Robert wandered out as in a dream. At midnight he found himself on a solitary hill-top, seated in the heather, with a few tiny fir-trees about him, and the sounds of a wind, ethereal as the stars overhead, flowing through their branches: he heard the sound of it, but it did not touch him.
Where was God?
In him and his question.
”—George MacDonald, Robert Falconer (via nachtseite)
“In contemporary religious circles, souls, if they are mentioned at all, tend to be spoken of as saved or lost, having answered some set of divine expectations or failed to answer them, having arrived at some crucial realization or failed to arrive at it. So the soul, the masterpiece of creation, is more or less reduced to a token signifying cosmic acceptance or rejection, having little or nothing to do with that miraculous thing, the felt experience of life, except insofar as life offers distractions or temptations.”—
Marilynne Robinson, from her new book When I was a Child I Read Books
“At best, a wish-fulfillment fantasy for everyone who insists they could never have gone along with the deeply institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South. At worst, a comic lie that glosses over how such a scenario would have played out in real life. I think Viola Davis is stellar, and I don’t think the film deserves her. You can talk about friendships and giving voice to marginalized black and female characters, and I’m all for that. Stockett’s book and Taylor’s film gives voice to archetypes and schematics and cartoons. I wish, as a film, it was worthy of Davis’ performance. But it is not. It’s just another example of film that lets people congratulate themselves on ‘how far we’ve come.’”—Jason Shawhan on The Help
“This is why the loss of religious certainty facilitated the birth of kitsch. Faith exalts the human heart, removing it from the marketplace, making it sacred and unexchangeable. Under the jurisdiction of religion, our deeper feelings are sacralized, so as to become raw material for the ethical life, the life lived in judgment. When faith declines, however, the sacred loses one of its most important forms of protection from marauders; the heart can now more easily be captured and put on sale. Some things—the human heart is one of them—can be bought and sold only if they are first denatured. The Christmas-card sentiments advertise what cannot be advertised without ceasing to be: hence the emotion that they offer is fake. Kitsch reflects our failure not merely to value the human spirit but to perform those sacrificial acts that create it. It is a vivid reminder that the human spirit cannot be taken for granted, that it does not exist in all social conditions, but is an achievement that must be constantly renewed through the demands that we make on others and on ourselves. Nor is kitsch a purely aesthetic disease. Every ceremony, every ritual, every public display of emotion can be kitsched—and inevitably will be kitsched, unless controlled by some severe critical discipline. (Think of the Disneyland versions of monarchical and state occasions that are rapidly replacing the old stately forms.) It is impossible to flee from kitsch by taking refuge in religion, when religion itself is kitsch. The “modernization” of the Roman Catholic Mass and the Anglican prayer book were really a “kitschification”: and attempts at liturgical art are now poxed all over with the same disease. The day-to-day services of the Christian churches are embarrassing reminders of the fact that religion is losing its sublime godwardness and turning instead toward the world of fake sentiment.”—Kitsch and the Modern Predicament by Roger Scruton, City Journal Winter 1999 (via poeticfaith)
“Kitsch is pretense. But not all pretense is kitsch. Something else is needed to create the sense of intrusion—the un-wanted hand on the knee. Kitsch is not just pretending; it is asking you to join in the game. In real kitsch, what is being faked cannot be faked. Hence the pretense must be mutual, complicitous, knowing. The opposite of kitsch is not sophistication but innocence. Kitsch art is pretending to express something, and you, in accepting it, are pretending to feel. Kitsch therefore relies on codes and clichés that convert the higher emotions into a pre-digested and trouble-free form—the form that can be most easily pretended. Like processed food, kitsch avoids everything in the organism that asks for moral energy and so passes from junk to crap without an intervening spell of nourishment.”—Kitsch and the Modern Predicament by Roger Scruton, City Journal Winter 1999 (via poeticfaith)
On one winter evening the normal limitations of our bodies seemed to fall away and we began to run further and faster than we ever had before. My strides felt like the looping arcs traced by an antelope in full flight. The stars overhead, like pinpricks in a curtain blocking a blinding light, bore down on us. Suddenly, many miles into our run, my sarcastic, lapsed-Catholic friend—the friend who used to boast to me about getting to second or third base with girls—turned to me (the naturally religious child) and said: “Let’s say the Lord’s Prayer.”
So there, along a back road in Duxbury, Massachusetts, we two boys loped along under starlight, inspired—taking huge lungfuls of air that seemed to fill every corner of our bodies, pumping adrenaline that was entirely natural, returning glory to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in plumes of air that came from a world without end.
“Light and darkness, sun and moon, stars and planets, trees, beasts, whales, fishes, and birds of the air, all these things in the world around us and the whole natural economy in which they have their place have impressed themselves upon the spirit of man in such a way that they naturally tend to mean to him much more than they mean in themselves. That is why, for example, they enter so mysteriously into the substance of our poetry, of our visions, and of our dreams. That too is why an age, like the one we live in, in which cosmic symbolism has been almost forgotten and submerged under a tidal wave of trademarks, political party buttons, advertising and propaganda slogans, and all the rest — is necessarily an age of mass psychosis. A world in which the poet can find practically no material in the common substance of everyday life, and in which he is driven crazy in his search for the vital symbols that have been buried alive under a mountain of cultural garbage, can only end up, like ours, in self-destruction. And that is why some of the best poets of our time are running wild among the tombs in the moonlit cemeteries of surrealism. Faithful to the instincts of the true poet, the are unable to seek their symbols anywhere save in the depths of the spirit where these symbols are found. These depths have become a ruin and a slum. But poetry must, and does, make good use of whatever it finds there: starvation, madness, frustration, and death.”—Thomas Merton, Literary Essays, p. 333
In seminary Mister Rogers studied systematic theology with Dr. William S. Orr. “From then on I took everything he offered; it could have been underwater basket weaving.
“He was a great influence on many of our lives. Not just because he was brilliant,” he says. “He was the kind of person who would go out on a winter’s day for lunch and come back without his overcoat.
“I studied Greek with him and then I studied New Testament with him. Every Sunday, my wife and I used to go to the nursing home to visit him. One Sunday we had just sung ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’ and I was full of this one verse. I said, ‘Dr. Orr, we just sang this hymn and I’ve got to ask you about part of it.
“‘You know where it says—The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. For, lo, his doom is sure. … one little word will fell him? Dr. Orr, what is that one thing that would wipe out evil?’
“He said, ‘Evil simply disintegrates in the presence of forgiveness. When you look with accusing eyes at your neighbor, that is what evil would want, because the more the accuser’—which, of course, is the word Satan in Hebrew—’can spread the accusing spirit, the greater evil spreads.’ Dr. Orr said, ‘On the other hand, if you can look with the eyes of the Advocate on your neighbor, those are the eyes of Jesus.’
“[Worshippers] don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best – if you like, it “works” best – when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you don’t need to consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.”—C.S. Lewis. Letters to Malcolm (via commentmagazine)