The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Dinner Monologue in Three Parts


The exercise of meditation is an attempt to control inner discourse, in an effort to render it coherent. The goal is to arrange it around a simple universal principal: the distinction between what does and does not depend on us, or between freedom and nature. Whoever wishes to make progress strives, by means of dialogue within himself or with others, as well as by writing, to "carry on his reflections in due order" and finally to arrive at a complete transformation of his representation of the world.

-Pierre Hadot

During the first glass of wine:

It's not that I think that math and science are inferior forms of knowing. Not at all. It is just that I have come to the conclusion that that is the only knowledge that our society will acknowledge, and from there comes our problems. We live in the intellectual dictatorship of quantity, and that ultimately has nothing to do with truth, and everything to do with facts.

True enough, I do not have a knack for math and science, and perhaps that gives me some bias in these things. I have a real problem dealing with quantitative reasoning. But to have to develop an apologia for math and science in our day and age is a bit like all the Catholic theologians trying to develop a "theology of the body". Sex in and of itself is its own apologetic. People will not stop having sex if you don't develop a theology for it. People, however, will stop praying if you don't develop a theology for it...

It's an issue of balance. It is because we have marginalized and ceased to develop the intuitive side of thinking that we are in the impasse we are in now. We have completely excluded the metaphysical from any form of certainty, and thus we really don't talk to each other anymore. We merely batter each other with facts. Therefore, nothing can any longer be determined. Not the sanctity of human life, nor what the proper end of man really is. It is a matter of developing all aspects of human thought, not just of emphasizing those which our society excels at.


********

Me veo puro polvo
Cruzando la llanura
Las vacas las casas la lejania
Son polvo
Polvo de sol que no soporta el ojo vivo

Hundo el pie en el agua invisible
Que de repente brota y corre
Sobre la arena

En el cuenco de mis manos
Subo el agua hasta mi boca
Lo que bebo es una estrella pulverizada


-Luis Garcia Morales, De un sol a otro

(I see myself as pure dust
Crossing the plain
The cows the houses the distance
Are dust
Sun-dust that cannot stand the living eye

I dip my foot in the invisible water
That suddenly flows out and runs
On the sand

In the hollow of my hand
I bring the water to my mouth
That which I drink is a pulverized star)


On glass of wine #3:

...The attitude of any thinking Catholic in this day and age must be one of humility. That I think is what the Second Vatican Council taught, and I think that is the non-controversial aspect that we all must agree on. If I have problems with a very small sub-sect of Catholic discourse (mostly on the Internet) it is with people who do not seem to understand this. When the Vatican has shut down the Inquisition, the laity must not take it upon themselves to fill in the perceived gap. Dialogue with the world must mean a profound discernment on how we approach people. [Note: If people are belligerently anti-Catholic, I am of course not against charitably pointing out the errors and prejudices in their reasoning.] The fact is, we are living in an extraordinary time, and pretending to re-erect the intellectual bastions of Counter-Reformation Catholicism will only serve to make us seem like ostriches sticking our heads in the sand. The Counter-Reformation is over. Get over it...

For me, if someone is looking, that is what is most important. If someone has the smug attitude that they have "found it", or even worse, they don't care, that is what is most worrisome to me. The heroes of the Gospel were all seekers. When they found the truth, they clung to it [or Him]. But we are always in the process of finding. We are always the Phoenician woman, the Greeks, the Samaritan woman, the Good Thief...

******



Dios

Siento a Dios que camina tan en mí,
con la tarde y con el mar.
Con él nos vamos juntos. Anochece.
Con él anochecemos, Orfandad...

Pero yo siento a Dios. Y hasta parece
que él me dicta no sé qué buen color.
Como un hospitalario, es bueno y triste;
mustia un dulce desdén de enamorado:
debe dolerle mucho el corazón.

Oh, Dios mío, recién a ti me llego,
hoy que amo tanto en esta tarde; hoy
que en la falsa balanza de unos senos,
mido y lloro una frágil Creación.

