Thursday, January 18, 2007

Theillogical Revallusions and Scryptical Coontradictions

Who would have invented such a ridiculous and unbelievable story if it were not true? --M. Norinaga

Yesterday, in a characteristic burst of idleness, Dupree was "surfing the internet," as they say, lurking about here and there. Sometimes he snoops around, looking for ideas for me to write about, no doubt hoping to increase his value to me. Let us just say that his brainwaves rarely bear fruit. As I have told him many times, "Dupree, I think. You hit. Remember?"

Dupree's perspective tends to be a bit narrow, but today was an exception, because he alerted me to something that may be of more universal significance. We will just use it as a leaping-off point to get into the entire matter of how the sophisticated Raccoon approaches revelation and scripture. Or at least I think they do. We shall see. I don't want to imply that mine is the only way. Obviously, there are different species of Raccoon, e.g., the Common Raccoon of North America, the Tres Marias Raccoon native to the Caribbean, the crab-eating Raccoon of the tropics, the Barbados Raccoon, the Nassau Raccoon. It goes without saying that Raccoon truth is one, although its modes of expression can be diverse.

I am not going to provide a link, because I don't want to needlessly embarrass the person or make them feel self-conscious. Again, their particular dilemma is not the point anyway. Basically, the dilemma has to do with an integral-type person who says he does not comprehend Christian scripture, so he must reject it. He is particularly appalled by Old Testament stories of God expressing his frustration and disappointment with mankind by effacing them from the planet and starting over. Viewing the situation in wholly humanistic, rationalistic, and literal terms, this person can find no possible justification for God's act of mass-killing. And if we interpret this story in an allegorical way, who's to say that we can't interpret everything else in the Bible in such a way, including, say, the resurrection of Jesus? So this person has jettisoned Christianity entirely, in favor of a more abstract and impersonal Buddhistic notion of God.

Now interestingly, in a subsequent post, this person may have provided a hint of insight into his own spiritual infirmity -- indeed, if that is what it is -- by pointing out that he has never in his life been able to comprehend poetry. He doesn't believe this equates to stupidity, since he certainly understands plain English and has no trouble expressing himself. But when it comes to poetry, he either derives no coherent message or a flat and literal one. He cannot intuit the specifically poetic sense of the poem, which obviously rises above the literal.

As I pondered this dilemma, I became fascinated by this notion of being "unable to comprehend poetry," because I cannot quite wrap my mind around it. For how does one understand language at all without understanding poetry? How is one not reduced to a machine or computer? And if that is the case, how could one possibly understand scripture or any other suprasensible reality above the material plane? For the whole point about scripture, as far as I am concerned, is that it is not so much the "word of God" per se. Rather, I see it as a message from man to man -- a divinely inspired message from man's higher self to his lower self, expressed in a language that the lower self can comprehend.

In other words, if scripture were purely in the language of the celestial realm from which it arises, man, as he is presently constituted (and certainly ancient man) would not be able to comprehend it. It would be analogous to teaching calculus to a seven year-old who is only capable of understanding basic arithmetic. There is obviously a connecting link between arithmetic and calculus, but the seven year-old will not be able to grasp it. Therefore, if you are going to introduce math to a child, you must "meet him where he is." Indeed, this is the whole secret of being a gifted and sensitive teacher.

Now, I am no mathematician, but I think it is safe to affirm that the entire world of math is a vertically integrated "one," from calculus, to trigonometry, to geometry, to algebra, to basic math. In my case, my mathematical understanding petered out somewhere between algebra and trigonometry. You might say that I stood pretty firmly on the ground of algebra, but that when I poked my head into trigonometry, I was decapitated. The link was lost, so that was the end of my mathematical adventures. Which is fine with me. I am happy to accept the word of the greatest mathematicians on faith.

Schuon points out that "In the opinion of all unbelievers, it is the absurdities contained in the sacred Scriptures which primarily stand in the way of the credibility of the Message." This is how rationalists, atheists and materialists are able to dispatch the notion of revelation in such a facile way. Reduced to reason in its restricted sense, the mind is almost compelled to reject scripture. But truth can hardly be reduced to the realm of the rational. To paraphrase Schuon, something is not true because it is rational, but rational because it is true. We must never forget this, lest we elevate what is merely a tool at the disposal of the truth-bearing intellect to its totality. Many people in the West are in one sense liberated by reason only to be trapped by it in another sense.

