My photo
A lover of the liberal arts, especially antiquity in its diverse forms, I am nonetheless wholly devoted to, utterly transformed by divine revelation. I seek to know the thought of the past, articulate my deepest longings aroused by the wise, and understand the uneasy relationship between reason and revelation; all for the sake of proper action and contemplation, both now and in the future.

5.24.2017

Nature. Grace. Integrity.

Our thirst for knowledge begins in the wonders of the natural world. But divine revelation is an unveiling, a piercing light into unhiddenness. In the beginning, the world ended. Nature turned against itself, a turn into corruption. A twisted spirituality, a warped intelligence, a rupture of disharmony defiled and shattered what was whole. Now, when we look at what we call nature - that which, seemingly of its own accord, happens for the most part - it cannot be seen in light of what it was. Our experience of the world is rooted in the world, and the world is fallen. Crashed. The Way reunites what was disparate, and being conformed in faith to the Word made flesh brings us back to divine life, takes from us our false nature, and restores to us our true image and likeness. The dark, narrow, and dangerous way of faith is a recovery of nature: harmony within our interior life, between man and woman, and even harmony with creation itself.

Because of where we begin, we cannot say what we were, for we are unable to transcend our origin. Space, time, matter, spirit - all these are part of the Fall. We cannot say they have been untainted by it, for all creation groans, and suffers the pains of childbirth. Once I was whole. Now I am broken. Our origin is obscure, hidden even to ourselves. The promise of faith and the experience of life illumined by the Resurrection of the New Covenant shows us what the divine life looks like - the conquest of our false nature, and the recovery of integrity - but even then it does not unveil our beginning, except through a glass darkly. Our experience is mediated by its fallen condition, so the only way to transcend that condition to experience the radically, utterly new. It is to taste the divine power, partake in the divine nature. Since God is love, love is that very teacher of the new experience. Love: a furious, molten, coursing spiritual passion, a consuming fire, the burning heat of which is the flourishing of others. It is an interior austerity that blossoms fecundity. It is a renunciation freeing us to possess what is truly real. The way of love leads to the cross, for we are baptized into His death, but the cross is the holiness of God encountering the power of darkness and death. The Resurrection is the fruit of that encounter. Death is written into the heart of nature, and through the Resurrection, death becomes undone. The life of love reveals that death is a lie and the power of the paschal mystery unveils its weakness.

5.17.2017

Hannibal and Modern Architecture

There is something about modern architecture that draws me, almost irresistibly. In a way, I love it, but I love it against my better judgment. It's the sharp contrasts, the clear lines, the juxtaposition of things that shouldn't be - harsh, unfinished concrete next to dark, highly polished hardwood, black steel I-beams naked and exposed. Hannibal uses such architecture to unsettle and disorient, and the result is strangely entrancing, almost hypnotic, superbly pairing with its rich, luxurious photography. I hesitate to call it beautiful, but I cannot not call it desirable. It pulls at me and often I think it shouldn't. My friend H loves it, and though I feel I should voice disagreement, it's hard for me to do otherwise than agree.

Hannibal's office is particularly stunning. It is a whirlwind of contraries: comfort, austerity, safety, danger, sameness, contrast. It is a place where people are comfortable revealing the deepest, darkest, most intimate details of their inner life, but the room itself screams submerged violence. Looking at it makes me simultaneously comfortable and unsettled. It is an open floor plan, everything out and exposed, but it hides what it truly is; a lair of evil. Hannibal's kitchen, on the other hand, is simply what you'd expect; perfect and immaculately clean. It reveals nothing, unlike his office, which is where his real work is done. 

Will Graham's lecture hall at Quantico is different. The atmosphere there is harsher, unforgiving, but oddly reassuring, the way a bunker promises to protect you from danger. Google tells me the style is called 'neo-brutalist' or something like that, and I have no idea if there is actually a lecture hall at Quantico like that or if NBC just made it up (though in a way, it's better if they did; an artistic distortion of reality that reveals its inner nature, the way Eastern icons do with people). There is a tension in the air, rooted in the style of the room, that just wildly pulls at me. 

I'm not sure if that style is suitable for religious architecture or not, or if it could ever the equal of such sublimity as the Palatine Chapel, or the quiet, subdued beauties at St. Birinius on the Thames. But if someone could make something of it, it would be the Carthusians or the Cistercians.

Perhaps my love of modernist architecture is a disordered expression of my desire for monastic architecture. The Carthusian monastery in Vermont is very similar, in many ways, to that FBI lecture hall, using unfinished blocks of stone the size of Stonehenge's next to highly polished wood. The natural next to the unnatural, the comfortable next to the uncomfortable. The cells, on the other hand, having interiors made of wood exclusively, felt absolutely comfortable. Something about finished wood is reassuring in a room. Similarly, Cistercian architecture, while apparently simple, is extremely subtle and complex in the ways it deals with light, particularly the light of the sun. Contrast that with finely polished wood and you've got everything I love in Hannibal's architecture and none of the unsettling aspects. Stark, austere, and attractive.

Should architecture be simultaneously entrancing, even intoxicating, and unsettling, disorienting, at the same time? I don't know. It's the sort of feeling I get with modern art and atonal music (especially Scriabin's piano sonatas) as well. There is a sort of pleasure in understanding what is before my eyes, but it's not a pleasure I'm sure should be indulged, much less cultivated. 

2.15.2017

Cultural Marxism and Identity Politics

Everyone today intuitively understands a key element of Marx because his core of class struggle has for some reason migrated in translation to every sector of public discourse and popular culture. It is not his views on money and the economy. No one is motivated to enter the streets protesting on behalf of the proletariat against the bourgeois - in part because the American proletariat is now the Chinese, Indian, or Mexican industrial worker, and because in a few decades those jobs will be automated anyway. Even the Occupy Wall Street movement did not protest the bourgeois, only the extremely wealthy; and that movement was so disparate it lost focus and soon fizzled out. Instead, the critical insight of Marx remains: there are those with power, those without, and the two sides are at war with each other. In Marx, this leads to the revolution of the proletariat; today, the 'proletariat' (feminist, Black Lives Matter activist, LGBTQ, etc.) pays lip service to legal equality, but seems to desire some modern analogue to the proletariat revolution.

Power and oppression are the only things that are real. There is no common ground, no possibility for reconciliation. Martin Luther King is dated and naive here. The rich oppress the poor, whites oppress blacks, men oppress women: because they are strong and the minorities are weak; the strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must, and this is how resentment and revolution are born. This pattern of strong vs weak and the conflict this engender may be extrapolated to every set of human relations in political discourse: man and woman, white and black and brown, heterosexual and homosexual, religious and non-religious, and so on to infinity. Find any marginalized and marginalizing class, and you can replicate the pattern yourself. This explains the animus against the so-called white privilege, against the Catholic Church, the backlash against religious freedom cases, etc. All of them have in common a historically oppressing (or judged to have been such by today's standards) agent and a historically oppressed minority class.

Thus there are only two groups: the oppressed and the oppressor. In the United States, historically the oppressing class was white males (slavery was not banned till after the Civil War, women did not vote till the 20th century, etc); thus, one can and must resist the oppressing class; this is right and good. On the other hand, those of the oppressing class must make reparation, feel guilty for the actions of their fathers, and acknowledge their societally privileged status, which necessarily undercuts any argument they might make. Were they to systematically criticize an oppressed class (gay, black, women, etc) it would be opprobrious homophobia, sexism, racism, etc., but the reverse is not true. Blacks can hate whites, but it is not racist, because blacks are seen to be an oppressed class in this country. Similarly women can hate men, but it is not sexist because of patriarchy, or homosexuals et al can hate heterosexuals because heteronormativity is still dominant. When the oppressed is at a disadvantaged position of power (which seems to mean being a minority in terms of population), anything goes. It might be prejudiced, but not sexist, racist, etc. because the one class holds the social, political, and economic power while the other class does not. 

Similarly, since some classes (LGBTQ, for instance) are more oppressed than others, this affects the expressed opinions of these classes; the weight of a black man's opinion will be different than a Latino lesbian, which is different than a blind bisexual, etc. One's category is a victim class, and the value of one's opinion is determined by the value of one's identity, particularly as it has been historically oppressed or not. This forms a hierarchy or pyramid, which varies in detail but not in overall structure; whether minority races face more discrimination than women is a subject for debate, but that these classes have been oppressed by cisgendered white males is not. All such oppressed classes have this in common, that they face discrimination perpetrated by cisgendered white males, and this is what fuels disputes in popular political discourse.

If this be the case, the prospects for different groups subordinating themselves to and working for the common good together are dismal indeed. Instead, one's political opponents must be seen as personal enemies devoid of anything good or noble, such that if their group flourish, your own must decline, and vice versa. Thus what might seem to bind different groups under a common cause, like the traditional American ideals of personal liberty and responsibility as enshrined in the Declaration, is now used as a weapon against those with whom you disagree. The dominant strain of politics is not the recognition that what we hold in common is far more significant than what divides us, but a set of rival groups, each fighting the other for dominance, none of which will give ground or seek common cause.

1.18.2017

Silence and Amoris Laetitia

Some say that for God it is sufficient that one accepts His will in one's heart and soul, even if one's actions do not correspond to this. In this manner they think themselves able to sin while maintaining the integrity of the principle of faith and fear of God. In this way, it is absolutely the same as if one attempted to maintain the principle of chastity while violating breaking the holiness and integrity of the matrimonial bond.
~Tertullian, De Poenitentia, 5.10