Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Weight of the Wor(l)d

While this post may be read partially in continuity with the preceding, it is specifically a supplement to Blade's recent post.
From Annie Dillard's Living by Fiction,

The most extreme, cheerful, and fantastic view of art to which I ever subscribe is one in which the art object requires no viewer or listener - no audience whatever - in order to do what it does, which is nothing less than to hold up the universe.
This is a fundamentally insane notion, which developed in my own mind from an idea of Buckminster Fuller's. Every so often I try to encourage other writers by telling them this cheerful set of thoughts; always they gaze at me absolutely appalled. Fuller's assertion was roughly to this affect: the purpose of people on earth is to counteract the tide of entropy described in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Physical things are falling apart at a terrific rate; people, on the other hand, put things together. People build bridges and cities and roads; they write music and novels and constitutions; they have ideas. That is why people are here; the universe as it were needs somebody to keep it from falling apart.
Now, for a long time I have taken this notion of Fuller's to mean something even he probably did not intend: that imaginative acts actually weigh in the balance of physical processes. Imaginative acts - even purely mental combinations, like the thought that a certain cloud represents a top hat - carry real weight in the universe. . . . A completed novel in a trunk in the attic is an order added to to the sum of the universe's order. It remakes its share of undoing. It counteracts the decaying systems, the breakdown of stars and cultures and molecules, the fraying of forms. It works."

I can't remember if that related to your post Blade but I thought it was a good quote anyhow.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Ears to Hear

As Mr. Beldman quickly pointed out the idea that sound carries a clearly primary position in either the OT or NT in encountering God is slightly naive. However, I would like to add two quotes that offer further consideration of the primacy of sound (particularly music) in how we encounter reality.

The first is from Rowan Williams in Where God Happens,
The language of worship reminds us of one theological reason why language matters to Christians. In worship, we try to 'put ourselves under the Word of God,' as the saying is; we try to bring minds and hearts into harmony with with what God has said and is saying, in Jesus and in the words of Scripture. We remember that God made all things by an act of self-communication, and when we respond to his speaking, we are searching for some way of reflecting, echoing that self-communication. . . . To borrow an image that appears in some of the ancient Hindu texts, we might think of the creative Word as spoken into the vast cavern of potential that is the first moment of creative existence; from that darkness come countless echoes of the first eternal Word, the 'harmonics' hidden that primal sound."

The second quote is from Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies where is describing how to drastically different people came to find a moment of unity and intimacy. She writes,
I can't imagine anything but music that could have brought about this alchemy. Maybe it is because music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breathe. We're walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn't get to any other way."


Monday, February 19, 2007

A Sensual Theology: Pt 2 The Word of God

If I would have giving any thought to the sequence of these posts I likely would have put a theology of sound before a theology of sight. There is a type of primacy to sound in the Bible. Creation is given form and existence by the word of God. Christ himself is not the sight of God but the word of God. Has God approved our encounter of him by sound but not by sight? The OT appears to be somewhat inconsistent as there were apparent "face-to-face" encounters with God. However, God's voice finds much more clarity than God's image. Think of Moses on Mt. Sinai or Job's encounter or Isaiah in the Temple. Visually there is chaos and sensory overload and yet in the midst of this there appears to be a clarity of voice that is achieved. Is there theological significance to this? To be honest I don't have an insightful response to this observation. I will have to leave this hanging for now.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Sensual Theology: Pt 1 Eyes to See

The expression “theological aesthetics” has emerged as a fairly popular topic in current theological discussions. Aesthetics deals with our understanding of art and beauty. At its most basic aesthetics tends to refer to a type of knowledge. Aesthetics pursues a knowledge that comes not by reason or experimentation but by the senses. For this reason it is surprising that little effort (to my knowledge) is given to exploring the biblical and theological significance of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling. Though it is against better aesthetic judgment I thought I would begin (and likely not finish) to explore each of these separately.

Eyes to See: A Theology of Sight

There was a commercial a few years back in which a model was either standing or walking down a red carpet. She was tall, blond, fair skinned and wearing flowing, shimmering sliver dress. She was illuminated in front of a black backdrop filled with a profusion of flashes. No one human figure could be seen only the quintessential act of worldly acceptance and affirmation. All “eyes” were on her, wanting her image. One side was the faceless photographers and on the other side lens transporting her into every TV set. This is the ultimate perversion of our desire for God. This is the desire to be surrounding by the “All Seeing”. That to be seen by all is to somehow be known or valued. It is to be worshipped . . . and this is the perversion. Or consider the flipside. You are the single eye, the one viewer staring into the porthole of the internet. You become the all-seeing. What we are able to see, what we desire to see, what we want others to see speaks to our spiritual nature.
This says nothing yet of how we are to see correctly . . . eyes to see. Those who claim to see are blind and those who are blind are given sight. Do we need to acknowledge that in the course of our lives our eyes are dimmed or smeared to see superficially at best. Or as referred to above are we simply in the wrong position? Are we attempting a panoptic gaze or are we positioning ourselves to receive the all-seeing eyes of the world? A theology of sight would be timely.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Music as a Life

In some attempt at being creative I decided that instead of just "sharing my story" to the Sunday School class at church I tried to figure out what the soundtrack to my life would be and explore how these songs reflected the various stages of my life.
(all links have videos from the artists)

Junior High
The first time I had any real investment in music was in Junior high when my best friend introduced me to Led Zeppelin. I bought all the albums, had t-shirts, biographies, even watched their horrendous movie "The Song Remains the Same." Looking back now I can't see how their lyrics would have drawn in a barely pubescent teenager. They certainly were good musicians and some of their lyrics quite poetic, however, I imagine the greatest impact Led Zeppelin had on me was to forge a special friendship between me and Greg. Music provided identity and a medium for our early time together.

High School
Its pretty difficult to pick one song for high school in the soundtrack of your life. For some reason Beck Loser (wow is he young there) came to mind. First, it was/is dang catchy. Then I realized that at that age there are probably not to many people doing two things. One admitting they are not perfect (I don't know of too many teachers or adults who display that trait well to teenagers) and the other taking ownership of being a "loser" and thereby taking the power away from anyone who might try to call you that.

Post-High School Pre-Adulthood
I came up with two bands here, Zao and Deliriou5. This time of life for me and perhaps many others reflects passionate pursuit. Finding something you believe and wanting to be uncompromising in your commitment to it. This was the time when my faith was really beginning to take root in how I understood myself. Though a little different on the surface I find both these acts draw in that type of response. Another commonality is the emphasis that experience plays in their live acts. There is a feeling that you can, at least in part, be living your commitment just by participating in the show.

The College Years
Here I entered the reflective melancholy phase of music where Damien Jurado became a big influence. His music let uncomfortable realities linger to be absorbed and reflected on. However, his music and message always had a redemptive presence either in his lyrics or passion. This music allowed me to accept that all is not always well and that the roof will not come crashing in if we acknowledge this. And if the roof does come falling in then there is hope to rebuild.

Today I am exploring music again. Music that is still rigorous in self-awareness but much of it also explores expressions that I am not as familiar. Artists like Boards of Canada, The Decemberists, and The Postal Service are right up there these days. This is also why I have added "MySpace of the Moment" which is to inspire me to keep checking out new stuff.

Faith and Music?
Isaiah 42 (as well as several Psalms) ask us to sing to the Lord a new song. In Isaiah this is in the context of God delivering the people. But God's deliverance does not look like what the people expect. I see "the song" as possibly introducing the people to a new movement of God and that if they recognize and take seriously the song they may also recognize the movement.

Any reflections of your own . . . ?

PS the video to the right is for you rudy!!


Monday, February 05, 2007

Previously Unreleased

I have been in a bit of cultural rut when it comes to exploring new emerging experssions. Recent times have found me charting paths past all the great, and other than great, artists staking claims on the web. Thus the introduction of IndieVision and MySpace of the Moment. These sections will be updated regularly with whatever catches an ear or an eye.
I hope to post some of my recent reflections on the "Soundtrack of My Life" that I shared with my sunday school Class this week.


Sunday, February 04, 2007


I'll try to update it weekly.