The same, by the way, is true of language. Language clearly liberates us from being buried in the body and trapped in the senses. I can see the intense and joyful liberation in Future Leader, as the "language explosion" has begun and he extricates himself from the mute prison of infancy. But at the same time, it is fair to say that most people merely exchange one prison for another, and eventually become linguistcally trapped within the narrow idiom of their own ideological frame of reference. For as Terence McKenna observed, the world is not made of molecules, or atoms, or quarks. Rather, it is made of language, pure and simple.

Isn't this obvious upon a moment's reflection? Our ability to apprehend reality will be specifically limited -- or expanded -- by our relationship to language. But you can also "go off the shallow end" here, as proven by deconstructionists. They too regard reality as nothing but language to be manipulated and played with. However, in their case, they end up in a circular maze of arbitrary signifiers, since they lose the connecting thread between higher and lower levels of reality. It is as if they reduce the whole world of mathematics to basic arithmetic, and then just fool around with the numbers.

How do we respond to the person who rejects the entirety of scripture based upon this or that seeming absurdity? As Schuon points out, "First of all, it is necessary to envisage Scripture in its totality and not be hypnotized, with perfect myopia, by a fragmentary difficulty, which after all is the perspective of the devil, who disparages a mountain because of a fissure and, conversely, praises an evil because of an inevitable particle of good. When Scripture is envisaged in its totality it imparts global value and its supernatural character to whomever is not blinded by any prejudice and who has been able to preserve intact the normally human sensibility for the majestic and the sacred."

Now this is a critical point, for it is again tied to the use of language to reveal hidden dimensions of reality. As Schuon says, one task of scripture is to reveal the realms of the sacred and of the majestic, to make them experientially present with language. How would one even begin to do this if language were reduced to its rationalistic mode? How does one rationally describe the sacred? The holy? The effulgent Mystery? All of this superfluous Beauty that surrounds us? It can't be done.

There are many time-tested ways to overcome the superficial absurdity of scripture, even if one is not blessed with a synthetic and encompassing Coon vision. The greatest theologians -- true theologians -- achieve something that is analogous to the person who cultivates deep musical appreciation. We might say that the meaning of poetry is analogous to melody, which is composed of numerous notes that are synthesized and "held" in the listener's mind. When music comes out of your loudspeakers, your dog doesn't hear a melody, because his mind is not able to achieve this synthesis (go ahead, ask him). I am reminded of a perhaps apocryphal story of a cocktail waitress who ran out of the Village Vanguard in 1961 covering her ears because John Coltrane was playing. Not only was his music absurd to her untrained ears, it was painful.

But as J.W.N. Sullivan pointed out in his classic Beethoven: His Spiritual Development -- no offense to that waitress, but the difference between a musical mind such as Beethoven's and our own musical mind is as vast as the difference between dog and man. The most sophisticated music has a multitude of implicit harmonic and melodic connections that must be synthized in the mind of the experienced listener, so that -- so to speak -- a hyperdense nonlocal musical "object" emerges in consciousness. This is the object Beethoven is trying to show us, but most of us are not nearly sophisticated enough to grasp it -- to synthesize the multitude of vertical and horizontal connections.

But we must remember that music, like math, is nothing more or less than a specialized form of language. Thus, we might say that the "poetic sense" is analogous to the "musical sense" of the sophisticated listener who is able to pull together all of the diverse musical connections as they are deployed in time (i.e., melodically) and space (i.e., harmonically).

The writers of the gospels were sophisticated and expansive theologians, which is one reason why one cannot simply understand them literally. Rather -- to cite just one example -- there is a dense and rich resonance between the old and new testaments, in the same way that a great symphony will refer back to previous motifs, gathering them up and eventually resolving them by the symphony's conclusion.

A fascinating book by the philosopher Bryan Magee, The Tristan Chord, beautifully describes how Wagner's ability to sustain the dynamic tension of various musical elements before resolving them in a higher unity probably surpassed that of any human being who has ever lived. His musical mind was so expansive that it made room for everything... except Jews, but that's another story.

While I am unable to appreciate either opera in general or Wagner in particular, that doesn't detract from the deeper point that I am trying to make about scripture and the poetic sense. For example, looked at in this way, the resurrection might bear the same relationship to the totality of scripture as does the final chord of Tristan and Isolde that resolves and ties together everything that has preceded. That chord, as one amazon reviewer put it, is "the only point where all discord is resolved... [It is] the musical analogue of freedom from striving, freedom from the tension that is existence. It is like a mystical state of nirvana."

I have a lot more to say about the subject of scripture and revelation, but this has gone on a bit long, so I'll continue tomorrow.

39 Comments:

Anonymous bubba said...

Peek into the mind of a great musician which partly illustrates your point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlCgz4wbreM

and by all means take this in as well:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZ0SVYf0-Qc

- not from Art of the Fugue, but rather the Goldberg Variations. I find it a wonderful expression of Gould's (and Bach's) immense talents.

1/18/2007 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous bubba said...

Actually, the second link was supposed to be:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOaeJhcCtbE&mode=related&search=

But either or both will suffice :)

1/18/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Perfect. Brilliant!

1/18/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I have described poetry and music as a kind of substance-- people talk about 'putting feeling into something' which I think is kind of misleading.

http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/188.html

This poem kind of describes what I mean; it is a paradox -- the poem declares that a poem should not mean but be, and yet means because it is. (Which is probably his point about the poetry.)

'Equal to and not true' should not be taken in the sense of 'egalitarian and not truthful' but instead, my insight was that he meant in the sense of a story-- stories are not necessarily true- fiction surely isn't. Again, he is using a substantive, allegorical language (which is what the poem is declaring) instead of a literal 'meaning'. The parts of the poem which describe 'feelings' are literal; the parts which describe ideas are 'substantive' or 'transliteral'.

In other words, if you looked up 'equal' and 'true' in the dictionary and replaced them with their definitions, you would be totally lost.

In fact, in doing so you just missed the whole point of the first part of the poem!

To think about it another way, the poem should be 'equal to' what it is giving substance to; it is not necessary that the poem be 'true' in the sense of fact.

Regardless, there are other ways to look at what he is saying. This however was most enlightening to me when I read it.

It makes one realise that 'feeling' is not just 'happy' or 'sad' or 'angry' but a kind of touch.

:)

1/18/2007 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

Seems to me we take everything, even our interpretation of our own consciousness and existence, on a kind of faith.

Something that separates the genuinely inquiring from those who will play gotcha into as much of eternity as they are allowed, is the difference between a deconstructive hermaneutic of suspicion, and one of tentative trust, as least as much generosity as is necessary to actually enter and touch the message:

"The key difference, it seems to me, is in whether we are trying to make sense of what is being taught or if we are trying to make nonsense of what is being taught."

And then, its resonance -- and the echoing resonance of the web in which it is embedded -- is tested for value sincerely, intimately, wordlessly.

A poem should be palpable and mute...

But the standpoint of suspicion has great difficulty allowing the honest test, privileging as it does irony, familiar imagery, a superior tone of "I don't get it." It neatly combines the requirement of an up-front guarantee, and an allergy to up-front guarantees as "Eeeuw. They think they're right."

1/18/2007 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

Bob,
I was wondering if you are familiar with the contemporary composer John Tavener? "Tavener has often remarked on the lack of the 'sacred' in twentieth century music, and the prevailing fascination with complexity is certainly anathema to his way of thinking. Tavener explains, however, that he often discovers unexpected areas of interest via his own Eastern influences. "The less interested I become in music from the German western tradition, the more it leads me not only to Indian music and Sufi music but also to musicians like the American saxophonist John Coltrane whom the American Black Orthodox church have made a Saint. Again, like Sufi music, jazz is a music that cannot really be written down, and Coltrane's playing has a wonderful ecstatic quality in the same way that chant has. Webern is ecstatic too. I have grown to love Webern more over the years. The last cantatas are wonderful. I really think that since Hildegard von Bingen you have to wait a long time before you get anything like it, but it happens in Webern. Nobody talks about the religious ecstasy in Webern - there's so much beyond the mere notes - he transubstantiates whereas his imitators do nothing. If I had to name one composer who stood out in the twentieth century it would have to be Webern.'"

1/18/2007 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Joseph--

Yes, I am familiar with Tavener, but I need to explore his music more thoroughly. He certainly sounds like my kind of guy.

1/18/2007 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

language of angels
strange brass and distant cymbals
can you hear me now?

