeds stage by stage moves along best. Certain fellows, wishing to make a great leap of progress, sprawl headlong. Do not hurry too much, therefore; in this way you will come more quickly to wisdom. Gladly learn from all what you do not know, for humility can make you a sharer in the special gift which natural endowment has given to every man. You will be wiser than all if you are willing to learn from all" (96).

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Depraved English

So I picked up this book called Depraved English by Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea and thought I'd share some pearls of wisdom. I've just browsed through this book and since some of the stuff is R-rated you'll have to borrow it to see some of the hilarious words in the English Scatological repertoire. Anyways, I hope this helps you throw those sophisticated insults at people you always wanted.

1. Achilous: /uh KAI lus/ adj. having no lips.
(I guess this is for all those people who just have no lips, but should we really have a word for this. I mean, I think they know they have no lips, does it need a lable.)

2. Amastia /ay MAST ee uh/ n. Lack of Breasts. Related to this is Anismoastia /an iss o MAST ee uh/ n. The state of having breasts of unequal sides.
(I think the second one is funnier, although supposedly quite common)

3. Asshead /ASS hed/n. A blockhead or stupid person.
(This is a personal favorite of mine and I hope English can recover this word)

4. Bdolotic /DOLL ut tik/ adj. Prone to farting.
(related: Carminative, Fatus, Meteorism)

5. Bescumber /bee SCUM ber/ v. To splatter with feces.

6. Bonnyclabber / BON ee klab er/ n. Milk one sour. Thick curdled Milk.
(ex. Man, this fridge smells like Bonnyclabber)

7. Borborygmus /bor bor IG muss/ n. A rumbling in the intestines caused by gas.

8.Cacocallia /kak o KAL ee uh/ n. the of being ugly but sexy.
(I'm not sure how this works, but the whole concept is just really funny to me for some reason. I wonder if someone takes this an insult or a compliment.. Talk about ambiguous words.)

9. Callipygian /kal ip EYE gee an/ adj. Having a nicely shaped buttocks.
(I think I might fall under this category...)

10. Collywobbles /Kall ee wob ulls/ n,pl. Intenstinal distress characterized by diarhea and cramping.
(wow, I never knew this was a real word)

Ok, that's only 10 and I only got to the C section. I am late for TAing so i'm out, but stay tuned for such greats as Lientry, mumchance, Trichotillomania, Xanthodont, Scatophage, and Igly (which actually means Uber ugly). Enjoy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Samson: super hero or terrorist?

Samson is a pretty strange charater. Right now I'm working on a paper dealing with Milton's version of Samson's life in his poem "Samson Agonistes" (meaning Samson the "contender" in reference to his last appearance at the Philistian dinner party), and to be honest, I've never given Samson enough thought. Who was this guy? He is called one of the "judges" of Israel, but seems very unlike Gideon or other judges who actually call Israel to repentance. He is separated by God as a Nazarite, but even more so with his strength - he is the Nazarite qua Nazarite; yet abstinence from drink and haircuts seem to be the only things that he abstains from. And exactly how he managed to tie firebrands to foxes or kill armed soldiers with a donkey's jawbone or lift those doors is just beyond me... and rightfully so, they were beyond Samson as well.

An interesting aside:
There is a huge (renewed) interest in our generation regarding superheros, but the basic premise of most of these stories, (like X-men, or the new TV series Heroes) is that super powers only will exist as the next phase of evolution. As a kid I loved the thought of any type of superpower, flying, stretching, bending the space/time continuum, super strength, but the evolutionistic nonsense of mutations and survival of the fittest, despite giving it (admirably in my opinion) a serious (and not patronizing) look, was also a serious turn off for anyone who doens't dig Darwin. Perhaps Samson is one glimpse into real Super (natural?) powers. If someone like Samson truly existed, kids everywhere who are turned off (like I was) by the faulty worldview propping up cool ideas like X-men can now renew their hope that telekinesis, teleportation, or invisibility are real possibilities. Maybe we can re-read the section in Hebrews 11 dealing with Samson as a Super-hero of the faith?

Another thing that I've never thought about and I've come across it in a really intriguing article by a Feisal Mohamed, is the issue of whether or not Samson is a terrorist. He connects Samson's self-destructive act in the name of Divine will as a move similar to the Plane crashes of 9/11. I liked his article, he really understood Milton's approach to Samson and unlike others, he refuses to believe that Milton rejects Samson as a fanatic. I don't think Milton would reject Samson. But I also don't think we need to reject Milton for not rejecting Samson. The study seems to take Samson out of the Old Testament context where God's will is manifested to Israel who is separate from the surrounding nations, in much the same way it is manifested to Samson, who is separated to another degree (re: Nazarite qua Nazarite qua Israeli). Anyways, Samson's actions are a part of a different era in human history - an era where God wipes out the world with a flood, chastises Israel for allowing pagan woman and children to live, and violently establishes separation from the World in the entrance to Canaan. Again, Milton is aware of this, the poem on Samson is coupled with Paradise Regained, which is an account of Christ's temptations by the Devil in the Wilderness. An interesting choice to show how the Paradise Adam and Eve Lost is regained. Anyways, Milton depicts Christ as catching glimpses of his future ministry and uncertatin as to what his Father wills for this Kingdom - will it be established through Militarism like the Israel of Old or not? In fact, Satan tempts Christ with the power of earthly empire. Yet the kingdom of the New Testament is a kingdom established in the hearts and minds of believers united in praise of God in the church. This is the kingdom he came to start: the Church, not a renewed empire.

Still, the question remains, how do we come to grips with some of the horrific actions done in God's name in the Old Testament?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Well, Vaness and I went out to a movie...a rare occasion for students on a budget, but we went nevertheless. Since I had been nagging Vaness to come and see Pan's Labyrinth for a while, she decided to see it even though it's not her 'type' of movie. So we drove out of the downtown area really early to see if we could get dinner before the movie...turns out there was a Senators game that night and the 417 was a parking lot. INching our way along I was thinking...oh man, we are going to skip dinner or the movie. I presented Vaness with the idea of skipping dinner and going straight to the theater but she said no...she had just got off work and needed food or she ... would...DIE. As Providence would have it, there was a Swiss Chalet right beside the theater, and the food and service were great and we still had 5 minutes before the movie started.
Now in my head I was thinking... oh man, we're going to get there like 5 minutes into the movie, there will only be seats in the very front...we should turn back now. But we got into the theater and there were only 2 people there besides us. Perhaps that was a warning..if the traffic jam wasn't, but we didn't heed it, and sat down.

Now, I don't want to be one of those people... more common in English departments than any other I believe... who rank any movie that is just wierd as "good." Pan's Labyrinth was right up there on the wierd factor. Perhaps it was up there on the intelligence factor as well, the whole trope of labyrinth and Pan, etc. suggest that, but I still didn't really like it. I think it was like when I come home from school and I am expecting Ribs for dinner (Vaness makes incredible Ribs) and I come home and smell a roast. The roast is good, it's great, but its not ribs and, even more, its not what I was expecting. That was Pan's Labyrinth. I was expecting a Fairy Story for adults (I think one of the trailers had said that, and that's what attracted me). However, it was the exact opposite. The Fairy world is all but invisible to the adult world. ONly Ofelia can enter it and exit at will. Also, after she kills the toad under the fig tree (which was pretty cool) and defeats the death figure at the feast (also very cool and very high on the cathartic experience of FEAR) there is about 40 minutes where the whole Fairy World falls away to give precedence to the plot of the adults: the Spanish Civil war of the 40's and the battle between a psychotic and well acted role of the officer and a band of rebels in the woods. When the Fairy story continues and Ofelia has to complete her 3rd and final quest we get a glimpse of the Darkness of that Fairy world when he demands a child sacrifice. AT this point, for me, the whole movie falls apart and my belief in Ofelias world changes from true belief to a "willing suspension of disbelief." Her world, at this point, is only in her head. When her step-father (the same psycho officer from earlier) enters the labyrinth he sees Ofelia alone (but we think, or thought, she was talking to the Faun). At this point we might conjecture that the Faun and the step-father are one in the same, but are manifested differently to Ofelia in the Real world and the Fantasy world, but to me, that just undermines both worlds and the movie. I think this connection is made earlier in subtle hints, especially when the Officer demands the Doctor follow him "without question" and the Faun echoes this request to Ofelia.

