c.s. lewis

2019.18

            If you are reading this from somewhere other than Nashville, take comfort in knowing that we have survived. The NFL Draft landed on us last weekend, as did the marathon…as did a viral marketing campaign for a new Taylor Swift song. There was also a mosaic tile convention at a hotel near the airport that I found out about by way of two attendees eating tacos in my neighborhood, kind of stunned that the town had been overrun by grown men in football jerseys. Bachelorette parties that didn’t do their research either had to embrace the chaos or spend the entire weekend upset that they weren’t going to be the ones making the most annoying dent in the city’s nightlife.

            The Swift song is called “Me!” which might be the most perfectly calculated name and concept for a song for this time in which we find ourselves. That’s not a compliment. It’s like boy bands singing songs about how girls don’t know that they’re pretty, but darn it, they are, and that boy band sees it. The boys you go to school with don’t see it, but they do. That is some low hanging fruit. Strangely, it is the first Swift song that I have heard in its entirety. I watched the video out of curiosity. It looks like Baz Luhrmann and the ad agency that handles Target hosed down Paris with unicorn pastels. Like I said, it’s “perfect”. I’d say more but I don’t want a bunch of Swifties emailing me death threats.

            The overwhelming weekend invasion is probably best summed up by a segment of an article from the Nashville Scene:

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            What is it that we are really doing in this town right now? And why can’t any of you drunkards buy some art? For a town that floats on an ocean of beer and whiskey, you’d think someone might accidentally buy some art. They accidentally do everything else. I saw a crew of 10 people today with matching “I’m Just Here To Party” t-shirts. That’s fine. Just don’t pee in the fountain at the symphony hall. I feel like we’re turning into an old Mardi Gras episode of COPS where the officers would say stuff like, “Can you have sex on a sidewalk in your town? Well, why do you think you can do it here?” Am I the only one that thinks a downtown casino is an inevitability? Might be 5 years. Might be 20 but it’s coming, right? Am I too cynical?

            I was at the bank this week and a woman walked in the door about 20 feet from me, looked at me and loudly said, “Oh! *giggles* Oh!” She walked over and said, “Who do people tell you that you look like?” I said, “Well when I was younger and didn’t have a beard, people said I looked like Egon from Ghosbusters.” I also had a Rob Morrow phase but that didn’t last long, and I think it was because of a Yankees hat that I wore. She said, “Do people tell you that you look like Mo Rocca?” Yes. Once or twice. Yes. She then didn’t let it drop. It went on for so long that she really might have thought I was Rocca and she was going to ride the conversation a bit further to see if I would eventually cop to it. It was uncomfortable.

            I lifted my Instagram account suspension. That’s a not-so-clever way of saying that I am back on there in some limited fashion. I don’t have anything to post though. I finished a painting of skull. It’s on there if you want to see it. As with most things that I start, I tried to give myself some rules about the whole thing to keep from being swallowed by it. The 5 months I was away from it were great for clear thinking and powering through some studio/life issues.  

There is a base level that I have been trying to get back to with art. After 20 years, it’s taken so many turns and has been growing larger one little layer at a time. It’s like when I moved into a rental house in college and my roommate and I ripped out 6 layers of linoleum flooring from the bathroom. Every layer had water trapped in it. Each layer had the best of intentions but piled on top of one another had caused an increasingly messy situation. I’ve spent the past 5-6 months stripping my art down to the studs to see what I valued most and what would adhere to new career goals less interested in “me” or individualism, period. Things are clicking. I am re-reading an essay about still life and its denial of the body, etc and I spend the entire time nodding my head and highlighting passages. The rest of the year will be spent making work and establishing limitations. I allowed “everything” into my studio and now it is time to kick most of it out. I work best with established restrictions. For the first time in months, I feel like I have a specific goal. I tend to feel passionately about revelations like this and then crash and burn 48 hours later but this seems to be sticking. Fingers crossed.

 

Lyric for the week:

“So I'm back, to the velvet underground. Back to the floor, that I love.”

            “Gypsy”- Fleetwood Mac

 

Quote for the week:

“Still life pitches itself at a level of material existence where nothing exceptional occurs: there is a wholesale eviction of the Event”- Rhopography, by Norman Bryson

Currently reading:

The Book of Luke

Revelation

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

temporarily suspended:

The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis

2019.17

Some weeks you just have to punt. This is one of those weeks.

I have a ruled composition book to jot down bullet points for a weekly post. There is a page that has “April 24:” written and underscored on it. There is nothing written underneath it. I have a folder in my notes on my phone for “Writing”. There’s not much in there either.

