More Maria Lionza

16 12 2009

On Dust

15 12 2009

Me veo puro polvo
Cruzando la llanura
Las vacas las casas la lejania
Son polvo
Polvo de sol que no soporta el ojo vivo

Hundo el pie en el agua invisible
Que de repente brota y corre
Sobre la arena

En el cuenco de mis manos
Subo el agua hasta mi boca
Lo que bebo es una estrella pulverizada

-Luis Garcia Morales, De un sol a otro

(I see myself as pure dust
Crossing the plain
The cows the houses the distance
Are dust
Sun-dust that cannot stand the living eye

I dip my foot in the invisible water
That suddenly flows out and runs
On the sand

In the hollow of my hand
I bring the water to my mouth
That which I drink is a pulverized star)

The parable of the Golden Arches

11 12 2009

There once was a blogger who decided that, after a long hiatus from eating at McDonald’s, he would finally go back and see what it was like. After all, he had heard that it serves salads now, and has tried to go with some healthier items on its menu. He wanted to see if the hordes of people who went to McDonald’s instead of all of the other eating options available were on to something. Maybe there is some profound cultural experience that he had been missing by turning his nose up at this stuff.

Sadly, he went back, and all he experienced was what he had experienced before: overly salted, fried food with all style and no substance. There is the smiling Ronald McDonald, the Hamburgler, and the bright, appealing energy of a franchise that can do no wrong. But still, he thinks to himself, is this really nutritious? Should people be eating this stuff? Is it really giving the people what they need, or are they just settling for something that is leaving them in their uncultured, undeveloped habits of food and dining?
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On art and commitment

11 12 2009

[originally posted here]

Shostakovich is a composer very dear to my heart, and not just because I am an ex-Marxist. The power, drive and idealism that his music exudes are truly astounding in a century so dominated by musical experiments that didn’t work. There was no flamboyant experimentalism in his music, even though it was indeed modern. His symphonies are unparalleled works of music in the twentieth century, and he is undoubtedly the greatest master of that genre in modern times.

Shostakovich was not a great composer in spite of being a communist. It was because of his convictions that he could write such moving symphonic works. He very much tried to be a composer of the people, even if the Stalinist bureaucracy tried to put stumbling blocks in his way.

Was he stifled as an artist because he lived in such a repressive regime? One of my favorite anecdotes is that of Bertolt Brecht moving back to Soviet-occupied Germany. When asked by Western reporters whether he felt repressed because of the censorship of the Soviet regime, he replied that at least in this socialist society, important government officials would set him aside for hours to talk to him about his work, when in the West they would simply ignore him.

Do we censor the arts and ideas by simply ignoring them? Is our own society even more toxic to the arts and culture because, rather than persecuting them, we simply ignore them? And does such a situation lower the aesthetic standard of the works that this decadent society produces?

I don’t want to impose a repressive regime on anyone, but what is the true intellectual and cultural cost of the dictatorship of personal license?

St. Joseph’s Cord

10 12 2009

[Originally posted here]

AG, as you may well know from reading her blog, is from New Orleans. Her family hails from a small city some ways away called Opelousas. You can read more about her memories of going to this place here, as well as on other parts of her fine blog.

Her parents were recently in the Bay Area, and her father regaled us with many tales of growing up in a sharecropping family in the Louisiana countryside. Being Creoles, they grew up speaking both French and English, and now having met his mother, I can say that I really don’t know when that gentle woman is speaking English and when she is speaking French. (She makes a fine gumbo, though.) And of course, they are Catholics to the core.

Mr. G told one story in particular that intrigued my sense of the unusual and the extraordinary. As in other places in rural communities, doctors were few and far between. People had to rely on other means of healing in order to cure their ailments, sometimes even in emergencies. Mr. G. told me about “treaters”, people who could pray over people and make them better. One story in particular highlighted the role of these people in that community.

The G. family had an old dog that had the useful habit of attacking and chasing away snakes. Usually, it was quick and agile enough to get out of the way of a snake when it would strike. One time, though, it was not quick enough, and a poisonous moccasin bit the dog in the face. The dog’s face began to swell up and it became mortally ill.

Not wanting to lose the dog, the family called the grandfather who was known as a treater. One of the main tools of a treater in that community was the St. Joseph’s Cord, the image of which you see above, and prayers that go along with it can be found here. After this treater recited the prayers of the St. Joseph’s Cord, the dog became a little better. After three days, the dog’s face returned to its normal size and he was up and about again as feisty as ever.