Y tú, cuál llorarás tú, enamorado
de tanto enorme seno girador
Yo te consagro Dios, porque amas tanto;
porque jamás sonríes; porque siempre
debe dolerte mucho el corazón.


-Cesar Vallejo

(I feel God walking in me
As with the afternoon and the sea.
With him we all go together. It becomes night.
With him we set. Orphanhood.

But I feel God. And it almost seems that he
Is dictating to me I don't know what good color.
Like a nurse, he is good but sad;
He gives forth a sweet disdain of a lover:
his heart must ache much.

O my God, I have only recently arrived at you,
Now that I love you so much this evening; today
In the false balance of breasts,
I measure and weep a fragile Creation.

And you, which one will you weep for, love-struck
From such an enormous twirling chest,
I consecrate you God, for you love so greatly;
for you never smile; for your heart
Must always ache much.)


Glass of wine #4.5

God doesn't make my life make any more sense than someone's who doesn't believe in God. Water is not more wet, nor are colors more vivid. To believe in God is a decision. Yes, after you make an act of faith, everything begins to make more sense on one level. But on another it can make things seem more absurd.

The smallness and absurdity of the universe for me at least is not an intellectual barrier but rather an intellectual starting point. That's where I begin to believe. The fact that I am a small, mortal carbon based organism standing on some lukewarm rock floating in a seemingly infinite universe is the reason I believe in God. Unlike the positivists of the nineteenth century and those who think that only those who do not have electricity should believe in a God, I know that my intellect is no match for this physical cosmos I see around me. I am a profoundly limited being, and I have to grope around to try to make some sense of it all...

I guess it's easier for me since I grew up in a profoundly Catholic atmosphere. The Truth was passed down to me as was language, foods, and other family traditions. In that sense, I can be very tolerant of unbelievers since I have always been around them but still anchored in my heart to the Faith of my home. I assent to it now because I have justified it to myself intellectually, but only because I have reflected on what the Delpic Oracle said: Know thyself. And for me that is why I am Catholic: it is the most human religion. I know, a Hindu could also easily say that. But we have a religion that says that the fundamental way to understand this cosmos is through love, that God is love. How we think and how we feel in our heart is the secret to unlock everything. That is love. That is the Cross, a sacrificial love. We are the answer. It's right in here. [Pointing at my chest]


Poem CCLXXIX

A voice from the corner of the tavern last night
Called, "Sins are forgiven. Drink wine."

The Divine Pardon performs its own purpose:
The Guardian Angel causes good news of compassion to come.

God's grace is more than our sin.
Why do you divulge a sealed subtlety? Keep quiet!

This raw sense to the wine-shop take,
From the ruby wine to bring its blood to the boil.

Although union with him is not to effort granted,
O heart, try you all that you can.

It's a case of, my ear and the curl of the friend's tress;
My face and the dust of the wine-seller's door.

Hafiz's licentiousness is not a hard sin
For the ruler's fault-concealing kindness;

Arbiter of the Faith, Shah Shuja, he who made
The Holy Spirit the earringed slave of his command,

O King of the Throne of God, grant his wish,
And from the danger of the evil eye preserve him.


-from the Collected Lyrics of Hafiz of Shiraz translated by Peter Avery

15 Comments:

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

Pythagoras thought Math (and Music) were the keys to the Universe.

I think the Deists and Masons thought God was the great mathematician.

Would my Traditionalist friends find it scandalous or heterodox that I enjoy some Sufi music and have read Rumi (which actually just means Roman as he lived in the parts of the Byzantine Empire that they defined as Rome)
I think the photo is of the Dervishes.

This post is incredibly profound but I need to digest so I don't go insane (if I am not already am) as some Eastern Orthodox said you could go insane just by saying the Jesus Prayer, or the Ancient Hebrews said about seeing the face of G-d.

 
At 9:04 PM, Anonymous jacobus said...

With regards to math and science:

There is certainly a sense among people these days that science is all that matters in life, but let us not condemn math and science for the wrong actions of a few.

Especially in mathematics, which can be just as beautiful as poetry. The proof that the square root of two is irrational comes to mind as divinely beautiful.

 
At 6:43 AM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Note: These are excerpts from what I can remember from an actual dinner conversation I had recently. The actual interlocutors will be able to attest that I said most of these things. At least I think I said them....

I was a bit tipsy that night. This might be the edited version.

 
At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

In vino veritas

at least you didn't drink all night, party all night, partake of overly generous women, than try to post supposedly educated and erudite statements on blog

incredible post nonetheless

Math and Science and any knowledge can and should lead to God. There are very few pure aethiests or scientific materialists--and with many probolems associated with progress--very few people who think science will solve all--although that was a school of thought more prevalent in the past. There are very few real followers of Pythagoras--although some neo gnostics or occultists--and most Masons are a mere social club at this point maybe with some upward social mobility and networking but the inner substance of any esoteric symbolism has no reality or knowledge of those partaking in the traveling symbols oriented to the light.

 
At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

"God doesn't make my life make any more sense than someone's who doesn't believe in God. Water is not more wet, nor are colors more vivid"

I disagree--I think water is more wet and colors are more vivid.
Just look at Catholicism and see how they view colors and water--it is viewed in a fundamentally different way than Protestants or secularists. I have more but am too tired.

 
At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Michel Aoun said...

يارب از ابر هدايت برسان بارانى

پيشتر زانكه چو گردى ز ميان برخيزم

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Are you sure you are not Jewish? All of that wine is like Passover.

 
At 11:23 PM, Blogger Patrick said...

I'll attest to the veracity of your recollection. You know where I stand.

A few thoughts that occur to me now, about the Two Cultures of academia:

It's no longer possible to be a true Renaissance man. Two hundred years ago, an educated gentleman of great intelligence could be conversant in all the scientific fields at once- and contribute to any of them, if he wanted- as well as in history, poetry, philosophy, etc. Nowadays one has to pick and choose.

The actual subject-matter of the sciences has been so ground up into an easy pedagogy of facts that it no longer teaches one anything about what scientific discovery is like- and science fair projects are our ersatz substitute. At least with the humanities, one can have the experience of writing a poem, something fresh and new. I didn't learn a thing about what math really was until I took classes only mathematicians take. It's as it would be if all English classes were just grammar lessons, and only college English majors were ever exposed to fiction and poetry.

 
At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

Patrick,
You can go to Thomas Aquinas College. They have, at least in part or theory, the education you speak of. I did not go there myself--I do have a formal technical career--albeit possibly noble and somewhat respected with an ability to make some pesos (but also reviled and the but of jokes)--most of my "Renaissance" education came from reading on my own and some of my formal educational experience which culminated in the equivalent of a doctorate in a specific professional field. The interent can also teach you a lot just by reading this blog and linking to others albeit without the intimate personal interaction but nonetheless an amazing tool.
I find myself forgetting math but did go to Calc II and a little other peripheral other math as my brother is an engineer. I do find myself forgetting some. If the math and engineering majors were measures of spiritual knowledge (with me being judgmental) I will have to disagree at least in part with Pythagoras (perhaps there was not enough music with the math)

 
At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Epicurean said...

Hafez al Shiraz was a hedonist and adulterer and possible blasphemer (at least vis a vis his culture). I think even the great Timur (Tamerlane for you more Latinized) the Uzbeki warrior/conquerer (I think descendant of the great Khans with the royal Mongol Blood but a Muslim by that time)
(as a side note the Byzantine Emporer Paleogeous bloodline married into the Mongol Bloodline and there were Mongol Christians albeit not many and albeit some were Nestorians/Arians and sometimes poorly catechized still using syncretic Shamanic ways with Christianity--anyrate I again digress)

Hafiz al Shiraz was to be killed for blashpemy and adultery and other bad things--but his poetry was highly regarded--can't say I read it at least not in the original Persian (or Arabic or Urdu--basically Hindi with Arabic script translations)

But I do like his line about drinking wine--even if he is a hedonist and not talking about the Blood of Christ.

Let us pray for the soul of Alexander VI if it is not already damned.

 
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