Friday, June 16, 2017


A priest-friend of mine (Hi Fr ---! I think you are still reading this?) shared an excerpt from a sermon of St. Anthony of Padua, a couple days ago, and highlighted this sentence: Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.

There's usually a disconnect between actions and words, We say things that sound deliciously seraphic and, in the abstract, are keen on 'em. In practice...ehhhhh... maybe we'll start building a civilization of love some other day.

There's a second kind of disconnect when we say these things, think we're acting on them, and desiring to be faithful followers/witnesses of Christ. But, although we're sometimes good at separating the sin from the sinner, we're maybe not so good on separating the idea from the person.

So it is that you see people being all about respecting the dignity of others (ad nauseam, gag me with a spoon) while being completely down for Freaking The Eff Out and goin' at someone like a Spider Monkey when that someone begs to differ. The methods used to crush an opponent can be brutal and are sometimes the verbal equivalent of one of the gorier deaths in the Iliad.  I.e.:
Idomeneus skewered Erymas straight through the mouth, the merciless brazen spearpoint raking through, up under the brain to split his glistening skull - teeth shattered out, both eyes brimmed to the lids with a gush of blood and both nostrils spurting, mouth gaping, blowing convulsive sprays of blood and death’s dark cloud closed down around his corpse.
To stand for the good is to reject evil, to not capitulate to either its speculative or practical premises. Error has no rights.

But when you treat people as totems/emblems/visible manifestations of an idea, you identify, substantially, person and idea. In a righteous zeal to confront what is obviously a pig-headed notion, we transfer its being unsound, fallacious, or dangerous, to the person and let loose the with bilious indignation the hounds of heaven. Wrong beliefs smashed to a pulp! Opponent reduced to tears! A relationship damaged! Hooray! You win!?

People cannot be treated like ideas.

Some people do deserve a verbal beatdown, Homer-style. There was one man who insulted the Church in a vile way and I wanted to leap over the table and yell in his face. I only had time for one heated retort before a friend saw it would probably end Very Badly and abruptly, loudly, and decisively headed that off. It wigs people out when I get enraged because it happens so rarely, and friends hit panic-eject mode when that occurs. But there's a difference between being a Condescending Ass about religion (or about anything, really) and someone who is genuinely curious, seriously misinformed, or simply unable to reason well.

Look at comboxes (well, don’t – they're a bit depressing...except, actually, read this combox). In them, you find people trying to get across some point (could be an utterly nutty point, or just poorly articulated), getting piled on, and retreating in a high dudgeon (or persisting, insisting, and getting angrier by the second). Ho ho! We laugh at them. How stupid they are! But many (not all, and perhaps not most, but many) are not ill-meaning. They are reaching for truth and goodness, trynna share what they know, trynna to be helpful. Forcing them into a more radical corner as an intellectual exercise/sign of domination because their ideas or arguments are stupid ain't gonna do no one no good no how. Do you also rev the engine when an animal strays into the street, perchance? People are not their ideas, though ideas (especially about the good/final ends) shape action. I feel like a grasp of that distinction is slowly slipping away and we're becoming calloused and inclined to be callous-forming.

We also tend to forget the advantages that allow to converse in easy familiarity with, say, Aquinas, Benedict XVI, and old Church documents. Because it's easy for us does not mean it's easy for others.  Aquinas, quoting Boethius in the question on whether the existence of God is self-evident, reminds us "that there are some mental concepts self-evident only to the learned..." (ST IQ2A1) Well of course YOU know a number of finer philosophical or theological distinctions. But getting to truth for many entails a slow and weary struggle. Ya don't kick a fellow person on the same trail when they're dyin' of thirst. We'all's with access to books and t’eh internets, with the leisure to read, and the time we need to sit and reflect quietly, are blessed. Don't squander it. Hopefully, the more erudite (relative to wherever we’re at intellectually) aren't going to be treating us as manifestations of our ill-conceived and stupid ideas. And maybe, just maybe, God will accept our pitiful attempts and ideas and meanings in the spirit in which they're offered IF we accept the attempts of others in a similar way. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Further Quick Reflection

Regarding artists and their relation to goodness, it occurred to me that a better correlation might be:

Those who explore human action/moral matters should have some notion of the good.
Those who produce artefacts should have some notion of the beautiful.

A writer is an artist and, when treating of human actions (as opposed to documenting history/etc.), is dealing with characters who either believe that what they do is good/evil or with a character who rejects the notion of good itself and uses some other valuation system for determining action.

But if the author himself is ambivalent, it may do him a disservice when trying to capture a moral dilemma and full range of human responses/emotions. Which isn't to say that the author denies the phenomena of a dilemma (emotions, thought-processes, etc.), but he might not appreciate the soul-gripping-depths of those straddling heaven and hell.

I'm not sure if I'd assert that the atheist-turned-religious (or vice-versa) would be *best* able to put into words the whole-spectrum of characters in world-with and world-without God (which seems entailed from the above).

Maybe it's only that those with experience write about things in a way that resonates more with others who have had the same experience and perhaps authors might have enough imagination/sympathy to surmount the difficulty. Men write about women, women about men, saints about sinners, sinners about saints. By necessity, writers treat of characters who do and say things the author would never do or say, or hold positions the author himself would never dream of espousing. But being-woman or being-close-to-God yields a writing with familiarity, I'd imagine.

So perhaps it's sufficient to say that the author with experience of good and evil (which every human has) and a notion that these forces (though I hate to call evil a force -- evil is lacking and impotent) operate in human lives. And leading a life of virtue, having an eye to the good, might make one more sensitive to that, to those little reverberations of the soul, to its architectonic yearning for something beyond and greater. If you have an eye to the evil, eventually even good becomes tainted and all motives turn into ulterior and selfish ones  - even the man who desires beatitude would be scoffed at as having the ultimate selfish desire.

BUT this only serves to make me more confused in my mind. Clearly, I am not precisely qualified to construct a bridge between morality and art though I'm sure it's there and want to read more on it.

As to dancers and painters, I likewise think a correlation exists between a notion of the beautiful and their ars (and in my sleep-lacking state I'm imagine two people yelling at each other 'IT'S EITHER YOUR ARS OR MINE!'). not quite sure, yet, about this correlation, since a brief dip into notions of beauty reveals a split between transcendental, metaphysical, and aesthetic beauty and their relation to works of art. So, at most, for now, I'll hazard only that *some* notion of beauty is beneficial for an these artists to have. And that beauty does not equate with pretty.


[If there are any recommendations for a direction to pursue in this respect, I'm all eyes.]

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Light Diffusion: Yesterday Morning

Hot and Spicy Lunch Post

Yesterday, I cut up some charred serrano peppers for a tomatillo salsa and got their juices smeared all over my hands and under my fingernails. Cooking tones down the spice, but my hands still were still afire afterwards. The salsa turned out edible, but wasn't the best I'd made. Tonight, I will doctor it up some more with additional raw onion, cilantro, and lime juice to make it taco-worthy 'cause it's Taco Tuesday. I'm not sure I can make much of a good post from that salsa.

UNLESS WE'RE TALKING DANCE SALSA!? (This was a post in the works -- the above is lead in...get it!?)

I started seriously-ish dancing when I was 16. I'm a decent amateur but nothing more, lacking the creative in-the-moment thought process/receptivity to music and exhibitionist tendencies that help make a great performance artist. I began with ballroom dancing which encompasses waltzes and fox-trots as well as the more passion-forward cha-cha, rumba, tango, etc. One Catholic boy I knew was appalled that I would even consider dancing with non-Catholics and he strongly (but vaguely) hinted that men at these disreputable dance halls would take advantage of me on the dance floor... somehow... because, apparently, only Catholic men act decently towards women. HAAAH! Even then, my experience proved him wrong.

[As an aside, a jarred memory: when I was *18* a Catholic guy-friend tentatively asked me if I *ahem* knew where to kick a man if they tried somfin funny. Should'a feigned ignorance. Missed opportunities.]

Corporeality is hard to deal with, in our fallen world: we're rational desirers dealing with darkened intellects and that little thing called concupiscence thrown into the mix. But, in my experience (purely as an amateur), framing the body as something-good and to-be-admired yields a greater delicacy towards and appreciation for it, not an inflaming of the urge to manipulate or exploit. Intimacy in forms of art can lead to a sort of tamping of the passions rather than acting as an irritant - "can" being an operative word since there are the perverse who don't allow themselves to be affected in this way.

