Tuesday, August 28, 2007
A Moving Experience
i moved this weekend...IT WAS A CATASTROPHE!!! You will not believe was a disaster it was! Let me just give a sample of just how bad it really was...
Before noon on moving day there was people doing back flips from the second floor to a luv sac on the first floor
4 large pizzas, 24 sierra nevadas and a bottle of crown royal that had be injested
A truck that did a full roll going full speed (hit it's roof and rolled back on the tires)
and someone with a concussion
That was just saturday morning...
Since then I've had cable problems, internet problems, a sprinkler leaking everywhere, I'm missing everything and a ping pong ball burst into flames
there are so many things that went wrong...im officially never moving again!!
I laughed at all of that, my hard ass must admit. But...then my stone heart felt compassion when later in the day I heard an extension of the same story:
This moving thing is the biggest disaster in my LIFE!!!
It actually cost me a new job opportunity!!! WHAT THE HELL??? I just found out today and me moving actually caused me to miss this opportunity!!! What else is gonna go wrong??? I'm scared to do anything...i have to leave right now...am i gonna get in a car accident and die????
So everyone out there...do whatever it is that you do to wish good for someone...praying, voodoo, witchcraft, The Secret, WHATEVER!!! whatever it is that you do send the goodness towards me cos I'm sinking!
Its funny to me how "moving" was the experience that "moved" her to religion. Lol. I don't think that this story requires any commentary. Besides the observation that it makes me, all the more, want to see Balls of Fury when it comes out :)
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Musings on Some Cultural Absurdities
Musing One: Sputnik on Steroids
Here is a link that is a news story about the first space hotel, which is supposed to open in the year 2012 A.D. If you ask me, sputnik might just be the prime sign of the shift from what is often referenced as the modern world to the postmodern. For most people, Sputnik represents man's scientific progress toward greater mastery of the universe. For me, however, Sputnik represents the actualization of the modern project to put himself in the place of God and have mastery over the world in which he lives. Technologies are the extensions of man, as McLuhan says, and Sputnik was man's extending the limits of his being out to the entirety of the globe.
At the time of Sputnik, as you can see from the link provided, Sputnik represented the technological superiority of Communism over Capitalist Democracy. Ahh but democracy need not fear; now it can offer a three night stay in a space hotel for the modest price of four million dollars! Sputnik circled the entirety of the globe once every 90 minutes. This space station will do so 15 times in a day, which obviously puts it at under 60 minutes for the same feat. Rich people in the poor parts of Kenya make between 30 and 50 cents a day; meanwhile these adventerous entertainment seekers will pass Kenya 15 times a day and, while thinking to themselves, "Poor, worthless saps," say, "Look honey, isn't it beautiful."
Musing Two: Steven Segal Is Gone With The Wind
Here is a link on a funny news article informing us that Steven Segal blames his fallen career on the FBI. I don't think this one requires as much explanation as the previous one in order for my audience to share in my laughter. The obvious first thought is the Britney Spears comparison; Steven Segal is no Peter Sellers. More relevant to the fact that this post is a musing on culture, however: did Segal not get the memo that Pop Culture is like glittery confetti in the wind? Someone throws it up in the air. Everyone looks up and goes, "Ooohh." Then it either falls or blows away, and everyone forgets about it. Problem is, everyone is still busy going "oohh" over the next handfull of glittery confetti that someone threw up in the air, which - thank God! - constantly helps us to forget the rough spots in our own hearts.
Musinng Three: Mighty Aphrodite vs. Old School
Thursday night I hung out with a very good friend of mine. We went and ate dinner, talked about life and God and stuff, and then he asked if I wanted to watch a movie. I said I didn't want to watch a pop-culture movie, and I suggested that we watch either The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie, which I explained that he would probably think it was boring since its not filled with dramatic music and car crashes and explosions of fire and emotion, or we could watch a Woody Allen Comedy (I had in mind Mighty Aprhodite). I don't think he's even seen many Woody Allen films, so I had to try to explain that to him as well, trying to convince him that a Woody Allen movie is "less boring" than one by Luis Bunuel. When I was done explaining our Allen and Bunuel options, he got all tense and said, "I don't think I want to watch a movie with you tonight." I said, "Why not?" Him, "Because your movie will be serious and boring." Me, "Woody Allen isn't boring. I promise." Him, "OK."
So we payed our bill and were off to the video store. We watched the Mighty Aprhodite. I laughed a lot. He mostly had a look of boredom on his face but laughted every now and again. At the end I could tell without his saying it that he was disappointed that he had just spent an hour and a half of his time watching it. The next night (Friday night), however, I ended up watching Old School with him and another friend. Both of them loved it, of course. They said, "That was so good." They looked over at me, "...wasn't it?" I said, "It was funny, but quite juvenile." Meanwhile I was disappointed and wishing I hadn't just spent an hour and a half watching that stupid movie.
