The older I get the more suspicious I am of spirituality as something ethereal, exotic, and otherworldly—something found elsewhere. The poet William Carlos Williams coined the phrase “No ideas but in things” to express a poetic that preferred concreteness to abstraction. By the same token, I know of no spirituality outside the relationships that constitute the daily life of my community… .
[T]he quintessential activity of a religious community is not the purveying of doctrines and ideas but the worship of the presence that has called the community into being. In common prayer and song we lay aside the burden of self-consciousness; we recount the story of the encounter that brought us together. In worship we become participants, living members of a body, rather than observers and connoisseurs.
Liturgy is where art and community life meet. Where spirit is not thought but made flesh through hands, knees, and vocal chords. In worship the stuff of art is offered up in the name of the community, not the ego of the artist—or the clergy.
Though Picasso occasionally portrayed the crucifixion, such works were always remarkably devoid of religious conviction. His interest in the crucifixion was an interest in anguish. Picasso’s only answer to the problem of suffering was beauty.
In Picasso, finally, we find only the glittering brokenness, a brokenness which can be reconstructed solely by the beautiful “lies” of art. But finally, the artist himself must die. For Picasso, the hope is in the beauty of now; the rest is darkness.
I do not intend to close on an eristically apologetic note; i.e., “See, oh moderns, how even the greatest genius of our age saw that the only reasonable response to the human dilemma without Christ is despair.” It would be a betrayal of the sheer beauty of Picasso’s art to use it in such a dishonorable fashion. Surely Christianity is not in such bad shape that it must resort to using great art merely as a tool with which to tear humanity down so that we can later use Jesus to build it up again.
I am trying to understand why I respond so powerfully to Picasso. I don’t share his ultimate vision. I sometimes don’t even approve of him — his glorification of rape, for instance; or his reduction of atrocity to merely subjective outrage. And yet I am grasped. My response is not unrelated, I hope, to my confidence that humanity reflects so truly and completely the glory of God that there is glory even in the fragmentation of the human.
“It would be great if the entire film came all at once. But it comes, for me, in fragments. That first fragment is like the Rosetta Stone. It’s the piece of the puzzle that indicates the rest. It’s a hopeful puzzle piece.”—
Cinema is a lot like music. It can be very abstract, but people have a yearning to make intellectual sense of it, to put it right into words. And when they can’t do that, it feels frustrating. But they can come up with an explanation from within, if they just allow it.
If they started talking to their friends, soon they would see things–what something is and what something isn’t. And they might agree with their friends or argue with their friends–but how could they agree or argue if they don’t already know?
The interesting thing is, they really do know more than they think. and by voicing what they know, it becomes clearer. And when they see something, they could try to clarify that a little more and, again, go back and forth with a friend. And they would come to some conclusion. And that would be valid.
David Lynch on cinema, in Catching the Big Fish
I love it when people show that they value the “post-viewing discussion.” If more people thought about, and talked about, the movies that they saw, they would realize that they want movies worth talking about. That might change their moviegoing habits. And that might send a message: Make better movies, and we’ll go to them. And we’ll talk about them. And then we’ll go back and see them again.
“All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.”—
James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues
(posted by Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine, on Facebook)
“Have I ever told you of my theory of reciprocal self-barbarization? If you engage with barbarians on the other side then one inevitably becomes barbaric. If you engage with sane people, one becomes more sane. Progress depends on enlarging the party of sanity.”—
Today is “Unfollow Folks Who Only Know How to Blog About What Bothers Them Day.”
Sorry, friends, but life’s too short to read catalogues of what is stoking the fires of your perpetual rage.
When all I see is rage, I begin to disbelieve that the Rager is really so upset about whatever ourtrage constitutes Today’s Target. I begin to think that raging is just what they do, which is just as destructive as anything they might be upset about.
More beauty, please.
To paraphrase Madeleine L’Engle: We don’t draw people closer to the truth by telling people how wrong they are, and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.