When I began taking figure-drawing classes, I kept pretty quiet so as to not scandalize the homeschooling group. Drawing men and women in the nood? How risqué! At the first class, I braced myself for the shocking reveal of full-frontal nudity which was morally questionable!? The model quietly disrobed behind a screen, came out and did some quick poses on an elevated platform, before adopting some classical poses for longer sketches. It was not provocative. I particularly remember one old plump woman sitting on a stool, her shoulders slumped forward as if she were tired from a long day and her white-grey hair in a messy-stringy-bun. She had rolls of fat on her stomach, her skin in other parts was flabby and wrinkled, yet there was about her a refined dignity and elegance that tugged at the heart. She was a fleshly woman - and that reality was good.

Dancing may provide a similar opportunity for realization of the human-being-ness of your dance-partner. When you social dance in Lindy Hop, you put yourself into an incredibly vulnerable physical position, particularly when you follow, so you must watch out for your partner. This is stressed (not necessarily in those words) in many ways in classes and interactions on the dance floor. Once you move beyond the beginner level (in which you are still fumbling to keep in all in the same head-space the triad of music, partner, and steps), you start to realize that there's another person you hold in your embrace and that this other person has a character of their own and, perhaps (likely), a different interpretation of the music. The dance turns into a conversation, into a crescendo of ideas-tied-to-music made manifest by limbs and lines. The other person is a person you create with, whose ideas you ratify and affirm, whose expression you complement or contrast to create a harmonious whole. You are sensitive to the other person - you attempt not to wound them either physically or creatively. You literally and figuratively should have their back.

Yeah, there are those who view social dancing as a pick-up scene and become proficient in the rudimentaries of dance solely in order to gain close-access -- or professional dancers who use their positions to take advantage of others, and so on. With the former, you can FEEL when the dance has ulterior motives: you know what's up.

With latter - as with any professional artist - it is easy to confuse rectitude of an ars with moral rectitude: because the creation is so beautiful, so likewise the creator. With God this may work as a persuasive argument, but not for man. (And I use the term 'creation' loosely, since only God, strictly speaking, creates.) So, in some ways, I suppose when an artist is acting qua-artist he is in some sense amoral, perhaps (I'm not entirely certain on this point - but an artist and the art-produced are separable)? Artists might have the ability to create beautiful things even with an ugly soul - but if you can't see what is good or even that there is good (I'm not talking about a formal understanding, but more like an idea-of-goodness-as-real), seems like it'd make it more difficult to portray both goodness and the depths of depravity. You might be able to relate instances of virtue and vice in vivid detail but not get at their significance except accidentally. Must examine this line further - it's not a formed opinion, but a hazarded one without the background supportive reading. I think I may have toyed with it before, but never pursued it seriously.

BACK TO SALSA! Catholics needn't be afraid of of closeness/intimacy in art. A repeated exposure to respectful treatment of and care for the bodies of others, a drawing-attention-to-goodness, isn't cause for knicker-knotting. Done properly, these forms of art (participated in as an amateur, at least) can help foster a better view of the corporeality of others as caught up in a whole and wholesome creation with a spark of the divine, worthy of respect and admiration. It makes the opposite less thinkable.

For now, not going to go into how some forms of dance deliberately pursue the body-presented-as-an-object-of-sexual-desire aspect (current burlesque/pole-dancing, for example), or about the more passionate/sensual dance forms (tangooooo!), or individual temperaments and characters which should avoid some things for the sake of their own soul --- 'cause those are separate cans'o'worms. Also, I fully realize that my experience is limited at best and what I've gotten out of my experiences aren't what others get or have gotten. So ymmv as an individual when you go out and draw or dance. But, perhaps not and this has probably already been thoroughly gone over elsewhere.

P.s. This is not another TOB see-people-as-subjects-not-objects-for-use. While that's true, it's also a horse that has been beaten to death and sounds like a nice platitude now. What helps the process of seeing people-as-subjects? It's not enough to simply affirm that we have inherent worth, we must also grow habituated to living that reality and the practice of art can help with that. That's what I'm nudging at.