Friday, March 06, 2009

Open for Isness

First of all, a Balthasar update. Recall that I'm trying to plow through his fifteen-volume (sixteen with epilogue) systematics. There are seven volumes on the Divine Beauty (the Glory of the Lord), five on the Good (the Theo-Drama) and three on the True (the Theo-Logic).

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.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Djadja said...

I tried going to an evangelical fundamentalist church, but since in reality I was a freevangelical pundamentalist Racoon, I never fit in. I knew about the crack in the cosmic egg, and all the off-road spiritual adventures I’d taken in getting there just carried me right out again.

So it was really refreshing to find this site, the mother lode of eternal Oly Slackraments, all presented with cheery optimysticism. But seriously folks, I figured I ought to start going to church again, and found one of the mainstream churches that offers an hour service with communion each week. But now they are asking me to “make it official.” That never worked before, and now I know why. Thanks, Bob (and Petey, too).

3/06/2009 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gerard said...

"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."

Oh, suck it up and get cracking!

3/06/2009 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Dear Leslie,
How exciting to come to the end- and beginning-of this part of the journey.
Best wishes and prayers for you!

3/06/2009 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous lame duck said...

"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."

Great description! I've been reading MOTT and have had plenty of those moments.

Good weekend, Bob and all the best to Leslie. Will she be confirmed this Easter?

3/06/2009 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I was wondering about the RCIA this week. I really think it's wonderful that she's going through it; I'll be thinking of her this Easter :)

3/06/2009 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I haven't much to add in a musical way, but this is really beautiful.

3/06/2009 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous lame duck said...

Great article here...

http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen/2009/02/14/were-all-fascists-now-ii-american-tyranny/

3/06/2009 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"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."

Why is that so difficult for the flatlanders to understand? It's not like Bob is speakin' Greek or Pygmy.

BTW, imagine the number of heads that would explode if Bob did go back to college. :^)

3/06/2009 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

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.

Try eatin' cheesecake and grog all day. I did this once. Cuttin' the cheesecake is ann unique experience, is all I can say.

3/06/2009 03:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

"Cuttin' the cheesecake is an unique experience, is all I can say."

That's what blenders are for, doofus.

3/06/2009 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Therefore, I have to pretend I've actually read and fully assimilated, say, the Divine Comedy. In the original Italian."

Bob, seeing as how you are the American Raccoon version of the Divine Comedy, I can see why the Italian would be a problem...especially from the German perspective.

3/06/2009 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

Thanks for the well-wishes and interest! I am going from a catachumanate to a member of the elect this Sunday, so there are talks with a priest, rehearsals with my sponsor, and then I'll be going to the cathedral in L.A. to sign the book. Unfortunately, Cardinal Mahoney will be officiating. I am not a fan.I pray for him to resign every time I hear his name mentioned for what he did to harbor molesting priests over a long period of time. No telling how many young people are still haunted today, not to mention, how many have turned away from the church.

There's a feeling of a quickening lately. My baptism, confirmation and first communion will be during Easter Vigil (the night before Easter.) I'd love to post more about it, but Tristan is pulling on my leg to go to his friend's house.

Thanks so much for asking,
Mrs. G

3/06/2009 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob, you may be interested in this - Van Morrison demos for the moondance album. . .free download

http://nightofthepurplemoon.blogspot.com/2007/05/van-morrison-genuine-philosophers-stone_28.html

3/06/2009 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

For anyone who has the time, this looks pretty amazing, too. I've only seen maybe ten minutes of it, but it's probably available on DVD somewhere.

3/06/2009 05:47:00 PM  
Anonymous lame duck said...

Congrats Leslie. We'll be thinking and praying for you. And I couldn't agree with you more about Mahoney.

3/07/2009 12:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Northern Bandit said...

Booze-soaked tour of European 5-star hotels is alas at an end. Got that out of my system, and today--now that the brain fog has cleared -- the sunshine is remarkably fresh, reminding me that I really ought to stick to bird-watching or something.

Apropos of the Darwinian musings here, this is a pithy summation from David Warren:

For as I have repeatedly observed, and as anyone may observe, contemporary biology owes very little, if anything at all, to The Origin of Species (though much to the evolutionary paradigm, which long predated Darwin). Darwin's may be the Victorian family portrait on the wall, but the advanced work in genetics and microbiology, and the actual fieldwork in natural history, would be no different had Darwin somehow escaped being born.

So why do I bother with him? I should have thought the reason was obvious, in this "Year of Darwin." The man has survived, not as a man, nor as a biological theory, nor even as a chapter in the history of science, but as a living cosmology and philosophy of life -- with a remarkable power for evil. And while it will be dismissed as "guilt by association," the fact that Darwin's portrait was also very publicly on the wall as the scientific ancestor for Nazi eugenic schemes and Communist notions of scientific materialism should give its supporters real pause.

Materialist, evolutionist, scientistic and atheist ideologies, which deny the ontological uniqueness of man, were responsible for the slaughter of well over 100 million souls in the last century, and we await the score for this one. And they have always been able to depend on a cheering section of fellow travellers and useful idiots, wherever intellectuals congregate.

I oppose "Darwinism" for two reasons. The lesser one is that, as science, it is not merely superannuated, but false. As such it is unhelpful to real empirical science, for it provides conceptual obstacles that get in its way. But that is the lesser reason, and one relies on nature herself to provide the material that cumulatively overturns the false hypothesis.

The greater reason to oppose "Darwinism" -- in exactly the way it is presented today by Richard Dawkins and various other proselytizers for an activist Atheism -- is that the ideas encased in this old amber are incredibly vile and destructive. The hypothetical reduction of man to a chance product of "natural processes" undermines, and can only undermine, all moral values, and replace them only with exigencies.


Were David and Bob ever to meet, I would bet better than even money they'd be in almost perfect philosophical harmony (though I don't know if David is a jazz fan).

3/07/2009 07:07:00 AM  

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