If you haven't seen the movie and want to, read no further, but Ofelia dies and her blood appeases the King of the Underworld and she is taken to the halls where her Father (her real father who is a Tailor) and Mother, and the Maid (I think...but don't quote me on this) are ruling. This might be the "eucatastrophic moment" where everything is going bad and there is a sudden turn for the good. But it didn' do it for me.

So, as a roast, I give this movie a thumbs up. But I wanted ribs. So next time marketing team of pan's Labyrinth, market the movie as ribs. Don't call it a fairy story. It's not.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What's the point?

It's not late but it feels late. Don't the Greeks have two different words for time...Kairos and Kronos. Kronos is the sand in the hour glass. Kronos is chronological, its the persistent second hand on our watches that scares us. I want my watch to have only an hour hand, than it's only 24 times a day I feel like a chunk is chiseled off the rock of time I am given. Kronos is like that moving wall in some nintendo levels, it pushes you forward and you can't go back.

Kairos is different, and the more I think about it, it's a more real time. A sunday sermon isn't 30 minutes or 32:15 minutes/seconds. If people talked like that (and some people do, I was one of them when I was younger) their talk is just irrelevant and reveals a weak mind. No, we say a sermon was "good" or "bad" (whatever that means is up for debate). These people have a bit more sense, and if they were asked if the sermon was long or short they (if they havne't already rolled their eyes at such a silly question) would tell you how it "felt." How they experienced it. A 'good' sermon FEELS like it takes a short time and the bad one FEELS like its longer. And to me, after giving it some thought, think this is what life is. Here's my big-bow-wow statement of the blog: life is just a series of experiences. Cursed is the life that seems to take forever, it's a life that is lived out of boredom. But we can't escape it. I can't. I'm often bored, even doing what I love. I'm often distracted and restless. I think its just my nature, but I want to do what i'm not doing, see what i'm not seeing, etc. I guess that is one thing else to learn, life is about enjoying and living in the present. I don' mean the stupid ways that some people live with no thought to the future and no appreciation and understanding of the past, but to live in the present moment is to live in all three times at once. The present is infused with both time and future. I mean, the present is the only dimension of time that really doesn't move. The past is being shot backwards faster than I can type this blog, and the future comes towards us at the same speed (60 seconds per minute). But that is maybe the key to being human, we arent' too live in the past in some naive delusion of nostalgia, and we're also not supposed to live in the future. We live FOR the future, I guess and WITH the PAST. Not IN either, we only live IN the present. I think the prepositions are key. LIving WITH or FOR the present will more than likely stir up more problems.

It's wierd to think of. Just being human is wierd to think of. We have so many limits that we are just born into and we never question them. I can only be here now. Here and Now. Space and Time. I can only be in one space at one time all the time. I am typing at a desk in Ottawa, but I can't be home with Family in St. Catharines. However, the mind is a super wierd thing because it can. I can sit and talk to people (and I do this Way too much) with my mind sitting here at my desk thinking of a blog.

So, anyway, long story short. It was a good week. I'm reading some stuff by Becket right now. My first taste, and its going down bitter, I think he's an aquired taste. Just Read Buckingham's The Rehearsal, and loved it. But who wants to hear about reading lists? That's one thing about this MA, it seems the more you read and the more you learn, the less you have to talk about because, honestly, most people I know don't give two craps about it. It's wierd. But I'll keep on keeping on.

At the end of the day we are not going to be rewarded for living the longest, for enduring. How pointless. Our time here is precious not because it is time, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds. It's important because of WHAT we do. And right now, I finally think I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Partly, because Time is flying.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Joyce's Kunstleroman

I have just finished read James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (for the second time acually, I read it around the same time last year) and thought I would try to articulate some of my initial thoughts, especially since our class discussion Monday will revolve around it and its relation to Dante.

The story is a traditional "Bildungsroman" in the sense that it is a 'coming of age' tale of a young boy; more specifically, it is a 'kunstleroman' since it deals with the 'coming of age of an artist.' There are obvious parallels between Stephen and his journey from Clongowes to Belvedere to University College where he sinks into sin, emerges as a convert, flirts with the priesthood, but eventually decides to "fly by the nets" of nationality, language, religion in order to "forge in the smithy of his soul" the conscience of Ireland. Quite a bold statement. In fact, Stephen's character is marred by his overweening pride and is the reason that each chapter (there are 5) begins with Stephen being brought low from the preceding high that ended the earlier chapter. As a boy he faces the dean only to be humbled when he learns it was a joke, he renews his religious convictions only to renew his assertion that his is a lonely road, one he must travel alone, and so he becomes an artist. Like his namesake (Dedalus), Stephen Dedalus doesnt' want to be grounded by the Irish language, the Irish Catholicism (which he believed betrayed the Irish hero Parnell), or Irish nationality (which so readily accepted the yoke of a foreign culture: England). However, he can't get too close to the sun either or he will burn, like his namesake's son Icarus, whose wax wings melted and caused his death. So this is Stephen, flying in the precarious position, in between, intermezzo, in media res.

What strikes me about Stephen is the almost deliberate subversion of Dante and his aesthetic. Dante's travel's through hell to purgatory to heaven are linear. Point A to Point B. Stephen however, occupying that precarious middle position, is constantly being threatened with the unknown waiting to destroy him and the known that will cage him. Such is the flight of Dedalus, both then and now. Like Dante after the Vita Nuova, Stephen turns to Aristotle and Aquinas in order to develop an aesthetic. However, his words "I will not serve" are reminiscent of Milton's Satan who remarks "It is better to reign in Hell than to serve in heaven." Therefore, Stephen's aesthetic is primarily an individualistic and self absorbed one. He takes Aquinas' three points: Wholeness, Rhythm, and "unitas" (which he translates radiance) to say that something beautiful must be 1) whole: you can abstract it from all reality and see it as a whole thing, individual of all others. A chair therefore without its setting, held up in the minds eye, with a given boundary, etc. 2) Rhythm: the coordination of parts that create a balance of parts to the whole. A chair with legs, a back, a seat. Functioning and aesthetically pleasing. 3) Unitas/radiance: (I take this to be the most important since it is such a break from Dante, and later Tolkien) the "quidditas" or the whateness of the object. The thing is only the thing.

Now the last point may seem trite, but its not. Dante, after reading Aristotle and Aquinas came to the conclusion that his love for Beatrice, and the beauty he found in her, was so beautiful because it pointed beyond her. In fact, Dante's journey through hell to purgatory to Paradise, begins with Virgil as his guide, than Beatrice, than Christ, because each signifies something "beyond" the object. Beatrice is desireable, which is "love in motion" only because there is something stationary about her, that is, an unmoved mover/God who is absolute love (thanks Aristotle and Aquinas). Eliot picks this up beautifully in Four Quartets and Ash Wednesday when he speaks of the Still point in the turning world. So, already Dante and Joyce (well, Stephen to be exact) are at odds.

Stephen's aesthetics relates to his self-indulgence because he ultimately thinks that there is nothing and no one besides him. He constantly seeks to set himself apart from the group and the novel ends with him abandoning all his friends and the community so he can work alone. If the pattern of the book maintains itself beyond the last page, we can safely assume that the next time we encounter young Dedalus, he will have fallen again.

Anyways, this hardly scratches an inch of the surface of this incredible account of the mind of a genius. But these were some of my initial observations and I find Blogging a great way to articulate them (and bore anyone who wants to read this drivel).


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What I Think of Blogging and other thoughts...

