1. Holy smokes! Have you read Edward Mendelson’s “The Secret Auden” in the NY Review of Books?! If not, run don’t walk. It’s a jaw-dropping, incredibly inspiring catalog of the clandestine episodes of grace initiated by our all-time favorite Wystan–about as honest a Matthew 6:5 vibe as I’ve come across in ages. Lest these remarkable stories be dismissed as mere hagiography, Mendelson (author of the indispensable Later Auden) doesn’t lionize the great poet, instead tracing the ‘good works’ back to their root–which is not a sense of earning or credit (clearly) but of genuine humility brought on by piercing self-knowledge….
Another Week Ends: Secret Auden, Eagleton Deicide, Remembering Wes, Method Acting, True Detective, and Russian Tourist Tips
If you haven’t yet found it, I highly recommend the new UK site The Philosopher’s Mail. It’s a news site, much like the tabloid-heave Daily Mail, but it’s written entirely by philosophers. Think celebrity gossip and pop culture news with a reflective and entertaining twist, with stories like: “Love shortage drives Shia LaBeouf nuts” or “Larry Page, Google CEO, tortures us with his jeans“. Brilliant, but funny stuff right?
Today’s article, “200mph Ferrari California launched. Buyers not greedy show offs, just vulnerable fragile big infants in need of affection” struck me as particularly Mockingbird worthy.
We know, because we hear it so…
Raise your hand if you’re currently obsessed with HBO’s True Detective. Okay, hands down – you’re all suspects. I’ve been telling myself to hold off on writing about the series until it finishes, that it’s far too elegant to take apart before we have all the pieces. And it is. HBO has given us an exquisitely crafted drama, as gripping as it is rigorous, something that not only invites but rewards reflection and, yes, investigation (in one of the show’s many meta-gestures, writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto is making detectives of us all). It’s also a show that is clearly much smarter…
Another Week Ends: Self-Making Atheists, Structural Dating, Indiscriminate Addiction, Christian Metal, Guilty Pleasures, and Failed Figure Skaters
1. In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik took the release of two new books about the history of atheism to issue one of his periodic ‘state of modern belief” pieces. Most of the word count is devoted to the question of when the burden of proof definitively shifted from atheists to believers (The Onion weighs in here), and while there are certainly some interesting tidbits, one can’t help but be distracted by: first, wasn’t the exact opposite thing was being said five years ago?, and second, the dichotomy he embraces from one of the books is downright weird, at least…
My Learn to Play Bridge program talks to me. Upon entry, “Welcome to Bridge Baron 23.” Upon exit, “Hope to see you again soon.” Mere visuals don’t work because, well, the voice is extraneous, but it’s hard to play a social game in solitude. I’m probably playing it alone, at any given time, only because I can’t find people to play with. The voice acts as an assurance, a psuedo-human element in an enterprise in which the human element could not be more glaringly absent.
The idea of depersonalization occupies us more and more: social media in particular serves as a…
Sunday was Groundhog Day. As is my tradition (and should be yours if it isn’t already), I watched Groundhog Day the film, again (BING!). I also watched the DVD extras, which include some fascinating commentary from director Harold Ramis, also of Stripes, Caddyshack, and (Egon in) Ghostbusters fame. Unfortunately, the DVD special features I want to share with you are not available online, but I found a very similar and short interview with Ramis below. In these interviews he explains why the film continues to be a timeless existential classic applicable to anyone’s life situation, or religion, capable of saying new things to them each time they watch it. By the way, if you haven’t seen Groundhog Day yet, it’s about time—don’t wait till next February. Buy it so you can watch the special features.
Ever since I read John Harris Harper’s miraculous new book Witnesses to the Light, which has just been published in Birmingham, I have been thinking about what it means to do something that is not half baked. This is because Harper’s book is thoroughly baked, a completely realized achievement.
Sometimes, because I can be paresseux, a thing I do will be half baked. I cut a corner, or fail to corroborate a fact, or skip a step in the argumentation. It’s just a fact of my work, and John Harper’s new book is a timely call to me to be thorough.