I thought this story was quaint and uplifting for a variety of reasons. I have always been puzzled in the Gospels as to why Christ could not perform miracles in places where there was little faith. I don’t think an easy answer can be given to this question. Maybe this is why the miraculous is so scarce in our day and age. For the miracle is often the result of faith sown in love, and love is the bond of all things, and it can do all things. As we see in this story, it can even cure a lethal snake bite. In this sense, loving prayer can be considered magical.

being to timelessness as it’s to time,
love did no more begin than love will end;
where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim
love is the air the ocean and the land

(do lovers suffer?all divinities
proudly descending put on deathful flesh:
are lovers glad?only their smallest joy’s
a universe emerging from a wish)

love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star

-do lovers love?why then to heaven with hell.
Whatever sages say and fools,all’s well

-e.e. cummings

On Forgetting

9 12 2009

Poema LXXI

Hasta en tu modo
de olvidar hay
algo bello.

Creía yo que todo
olvido era sombra;
pero tu olvido es
luz, se siente
como una viva luz…

¡Tu olvido es
la alborada borrando
las estrellas!…

-Dulce María Loynaz

(Even in your way
of forgetting there is
something beautiful.

I used to believe that all
forgetting was shadow;
but your forgetting is
light, it feels
like a living light…

Your forgetting is
the dawn erasing
the stars!…)

On the nature of the prophet

8 12 2009

The mirror the divine essence was placed face to face,
so that this form was duplicated,
the reflection of the divine essence appeared in the mirror,
the name of this reflection became Mustafa.
If such an image had not been born
the conclusion of beauty would come with him.
All flames come from this one flame
which illumines from earth to heaven.

The explanation of this is given thus by the masters of knowledge and the possessors of inner wisdom. The first emanation of God, may his state be exalted, is the light of Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him. That is, the absolute Creator brought the light of Muhammad into being 1,670,000 years before all other existent and created things. Hazrat ibn Jauzi wrote that God said to this light, “Become Muhammad,” so that it became a column of light and stood up and reached to the veil of divine greatness- then it prostrated and said, “Praise Be to God!” Then God said, “For this I have created you and I will make you the beginning of creation and the end of the Prophets”.

-Khwaja Muhammad Akbar Warithi, Milad-e-Akbar, found in the book, Religions of India in Practice

On severed heads and other sloppy thoughts

7 12 2009

I was going to write a nice, organized post for this week, but I have been busy this weekend, so expect much shorter posts for the time being. One “Facebook scuffle” I got into was with my “magisterial Protestant” friends. Apparently, they like to study history, but they study it in such a distorted manner that it reminds one of nineteenth century British gentlemen going on safari in Africa. They only really go to gawk at strange beasts, and have a detached vicarious experience from the safety of a civilized party of “explorers” who take a break for afternoon tea. When a Catholic studies Christian history, he tends to realize that he is indeed “one of the natives”.

My friend’s brief essay was on the veneration of the head of St. Edward the Confessor in ninth century England. He has a hard time understanding how medievals could believe such things as people:

claiming that the severed head of a saint-king, which had been callously tossed aside by his killers and lost in the bushes, answered people calling out to it by saying, “Over here! Over here!”, so that they could find it and reunite it with the body – which, as so often happened in these sorts of stories, subsequently remained incorrupt.

Or find edifying the idea of a:

hagiographical tradition claims that he was so “holy” that he voluntarily slept with his wife for many years without ever touching her in any way not suitable to a mere sister…This problem is, of course, subsequent to the larger problems involved in trying to grasp what a “celibate marriage” might be, and why it is supposedly “holier” to treat one’s wife like one’s mere sister than as one’s WIFE.
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Herman Scherman

4 12 2009

A ballet by William Forsythe

Also of interest, the interview: Did William Forsythe Invent The Modern Ballerina?

On the Church and Language

3 12 2009

Or: On Pizza, Beer, Machine Guns, Transliterated Greek Words, Argentine Sedevacantism, Taxi Cabs and Other Attractions of My Theological Freak Show

This essay was originally posted here

Sometimes I think that there is no such thing as Roman Catholicism. Rather, there are Roman Catholicisms. My religious experiences with Mexicans and Argentines seem so far removed from any conversations about religion that I have in this country among “non-Latins”. There is an antiseptic, dry quality to everything that is said in the United States about the Roman Catholic Church. This quality even penetrates to the fringes and extremes of any Catholic phenomenon in this country.

When we were occasionally let out of seminary in Argentina, I would sometimes be able to go into the actual city of Buenos Aires to see the sights and take a break from the usual diet of gruel and water. A few times, I went out with my best friend Nico, another bohemian who had no business being an SSPX seminarian, to spread clerical terror in the land of the porteños. One of my favorite things to do was to go to San Telmo, the old part of the city, and have some beer and pizza. Now, Argentine pizza is different from the pizza we have here: it is much less greasy, the crust is thicker, and it has less of a sense of being a type of fast food. And it goes wonderfully with a nice Argentine beer.
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