Open for Isness
When last we spoke, I mentioned that I was getting bogged down in the aesthetics, and now I see why. In the meantime, I've skipped ahead to the Theo-Logic, and suffice it to say that I am pretty much blown away so far. This is a great book.
The problem was this: I got bogged down in volumes II-V of the aesthetics, because these mainly consist of Balthasar's analyses of other thinkers, some of whom are well known (e.g., Dante, Boethius, Denys), others relatively obscure (e.g., Hamann, Peguy), at least for this undereducated rube.
The thing is, these are not surveys or introductions. Rather, Balthasar -- who was absurdly erudite -- basically assumes a complete familiarity with this or that lumen being, and just gives his own idiosyncratic commentary. Therefore, I have to pretend I've actually read and fully assimilated, say, the Divine Comedy. In the original Italian.
But even for someone as well known as Dante, to truly comprehend what he was/is saying, I'd probably have to re-enroll in college, major in Renaissance literature, take a couple of courses on Dante, ignore all the stuff about how Beatrice was actually a symbol of his homosexual longing, and then get back to Balthasar.
Am I going to do that? No, I am not. I'm afraid it just wouldn't be the Raccoon way. Although, interestingly enough, I do have a kind of recurring dream, in which I am back in college in order to obtain another undergraduate degree in a field unrelated to psychology. Usually history, I think. Although I want to learn, it's all very tedious, just as it was in real life. At a certain point in the dream, I think to myself, "why am I doing this? I already have a Ph.D. I don't care if I get a bunch of F's. I'm outta' here."
That latter situation also happened in real life, when I flunked out of business school.
No, the Raccoon way of the masked pandit is "trans-academic," "trans-scholarly," and "trans-ambitious," meaning that it admittedly comes up short in these overrated qualities. However, our loose canon tries to compensate with other virtues, such as freshness, spontaneity, metaphysical comedy, jehovial witticisms, cheery optimysticism, freevangelical pundamentalism, comparative nonsense, coonical pslackology, fine insultainment, off-road spiritual adventures, speaking in Tongan (or ad homina homina homina) and all the rest of our Oly Slackraments.
But the Theo-Logic is another matter. Instead of surveying other fertile eggheads, this is just Balthasar's own raving, which is 100% compelling, perhaps even too dense to blog about. It's like trying to eat cheesecake all day. I have to read a couple pages, get up, walk around, loosen my top button, belch, and then come back to it.
I can't necessarily give it the general raccoomendation, because it's still a bit like reading someone like Heidegger, but I find that it is speaking beyond me to my very essence, if you will. To the extent that there is obscurity, it is an obscurity that necessarily accompanies any foray into the deepest depths of divine being, which, the more it unveils itself, the more it veils itself. In other words, its depth is bottomless. More on which later.
Also, these volumes are kind of expensive. Therefore, I just place them in my wishlist, and snap up one of them when the price comes down, which means that I jump around from volume to volume. Otherwise, this project will start eating into my CD budget, and we can't have that.
Speaking of which, I made an excellent discovery -- the Tord Gustavsen Trio. Try some of the samples. I would describe them, but the amazon reviewer does a pretty good job (although he does need to come up with a new adjective besides "shifting"):
"Such is the arresting beauty of Tord Gustavsen's sound, it's no surprise that his albums have captured a significant following, surpassing even those of other rarified artists on the ECM label. But the Norwegian pianist doesn't live on beauty alone. His sculpted playing... draws strongly on his church background with its tidy gospel voicings while also incorporating Spanish and South African accents, [and] has a kind of liquid weight....
"Beyond that, it's the remarkable shift-shaping qualities of Gustavsen's trio that make Being There so compelling.... The psychology of the relationship among him, bassist Harald Johnsen, and drummer Jarle Vespestad is made compelling not only by standard interactive effects, but also by the unique shape-shifting that occurs through continual shifts in how much voice each player has in relation to the others, how much lightness or darkness, how much intensity."
Some of the other descriptions: spacious, dreamlike, contemplative, spare, powerfully restrained, quiet rapture, crystalline warmth, gorgeous yearning, and "inspired by a love of spaces."
As a matter of fact, nearly all of the post-1960's jazz in my collection is on the ECM label (longtime home of Keith Jarrett; also the great Russian Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt, although I think this is the best introduction). ECM is a German company that specializes in a kind of "chamber jazz" that has a lot of modern classical leanings. They are also legendary for their impeccable recording quality.
They have a great series called Rarum, which is an introduction to some of their more prominent artists. I think my favorite one is the Eberhard Weber. Although he would be categorized as a "jazz bassist," he really combines American jazz with a modern European chamber sensibility, plus ambient, film, and world music. Try some of the samples. Obviously, some contemporary artists are still able to create musical beauty. (I've also heard that this new one with full orchestra is very good.)
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. Which was what, again? Nah, I've got too much to do. Mrs. G. is approaching the denouement of the RCIA program this weekend, and will be very tied up, so I'll have to keep a body on Future Leader. I better try to finish as much work as I can today. Just consider this an open thread for anything you'd like to discuss, including music.