“[T]he message of the early Christians, which lies at the heart of the notion of a Christian foundation whether it be a University or a hospital or a family or indeed a country, is that true greatness comes through sacrificial love, that true leadership consists in self-giving service, and that truth itself, the ultimate quest of all University life, is not something we can simply discover, put in our pockets, and use to our own advantage. Truth, as the best researchers in every field know well, is more mysterious than that, because the world, and particularly human beings, are more mysterious and interesting than that. Truth is something that happens when genuinely humble people pause long enough before their subject of study to hear and see what is truly going on, rather than inflicting their own theories on it. Truth then comes to expression when they, or others, purify the dialect of the tribe, and manage to say the new thing, whatever it is, in new and appropriate ways. Universities exist to foster the conditions within which that birthing of truth can take place.”—N.T. Wright, “The Great Story” (via pejohnston)
“You know that Shakespearean admonition, ‘To thine own self be true’? It’s premised on the idea that ‘thine own self’ is something pretty good, being true to which is commendable. But what if ‘thine own self’ is not so good? What if it’s pretty bad? Would it be better in that case not to be true to thine own self?”—Des in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco, explaining why I make a point not to be true to mine own self. I never trusted Polonius anyway.
“I do not believe that any work of art can help but be diminished by its adherence at any cost to a political program, including its author’s, and not for any other reason than that there is no political program — any more than there is a theory of tragedy — which can encompass the complexities of real life. Doubtless an author’s politics must be one element, and even an important one, in the germination of his art, but if it is art he has created, it must by definition bend itself to his observation rather than to his opinions or even his hopes.”—Arthur Miller, Introduction to Collected Plays (via Todd Truffin on Facebook)
C.S. Lewis once observed that while many people use art, only a very few receive it. The texts that get called scriptures by various religious traditions are often used by individuals (mostly quoted out of context) to pepper speeches, buttress bad arguments, and, on occasion, to avoid awareness of responsibility for our actions. We read and quote selectively to better justify what we’ve already decided to do. Where is the self-awareness in any of this, the sense that our scriptures can, and should, change the way we think and act? … Are we up for a redeeming word?
We only receive art when we let it call our own lives into question. If the words of Jesus of Nazareth, for instance, strike us as comfortable and perfectly in tune with our own confident common sense, our likes and dislikes, our budgets, and our actions toward strangers and foreigners, then receiving the words of Jesus is probably not what we’re doing. We may quote a verse, put it in a PowerPoint presentation, or even intone it loudly with an emotional, choked-up quiver, but if it doesn’t scandalize or bother us, challenging our already-made-up minds, we aren’t really receiving it.
During Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech, he had even kinder words for Gibson. “I asked Mel to present this award for me for a reason,” he said. “When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.”
He continued, “I did and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume at the time he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight. So anyway on this special occasion and in light of the recent holidays including Columbus Day, I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong f—ing industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.”
”— Robert Downey Jr. asks Hollywood to forgive Mel Gibson at American Cinematheque Awards (EW)
“Songwriters are frequently called poets, but really most of them are hacks who have figured out how to rhyme. Joe Henry is a poet. By that I mean his lyrics can stand alone as legitimately layered, nuanced poetry. Dylan has done this at times, and perhaps Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen in good years, but Henry has made a 20+ year career out of this, and he keeps getting better.”—Andy Whitman reviews the latest Joe Henry album (via wnstn)
“The beauty of marriage is that by way of its fidelity and incarnation, it moves people away from the egoism and abstraction and allows them to meet the world in all its concrete goodness. Married people dare not dally in abstractions and individualistic dreams about freedom from responsibility….
If there is a glimpse of transcendence in The Way, it is at the climax, in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. While the film stops well short of a profession of faith, it does offer an affirmation of sorts of the human value, especially in times of crisis, of some kind of faith or religious heritage, and in particular of Catholic cultural accoutrements, of traditions like pilgrimages and the sign of the cross, and of beautiful cathedrals and such. This is a salutary thought, as far as it goes, and a welcome one in our cultural moment.
The catchphrase “spiritual but not religious” is among the most glib and insipid pieties of our times. The Way, with its centuries of tradition, its ritual gestures and formalities, its institutions and symbols, its physically demanding regimen, and its cultural, Christian and Catholic particularity, is a gratifying reminder of how religion grounds and enriches us in ways that “spirituality” can’t. “Spirituality” has no traditions or rituals, makes no demands, gives us nothing to do in times of crisis. Spirituality itself points beyond spirituality to religion — a point The Way makes with unforced persuasiveness.
“MP3 is an artifact of the dial-up modem. I don’t see it lasting much longer as a standard. It was never meant to be a sound standard in the first place. Twenty-five years into digital storage of recorded music it is absolutely clear that analogue is a much better sounding and more robust medium. Vinyl records still provide the best listening experience. That is not to say that some people don’t prefer the sound of a CD or the sound of an MP3. People like all kinds of things. Human beings are amazing. We can live places snakes can’t.”—T-Bone Burnett in No Depression
“The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the *saints* the Church has produced and the *art* which has grown in her womb. Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by the clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history. If the Church is to continue to transform and humanize the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies, that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection? No, Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place where beauty — and truth — is at home. Without this the world will become the first circle of hell…. A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental: they necessarily are reflected in his theology.”—Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (1985)
The reader, viewer, listener, usually grossly underestimates his importance. If a reader cannot create a book along with the writer, the book will never come to life. Creative involvement: thats the basic difference between reading a book and watching TV. In watching TV we are passive; sponges; we do nothing. In reading we must become creators.
The author and the reader “know” each other; they meet on the bridge of words.
madeleine l’engle, walking on water
a book-gift from a bookish-friend. a challenging, insightful and very encouraging (read: heart-lifting) read.