Do you really want to change the parts of the world that bother you? Think on that.
“We are people who care about music,” he said, “and who care about sound. … We’re often told that the market has spoken, and that people want convenience and they don’t care about sound.
“Well, I don’t want to make music for people that don’t care about music. The record business made a colossal mistake when it started making music for people who don’t like music,” he said. “It also made a strategic mistake in the blind acceptance of digital over analog… Guitars are analog, drums are analog, people are analog and we live in an analog world.
“Of all the blights that science has inflicted on the soul of man, I consider the MP3 as among the worst,” Burnett said. He went on to lobby his peers and record industry executives to embrace higher standards of audio reproduction as a way of delivering high-quality music to the fans who are most passionate about what they hear.
Hi Jeffrey...I had the privilege of doing a couple of radio interviews with you a while back. I'm loving your books; I'm a big fan of your writing. I was wondering...do you know of any other CBA authors that are on tumblr? Blessings!
Hmmmm. I don’t think I know of anybody else at this point. But then, I don’t know many CBA authors at all.
“Work is enabling a body to live. […] I think one of the big wishes of the human kind is to transform things, to work on things to construct, to destroy, to sometimes construct again. And not only to look at the world, let’s say, passively. I think that’s the aim of humankind, being a man, a woman, is to change things. And cinema is about showing things that are changing.”—Filmmaker Luc Dardenne in an interview at The 99 Percent. (via pejohnston)
Allow me to paraphrase words spoken to a miiltary tribunal in ‘Paths of Glory’ by Kirk Douglas’s Colonel Dax:
'There are times when I'm ashamed to be a member of the industry-supported, Oscar-following community, and this is one such occasion. Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy, to proclaim to the world that you sincerely believe that 'The King's Speech' is the Best Picture of 2010 will be seen in the eyes of history as a stunningly mediocre call, and one that will haunt each of you, due respect, to the day you die. I can't believe that the wisest and noblest impulse among movie lovers, which is the ability to recognize the difference between a very good and highly likable film vs. one of exceptional craft and dimension and incandescence, can be completely dead here. Therefore, I humbly beg you to come to your senses, forget about what you 'like' and think of the contempt and derision that may be your legacy for decades and centuries to come.'
”—Jeffrey Wells, responding to the overwhelming evidence that the Academy voters are leaning toward giving their Best Picture award for 2010 to The King’s Speech
“People often justify their ugly little parishes by saying they don’t believe in wasting money for garnishments that insult the poor. Little do they realize that their bleak and barren churches are spiritually depriving the poor by starving their very hearts and souls; hard lives ache for beauty. I often wonder why people think the poor need (or deserve) only the basic-and-bare minimums. A dreary life needs more, not less, uplifting beauty. A church should be a refuge from a harsh and ugly world, a place where deprived senses may swim in beauty. To deny us that refuge or to deny the poor a chance to be awestruck seems an injustice to me.”—Spiritual Sustenance: Feed Us with Your Beauty (via triadic)
“Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”—
- C.S. Lewis, On Three Ways of Writing for Children
“I was recently flicking my car radio dial and heard an affected British voice tinkling out on NPR. I assumed it was some fussy, gossipy opera expert fresh from London. To my astonishment, it was Richard Dawkins, the thrice-married emperor of contemporary atheists. I had never heard him speak, so it was a revelation. On science, Dawkins was spot on — lively and nimble. But on religion, his voice went “Psycho” weird (yes, Alfred Hitchcock) — as if he was channeling some old woman with whom he was in love-hate combat. I have no idea what ancient private dramas bubble beneath the surface there. As an atheist who respects and studies religion, I believe it is fair to ask what drives obsessive denigrators of religion. Neither extreme rationalism nor elite cynicism are adequate substitutes for faith, which fulfills a basic human need — which is why religion will continue to thrive in our war-torn world.”—Camille Paglia on Richard Dawkins, Salon, Nov. 2009 (Thanks to Luanne Brown Austin for the link)