I had heard it said that George Sand was a typical novelist. That prepared me in advance to imagine that François le Champi contained something inexpressibly delicious. The course of the narrative, where it tended to arouse curiosity or melt to pity, certain modes of expression which disturb or sadden the reader, and which, with a little experience, he may recognise as ‘common form’ in novels, seemed to me then distinctive—for to me a new book was not one of a number of similar objects, but was like an individual man, unmatched, and with no cause of existence beyond himself—an intoxicating whiff of the peculiar essence of François le Champi. Beneath the everyday incidents, the commonplace thoughts and hackneyed words, I could hear, or overhear, an intonation, a rhythmic utterance fine and strange. The ‘action’ began: to me it seemed all the more obscure because in those days, when I read to myself, I used often, while I turned the pages, to dream of something quite different. And to the gaps which this habit made in my knowledge of the story more were added by the fact that when it was Mamma who was reading to me aloud she left all the love-scenes out. And so all the odd changes which take place in the relations between the miller’s wife and the boy, changes which only the birth and growth of love can explain, seemed to me plunged and steeped in a mystery, the key to which (as I could readily believe) lay in that strange and pleasant-sounding name of Champi, which draped the boy who bore it, I knew not why, in its own bright colour, purpurate and charming.
All posts for the month July, 2006
Posted by unknowing on July 31, 2006
I’ve not been so reluctant over my work for any chapter in my thesis as for the Sunday one. I’ve had more time for the writing of this one than for others, but I’ve dawdled over it. At last, after putting in a good bit yesterday and now today (by skipping my walk) I’m at the end of it for now.
So I’ve been looking over the Chronicles because I’ve had a few ideas. At first I almost wanted to come out with a public blog again. Part of what gets me going with the Chronicles is the interraction. I can make them better if I work in things that are suggested to me from the commentary as the sections are posted. The trouble is that for one to have commentary, one has to have a community of commentators, for such a community one needs to have regular fare and random incursions from strangers in the comments.
Part of the reason I don’t want this blog to be public is that I don’t want to feel the pressure to put on regular fare. I takes a great investment of time to get something out every day. It takes an even greater investment to keep up with the comments if they get lively. One’s mind begins to turn toward one’s blog quite frequently and that is the thing I want to avoid. But the only way to foster communicants is to have one’s mind absorbed, with the posts flowing out of the comments and there being a whole swirl of interest. Since it is usually all or nothing with me, a public blog is out of the question. I’d get too absorbed.
So that aspect of the Chronicles is foregone. It can be retrieved somewhat in incidents like the great presuppositionalist showdown where something was suggested to me by the interraction on another blog, but I am less inclined than ever to participate in any of these confrontations; one has to be so dogged. It is investment that yields, but investment is what I want to avoid.
Still, an aspect that remains to me is that of the abrupt introduction of something completely bizarre. Even the use I made of things suggested in the commentary worked on these lines. Nobody expected something they wondered about to provoke me to explain it by inserting it upside-down, as it were, in the story. I can provide any preposterous elements. What I seem to have difficulty with is the excuse, the catalyst for the preposterousness. Perhaps I ought to travel more often to places like Irreverent and other such mills of infamy.
Remember the purpose statement of the Chronicles?
The Chronicles of Fundamentarlia must be written sooner or later. We need to come up with some culture to disprove all the things that have been said against us, and I will be the David to take on this Goliath in my spare time and armed with the five pebbles that constitute my brain. It may seem like a daunting task to the rest of you, but I have all this little job will require, I just have to believe in myself.
No culture, eh? Well, that’s because we don’t usually fool around with trivial stuff like compromising idolaters and communists do. There are important things to do, after all. But it will be nothing to whip some culture up. We’ll just get all of you over this little burr in your saddles in the next few weeks. That way we can get on with the main business of our life and not miss any important sporting events either. Maybe if I get really good, I’ll write westerns too.
Posted by unknowing on July 29, 2006
Tozer pointed this out to me today, in a sermon preached some fifty years ago, during the space race. We can see that men are worshipers, not only because in ancient days the world filled them with wonder and they found gods in every place (and the places to which they turned showed them to be broken worshipers), but also because in our day the impulse and wonder still are with us, even though they are dessicated, degraded from even from the romanticism of Wordsworth.
The impulse to worship and the wonder of those things is seen, Tozer said, in the desire for rockets and the love for outer space. An experienced science-fiction reader needs only think of the books by Carl Sagan, Philip Jose Farmer, Walter M. Miller Jr., and even Frank Herbert. The longing for mystery has made all of Sagan’s science quite a fantasy. Even debunkers like Farmer and one-book-authors who kept on writing like Herbert include elements, entities, groups of people that stand along the border of the incomprehensible and gesture at it, even if they don’t always beckon.
In this connection, it is good to think of authors who cross the boundaries from science-fiction into fantasy like Ursula K. LeGuin. And she is not alone, nor is it for nothing the two genres are mixed in the bookstores. LeGuin is a particularly successful one, in my opinion, once she abandons or relinquishes the contradictions of ideology for the sake of her story. And it is also telling, in LeGuin, that the story is supreme. In this consists her success. It is a romantical success.
It is true that the impulse is counteracted by the scientism of the writers. But think of Asimov, the hardest and the coldest of them all, perhaps (although Clarke and Baxter are pretty bad, but what is more fantastic and religious than Clarke’s Space Odysseys?), who still can’t resist the awkward gesture of making an incomprehensible, super-evolved robot god.
Of course, the true expression of what science fiction aims at was more perfectly achieved by C. S. Lewis. There was a world of wonder, mystery, all beyond the confines of our polluted planet. He says, so loud, the world is too much with us! And the solution is an invasion of wonder and the defeat of the scientism that has brought it down. Oh romanticism!
That is the hunger that science fiction (that fantasy also) does not exist to satisfy, but to stir up in our age. That is why the writer of science fiction aims at the same thing Wordsworth aimed at. And it is an ambitious goal, not a capitulation, for it has yet to enjoy any very great success.
Posted by unknowing on July 28, 2006
What Love is this of thine, that Cannot bee
In thine Infinity, O Lord, Confinde,
Unless it in thy very Person see,
Infinity, and Finity Conjoyn’d?
What hath thy Godhead, as not satisfide
Marri’de our Manhood, making it its Bride?
Oh, Matchless Love! filling Heaven to the brim!
O’re running it: all running o’re beside
This World! Nay Overflowing Hell; wherein
For thine Elect, there rose a mighty Tide!
That there our Veans might through thy Person bleed,
To quench those flames, that else would on us feed.
Oh! that thy Love might overflow my Heart!
To fire the same with Love: for Love I would.
But oh! my streight’ned Breast! my Lifeless Sparke!
My Fireless Flame! What Chilly Love, and Cold?
In measure small! In Manner Chilly! See.
Lord blow the Coal: Thy Love Enflame in mee.
Posted by unknowing on July 26, 2006
The poet has the capacity to seize, understand and show what his age is. He must resist the temptation to merely seize and show what he has, and get beyond that to showing that which he has in common; he has to be able to speak for many and not just for himself. What Eliot did, and also explained in his essay, was that the individual talent must be put in service, not only of his age, but of the ages, putting the personal moment into a context that is in no way parochial, describing the intersection of time and eternity.
This poetic capacity is why poets must be the legislators, if unacknowledged legislators of mankind. It is a sort of leadership, if not the very essence of leadership.
Fundamentalism cannot produce poets. Not only are we unfamiliar with poetry, fail to cultivate those things which will put poetry in us like no classroom can, and do our best to permanently destroy the capacities required simply to appreciate poetry, but if somebody suggests to us that we should raise our eyes beyond the most limited concerns this is received with scorn, derision and even fury. A leader needs to be able to raise his eyes to be able to see beyond point A to point B.
But there is more. In order to get from point A to point B it is not only necessary to be able to see point B, it is necessary to be able to recognize point A. This we are unable to do. To be told that we squat on a pile of rubble cannot even be considered. I think this is because we have invested so much in the rubble. It may be that we are unable to put our hearts around more than rubble, having twisted them into the shape of the fragments we cherish. Our heart, that greatest of all our organs, that greatest of all our organs of knowledge, has been atrophied and made small through misuse and neglect.
There are consequences, everlasting consequences that make all our choices significant. The day we went to war with our own hearts we made a choice with consequences unimaginable. We begin to catch a glimpse of the scope of these consequences when we realize that they have made us completely helpless. And the best thing we can do at the moment is to stop using our hearts the way we have. But when the proper use of our hearts is considered so drastic as to be ludicrous, when we refuse to consider and to reason correctly, but instead reason badly and even without integrity on the matter of greatest importance, the end for which we were created, then how can we even contemplate a return to the proper uses of the heart?
This requires far seeing men. That is what we must be, in an age of darkness like few or any others. We must look to find the horizon, not in daylight, not in twilight, but with the light of a candle, while living among people who place a premium on myopia and congratulating ourselves we chose it over blindness. Just trying to be aware of the situation is beyond the limit of our capacities, let alone our inclinations.
And it is with our inclinations, our shriveled hearts, we must begin. The first thing is not to recover our sight, but to recover our desire to see.
Posted by unknowing on July 22, 2006
Posted by unknowing on July 19, 2006
Suppose a river, or a drop of water, an apple or a sand, an ear of
corn, or an herb: God knoweth infinite exellencies in it more than we: He
seeth how it relateth to angels and men; how it proceedeth from the most
perfect Lover to the most perfectly Beloved; how it representeth all His
attributes; how it conduceth in its place, by the best of means to the best
of ends: and for this cause it cannot be beloved too much. God the Author
and God the End is to be beloved in it; Angels and men are to be beloved in
it; and it is highly to be esteemed for all their sakes. O what a treasure
is every sand when truly understood! Who can love anything that God made too
much? What a world would this be, were everything beloved as it ought to be!
Posted by unknowing on July 16, 2006
One of the things that really bogs people down in thinking is when they try to deal with a problem using the wrong categories. Usually, this is the case when people whip out the idea of being balanced. As if aiming for the middle of everything is they key to finding the truth. Being moderate, especially with regard to the appetites, is the way to true temperance. But to moderate the affections will only result in a mediocre virtue.
I think the same mistake is being made in many of the uses of the categories of objectivity and subjectivity. Being objective is like being balanced. Being subjective is like being extreme. This is a clumsy handling of the terms. They are used to mean something more general than they should.
I do not believe we ever experience objects as such. This is not to say that there aren’t things that exist outside of me, but that I never encounter them as such. Owen Barfield makes the case for this early in Saving the Apperances. Anybody who believes that we never encounter bare objects is going to find the usefulness of the categories objective and subjective rather limited.
I’m not going to make Barfield’s argument; that is what his book is for. But what it works out to is that we handle things outside of us by way of collective representations. Collective representations are what we actually experience as the world. These representations are how our mind handles the unrepresented, that which exists without us, and are what we think of when we think of hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling and smelling. What Barfield points out is that we participate in this experience; that our minds supply a great deal of what we assume to be outside of us, shaping it. Just think of how many things you don’t usually notice that you might notice if you stopped an paid attention, or if you had somebody point it out to you. You are filtering a lot of things out. But you are doing more than that, for these collective representations also extend to our understanding of the order of the cosmos and other things we perceive without associating them directly to the senses.
Barfield shows us how the collective representations of the human race have varied over time. And his point is to show us that for the first time in the history of our race we have lost the consciousness of our participation. We stand at the end of a transition that took centuries. We have shifted the way we know by becoming unconscious of our participation and thinking that our collective representations exist as we experience them in the world. We have given the table and the chair and the tree and the human being that we perceive an independent existence. We have also studied them as such, believing that this is the way to know them, and even the scientists are coming to the conclusion that this doesn’t work. The more they try the more they see that the perceiver cannot assume his complete detachment from the things he perceive.
But enough of this. Barfield wrote better books than I ever shall; read those if you want more of the above. My point is just to show the point of view from which I object to objectivity. When people try to mitigate the objection by saying that we know we have biases and we can compensate for the bias by being aware of it they are missing the whole point of our objection to the use of the categories of objective and subjective. We have no contact with objects as such; objectivity is not an option. Even the collective representations we have are misleading because they make it seem as if the world we experience is actually out there. We don’t experience our collective representations as simply appearances that help us to handle the unrepresented, but we actually think we have unfiltered contact with the unrepresented.