Some people call the interweb the "information highway"; however, I think with all this blogging going on, plus the billions of websites being created every second (that's right, every second[that's right, I made that up]) a more apt analogy would be a "bullshit parking lot." So here I am, adding to the Litter (ature?) of the 21st century, a litterature that is apparently revolutionizing how we think, act, socialize, communicate. De-centering and de-stabilizing the world as we know it, the people are taking the power back (did we ever lose it?), and we've fallen (ass first) into Huxley's Brave New World. As Neil Postman argues, we are not being killed by what we hate (which would imply a 1984-style censorship of readable "stuff") but we are killing ourselves with what we love. The fear of having no-thing to read never crosses our (the average north American's) mind; but, does it cross our mind that the things we should read (which is a debatable topic in itself) are being drowned in a sea of irrelevance? Why are current PhD candidates writing disertations on lays chips advertisements and MTV music video lyrics? The topic of what we should read, i.e. a canon, is a hotly contested topic today, and perhaps rightfully so since most canons are usually dictated by the majority. I do not, as some would say, believe this is grounds to abolish the idea of a canon. The idea of a canon is good, but how it has been formed may not have been. I think the canon needs to exist, and today we have a flourishing of good writers from both genders, many races and religions. Of course, this does not negate that any individual's canon would be unique (mine for instance would rank The Silmarillion as one of the top books to read, which of course others might discard as useless trash (that's right, they'd be wrong!). Which leads me to perhaps a puzzling question: what constitutes "good" (what an ambiguous term) piece of fiction? Is it proximity to the Truth (which of course will need major defining)? or is it an adherence to a strict set of rules like Aristotle and the Medievals believed? Should it entertain? Should it teach? Should it do both?

I haven't given this topic nearly enough energy, but something tells me it is related to the ideas of my previous post: sub-creation. An interesting idea because it does not preclude non-Christians from Good writing (actually, in certain cases it would exclude Christians who are bad writers...again, the terms need definitions). Whatever the case, good fiction is a good sub-creation. The work is a coherent world that is logically and imaginatively consistent to whatever end it may come. Of course, the secondary world is linked to the primary world (ie. the world we walk around in with our heads in the clouds) through the author who exists in the primary world. He creates because, as I said earlier, he is reflecting the Light from whence he came, a whole new reality, the PRIME REALITY where God dwells in eternity. This reality is beyond sense perception (although the metaphysical poets have done their D---dest to communicate it) and is, according to Eliot (in one of the most beautiful poems of the 20th century (if not all time) a fustion of the fire of God's love in the staticity of eternity. IN my opinion, good fiction girded by the Christian worldview is superior to good fiction girded by any other worldview because it is "propaedeutic" in the right sense (a fancy word for "leading"). Bad Christian fiction, therefore, is far inferior to bad non-Christian fiction (I am here merely referring to the religious presuppositions of the sub-creator) since it not only is like a bitter drop on the palate, but it may falsely, mislead an audience from the true beauty that only Christianity renders.
Anyways, this blog has been derailed, but I thought I would add this last bit to end on a positive note after my negative rant about blogs. You may ask me if this is not hypocritical, and it is, but like Whitman once said "Do I contradict myself? Of course, I am large, I contain multitudes." Anywyas, I hope this last spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down.

aka. the grinch
aka. mary poppins

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why Mythopoeia matters?

Perhaps an appropriate first post would be an expl(ic)anation of my choice of title: Mythopoeia. The word is inspired by an early poem written by Tolkien to a friend who said that "myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though they are 'breathed through silver." Tolkien's poem is a letter from Philomythus (lover of myth = aka Tolkien) back to Misomythus (hater of myth). Based on the subsequent writings of Tolkien's "mysomythic" friend, who was none other than C.S. Lewis, I assume that Tolkien won the day.

The lines that fascinate me within Tolkien's poem (and if anyone hasn't read it I suggest you get to a library and read Tree and Leaf asap) read as follows:

The heart of man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
man, sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move ffrom mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with elves and goblins, though we dared to build
gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sow the seed of dragons, 'twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we're made.

As any Silmarillion fan will notice, the words here echo a theme throughout that the human creative powers are one manifestation of our being created. That is: We create because we are created. Perhaps T.S. Eliot says it best, when in Canto IX of"Choruses From the Rock" he beautifully writes:

The Lord who created must wish us to create
And employ our creation again in His service
Which is already His service in creating

Again, man creates because he is a product of creation; however, as "images" of God we reflect his Light, or are supposed to. The light is refracted from us due to the fall and the "right" we have to "sow the seeds of dragons" is not decayed, but our use may become a misuse. Again, students of Al Wolters know this idea as it is manifested throughout Creation Regained: structure and direction.

So, before we can create a world that is in line with the Truth, and therefore in line with that which is Good and Beautiful, one needs to be aware of the Creator in charge of his creations...and subsequently their subcreations (which may even be as trite as a blog entry).

D.J. Sikkema