This podcast concerns the “escapism” of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). In particular, it consists of a reflection on some lines that occur near the end of his poem “Adonais”. These lines connect with my Panopticon, and with an experience I had on May Day of last year.
We’ve “Gotta Get Away” (Rolling Stones) from this world, deep down, in order to engage. Like the nuns in “Call the Midwife”.
The question of what causes anxiety is one to which we’ve given an embarrassing amount of attention, especially within the context of Christianity. The Onion was good to remind us a few week ago that “Anxiety [Isn't] Resolved By Thinking About It Really Hard”, but the relationship between religion and anxiety is a fascinating and potent one; i.e., the decline of religion and rise of anxiety may not be completely independent phenomena… but by “decline of religion” we don’t just mean secularization, but also certain shifts within religion itself. As a Church called to look for the plank in our own eyes, I think…
I’ve been reading Niccolo Machiavelli lately, the brilliant Renaissance-era adviser of princes, and have found myself much more attracted to him than I’d expected. To say that his reputation precedes him is an understatement–very few last names become as frequently dropped modifiers as ‘Machiavellian’, which usually refers to someone who believes that ends justify means (a statement often misattributed to the Florentine) and endorses cruelty, opportunism, and cold manipulation. But there’s a gap between Machiavelli’s reputation and his writings, and I think that gap can speak to us.
I won’t attempt (and don’t think there’s much warrant for) a revisionist reading…
This comes from her collection of mind-melding meditations, Gravity and Grace.
The cross as a balance, as a lever. A going down, the condition of a rising up. Heaven coming down to earth raises earth to heaven. A lever. We lower when we want to lift.
…It is human misery and not pleasure which contains the secret of the divine wisdom. All pleasure-seeking is the search for an artificial paradise, an intoxication, an enlargement. But it gives us nothing except the experience that it is vain. Only the contemplation of our limitations and our misery puts us on a higher plane. ‘Whosoever humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ The upward movement in us is vain (and less than vain) if it does not come from a downward movement.
…When the whole universe weighs upon us there is no other counterweight possible but God himself–the true God, for in this case false gods cannot do anything, not even under the name of the true one. Evil is infinite in the sense of being indefinite: matter, space, time. Nothing can overcome this kind of infinity except the true infinity. That is why on the balance of the cross a body which was frail and light but which was God, lifted up the whole world. ‘Give me a point of leverage and I will lift up the world.’ This point of leverage is the cross. There can be no other. It has to be at the intersection of the world and that which is not the world. The cross is this intersection.
This comes from Robert Farrar Capon’s take on evil, found in The Third Peacock. He is talking about Christ’s Temptation in the Wilderness wherein, according to Capon, Satan’s requests aren’t all that silly:
In any case, the clincher for the argument that the Devil’s ideas weren’t all bad comes from Jesus himself. At other times, in other places, and for his own reasons, Jesus does all of the things the Devil suggests. Instead of making lunch out of rocks, he feeds the five thousand miraculously–basically the same trick, but on a grander scale. Instead of jumping off the temple and not…
EPISODE 147: Transcendence
You can’t fight life, otherwise known as The World, The Flesh and The Devil. Life, as H.G. Wells put it towards the end of his own, is The Antagonist. It is designed to checkmate your ego, with the result being: No One Gets Out Of Here Alive.
The way ahead has therefore got to consist in some form of “I Leap Over the Wall” (Monica Baldwin). Nothing else can work. It’s got to be Transcendence, or nothing.
This podcast appears to locate our Best Hope in Martians. A quote from Dennis Saleh, my actual chosen epitaph, is the take-off point….
A winning perspective on the great continental divide between the American Comic and his British predecessor. Stephen Fry describes that what makes British humor great is its starting point at, quite literally, original sin. British humor, unlike the American one-liner, involves the capacity to accept one’s own unchanging failures, which actually makes for true character development. While it could be argued that, while the American hides behind the glory-story, the Brit hides behind his or her self-abasement (or even his or her nihilism), it certainly seems to make realer on-screen personalities. The first two minutes are golden, ht CE: