On tradition

27 04 2011

When, at the beginning of this century, Bela Bartok transcribed hundreds of Hungarian folk songs, he provoked the lasting animosity of the partisans of Romantic national revival precisely by literally executing their programme of reviving authentic ethnic roots… In Slovenia, the Catholic Church and the nationalists paint an idyllic picture of the nineteenth-century countryside – so no wonder that when, a couple of years ago, the ethnological notebooks of a Slovene writer from the time (Janez Trdina) were published, they were largely ignored: they provide a picture of daily life in the countryside full of child fornication and rape, alchoholism, brutal violence…

-Slavoj Zizek, The Ticklish Subject



26 04 2011

The trailer for a promising new documentary.


21 04 2011

Music by Marc-Antoine Charpentier


20 04 2011

Fr. Thomas Reese has an interesting article in one of my favorite Catholic newspapers, the National Catholic Reporter, concerning the hidden exodus of Catholics into Protestantism. Some interesting quotes:

The principal reasons given by people who leave the church to become Protestant are that their “spiritual needs were not being met” in the Catholic church (71 percent) and they “found a religion they like more” (70 percent). Eighty-one percent of respondents say they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith…

Catholics who became Protestant also claim to have a stronger faith now than when they were children or teenagers. Seventy-one percent say their faith is “very strong,” while only 35 percent and 22 percent reported that their faith was very strong when they were children and teenagers, respectively. On the other hand, only 46 percent of those who are still Catholic report their faith as “very strong” today as an adult.

Thus, both as believers and as worshipers, Catholics who become Protestants are statistically better Christians than those who stay Catholic. We are losing the best, not the worst.

You mean, they get all the good people, and all we get is all of those damn converts with blogs!
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Jaime Sabines – Los amorosos

19 04 2011

The Lovers

The lovers say nothing.
Love is the finest of the silences,
the one that trembles most and is hardest to bear.
The lovers are looking for something.
The lovers are the ones who abandon,
the ones who change, who forget.
Their hearts tell them that they will never find.
They don’t find, they’re looking.
The lovers wander around like crazy people
because they’re alone, alone, surrendering,
giving themselves to each moment,
crying because they don’t save love.
They worry about love.
The lovers live for the day, it’s the best they can do,
it’s all they know. They’re going away all the time,
all the time, going somewhere else. They hope,
not for anything in particular, they just hope.
They know that whatever it is they will not find it.
Love is the perpetual deferment, always the next step,
the other, the other. The lovers are the insatiable ones,
the ones who must always, fortunately, be alone.
The lovers are the serpent in the story.
They have snakes instead of arms.
The veins in their necks swell like snakes too,
suffocating them.
The lovers can’t sleep because if they do the worms eat them.
They open their eyes in the dark and terror falls into them.
They find scorpions under the sheet
and their bed floats as though on a lake.
The lovers are crazy, only crazy with no God and no devil.
The lovers come out of their caves trembling,
starving, chasing phantoms.
They laugh at those who know all about it,
who love forever, truly, at those who believe
in love as an inexhaustible lamp.
The lovers play at picking up water, tattooing smoke,
at staying where they are.
They play the long sad game of love.
None of them will give up.
The lovers are ashamed to reach any agreement.
Empty, but empty from one rib to another,
death ferments them behind the eyes, and on they go,
they weep toward morning in the trains,
and the roosters wake into sorrow.
Sometimes a scent of newborn earth reaches them,
of women sleeping with a hand on their sex, contented,
of gentle streams, and kitchens.
The lovers start singing between their
lips a song that is not learned.
And they go on crying, crying for beautiful life.

 (translation found on this site)

San Genarín

18 04 2011

Probably one of the more unique stories in the Spanish speaking world during Holy Week, this is a procession done on the night of Holy Thursday in commemoration of the tragic death of one of Leon’s most infamous clients of the bars and whorehouses there, Genaro Blanco Blanco, later known as San Genarín. At dawn on Holy Thursday, 1929, while completely drunk, Genaro was hit by the first garbage truck of the day while relieving himself on a wall. A few of his friends (later known as the “Evangelists) deeply appreciative of having known this bon vivant and figure on the bohemian scene of Leon, decided to have their own procession the next Holy Thursday, 1930, in which they went to all of the bars and whorehouses that Genaro once frequented. The legend then grew to include miracles attributed to “San Genarín”, such as a person being cured of a kidney ailment and a miraculous goal for the home team in an important game. The numbers in the annual procession grew until 1957, when it was banned by the fascist authorities, some say because it had more participants than the religious one.

After a twenty year hiatus, the processions began again, and continue to this day. They are complete with torches, statues of the people involved in the historical events, couplets celebrating the life of the “saint”, and offerings at the site of death. It is perhaps the only example that I know of where militant secularists have their own procession to rival the Catholic ones of Holy Week.

Stabat Mater

15 04 2011


13 04 2011

The above was a surprisingly good documentary considering that it was all about a particular font.

The impetus for this post comes from this interview in Salon.


12 04 2011

Every religion, even Catholicism (in fact, especially Catholicism, precisely because of its effort to maintain a superficial unity and not allow itself to be fragmented into national churches or along class lines) is really a multiplicity of religions that are distinct and often contradictory; there is a Catholicism of the peasant, a Catholicism of the petty bourgeoisie and urban workers, a Catholicism of women, and a Catholicism of the intellectuals.

-Antonio Gramsci, from The Prison Notebooks

Reading this quote now, I go back to my experiences in the Lefebvrist seminary, which I always say was just like an old fashioned seminary back in the good ol’ days. We actually had classes on how we needed to stand in church, genuflect, and even make the sign of the Cross. And of course, there were entire seminars on liturgical, social, and personal decorum. It was a bit militaristic at times, or maybe the military is a bit like a seminary. Shadows of Michel Foucault begin to haunt this post…

In any case, when describing this experience to someone recently, he said that the reason this was done was to prepare us to be part of a civil service class akin to the government bureaucracy of the old Chinese empire: it was to yank us out of our peasant, “undeveloped” Catholicism to put us squarely in the realm of “romanitas” (mind you, I went to seminary in Latin America, so Catholicism down there is much different than it is here). “Romanitas” in the old days was the string that held the Church together, the Catholicism of the clergy that bound so many disparate cultures into one Church. This was outlined to us one day in a spiritual conference, just as I have written it.

Now of course, we no longer have that, and seminary is not the right of passage and transformation that it once was. Now the clergyman is supposed to be just like the rest of the “People of God” (I really do cringe when I have to write that phrase) and Catholicism in many ways and places is indistinct from the modern culture around it. It appears that the way to resolve the problem that Gramsci posed is to dilute all of the “Catholicisms” to the point that they become a bland and amorphous mess with little positive content (other than obedience to the appropriate authority and keeping “it” in your pants). Maybe this is done unintentionally, but the result is still the same.

[This is a re-post. I am lazy this week]

Reality for the sake of theory

11 04 2011

Notes on Hegel’s Philosophy of History

The premise of Hegel’s work can be summarized, oddly enough, in a very simple phrase: “the Eastern world knew that one is free; the Greek world knew that some are free; and the German world knows that all are free”. The movement of the Spirit through history is manifested through man’s increasing separation from Nature. Spirit, simply put, is freedom, and modernity is the realization of that freedom that has been developing through the centuries. Hegel uses the figure of the Egyptian Sphinx, the human face climbing out of the animal body, to show this emergence of the free from the primeval muck of nature.
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