You will see why the categories of objective and subjective might be considered limited for a person like me. The only thing they apply to is to personal relationships, where there is an other who we would never treat as an object in the sense we think of objects in our room, but where we simply use the terms subject and object within the living, un-clinical, un-detached and entirely personal sphere of a relationship.
Posted by unknowing on July 15, 2006
Since I am in what is probably my very last of seven years at Central, my mind occasionally turns toward what will come next, and I feel the call of the North Atlantic, that mystical body of water. I want to live on the shores of the North Atlantic with keen longing. It is as if I am called to leave my father’s house and kindred and sojourn somewhere within sight of those troubled, tempestuous grey waves.
I have just found that the islands called Shetland have a declining population. Now the worst thing about Iceland is that their population is increasing. Shetland would not have that problem. They also have rain 269 days of the year, which is a bit on the low side, but I suppose adequate if you consider that 70 days they have snow. The planes fly in, but it sounds like they are going to cut back on the ferry, making it even more remote. All this is excellent.
Maritime weather on a remote island in the North Atlantic is what I really crave. Long have I considered the perfect temperature to be forty degrees. And being in this land where it so little rains is wearing. Whole weeks can go by here when it never rains. I want fog and showers, spray on the wind, and tempests out of the sea. They have no acute cold and no exaggerated heat in that magical place.
So I want to emigrate to Shetland, and take all my books, and take the ferry to Scotland to buy books every once in a while, and live far away.
Posted by unknowing on July 15, 2006
From Burke, upon the recent displays provoked by Remonstrans, with comments interlarded and emphasis added:
To see [or perhaps to hear] nothing low or sordid from one’s infancy; to be taught to respect one’s self [the humanities]; to be habituated to the censorial inspection of the public eye [it predisposes one to self-examination and a certain punctiliousness, I doubt not]; to look early to public opinion [not merely private affairs]; to stand upon such elevated ground as to be enabled to take a large view of the widespread and infinitely diversified combinations of men and affairs in a large society; to have leisure to read, to reflect, to converse [ah!]; to be enabled to draw the court and attention of the wise and learned wherever they are to be found; to be habituated in the pursuit of honor and duty; to be formed in the highest degree of vigilance, foresight and circumspection, in a state of things in which no fault is committed with impunity, and the slightest mistakes draw on the most ruinous consequences.
Posted by unknowing on July 13, 2006
God, who is hidden in his Revelation and revealed in his hiddenness, has been treated among many as “revealed” for so long, and in such a manner, that he has become familiar, the familiar God being no God at all, but an idol. The labor of the evangelist in this field will involve hiding God before the face of men. Only then will they be able to desire him once more.
Posted by: smh | Jul 10, 2006 11:47:40 AM
Posted by unknowing on July 12, 2006
At Half-Price Books last Saturday I hesitated over a large paperback somewhat the worse for wear. $16 is not a lot if you are glad you got the book, or if you know it is useful and it will prove helpful in the long run. I hesitated over this anthology because I want to own all the works of Christian Mysticism. If you buy them individually they are likely to come with lengthy introductions and perhaps other essays or inclusions to make the heart rejoice.
The thing about this one, though, is that it includes almost 60 authors, with brief introductions and highly characteristic selections. I got it with some misgivings.
I usually don’t read the books I buy right away. Sometimes I do, but usually they get put aside for a while before I can get around to them. To think I used to go to the libraries all the time to get stuff to read!
So I started looking at Harvey Egan’s anthology and found the introductory essay very satisfying. He says all the right things about mysticism and deals with all the common misunderstandings. I’m going to read the whole thing.
I’d like to find if Egan is still teaching and see if there would be a possibility of doing studies in that direction. He studied with Rahner because at the time Rahner was one of the few people interested in mysticism as a source for theology. He classifies Rahner along with Merton and Meister Ekhart as mystical theologians but not mystics. I think that is how Tozer would be classified.
If I could study with a person like Egan, besides the abiding interest, I’d like to do it to form my judgment and have a better understanding of how to group and distinguish the varieties, especially among the less accepted ones like the Quietists. I wonder if my background of studying fundamentalism would help to get me into a place where I could contribute toward fitting people like A.B. Simpson and Tozer in with present state of this branch of learning.
Posted by unknowing on July 11, 2006
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall for ever die.
Posted by unknowing on July 8, 2006