1/18/2007 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Tremendous post, Bob. There’s a lot of misunderstanding around the word “literal” as it apples to interpretation of scripture. If I can add a little on the subject as far as I understand it.
"Hermeneutics" is the science and art of interpreting what an author has written. The principles of interpretation do not just apply to inspired (“God-breathed”) scripture, but are routinely used by courts, historians, literary scholars, etc. They include regard for genre (narrative, polemic, poetry, etc.), literary devices (metaphor, simile, hyperbole, etc.), specific context within the text, cultural context, syntax, etc. What was the author’s intended meaning? Interpret a text with the degree of precision intended by the author – that is, according to its normal / grammatical-historical sense – taking account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text. That's taking it literally.

As regards the Bible, certain rules are generally accepted, such as “divine accomodation” (I love this one) – “The Bible is to be interpreted in view of the fact that it is an accommodation of Divine truths to human minds: God the infinite communicating with man the finite...”(might as well be quoting Bob); “progressive revelation” – flower unfolding over time; and "harmony" as a necessary result of a perfect Creator God revealing Himself perfectly to mankind.

And speaking of music (weren't we?) – I’ll throw in John McLaughlin, particularly in his Shakti period. What he produced with a few brilliant Indian musicians was absolutely otherworldly.

1/18/2007 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Well despite the minor dustup I had with ol' Dupree here recently, I do agree whole-heartedly with Bob's take on the nature of music, and art generally.

Also, thanks for reminding me of Tristan und Isolde. I haven't listened to the whole thing in several years. This Sunday afternoon (and evening) may be a good time for another ride.

1/18/2007 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

NoMo:

Did you know that Shakti reunited and released several outstanding CDs under the moniker "Remember Shakti?" I have them all. I actually prefer them to the older material -- for one thing, it is impeccably recorded.

1/18/2007 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger dicentra63 said...

Doesn't get poetry? Not any poetry? Not even song lyrics?

Wow.

Every day the parable of the sower makes more sense: four soils, only one grows the seed. I guess it applies to more than The Word.

OT:

To those of you who would like to share links, please realize that the long ones get cut off and are therefore useless. Please use the following format:

[a href="http://xxx.xxx"]xxx[/a] but use angle brackets where I've used square ones. The third set of xxx represents the text we see for the link.

Much grass!

1/18/2007 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Poetry's one thing, but how about people who have no apparent sense of humor? Debilitating. Figure that out.

1/18/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

nomo: My father has (had) no sense of humor. He also would not admit to emotions (such as anger or sadness.)

I can't say that I'm misunderstood (in general) -- because I'm pretty easy to get.

But I can say he didn't understand me.

Or my mom.

I think he is (was) able to grasp the meanings behind poetry and lyrics, though to what actual depth he never revealed.

1/18/2007 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Bob - Sounds like its about time for that post on emotional intelligence you "promised".

I know -- as the muse moves you.

Can't wait.

1/18/2007 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Snotty Nosed Kid said...

What is commonly recognized and sometimes defended as religion in our age is only the most superficial and factional and often dim-minded and perverse expression of ancient national and tribal cultism.

In an age of worldwide political and social interdependence,of super technology space migration, and the atomic bomb, and of esoteric sciences of the kind initiated by intellectual geniuses such as Einstein, the people must not fail to be equipped with a true, practical, supremely intelligent, universal, and full esoteric understanding and practice of Spiritual Religion. If they remain in the embrace of the archaic, myth-laden, exoteric, inherently divisive religions of the past, they will only be subject to exploitation and negative dominance by the superior esotericism and popular persuasiveness of scientific materialism. To persist in the old cults is, in effect, to be bereft of religion in the age that is upon us.

Stupidity, delusion, and casual ill-will are manifested almost constantly by adherents of traditional exoteric religion. The reason for this is that exoteric religion does not commonly require discriminative intelligence, freedom from illusions, or a fundamentally moral relationship to the world. Most often, just the opposite is true. Exoteric religious cults thrive on human neurosis, fear, gullibility, childishness, amoral self possession, and the need for fascinating consolations of all kinds. Wisdom barely enters the whole affair, and the moral disposition of honor, manly trust, positive compassion, humor, love, and service to all is casually bypassed by most of those who pervade the world with exoteric ultimate beliefs and salvation tecniques.

The process that is True Religion is above all, a MORAL activity. It must be expressed in a free, sober, and truly compassionate dispostion. Such a disposition freely anoints the world with help and intelligent consideration. It finds great pleasure in the intelligent and truly human companionship of others, and welcomes wise and thoughtful confrontation.

1/18/2007 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous cosanostradamus said...

If you haven't ever heard Gavin Bryars' 'Jesus' Blood Hasn't Failed Me Yet', it's a Raccoon must-listen. Not your normal music; it can really peel back a person's onion layers. 74 minutes of bliss.

Here's the wiki bit:

Gavin Bryars

1/18/2007 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Bob,

I like this very much:

We might say that the meaning of poetry is analogous to melody, which is composed of numerous notes that are synthesized and "held" in the listener's mind...

When at around thirty-three years of age I first started seriously reading John Ashbery, whom my Yale professor Harold Bloom calls "the greatest living American poet," I was intrigued but quite puzzled. The lyrics were beautiful but I hadn't yet learned the trick of apprehending Ashbery's meaning. I struggled for a long time with "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," until the day when, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, it gelled for me in the way your sentence quoted above suggests. Now to read him is the purest of pleasures; Ashbery seems (to me) to employ a kind of music of association which is wonderful and altogether awe-inspiring.

Jamie Irons

1/18/2007 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Snotty Nosed Kid's Big Brother said...

Anciently, all arts were forms of ritual. They served the wellbeing of their culture. There were dancers,painters, singers, sculptors, people who could recite, and people who wrote stories, but they did not do these things merely to express themselves. They did them because these arts were presumed to have a Sacred function within the community.

In general, the culture of the community in which you lived was already established. The artist submitted himself to the master of his craft, his art, by whom he would be schooled in the cult -- in other words, the tradition, the limits, the tecniques, the purposes
-- of the art. Therefore, the artist had to transcend himself to learn the art.

An artist was not permitted to paint, sing, or play an instrument until the master could attest to his preparation and affirm that he was capable of serving the community, serving the culture. He was capable of this because not only had he learned all the techniques,not only did he know how to awaken in his audience all the imagery to which they were devoted and by which they might transcend themselves, but he had mastered himself in the process. He had become responsible for himself.

By contrast in the modern era (of the past 200 years) we see only a failure of the social order and the consequent absence of the demand for the artist to discipline, master, and transcend himself within an artistic discipline so that he could provide something within the social order that is intrinsically valued by others, that has fundamental value, that is not just decorative or entertaining, but that is part of the sacred purpose of the community.

Wagner obviously had never gone through this process of self discipline, self mastery or self transcendence. Socially he was an ass-hole.

1/18/2007 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous PrincessSpirit said...

G-BOB: As always, a most excellent post. I thoroughly enjoy stopping here in middle of my day or after a harried one, find I anticipate it as much as a wonderful meal, savoring of fine wine, listening to an ethereal CD. Today, I get all that & more! You're such a Blessing to us! Excellent post! :D

Joseph: Can you provide links for Webern & Taveners music? I have never had the pleasure of listening to either but look forward to it.

NoMo: Nicely written comment. Have to agree w/your point 100%. Knowing HOW to properly interpret Scripture (or music, poetry, art, paradoxes) is key & essential to being able to correctly perceive & receive truths contained therein, to finely discern not only Truth but Heresies. Skills gained after 12th grade educ liberates & empowers us to develop finely attuned discernment w/micron precision a Surgeon, MasterCraftsman, Musician or Artist exhibits. Able to guard against Evil constructs vs. Truth constructs gains us Insight & Wisdom. Wisdom is goal of intelligence & knowledge as we've been discussing yes? So too is Empathy & higher emotional mastery the goal of EQ; both integrated in a human being is Transcendent Spirituality. That, to me, is Ecta- er 'Coonstasy!

You would not believe the hard time I've received merely for suggesting a church MIGHT consider teaching these vital skills to their members. As if they're going to gain Wisdom without them! I've never understood why it is these skills are only taught seriously at Seminary, not usually at local Church-Bible class level where its needed most. Not all attend Seminary & MANY people miss developing vital spiritual skills. It can grow in other ways by other means but the yield is haphazard. Study of Hermeneutics Principles directly yields in-depth enlightenment. Its what a Theologian undertakes & receives, why I love Theology & "happily" suffer Greek!

Continued lack of Proper Applied Analytical skills in a person becomes their "license to lie" allows Heresies & Lies to permeate their worldviews & continues their infectious spread; is why Deconstructionists proliferate & spout unbalanced views ad nauseam. As they lack Balance, they can present nothing BUT imbalance & lies w/an occassional grain o truth. Lack of Balance betrays spir. immaturity & maldevelopment. They deny & are blind to gaps, become or stay blind & one-sided, then object & protest why We see them the way they are.

The Big 4 (Evaluation, Analysis, Interpretation & Applicational skills) need to be taught Grade 1 onward, NOT relegated last & learned only when one reaches "adulthood". Such skills are infinitely useful to APPLY to any Literature-Art-Music forms & Sacred texts, helps humans NOT fall into literal rationalism & 1-sided deonstructionism, helps us rise Vertically & Know God.

Many like to deconstruct as it gives impression of IQ thru criticism & disassemblage; but true analytical critiQUE is not an -ism, involves neg deconstruction & positive construction skills, both. Demolitionists blow up a bldg & dismantle it; Constructionists build a bldg an Architect designs. Decons. exhibit ability w/one but rarely both skills. Wheres their Balance? Its never evident. Their true spiritual condition is exposed. They feel judged which only denies their lack of judgment & irresponsibility for their spiritual condition. So goes the "power play" game they create all becuz they insist to deny truth yet claim falsehood as truth.

If those lacking spiritual depth, maturity & Wisdom sincerely wish to be less disabled & more Abled, skilled; less infirmed, more Healthy; less Deconstructionist, more Constructionist; less critical, more of a Critique; less disunified, more Harmonious; less literal, more Integral; less nitpicky-negative-myopic, more Integrated-positive-Wholistic; less profane, more Sacred, they seriously might consider making better effort to study Hermeneutics. Bravo, glad to see Brothers into it!

- PrincessSpirit -

1/18/2007 05:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Joan of Argghh! said...

"...Wagner's ability to sustain the dynamic tension of various musical elements before resolving them in a higher unity..."

This is the only complaint I have with a lot of so-called music that is employed by yoga teachers and therapeutic massage folks. They like to play music that is monotonous in its repetitive phrasing, or maddening in its refusal to bring a note or chord to a resolve.

I've pointed out to my physical therapist that there is nothing relaxing in an hour-long sustained note. But, she's not a musician, so it's never occurred to her. Maybe others find it soothing, but for some reason, I can enjoy taize worship, which builds like Ravel's bolero, but only for just so long. I can't EVEN enjoy one-note stuff. It makes me tense. But free-flowing melody, or even a single chord held by several voices ascending and descending around the construct and base, focused in worship, I find extremely transcendent and mystical.

It still goes back to the creative spirit behind it, I think. If it's mechanical and contrived, it feels that way to me. If it's living and accidental, it carries something eternal, something, Other.

1/18/2007 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Another Bob said...

I have a slightly off-topic comment.

I have heard of people who sing
their prayers -- they claim they
get "better" results.

Wasn't that one of the points of the Psalms?

-Another Bob

1/18/2007 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Oh, you know today's post had me on cloud nine. The core is what I've been in process of developing on my site (if these 60+ hr weeks ever pass, and the electricity stays on, I'll finish 'em up... someday... over the rainbow...), but the long and short of it, is I think Poetry (verbal and to some extent musical) is the heart and soul of transmitting and experiencing truths central to our (communal and individual) grasp of Value and Truth.

Poetry, through the use of tone and imagery, has a way of sounding a conceptual note that rings and resonates through huge swaths of what we consider beautiful, worthy, inspiring (themselves central keystones of your values), and it does it by way of the whole poem, prose allows us to dwell on the particulars. But you have to let the poem work through you to reach the wider goal, and then bring yourself to bear on bringing home the wider conceptual meanings to your personal understanding.

Take a snippet of Frost's 'Stopping By Woods':
"Whose woods these are I think I know, his house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer to stop without a farm-house near
Between the woods and frozen lake the darkest evening of the year.
..."
If you only let that bring to you the image of some guy sitting in the snowed in woods that some city guy owns and no more, you're committing conceptual anorexia. It'll vary for each of us, but for me, it brings in mystery, death, purity, horizontal vs vertical tensions, God, rebirth/Christmas and whether the religious spirit can be conveyed only through a church, or as well through God's handiwork.

That may be just my take, but the point is that you have to let it enter and point you towards possibilities and glamours, and after it washes through you, you need to reflect on it and retrieve still more from it through your more focused attention. A good reading of a good poem, can so help set your internal house in order and help clarify your understanding of your world for you. Scripture is and works in the same way though potentially even deeper.

There's a passage in Watership Down, where a group of Rustic folk (they're rabbits in the story, but that's immaterial), and after sharing a meal they proudly have their clan's poet recite some Homeric style Hero poetry to some more well fed, large & sophisticated types. The sophisticates shuffle uncomfortably, glance about with some rolling of the eyes, then have their poet recite a very post-modern, existential, personal suffering, life is pointless type of poem.

The rustic's poet suffers a mystical collapse, and urgently tells his fellows that they must flee from this place, this death haunted den of horrors, and the rustics do have the wisdom to flee, the sophisticates poet knows they're right, and does nothing.

By the way, when in the band if we had short hops to smaller venues in a near by town, we'd cram the bare essential stage gear into a trailer, hitch it to my Van & pile in for the ride over. On those nights particularly, they all knew that if anyone half-assed their performance, it'd be Wagner, Beethoven & the Go-Go's cranked up to 11 for the ride back.

To those that haven’t opened themselves to it, the most generous gift can be deeply painful. Not to mention savagely enjoyable to give, rather than to receive.

;-)

1/18/2007 06:37:00 PM  
Anonymous goy said...

Speaking of singing one's prayers... anyone listened to this?

1/18/2007 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob,

I like the analogy of Tristan & Isolde with the Bible - both end with a Liebestod.

1/18/2007 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Another Bob said...

Goy,

I followed your link over to Amazon,
where the suggestion genie suggested
I check out this book (with CD) on
Chanting the Psalms:

http://www.amazon.com/Chanting-Psalms-Practical-Guide-Instructional/dp/1590302575/sr=8-1/qid=1169178726/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-7809737-5369255?ie=UTF8&s=books

Mere coincidence, I'm sure.

-Another Bob

1/18/2007 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Dilys,
Thanks for the link to Ars Poetica. by Archibald MacLeish - that's a goodie.

1/18/2007 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

While poetry is in the air, a poetic blast from the One Cosmos past, one of Will's... and one of the reasons I think his title needs to have Racoon Poet Laureate tacked on to it:

BEHOLDER - BEHELD

I felt in the wind
The Creator's storm-nature -

I beheld in the lightning
His fire-nature -

I heard in the night
His infinite silence -

I saw in the river
His mystery of Time -

I heard in the rain
The infinite sigh of His solace -

I beheld in the sea
His Fullness of Spirit -

I beheld in the desert
His divine Emptiness -

I saw in the oak tree
The infinite planes of His Body -

I beheld in the candle light
His love-nature -

I beheld in the galaxies
His searing glory -

In my own eyes I beheld
the reflection of His dawning son

Until I could not tell
Who was beholding who,

Only that our words
were drawn from Silence

Until there was nothing to speak
But Silence -

(c) wcm 8/06

1/18/2007 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Van, thanks very much, am glad you appreciate the poem.

Regrettably, I will have to sue you for printing it without author's permission.

(JOKING!)

If you wish you can have it printed on T-shirts/balloons/coasters/beer mugs, etc.

1/18/2007 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Amazing!
That word doesn't begin to describe Bob's catch of the day!

Van...my God!
How your words resonate!

Language, in the vessel of poetry, can move mountains.

As Van said: pain and joy produce the transcendent truth that lifts our soul to heights unheard and depths unseen.
An introspection occurs that defies description yet embraces gnosis.

This process results in growth, all depending on how much we 'get'.

How much we get depends on how much we give, in truth;
always painful and the crux of joy at the same 'place' and timelessness, without ulterior motives, but rather by interior motives.

Eternity...

No taboo, no chains;
Through joy, by pain;

It feels good, it hurts;
Transformation...in spurts;

You have a voice;
Making a choice;

Ego is torn;
In silence we mourn;

Yet here is the gaff;
We begin to laugh;

Therein lies meaning;
When we choose to stop preening;

Listen, He is here...within you...should you choose.

Thanks to Will, for his inspiring poetry!

1/18/2007 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Will- Did you say beer mug? :^)

1/18/2007 10:50:00 PM  
Anonymous cosanostradamus said...

And now for something completely different: Ken Nordine, the creator and master of wordjazz.

I was lucky enough, by pure accident, to see him in a little bar in Chicago several years back. Unforgettable. May he live forever.

Princess - thanks for the musical suggestions the other day. Bear McCready, Hilary, and K of H are on order at the local library (the shared library network around here is a fantastic resource).

And when is BSG returning anyway? I need my EJO fix.

1/18/2007 11:00:00 PM  
Anonymous PrincessSpirit said...

Goy: Thanks for the link. I have many cds & cassettes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He's very popular with Muslims and well loved among them. i might get the album as I'm a fan of Morissette.

First time I heard a Muezzin "singing" the Adhan (Call to Prayer), I asked a Muslim if she thought of it as singing. She said no, they don't call it singing, they call it Prayer. The fact it sounds like prayer-singing to an Americans ears is a perception most Muslims do not share.

Israeli Sephardic music is kewl to listen to, as well as Judeo-Spanish. Jo Amar offers quite a selection of works including orchestral, and Alia Musica offers a Song of Solomon prayer set to music. Good places to start if you aren't familiar w/Israeli music. I usually listen when making Jewellery & working on Mosaic pieces since my technique is abstracted from Israeli, Indian & Moorish traditional artforms.

- PrincessSpirit -

1/18/2007 11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous :PrincessSpirit said...

Cosa: Ahhh, BSG returns this weekend - Sunday night! WHOOHOO! BSG marathon was this past Monday did you catch it? Hope you enjoy Bear's music, he really sets an awesome ethereal tone for the other contributors. Love him & Hilary, both. I need to order sum new music & you all keep my Book & CD List ever expanding. :D

Been listening to soundtracks lately, LOTR included. LOTR Symphony is on Tour now thruout U.S. Orchestral music w/dramatic scenery & lighting changes plus choirs, poetry & other writings of Tolkien performed. Has received high acclaim. Hopefully I'll snag some tickets it if comes near me.

Tolkien was an eminent Medievalist & wovethat knowledge into Silmarillion. Silmarillion Universe is created via music thru the Song of The Ainur (ArchAngel Beings/other gods.) Music figured eminently thruout the peoples of Middle Earth. In his books, The Elves sing praise & worship hymns to God in the Forests day & night as they hone their ethereal laments & soaring plainchants over 3,000+ yrs. Howard Shore's music for the movies was well researched, including elements of Plainchant, Rennaissance, Canticle, Baroque, Medieval, Celtic, Irish, Scottish folk/drinking tunes, epics, etc.

Maybe I'll go the library route also & see what K of H sounds like. I'd best start larnin meself to use the iRiver MP3 player I received at Christmas instead of it babysittin its box. Medieval frienz called ghetto blasters "Bard in a Box". We call MP3 players "Portable Pocket Bards" now, LOL! Ain't Tech grand? :D

- PrincessSpirit -

PS: More G-BOB on this subject, more! Your fans are calling "Encore...!"

1/19/2007 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gaude said...

This is a treasure - thanks, Bob and all

I was going to send everyone over to imbibe the brilliance that is Van, but I see he's done it for me.
Very fine stuff.

River - (thanks for the Bettleheim correction. I realized in the Wal-Mart garden section that I'd mis-spoke, about 5 hours later.)

Reading that Auden to kids is an interesting experience. Some get it immediately and it's as if they've been given the key to the storehouse.

1/19/2007 05:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gaude said...

River's comment about his dad reminds me of a question I had about Coons:

when you were growing up, did one or the other of your parents simply not know what to do with you?

Now, I'm not talking about neglectful or otherwise impaired parents, like the ones who live through their children, but normal everyday types who loved you dearly, but were stymied by your interest in some things, and lack of interest in others.

The duck in the hen's nest, if you like.

This has given me much food for thought.

1/19/2007 05:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes.

That's an excellent topic for a future post.

1/19/2007 05:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Billy-Bob said...

Takes snotty kid into the corner and beats him like a Red Headed Stepchild for being so stupid and infantile.

1/19/2007 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger Gaude said...

Oh, damn -
it's not Auden, it's MacLeish.
Says so right above.
Am banning self from referencing anything.

1/19/2007 07:32:00 PM  

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