            Easter was a mixed bag of emotions for every Christian around the world. The holiest day, celebrating the greatest sacrifice and victory, tempered with news of over 350 people being killed, some of whom were targeted for the very thing we all were celebrating. I woke up to news of the Sri Lankan bombing. Others experienced it in real time. Even more probably had their morning services out of the way before it happened. This is the part of our calling that on most days Western Christians have the luxury to push to the margins. That comfort is a double-edge sword that simultaneously allows us to sleep but also threatens our faith. Our security makes our faith soft, like a person that needs medication for mental health that stops taking it because they feel good, all the while forgetting that it’s the medication that makes them feel that way. I rarely think someone might shoot up my church. There was a church shooting in Nashville less than 2 years ago and I know a family that was in it and had to provide medical aid to the wounded but even that doesn’t make me fear for much. That said, we have to live with the knowledge that the profession of our faith puts a target on us. It’s not unique to Christianity. Anyone that declares themselves anything risks attack.

            Currently I am reading St. Augustine’s City of God and a history of the Orthodox Church. Couple that with a daily reading of anything in the New Testament and that fear of not being loved by the world around you turns to vapor. None of this is new. It is a faith born into one of the most decadent, hedonistic empires the world has known. It spreads underground where it is made illegal by dictatorial atheistic governments. It was overrun by competing ideologies and survived. Whether threatened by violence or the recent Western weaponization of public shaming, we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone. That contemporaneity that allows Easter of the year 50 to feel closer to us than Groundhog Day of 2015 not only allows us to share in a message of eternal love but also strengthens us to share our anxiety related to exterior forces across time as well. Long story short, it’ll be ok:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Quote for the week:

“You deserve less”- Trenton Doyle Hancock

Lyric for the week:

“These prayers are a constant road across the wilderness” - Paul Simon “Cool Cool River”

Currently reading:

The Book of Luke

1 John

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware

The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis

2019.16

            I watched a documentary on 8-year-old golfers called The Short Game. I can relate to the French kid:

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             It’s Holy Week. I listened to nothing but Arvo Pärt for 3 days. I’ll get back to him today and ride out the rest of the week that way. There was a temporary detour yesterday afternoon to listen to Todd Rundgren’s “Wolfman Jack” about 5 times in a row during my afternoon exercise.

            I walked to Pärt’s “Litany” one day, which is a musical composition he made for the 24, hourly prayers of St. John Chrysostom. It is a head trip of walking music to wind through your neighborhood while a choir either barely breathes or powerfully pounds out prayers like “O Lord, free me from all ignorance and forgetfulness, from despondency and stony insensibility.” That ain’t “Wolfman Jack”.

            I read a quote by him recently: “Music is my friend. Understanding, empathic. Forgiving, comforter. A towel to dry tears of sadness. A source of tears for happiness. Liberation and flight. But also, a painful thorn. In flesh and soul.” That is the artist’s paradox. It’s felt more like the thorn than the towel for me lately but lately I have begun to feel confident that I am carving out a simplified version of what I want to do and that simplicity should bring liberation and flight back into the studio.

            This time of year reminds me of an excerpt from a book I read a couple of years ago: How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K. A. Smith. It’s a summary of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, which I will read one day. It’s a big, dense book. There is a section in the Smith book that examines secular time versus “higher” time. I keep a photo of this quote in the book on my phone as a reminder of where my head should be: 

In the premodern understanding, because “mundane” or secular time is transcended by “higher: time, there is an accounting of time that is not merely linear or chronological. Higher time “introduce ‘warps’ and seeming inconsistencies in profane time-ordering. Events that were far apart in profane time could nevertheless be closely linked”. This is somewhat akin to Kierkegaard’s account of “contemporaneity” in Philosophical Fragments: “Good Friday 1998 is closer in a way to the original day of the Crucifixion that mid-summer’s day 1997.”

            There’s a disconnect between the way the Notre Dame fire has been framed and the faithful have responded. We want to talk about a building because it’s 850 years old and it’s the heart of a city and a country. That’s the secular response. A BBC reporter I listened to said something like, “It’s not like that many of us are really religious anymore but…” and then continued to explain why people should care that a church caught on fire in very secular terms, almost feeling like he had to explain to the 21st c. West why you’re supposed to care about the past? It was so discouraging. A significant landmark has been significantly damaged. But for those Parisian Catholics, kneeling and singing “Ave Maria” while the church burned, sure it was a threatened landmark but, for some of them, it’s as much the approach of Passover in 1st century Palestine as much as it is Holy Week in 2019. We’re not supposed to be completely present right now. Some people just want to focus on the age as an abstract number. Others watch it burn and simultaneously see the cornerstone be placed into position.

            Hopefully there is a Maundy Thursday service in my near future. Hopefully there is a joyous Easter service on Sunday where I get to hear the phrase “He is risen” repeatedly spoken by people that believe it fully. Hopefully anyone reading this gets to go and do the same. 

            Happy Easter.

 

Quote for the week:

“In this world/we walk on the roof of Hell/gazing at flames” – Kobayashi Issa

 

I haven’t been reading a lot lately. Get used to seeing this list. I’m reading too many things right now and need to scale back down once I finish the Ware and Lewis books.

 

Currently reading:

The Book of Luke

2 Peter

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware

The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis