Amar es combatir

30 09 2009

munch kiss

amar es combatir, si dos se besan
el mundo cambia, encarnan los deseos,
el pensamiento encarna, brotan alas
en las espaldas del esclavo, el mundo
es real y tangible, el vino es vino,
el pan vuelve a saber, el agua es agua,
amar es combatir, es abrir puertas,
dejar de ser fantasma con un número
a perpetua cadena condenado
por un amo sin rostro;
el mundo cambia
si dos se miran y se reconocen,
amar es desnudarse de los nombres…

to love is to battle, if two kiss
the world changes, desires take flesh,
thoughts take flesh, wings sprout
on the backs of the slave, the world is real
and tangible, wine is wine, bread
regains its savor, water is water,
to love is to battle, to open doors,
to cease to be a ghost with a number
forever in chains, forever condemned
by a faceless master;
the world changes
if two look at each other and see,
to love is to undress our names…

Octavio Paz, Piedra de Sol (Sunstone), 1957. Translated by Eliot Weinberger.

Stolen from AG, here, which is a post that contains many interesting texts from the Jewish Midrash

The Virgin Spring

29 09 2009

The last ten minutes

AG does a masterful job of describing and giving a brief analysis of the movie here.

Growing up Catholic in the barrio

28 09 2009


On my way out of a Latino grocery score in Kenner (I was there to pick up some special cheese for AG’s sister, CG), some middle aged gentleman shoved a newpaper-like brochure in my hand, which I only realized a few seconds and steps later was a Spanish Protestant religious tract. I went to the Salvadoran restaurant next door to order some pupusas as a surprise snack for CG, and so I began to examine the evangelical rag with only mild interest. The front was all about how the Catholic Church preaches a “doctrine of demons” since it “obligates” (?) certain people to be celibate. It also went into the whole idea of works vs. faith, circumscision vs. uncircumscision, and other bizarre ideas formulated in a unique if rather superficial way.

When I got bored with that, I began to look around the small establishment, and noticed that there were two small statues of St. Jude, along with a happy Chinese Buddha (and some other trinkets). At least St. Jude won out in the numbers game. After my pupusas were ready, I was prepared to go out there and give that guy a “piece of my mind”, but he had cleared out by the time I exited the restaurant.
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More classical Indian dance

25 09 2009

On Romanticist Metanarratives

25 09 2009


Found this via the Ochlophobist blog:

Pelikan once called the development of doctrine to be Newman’s “great idea”, and based his entire remarkable history of Christian Doctrine on it. The development of doctrine is a philosophy of history, and Pelikan gave it a practical application. (That Pelikan ultimately rejected the development–implicitly–by embracing Orthodoxy is evidence of its weakness as a grounds for understanding Christian doctrine and faith.) In defense of Newman, the Cardinal often claimed in the essay that the development was simply the fact that no idea is ever first expressed in its fullest form. This seems reasonable enough, but flies in the face of traditional Christian conviction that the Gospel is the fullest form of all doctrine, and that the Church simply defends its deposit through the inspired Creed and councils. It would be truer to say that what develops is the number of occaisions to which doctrine has to be explicitly applied, though no father of the councils would have dared to say he was finding a new doctrine, rather they were always defending that which had always been taught. And from Nicea to iconoclasm, there is plenty of evidence for that fact. New technical language is applied to explain doctrine, but for the orthodox Christian, doctrine itself never develops. Newman’s essay, therefore, attempted to defend orthodoxy against the enlightenment by undermining it; Hegel simply defended incipient-liberal Protestantism against the enlightenment by removing from it all the content of the Gospel. But their methods of engaging it bear a more than cursory similarity.
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From a recent Internet discussion

24 09 2009


I decided to share part of this with the “general public”:

…I can hardly gel this religion with the rather tame faith of post-Vatican II Catholicism. What the changes of modern Catholicism articulate for me is that the traditional Roman Faith has always been a hodge-podge of official, “clericalized”, theologically correct beliefs and practices, as well as equally important, pagan, “folk” elements. You can try to justify all this stuff with just the Bible, or with the Bible and Patristics, but what you will get is exactly what we inherited in the last half century: a reductionist, bland, modern faith of people obsessed with proof-texting every last belief and practice of the Church; people who in order to see the forest from the trees, begin chopping down a large number of trees they think “get in the way”. Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

I suppose my studies of paganism and Neoplatonism have helped me understand my Faith better. I’m sort of Jack Chick’s evil doppelganger. I realize now that what modern people, even modern Catholics, deem “pagan” is a historically conditioned category. That is just how people have always acted; it is just how people do things. This is quite clear to me in my limited studies of Protestant “folk systems”: even good Protestants of the past read astrology charts, did all sorts of conjuring using the Psalms, and even had the occasional “folk saints” who could be called upon for help (the Kabala-inspired angel magic of the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses comes to mind, a favorite in the deep South, as well as the figure of “High John the Conqueror” amongst African-American Protestants.) When approaching the text of the Bible, we tend to bring to the table our own very sterile and embedded prejudices that the average first century Jew was basically a liturgical Quaker who shared the same cosmology as Richard Dawkins, only with a light sprinkling of “God” on top. This was probably not the case.

Protestants seem to think that Catholics have added on to what the early Church believed; Catholics retort that Protestants have taken away from what the early Church believed. I am sort of starting to think, just from my own religious anthropological investigations, that perhaps no one believes what the early Church believed, and that is perhaps not such a bad thing. The Shepherd of Hermas? Millenarianism? People speaking in tongues and St. Peter making people drop dead just for “lying on their tax returns”? Seven years canonical penance for adultery? And that is just from the paltry documental evidence we know about. Who knows what those first assemblies of believers were really like? Newman quipped that to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. I reply that to be deeper in history is to cease to be anything. And pace Newman, to have changed often does not mean that one is perfect. It merely means that one is mortal.

Perhaps I am too subtle or too honest to be on the Internet. I can say, however, that many Catholics take great solace in what I write… So in the end, at least with some of the stuff I write, I am helping a lot of Catholics out. But I do so not by engaging the enemy “on his own terms”… but by trying to argue for Catholicism within the safe confines of its own inner logic. If we were just faithful to who we are, even in our most “pagan” elements and “man-made” traditions, I am convinced that the Gospel will shine forth in all its splendor to the point that we will not have to argue for the Truth: it will be manifest through the Church. I know this because I have seen it myself, and am confident that we don’t need to change one iota of it to make it any more convincing. It has always been my contention that few can “prove” the Truth effectively, but many, even simple people, can SHOW it.

Window – Roof – House – Soul

23 09 2009


Michael Carroll in his book, Veiled Threats, tells of the following:

Gian Matteo Gilberti, bishop of Verona… instructed his priests to root out superstition, and singled out in particular “the practice of uncovering the roof so that the soul [of the dead] can get out, something that suggests the soul could be held back by a roof.” In fact, Italians have long believed that the human soul has a physical substance and so can be blocked by physical barriers like a roof. This is why those present at a death leave an exit for the soul of the dead person by removing a slat from the roof or opening a window. The fact that diocesan synods throughout Italy continued to condemn these practices into the modern era… is an indication of just how rooted and widespread this view was.

“A quaint superstition”, you might think. Mircea Eliade, however, further elaborates:

the soul of the dead person departs though the chimney or the roof and especially through the part of the roof that lies above the “sacred area”. In cases of prolonged death agony, one or more boards are removed from the roof, or the roof is even broken. The meaning of the custom is patent: the soul will more easily quit the body if the other image of the body-cosmos, the house, is broken open above. Obviously all these experiences are inaccessible to nonreligious man, not only because, for him, death has become desacralized, but also because he no longer lives in a cosmos in the proper sense of the word and is no longer aware that having a body and taking up residence in a house are equivalent to assuming an existential situation in the cosmos.

The Sacred and the Profane

If we are to give any creedence to Eliade, institutional spiritual institutions are not always the best apparatus in preserving the ancient religious ethos. It is probably not to be doubted that such an Italian practice originated with paganism, but the reasoning behind it (again, if we give Eliade creedence) transcends even the tired pagan/Christian divide.

For Eliade, reality only has meaning insofar as it conforms to the symbols of the divine. Once the language of these symbols breaks down, even the spiritual gatekeepers begin to conceive of the universe in increasingly desacralized terms. That is perhaps behind the sectoralized and atomized character of religion today, “orthodox” or not. In a place where even basic religious paradigms are separated from everyday life, any sense of continuity with the past becomes boderline farcical. Quomodo sedet sola civitas

Useless questions

22 09 2009


A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night hundred beetles and all their cousins

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the ‘night candle’ rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument
Said to his friend – for no apparent

“What should we do about that moon?”

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless

-Hafiz, found on this site

On the margins of theology – II

21 09 2009

pacho villa

The primitive ontology of the Laguna region of Mexico in the 1950’s

In the year 1953, my mother was born on the U.S. – Mexico border, in the town of Sullivan City, Texas. Within three months, she and her parents returned to their native village of Florencia, in the state of Coahuila, just outside the city of Torreon, in what is known as the Laguna region of northern Mexico.

That same year, an American anthropologist, Isabel Kelly, began to do field studies into the healing practices and popular beliefs in that same region of Mexico. She would later compile these into a small book titled, Folk Practices in North Mexico: Birth Customs, Folk Medicine, and Spiritualism in the Laguna Zone. While her book appears more as a series of field notes, almost verbatim accounts of various practices from the area around the city of Torreon, they reveal that the popular vision of the world was shaped by various cross currents, both ancient and modern, that informed the how people from my mother’s homeland dealt with the various travails of their harsh existence.
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Saint Marron

17 09 2009


St. Marron, a folk saint unique to New Orleans, was the patron of runaway slaves; the name derives from the French word marron, meaning a runaway. He was usually represented by an image of St. Anthony, apparently this saint not only found lost people, he aided those who “got lost” on purpose.

-Carolyn Morrow Long, A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau