I don’t have any “friends”

31 12 2009

Or: Why I got off Facebook

[Continuing with personal posts for the few who are still reading this blog…]

Well, I finally deactivated my Facebook account. It was really just getting too boring to read. First of all, I was never the “Facebook whore” that some people are. I never had more than about 80 friends, and most of those were either relatives, people I have met, or known readers of this blog. And they apparently have very boring lives, and fairly uninteresting thoughts. (Sorry.) Secondly, I figured that if people really need to contact me, my e-mail address is in the “About” section of this blog, and all hate / fan mail usually comes there anyway. AG used to get on my case for spending too much time on Facebook, so to all of those who posted about how much you love peanut butter or videos of puppies playing guitars, thanks for making my relationship a lot smoother.
Read the rest of this entry »

On the rose

30 12 2009

El alma vuela y vuela
buscándote a lo lejos,
rosa tú, melancólica
rosa de mi recuerdo.
Cuando la madrugada
va el campo humedeciendo,
y el día es como un niño
que despierta en el cielo,
Rosa, tú, melancólica
ojos de sombra llenos,
desde mi estrecha sábana
toco tu firme cuerpo.
Cuando ya el alto sol
ardió con su alto fuego,
cuando la tarde cae
del ocaso deshecho,
ya en mi lejana mesa
tu oscuro pan contemplo.
Y en la noche cargada
de ardoroso silencio,
Rosa, tú, melancólica
rosa de mi recuerdo,
dorada, viva, y húmeda,
bajando vas del techo,
tomas mi mano fría
y te me quedas viendo.
Cierro entonces los ojos,
pero siempre te veo
clavada allí, clavando
tu mirada en mi pecho,
larga mirada fija,
como un puñal de sueño.

-Nicolás Guillén

Read the rest of this entry »

On Vision, the Finite and the Infinite

29 12 2009

Cusanus proposes that man must first accept the fact that no overlap can exist between the finite and the infinite. Accepting this separation allows the possibility of seeing the One in the many and the many in the One. In De Visione Dei, Cusanus sees the resolution of universal and particular exemplified in Rogier van der Weyden’s self-portrait. The eyes of the sitter, following both stationary and moving observers, are coinstantaneously fixed upon one viewer and all others, taking part, in synchronous fashion, in the movement of one and all. Cusanus says that we can know the divine when (in a manner similar to the self-portrait) we begin to approach God from infinitely multiple points of view, collecting these views in a unified vision, a visio intellectualis. True knowledge then, lies in accepting particularity and “allowing it to unfold in all its richness.” But even all this does not mean that we have mediated the difference between the finite and the infinite. Cusanus believed that any process beginning in the empirical would end in the empirical. To overcome this, we must replace the empirical with the spiritual, the spiritual universal content of humanity. Cusanus saw this universal content embodied in Christ, a natura media encompassing the finite and the infinite.

-Robert D. Huerta, Vermeer and Plato: Painting the Ideal

More thoughts on being “Latino” and Catholic

28 12 2009

image credit

Since no one is reading this blog right now anyway, I feel free to ramble about personal stuff that I ordinarily try to steer clear of. This time, I will touch once again on ethnicity. Again, maybe I am just not able to connect with other “Latinos” on the Internet, but I always find that the way most people reflect on issues of growing up “Latino”, culture, and religion, is profoundly different from my own experience. First of all, “Latino” is a construct that I don’t agree with. Even now, in New Orleans, I work in an office with lots of other Latino people, most of whom are Central American, and to tell the truth, it is the Latino equivalent of Americans working with Australians. (I have lived with Australians too, so I know what I am talking about.) Granted, if you were working in a place where the official language was French, you would probably identify a lot more with the Australians than with other co-workers. But you wouldn’t consider them “your people”.

Of course, my own experience growing up was different than what a “Latino” would experience here in New Orleans. In my small town on the central coast of California, people of Mexican descent were the majority, about sixty percent of the town. During the holidays, the exodus of entire families back to Mexico is a common phenomenon, one that I participated in several times as a youth. There was never the sense that we were a “racial minority”. Where we lived, we were the majority, and our enclaves were sort of “little Mexicos” where our customs, food, and way of life were somewhat preserved in the midst of the American melting pot. I can’t really think that this would be the experience of “Latino” communities in other places, and perhaps with the rapid spread of modern means of communication, it will not be in the near future.
Read the rest of this entry »

Some Charpentier

24 12 2009

The Virgin as Philosopher’s Stone

23 12 2009

I will propose you a similitude of gold. The ethereal heaven was shut from all men, so that all men should descend to the infernal seats, and be there perpetually detained. But Jesus Christ opened the gate of the ethereal Olympus, and has now unlocked the kingdoms of Pluto, that the souls may be taken out; when by the co-operation of the holy spirit in the virginal womb, the virgin Mary did by an ineffable mystery and most profound sacraments conceive what was the most excellent in the heavens and on the earth; and at length brought forth for us the saviour of the whole world, who out of his super abundant bounty shall save all who are able to sin, if the sinner turn himself to him. But she remained an untouched and undefiled virgin: whence mercury is not undeservedly compared to the most glorious saint the virgin Mary. For mercury is a virgin because it never propagated in the womb of the Earth and metallic body, and yet it generates the stone for us; by dissolving heaven, that is, gold, it opens it, and brings out the soul; which understand you to be the divinity, and carries it some little while in its womb, and at length in its own time transmits it into a cleansed body. From whence a child, that is, the stone, is born to us, by whose blood the inferior bodies being tinged are brought safe into the golden heaven, and mercury remains a virgin without a stain, such as is was ever before.

-attributed to Marsilio Ficino in a treatise on alchemy

Again, On Sight

22 12 2009

The “displacement of attention” of which Bergson speaks, as in the case of Merleau-Ponty’s “phenomenological reduction”, is in fact a conversion: a radical rupture with regard to the state of unconsciousness in which man normally lives. The utilitarian perception we have of the world, in everyday life, in fact hides from us the world qua world. Aesthetic and philosophical perceptions of the world are only possible by means of a complete transformation of our relationship to the world: we have to perceive it for itself, and no longer for ourselves.

-Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, pg. 254.

First of all, the bright, clear color of the sky, and all it holds within it, the stars that wander here and there, and the moon and the radiance of the sun with its brilliant light; all these, if now they had been seen for the first time by mortals, if, unexpectedly, they were in a moment placed before their eyes, what story could be told more marvelous than these things, or what that the nations would less dare to believe beforehand? Nothing, I believe; so worthy of wonder would this sight have been. Yet think how no one now, wearied with the satiety of seeing, deigns to gaze up at the shining quarters of the sky!

…A truth wondrously new is struggling to fall upon your ears, and a new face of things to reveal itself.

-Lucretius, De Rerum Natura

Tilting at minarets

21 12 2009

When I encounter the few times that people speak of me elsewhere on the Internet, I am always a little amused by what they think I am really like. So I will just clarify once and for all that in spite of all appearances, I am actually a “Lefebvrist”, at least in my theology. If I don’t hang out with those people, it is because my “lifestyle” wouldn’t gel with that crowd. In other words, I don’t expect my wife to be barefoot and pregnant and getting me my beer, I watch T.V. and like it, I listen to Hindu bhajans and not Gregorian chants when I write for my blog (as I am now)… in other words, I am a pretty modern and eccentric person. But when it comes down to theology, or rather, what I feel I have to believe in order to get to Heaven, I don’t take anything that was written after 1960 seriously, unless it sounds exactly the same as something that was written before that time. If it isn’t at least as old as my parents, I really don’t see why I need to listen to it, unless it has been laid down as the definitive, unchanging answer of the Church coming from a legitimate authority. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which came out when I was fourteen and is chock full of ambiguities, and of which I got a first edition back in the day, does not meet that criterion with me.
Read the rest of this entry »

Dorian Blues in G

18 12 2009

The roadhous was rocking. Orpheus- the archetypal rambling bluesman, king of the animals, and all-around steady-rolling man-was wailing from the joint’s makeshift band-stand, breaking a sweat that was slowly turing the road dust clinging to his clothing into think river-bottom mud. The crowd packed the dance floor. Over in a corner, the heat got the better of Elder Brown, who was so drunk that he kept trying to pick a fight. At the bar, the music and the scene so bemused the undercover cop that he flashed his badge in front of the locals. A few began looking around wildly, trying to spot the nearest exit, but most of them ignored the provocation. “Stomp it down to the bricks,” they yelled, and Orpheus obliged by shaking the roadhouse into a low-down groove. Pythagoras heard the commotion from the blacksmith’s shop nearby, and added to it with hammers, tongs, anvils, the clarity of the resulting harmonic ratios ringing out like a metallic music of the spheres.

Out back of the smithy, an immense high-tension stepdown transformer hummed and pulsed an oceanic 60-cycle drone. La Monte Young, who had been sitting cross-legged on the ground, his consciousness wholly immersed in the sound of the transformer, slowly got to his feet, hearing everything- Orpheus, Pythagoras, the rhythmic stomping that was shivering the roadhous timbers, the transformer’s robust whine. He checked the clamorous machine shop next door, satisfying himself that the stampers and drill presses were all perfectly in tune, and then strode purposefully toward the roadhouse. The machine shop’s drone harmonized beautifully with the other sounds Young was hearing; monentarily, he seemed lost in thought. “This could be a really accurate tuning for Young’s Dorian Blues in G,” he mused, “with the blues 7:6 minor third B-flat reinforcing the fundamental harmonic resonance of the power grid…” He entered the roadhouse; in his biker jacket and leather gloves, with a purple bandana tied around his head, he fit right in. When Orpheus finally took a break and headed for the bar, Young approached him. “I’m recruiting musicians, ” he explained, “for this really bad blues band….”

Thus Robert Palmer envisions a mythical version of the formation of La Monte Young’s Forever Bad Blues Band. While the formation of this avant-garde ensemble was not quite so mystical, the music and La Monte Young’s reputation as a musical avant-garde godfather make this recording of La Monte Young’s Dorian Blues in G a must-have.

An excerpt:

Approaching René Girard

17 12 2009

I found this interesting discussion in my meanderings around the Internet. Although I really dislike Bouyer, I will give him the benefit of the doubt on his reflections on Girard’s work on sacrifice, violence, and mimesis. Reading Girard is an intellectual project I have set out for myself next year, if only to clear up some intellectual unfinished business.

I actually first encountered Girard in person when he gave a presentation at the Dominican School of Theology in Berkeley. I won’t bother going into giving a usual summary of Girard’s work, and leave to the reader to look it up on Wikipedia and other reputable sources. AG, who was also there, not surprisingly understood Girard’s presentation better than I did, though a lot of this was due to the fact that my first impulse when I encounter such complex metanarratives is to begin to link them to other things I have encountered and begin to take them apart in my head. The one aspect that I did get, and apparently what Bouyer may have been critiquing, was the idea that Christ’s sacrifice was the end of “religion” in that the scapegoat model that he uses to analyze all religion was inverted in the murder of the Son of God. Whereas in other religions, according to Girard, a god is a guilty victim put to death and deified by such a murder; in Christianity the god is innocent and his death breaks the scapegoat cycle.

While I think such observations have some truth to them, I still was left feeling that Girard was chanelling the snake oil salesman in his presentation. Such theories try to present themselves as cure-alls, but often they fail to deliver. For he could not answer intelligently an objection by one woman in the audience concerning any sort of scapegoat in Buddhism, for example. The same could be said of the religious consciousness of Islam, which also has no sacrifice. I think trying to apply such categories to Latin American folk Catholicism would also breed all sorts of problematic results.

But I have yet to read all of this from the horse’s mouth, though my main question is, “why is he becoming so popular now?” And the other issue that I have is that such metanarratives often seek to “reform” religious practices along the lines of what they deem to be most correct. What potential does Rene Girard’s theory have, so averse to the idea of sacrifice, within the post-Vatican II church? Is he just one more weapon in the arsenal of conservative neo-modernists who would reconcile modern forms of religious thought with something that apes the traditional? Again, only reading and reflecting on Girard will tell for sure.