On Western polytheism

30 06 2010

From this site:

With these points, we can come to a deeper understanding of the meaning behind the history of Western polytheism. While different forces were in fact given different names, these ‘gods’ were ultimately part of a common unity. They became more separate only after becoming more human. Similarly, the Western Christian God has evolved to become increasingly ‘personal,’ and abstract. He has been increasingly divorced from his creation, seen less in our world but rather more confined to the heavens. While the ultimate fall of the ‘paganisms’ lay in the gods becoming too human, Christianity has been made abstract to the point of becoming obsolete in the eyes of secular humanists for example, who claim to follow its values but call themselves atheists.

Saints not ready for primetime

29 06 2010

Why is it that I have holy cards for most of these people? I have never heard of number 10 before. Will have to keep an eye out for him.

Missing the point(e) of ballet

29 06 2010

Or: Art at the service of culture wars

Honestly, the best stuff to write about comes from the kooks. E. Michael Jones is one such kook. I listened to a substantial portion of a recent interview about the book seen above Of course, I know of the problems this Catholic critic has had in the past due to charges of anti-Semitism and so forth. But I still wanted to know what he thought about ballet.

Well, I can’t say that there was much ballet proper in his talk at least. E. Michael Jones does point out some interesting facts that few know about the Nutcracker and its popularity in the United States. For one thing, the Nutcracker‘s popularity in the U.S. is unique. The fact that it has become a rite of passage for suburban U.S. families is a phenomenon that was not even duplicated in pre-revolutionary Russia. For Jones, the popularity of the Nutcracker is due to a nostalgia for a more traditional and hierarchical time, hence the idea of performing the Nutcracker as a “counter-revolutionary act”.

It’s an interesting hypothesis, but aesthetically speaking it is one that is grasping at straws. Conservative cultural critics in their polemics can often give more weight to social phenomena than is actually there. If we follow this line of argument, I suppose Disney films are also a traditionalist longing for a simpler time. Such a line of thinking begs a lot of questions. If family togetherness, the love of beauty, and a celebration of gender roles are counter-revolutionary acts, what are “revolutionary” acts in the white suburban context. Since my experience with white suburbia is farily limited to this point, I will leave that question for others to answer.

However, I still think that ballet makes a bad instrument for social propagandizing, at least from an aesthetic perspective. When the San Francisco Ballet first presented the Nutcracker in the United States many decades ago now, I don’t think that they had counter-revolutionary intentions. Indeed, the years that George Balanchine presented the first televised presentations of the ballet that arguably hammered it into the childhood psyche of the United States, Balanchine was also busy pushing the envelope of what ballet was, all the while jealously guarding classical form. For every score by Tchaikovsky and Bach that Balanchine choreographed dance to, there were several more scores by Schoenberg and Stravinsky that served as inspiration for his very classical ballets. E. Michael Jones’ purist sense of tradition might have been better appeased in observing the Bolshoi and other Soviet ballet companies. Interestingly enough, it was the communist ballet presenters who were far more reactionary than the ballet companies of the West.

Art is its most traditional when it is timeless. Reactionary art misses the point.

On institutions

28 06 2010

image credit

What is it? I am reading the term through a Hegelian lens. In our usage, “institution” refers to a collective structure that embodies a particular ideal in a given society and governs its members strictly according to that ideal. In Hegel, the State is the institution par excellence. For our purposes, institutions are usually interpreted as political entities, churches, and movements in civil society.

What is wrong with institutions? Nothing in general. Also, it depends on what ideal the institution seeks to embody or propagate. “Institutionalization” can be, however, very problematic. Institutions tend to “flatten” all variations and localisms that do not totally conform to the defined ideal of the institution. That ideal is many times determined by the hegemonic dominance of one variation of an idea or polemic against positions deemed to be outside the ideal. When such ideals are then applied to local or individual circumstances, they tend to subvert or even do violence to local manifestations of culture, life, and thought.
Read the rest of this entry »


25 06 2010

On the margins of theology – X

24 06 2010

The Horseman of Divine Providence (Conclusion)

Pues bien: la iglesia, como institución, está en el mismo caso. Yo le pediría que no trataran de institucionalizar a Malverde; es un santón y un héroe del pueblo; no traten de arrebatárselo de las manos; la realidad es que está allí, la gente lo quiere, le tiene y lo más maravilloso es que hace milagros.

(The Church, as an institution, is in the same boat. I would ask that they try not to institutionalize Malverde. He is folk saint and a hero of the people, they should not try to take him from them. The reality is that he is around, the people like him, they keep him, and most marvelous thing of all is that he works miracles.)

These are the words Óscar Liera puts on the lips of a doctor in his play, El Jinete de la Divina Providencia. The subject of the 1980’s Mexican play is a fictional ecclesiastical investigation of the miracles of Jesus Malverde, the deceased bandit who works miracles from beyond the grave. In this special ten part series regarding the prevalence of “popular Catholicism” in many societies, I thought it a good quote to tie many ideas together. Here, there is not so much a stark opposition between institution and spontaneity, high and low religiosity, but a juxtaposition of what emerges in the life of believers and the rules imposed from above. In other words, we speak here not of an exclusive situation, but of a complementary one. That which is in the margins of religiosity is just as important as officially sanctioned doctrine and praxis, though it is not necessarily superior to it.
Read the rest of this entry »

La oración de la rosa

23 06 2010

Padre nuestro que estás en la tierra; en la fuerte
y hermosa tierra;
en la tierra buena;

Santificado sea el nombre tuyo
que nadie sabe; que en ninguna forma
se atrevió a pronunciar este silencio
pequeño y delicado…, este
silencio que en el mundo
somos nosotras,
las rosas…

Venga también a nos, las pequeñitas
y dulces flores de la tierra,
el tu Reino prometido…,

Hágase en nos tu voluntad, aunque ella
sea que nuestra vida sólo dure
lo que dura una tarde…

El sol nuestro de cada día, dánoslo
para el único día nuestro…

Perdona nuestras deudas
-la de la espina,
la del perfume cada vez mas débil,
la de la miel que no alcanzó
para la sed de dos abejas…-,
así como nosotras perdonamos
a nuestros deudores los hombres,
que nos cortan, nos venden y nos llevan
a sus mentiras fúnebres,
a sus torpes o insulsas fiestas…

No nos dejes caer
nunca en la tentación de desear
la palabra vacía – ¡el cascabel
de las palabras!…-,
ni el moverse de pies
ni el corazón oscuro de
los animales que se pudre…
Mas líbranos de todo mal.

-Dulce Maria Loynaz

Wheel of Time

22 06 2010

A scene from this documentary

The City of the Sun

21 06 2010

The City of the Sun: A Poetic Dialog is a Utopian plan devised by the Hermetist and Dominican monk, Thomas Campanella to describe the ideal Solar civilization. Due to being on the wrong side of political intrigue and his alleged heresy, Campanella spent 27 years in prison, where he wrote most of his works. Despite this, he amazingly held an optimistic attitude, even for the Spanish monarchy and Roman church which were his persecutors.

The novel is presented as the report of an adventurer to questions asked by a Knight on his return. The adventurer was forced to land on an Island in the South Seas, where he stumbled upon the isolated City of the Sun, known by the alchemical for the sun.

Read the rest here

“America” as fetish

20 06 2010

The idea for this entry came from this conversation.

I thought the underlining article had some interesting insights, though it painted things with too broad a brush. I know little of the Tea Party other than I despise all forms of political extremism (though I find some more endearing than others.) The premise that much political malaise on the right is due to an exposure of our co-dependence in modern life is one I think worth contemplating. However, I would take such perceptions to the macro-societal level and say that much of it has to do with an idea of the United States of America as an absolutely autonomous and idealized entity.
Read the rest of this entry »