Two years ago today we arrived in Bogotá. It has been good, and as far as I can tell, we are planning to stay.
All posts for the month May, 2011
Posted by unknowing on May 31, 2011
In the rain we ate colombian. A grey Colombian soup for lunch, with bones Colombians like to gnaw. We put hot sauce in it–they do not. Aji, which stings the mouth and after which if you drink soda you only feel the crawl of the bubbles and taste absolutely nothing. With hot sauce the soup is like the sunlight on a landscape. With a good high table you stoop over your meal and eat, glancing around when you chew, your head swiveling on lowered neck. It is more authentic if you keep your coat on and occasionally grimace as you eat.
I watched a guy biting bits of potato from his spoon–a common technique. We had salad: thin sliced onion with thick sliced tomato. A salad consisting mainly of carrots, or mainly of onion is not uncommon. Better than eating the lettuce watered with the heavy metals from the Bogotá river. The pesticides and other modern ills are pretty bad in countries where the thing is regulated. Here it is not regulated, and you eat like a grinning skull.
We had guanabana juice: milky and with the fruit’s strings in it. We had rice on our plates, and potatoes, besides the salad and green beans, and we had meat. 9000, and when we were done, the rain had finished also.
Posted by unknowing on May 30, 2011
1 Don’t know anything about it, really.
2 After four weeks of earnest effort, have not come along quite as far as I thought I had.
3 The taste again of humble pie.
It is curious how doing a thing that is worth doing exposes one to things one does not want to admit about oneself. I remember wondering to my piano teacher after a year and a half how close I was to the end and being slammed with the answer that it took 9 years to get started.
Well, there is nothing for it but to keep advancing and hope persistence eventually counts for something. Which reminds me as well of my quest to become a science fiction writer.
Posted by unknowing on May 28, 2011
There are two kinds of pastor, speaking about your attitude toward your work and life in general, according to one who has pastored a long time and always worked within a plurality. They are: the ones who are earnest and always live with a sense of failure which drives them, and the ones who are more easy going about their responsibilities but don’t live with the perpetual sense of inferiority.
The wisdom here is to realize that both ends are necessary. I tend more toward the first, I think. What has brought some of the second into my life has been the aesthetic life. The leisure of it, the growing gradually of a thing well done, the realization that things take time and that only through time is time conquered–and things. The aesthetic life (should I call it that?) is about the glories of being finite and submitting to limitations in order to inquire of them, understand the wisdom, and grow.
Posted by unknowing on May 26, 2011
Pero cuando una cosa seria y trascendente es caricaturizada y presentada como si esa fuera su imagen verdadera, no importa la intención que se tenga, de seguro que hará más daño que bien.
Posted by unknowing on May 19, 2011
A good day full of rain. How I love a rainy day for living life.
My study of Luke 12 begun on Monday has yielded fruit, and I have a satisfactory Sunday school lesson. Part of the help there came from reading Baxter’s The Saints Eternal Rest this morning, and very indirect the help that.
Curious how any worthwhile reading will help. Does one need discipline in reading, or just discipline to pick worthwhile things to read in any order? Two weeks ago for Genesis it was something from Auden. And it is still yielding fruit today–the Auden–because the chap thought.
Yielding in other spheres as well. With the watercolors, my teacher wants me to discover the way metaphor is managed by that art: to interpret and not to reproduce. Auden has this thing about what is sacred: to a society and to an individual. And he talks about how the individual seeks to find a way to join what is publicly sacred with what is personally sacred–to amplify and deepen the former with the latter. Or something like that: I forget the details and maybe I’m just inventing it, but it was suggested to me by reading or misreading Auden’s words.
You see, I am learning to read the way Auden did. Anyway . . . Why, for example, do I love the sunlit sides of the green mountains, or the quiet of a walled in garden wild or tended–the privacy and really the sacredness of that privacy? When I see it I realize it is something both precious and inviolable represented there. That it is inviolable is what makes me glad about it, gives me a joy to see it. These are for me instances of something that has to do with what is sacred–in Auden’s use of the term.
And as I move toward the project of interpreting–my teacher’s word–of suggesting rather than asserting, of showing rather than telling everything (or is it telling rather than showing with painting?) with the watercolors I think of that: trying to find something privately sacred in the object and showing it in a publicly recognizable way.
It is where the challenge comes in to do something more than just color a drawing. It is to be able to handle the metaphors in such a way that what one sees with one’s own eyes others can understand, which of course also requires from them a response, which is the unending problem of an audience, isn’t it, in this fragmented age. O my Yeats and Eliot!
How, for example, can I show other people what I love in the rain? How can I suggest to them the light of glory of a slope of sunlit grass? How can their concept of what is sacred–in Auden’s sense, whatever that is–not grow to expand to all things, but become deeper and like a new dimension, affect all the rest without destroying it?
Thanks, of course, to the articulate poets. Thanks to Auden, a penetrating chap. Not sure the painters or musicians are always the ones to express it, though I’m on the lookout for some of the things they say. What does, for example, Arvo Part say? I am enjoying what John Blockley says.
She tells me to interpret–my teacher–I think, because she senses somehow something of my private vision in my teaching at church. Or senses rather, that I need the metaphor for painting that I already have for teaching. I am trying to grasp it and I am finding it takes a great deal of work. But it does remind me there are many servants in this sprawling, windy house which must at last form perfectly a complete community.
The curtains move in the wind and the shadows shift, and I hear the voice of another and sense his presence in the house, but I do not see him. You see, one of these days I’m going to either come out with a poem about it, or paint it in very pallid watercolors, like a distant mountain range.
Posted by unknowing on May 19, 2011
In Genesis, and origins, and how to mount a defense against the threats–and what are threats. That’s the interesting bit, isn’t it? Now, the things I have been wanting so say and have not been able to say well, are finding their location and at last some of their expression.
It is like the watercolors. I want to do things I can’t, and I have to keep fiddling until I stumble across the occasions. Not that in teaching one fiddles, but one does what the fiddling with the paints amounts to: learns basic things on which to build.
Posted by unknowing on May 18, 2011
and what it is still good for:
The story here.
The guy knows how to use the cliches and platitudes to good effect.
Posted by unknowing on May 14, 2011
So nowadays I work on drawing and painting. Just painted my bookshelves.
And I meet with people and they tell me stuff and I tell them stuff. Had a mother come worried because her kid is being taught evolution and is kind of buying it. I was really pleased when she left: I had her in search of some C.S. Lewis, knowing he kind of bought into evolution too.
And I study and write my sermons and lessons. I think it is going better, maybe falling into a pattern. I am learning how to use the time of it.
And I play Lord of Ultima. Have you tried it? Free online game. Play for a while, then read. Set up some more things in my city, then draw or paint. Conquer, etc. Nice. Listen to a sermon and click around, or paint. I have found I do more listening that way.
Posted by unknowing on May 13, 2011
I wish I could fade obliviously into the aesthetic life. Not because it would bring me anything; I have nothing to acquire with it, am no wizard, simply one in search of shelter. I want it so I can have it to myself. People give themselves to it still, and to the meagreness and richess of it. And yet we cannot be happy in private interests, with no demands beyond ourselves. And people know that. I suppose the thing attempted is to limit those demands.
Looking at a Sisley painting I realize that overripe summer is a season I miss. Not the overripe jungle which is rotting as it grows. I do not want it because it is what I can easily have. No, what I want is the modest, overgrown summer of deciduous trees, a luxury of innocence before the decay which winter always forestalls and cleans away. Not the capitulation of false rest, but the fulness of contradictions harmonized in a serene and greater synthesis.
And so with colors and with water I am endeavoring to suggest, to represent what cannot be caught or caged. I have simple people in the congregation and I am not sure of getting through to them. I wonder how much confidence I ought to have in what I do. Are they like people who ‘like’ Beethoven, or am I a fraudulent pretender? It is not a shock to me to realize that there is no absolute standard for preachers, but it is like a shock. Here in the dimness of this great house I would run into the servants and just notice they were servants, and I come to find there is a correspondence between the servant and his portion of this vast and windy, sprawling house.
Posted by unknowing on May 11, 2011
First, that it was good again. Many years have passed since I sat in the company of a master and was instructed one on one. My piano teacher in Mexico left me with a lot of happy memories from my piano lessons. The sense of a tradition, of the discipline of an art, of demands that exceeded my abilities and required long, patient effort have all been renewed.
We began by feeling the paper I knew that was a good sign, that I was back in a similar situation and working from scratch. And the feeling of sitting side by side before the thing in question, of being guided by someone who knows after so many years was welcome.
Second, how everything was set up gradually, and then time was dispensed with. You have to take your time and you have to become absorbed with everything at hand, and otherwise you do not do it well. Like all the best things, they follow their own rules.
Posted by unknowing on May 9, 2011
You know, over here people did not get that fairy-tale feeling about the coronation. What impressed most who saw it was the fact that the Queen herself appeared to be quite overwhelmed by the sacramental side of it. Hence, in the spectators, a feeling of (one hardly knows how to describe it) –awe–pity–pathos–mystery. The pressing of that huge, heavy crown on that small, young head becomes a sort of symbol of the situation of humanity itself: humanity called by God to be His vice-regent and high priest on earth, yet feeling so inadequate. As if He said ‘In my inexorable love I shall lay upon the dust that you are glories and dangers and responsibilities beyond your understanding.’ Do you see what I mean? One has missed the whole point unless one feels that we have all been crowned and that coronation is somehow, if splendid, a tragic splendor.
–C.S. Lewis to Mary Willis Shelburne, 10 July, 1953
Posted by unknowing on May 6, 2011
Went downtown to return a book and returned with some Borges. Need to read theology, really. Need to spend my money on some theological tomes, but other things keep calling. I don’t and I should, and now the reasoning–at least some of it–is clear. If you don’t read theology you will end up harping on your pet things more than you would if you did. I think there is a point in that.
Problem is: Borges’ style. One picks him up on anything and smiles. How wonderful, how free of anything ponderous, how urbane like few theologians that blind, charming infidel. Should be reading Charnock or some equivalent theological gravel and sand, but instead I read Borges on the bus. Fat lady got on and took up a seat beside me, and made me feel that perhaps it was discourteous to withhold my seat from her as well. Up against the side of the bus I read Borges.
Now I have to study, and there is Borges. And still Auden, but I deliberately left him at home. I’m going to have to get St. Thomas so I can do some theology regularly. Some Gregory Naziansen, I ween.
* * *
Have you listened to A.N. Martin on pastoral theology? It is worth doing. I do it when I have to work on stuff like the bulletin, etc. He tells them they should read on 8 things more or less constantly. On theology and devotional works the most, and then a bunch of other categories. What was interesting to me was what he said about history. He said a pastor should look at the era that most interests him and become an expert in it over the years. Not bad advice, I think. Having a degree that somehow involved history, I ought to see about becoming a master of some kind of era of church history myself.
What else he said that caught my attention was in the area of theology you should stick to the proven chaps, not the new stuff. He reads the new stuff to keep up on developments, but not for theology. Sound, I reckon.
* * *
I do remember lamenting one time that I’d read Revive Us Again three times and never once The Fairy Queen. You know, I still have that lament. My idea for my sermon on Genesis 5 this week comes straight out of Auden: crowd, society and community.
Still, I ought to see about getting the Aquinas.
Posted by unknowing on May 5, 2011
This is the book I was looking for and the book I am ready for.
Auden’s the sort of chap I need to know more of. I haven’t read my way through enough of his poems, but he’s got a few I’ve been really fond of for a few years now. He’s the kind of chap who praised Tolkien and includes throughout his writings enough random quotations from Charles Williams to make one think he read him rather avidly. A curious mind, a most curious mind and a voracious. His essay on ‘The Virgin and the Dynamo’ is and extraordinary (as in, not ordinary–which is not how this word is usually meant) meditation on poetry, if it is intelligible–which I suspect it is. It is private too I suspect (when I can make more of it than presently I’ll know), the way Yeats stuff is, and yet able to suggest so much. The tome stars with an essay on Reading and then another on Writing which both consist of what appear to be a series of discreet, epigrammatic paragraphs. And they work, and they please.
My kind of book. Compare it to the collected essays of any great poet and you will find it is like them in that it is sui generis–perfectly so, and, as I like to say when I run out of words, astonishing. Part of life’s limited shelf of 300.
Posted by unknowing on May 3, 2011