Friday, November 24, 2006

I am Beren

LATE THURSDAY: A delightful day, after 1.5 glasses of wine, a pint of ham, and a quick tear through The Fellowship of the Ring, I'm having the time of my life here. And I do declare, the movie really does fall precipitously short of the book on re-reading.
Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Mucky poetry, but a ripping good yarn.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

on Screwtape

Since I am back at the parental abode for the Thanksgiving holidays, I thought I'd take the time to rummage through the old records to find some... records, I suppose is the word I'm looking for. I didn't quite find what I was looking for or even things that would be particularly helpful: I found my PSAT scores [80, 80, 69], hundreds of pages of notes on translating the Mahaabhaarata, well-scribbled-on photocopies of pages of Aristotle's De Caelo, my 2001 pay stubs, and the copy of The Screwtape Letters I used when they decided to have a student-led reading group at my high school evangelical "youth group" with me and this other guy as the student leaders, but none of the various other important documents I really wanted to look at or would at least have been interested in finding. So I sat down and reread Screwtape.

One thing which always struck me was how the demons didn't particularly care for what exactly was going on in the war or in politics except insofar as it related to the state of the man's soul. In most cases, it didn't particularly matter which side of a matter the man took, so long as he used it to divide himself from others and perhaps define his faith in terms of it, with luck beginning to only use his faith as a convenient prop for [viz] Pacifism. Which is, by the way, why such pieces as this one are utter tripe, as it seems to have gone dangerously far down that very path. Even a 16-yr-old could be made to see that.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

on silence

I stole this from an article referenced on the neepeople web-log, but I thought it was interesting and moving, or whatever words those annoying sorts of people use when they run into something involving monks.
She believes that one of the reasons fewer women choose to enrol is a growing inability to sustain an "inner life". "We have been robbed of our inner resources; elevator music is all around," she says. "All the silences are covered. These days it is considered cruel to have a quiet classroom for children."

Is there too much instant gratification? She nods vigorously. She says that the women who came to the monastery but did not stay, did not "know what to do sitting in a room by themselves".
This was written 4 years ago, and I think it has gotten even worse today, with portable mp3 players and such being the order of the day. Contrast this with a couple generations ago, when the ability to have music which wasn't live was a bit of a novelty, three when it was a luxury, and four when it was an impossibility.

Yesterday was, by the way, No Music Day, making today, "Plenty of Music Day" or, better, St Cecilia's, the patron saint of music. I, of course, failed, since I watched an intensely musical movie. The main characters are followed around by unexplained Gypsy horn players as they party with an urgency and earnestness sadly lacking 'round the typical college keg. But I digress: many of the comments on the "No Music Day" site reinforced the point made by the nuns. They said, essentially, "This is a stupid idea, music is beautiful and I can't imagine living a day without it and not going insane." It's an argument I've heard made by many in person, as well. Make no mistake, I listen to a fair amount of music and don't impugn them for doing so, but there's something pathological about being unable to unplug for even a single day when for so much of human history we didn't even have a thing to unplug. We moderns are unable to engage in even the most basic of fasts. We can't bear to be left to confront ourselves for a day and I'm no exception.

on betrayal and the restoration of all things

Already being at the parental abode for Thanksgiving, I had little to do, so I watched my favorite movie, Emir Kusturica's1 Bila jednom jedna zemlja again [known in American release as Underground. Parts of its soundtrack by Goran Bregovic, by the way, were yanked by Borat, as well as some other works by the same artist.

The story is about two great friends, one of whom betrays everybody who loves him except possibly his wife, and even she is forced to at least hate him for the grave evils he makes her join in on. His friend, though stabbed in the back several times in the story, still loves him even after all is made known and breaks down when he discovers his traitorous friend has been killed. And the traitor undoubtedly loved his friend in some perverse way despite all the evil done to him so that in the resurrectional restoration of all things at the end of the movie, it doesn't seem out of place at all that they return to their pre-war friendship. He has some untouched and redeemable core of love for even those he has betrayed. Contrast with Ben-Hur, where the evil friend is spiteful to the last breath and there is no hope for him. Or I'm smoking rocks. Either way, a grand film.

1: Though his name indicates Muslim descent, he was baptized into the Orthodox Church on the feast of St George in recent years. He was already my favorite director; this only solidified his standing.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

more news in ecumenism: ELCA and Orthodox agree on some things about the Trinity

We've already bowled over the Episcopalians on this matter, now it seems that we have bowled over the ELCA: they admit that the filioque was a local addition to the creed and not a part of the ecumenically-binding catholic tradition and that the "permanently normative and universally binding form of the Nicene Creed is the Greek text of A.D. 381". Practical effects: little to none, except that now there'll be a footnote in their liturgical books pointing out that it's really optional. Moral victory: still very far off, we've only got the most liberal of American Lutherans to admit that we may have a point about the history of the filioque and aren't heretics. Not very impressive, since some of the teachers at the ELCA seminary two blocks away from where I sit probably have grave reservations about calling God "Father" or "Son".

goin' home via chicago

I must admit my only claim to sophistication of any sort is that I can make references to Wilco in my diary titles, but, anyways, I'm going back to $HOMETOWN via Chicago by Greyhound for Thanksgiving. The fares were cheaper and I didn't anticipate doing well at work, so I figured I might as well take the early option. Besides, I might be able to check about work or at least networking possibilities at $OTHERNEARBYTOWN with this extra time. Wouldn't hurt. It's not too painful, there's only one stop between Chicago and $HOMETOWN and it'd be at about a time where I'd like a rest. Only a bit slower than a car ride, so why not?

I will get there just in time for a vesperal liturgy for the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. Aesthetically, I'm no fan of vesperal liturgies. They seem rather ad hoc and pasted together, but that could just be me being curmudgeonly. I'm also generally more able to go to a 6:30am liturgy than a 6pm vesperal liturgy, though I suppose that availability may vary amongst the workingmen. But it's not like the grace of God is going to depart just because they're not generally convenient for me and don't strike my fancy. I mean, it's not like I'm going to depart for those reasons.

The odd thing is that we never drank milk in my household - can't digest the stuff - but we only discovered soy milk after I became Orthodox and requested it during my stays at home in college. Even so, I still eat my cereal dry.