Then tonight (Saturday) I was at a concert listening to the live heartfelt music of Josh Garrels and - while in a prayer-like state listening to the music - realized that I had the same aggrevation with my being subjected to Old School as with the very existence of a space hotel and also with the whole confetti throwing phenomenon of pop culture. The whole thrust of the comedy of Old School is the glorification of the shallowness and hedonism of college life when a group of older men (some married, some still single) are faced with the prospect of growing up - and actually relating to their spouses with all of their being (depths and all). The movie ends with Will Farrel's walking off sad and lonely after his wife tells him she wants a divorce. Somehow that's supposed to be the peaceful denoument.
There is something in me that wants to cutt myself off entirely from such rediculousness. Something in me wants to hold a posture of indignation and contempt towards my two close friends who enjoyed Old School (more towards the fact that it exists, but I hope my audience gets the point), toward Steven Segal, and toward all those who would want to come up with the idea of a space hotel and of course all those who would want to stay in one as well. Now, the music of Josh Garrels is like worship. Like the Word of God itself it strikes at the core of the heart.
I realized tonight while listening to his music that such a posture toward my friends betrays the very reason why I wouldn't want to watch Old School. I have in myself the very same darkness that lead to Will Farrel's character's divorce in the movie. I have in me that same desire to escape the darkness in my own heart and say "oohh" to the confetti. The differences between myself and my two close friends who liked Old School is that I look to different confetti, and I take art seriously. In fact, I look to different forms of "confetti" because I take art seriously. Listening to God's Word I realize that I'm no different from the star-gazers on Hollywood Boulevard, and I need to have some Grace and Mercy. I need to let God love me tenderly; and I need to have the same posture of tenderness and acceptance toward others. Maybe then my art might speak to others like the Word of God. Maybe then when I speak to both of those friends, they won't feel like I'm speaking at them (which sometimes they do feel) but to them.
So, then I must ask. Are the "cultural absurdities" referenced in the title of this post the absurdities of the folks' going "ooohh" at the confetti, or are they instead the cultural absurdities of what's often being cultivated in my own heart? Is the "culture" in question in the first place one of contempt (or love) or confetti and pop-culture (or "authenticity")?
Friday, August 10, 2007
Lately I've been reading the prophets, and have found much there that gives voice to where I am. I haven't been sharing much of it with my cyber audience, but last night I found something so striking in Jeremiah that I just had to share it. For more context, here is something I was desparately trying to explain to another cyber-friend recently in a conversation about - interestingly - how church relates to what I reference there as our "insane" culture:
"I'm going to be open, honest and transparent about something on a personal level in my own life with regards to all this. I was recently hanging out with a good friend of mine who is about 35 yrs. old (I'm 28). He's really good at connecting with people, just having a long conversation with just about anyone on just about any topic. And he's always meeting women too (which I am not always doing). So we got into a conversation about why its so easy for him to meet new people, whereas it really isn't for me. To make a long story short, through his sharing of his own personal experiences where he used to think he was just plain smarter than everyone else - but then mysteriously couldn't get a date or meet new friends - he struggled with arrogance and God humbled him. Now, I'm not one to think hardly anyone is dumb, so I couln't relate on that level. But I realized that I think of many people as ignorant. So I discount most all people, Christians included, who give themselves over to the 'insanity' of the culture that we live in. Which is most everyone. Which means I don't have much to say to most folks. Which means that I'm not the best conversationalist and I'm not so good at meeting new folks. And also, apparently...I'm slowly realizing...that I'm arrogant in some way and God wants to do something about it. A week after that conversation (so this past Sunday night), my friend (his name is Genesis, interestingly) said, "You can have convictions! You just don't have to be arrogant about them!"
I wrote that a couple of days before reading:
Jeremiah 15: 12-21 -
12-14"O Israel, O Judah, what are your chances
against the iron juggernaut from the north?
In punishment for your sins, I'm giving away
everything you've got, giving it away for nothing.
I'll make you slaves to your enemies
in a strange and far-off land.
My anger is blazing and fierce,
burning in hot judgment against you."
15-18You know where I am, God! Remember what I'm doing here!
Take my side against my detractors.
Don't stand back while they ruin me.
Just look at the abuse I'm taking!
When your words showed up, I ate them—
swallowed them whole. What a feast!
What delight I took in being yours,
O God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
I never joined the party crowd
in their laughter and their fun.
Led by you, I went off by myself.
You'd filled me with indignation. Their sin had me seething.
But why, why this chronic pain,
this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight?
You're nothing, God, but a mirage,
a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing?!
19-21This is how God answered me:
"Take back those words, and I'll take you back.
Then you'll stand tall before me.
Use words truly and well. Don't stoop to cheap whining.
Then, but only then, you'll speak for me.
Let your words change them.
Don't change your words to suit them.
I'll turn you into a steel wall,
a thick steel wall, impregnable.
They'll attack you but won't put a dent in you
because I'm at your side, defending and delivering."
"I'll deliver you from the grip of the wicked.
I'll get you out of the clutch of the ruthless."
The Message version of that one part reminds me of that blasted Protestant Liberalism: "Let your words change them. Don't change your words to suit them." The very same verse has a very differnet ring to it in the New American Standard Version, which I really like the sound of, but which I have yet to really embrace, I don't think:
"And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman."
I guess I'm prematurely stuck on the next words of the very same verse of our Holy Scriptures:
"They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them."
Saturday, August 04, 2007
The Face of Worship
As a whole, I kind of like his thoughts. He does seem more clear about some important issues than many folks, I guess. But here's my problem. Lets say that his two papers constitute a brick wall. There are many bricks or thoughts that go into the making of that wall. The wall looks all right, when you compare it to all the other walls and disorderly bricks laying around in its context. My problem, however, is that there is a hidden scaffolding, which is no longer around, that was used to build that wall. I think that scaffolding is like a formwork for an arch, lets say. There is a whole world view behind that wall that enables the wall to be built. From what I can gather, I dont' like that world view. Let me share example through the two papers that you sent to me.
On the first paper that you sent, Worship Worthy of the Name...
My main problem with this is an underlying assumption of the separation of ethics and aesthetics. I'll get into that more in a moment.
Also, however, I think that Keller thinks of the relationship between mind and heart that is about a certain essential separateness that is "against the laws of mind and self," as Dallas Willard put it in Ch. 4 of The Divine Conspiracy when describing the "jug to mug" model of informational learning. I think that he owes that separation of mind and heart to that underlying worldview of his that is like a scaffolding for his wall. I think that he spends so much time talking about how worship has to effect the emotions but clarifying that it isn't only about touching the emotions precisely because of the world view that leads to a problematic relationship between mind and heart in the first place. Without a world view that splits mind and heart, why would one have to make their relationship so central to one's thoughts on what it means to worship?
Back to Keller's separation of ethics and aesthetics. As a carry over to his - in my mind - whacky idea of how mind and heart relate, he says: "Aesthetics is a movement from the right brain to the left." Of course, I'm not going to write a dissertation on aesthetics here, but that statement is so problematic in so many ways to me that it - in my mind - falsely and unnecessarily renders the role of artists in society as being at least marginal and at most meaningless.
For example, he also says: "Aesthetics are negotiable; truth is not." This raises huge problems. Thomas Aquinas famously said: "Beauty is the splendor of Truth," which is a statement that I like quite a bit. So apparently something isn't jiving. Why would "aesthetics" be any more or less "negotiable" than truth if they are its "splendor"?
But I think that Keller has the typically modern attitude that art is just a matter of taste and opinion. As most folks think of it: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I strongly disagree, on the grounds of all that is essential about how God created the universe. Those "esentials," which are not "negotiable," are what make things, artificial or otherwise, both beautiful and true.
Of course, then, I think that, in a sense at least, God would "judge" aesthetics the same as truth and morality. Keller says, "Frankly, I doubt that to God there's much difference between the classically trained soloist and Brother Joe's nephew. God is the one we want to please, and I doubt he judges on the basis of aesthetics." But as I said, if "aesthetics" is "the splendor of Truth," then His judgement and mercy over it would be no different from His judgement and mercy over anything else. That doesn't discount Brother Joe's nephew, of course, but it also doesn't get him off the hook.
Additionally, this started as a coversation about how to make our church grow. Keller says, "I would go so far as to say that when planting a church, you determine its future size in part by the importance you place on aesthetics in worship." To me, then, there is a bigger "essential" issue that lies behind that statement that needs to be addressed before we, as a church, can even begin to address the question or issue of the size of the church. If he (with most of the rest of us) falsely thinks of aesthetics as separate from "truth," and yet they are not so separate, then the whole question needs to be reworked in the name of "truth" (or "aesthetics").
These "essentials," which are a matter of "truth," by the way, aren't necessarily exclusively right or left brain things. If they are "essentials," then they are "essential" to the operations of both right and left brain. Although I actually think that its more "right brain" activity by which we come to know these essentials of the cosmos.
On the second paper, Evangelistic Worship...
First off, to address the elephant in the room, so to speak. He speaks of the difference between looking to history and looking to "culture" (pop culture) as models for how to do worship. "While [Contemporary Worship] advocates do not seem to recognize the sin in all cultures, the [Historic Worship] advocates do not seem to recognize the amount of (common) grace in all cultures." I view that as a bit of a diversion from the "essential" issue.
So back to the "elephant in the room." I unapologetically and strongly belive that contemporary "pop culture" is utterly inferior to most all historic cultural persuits and fruits of past ages (prior to like WWII). Keller calls that "elitism."
The center of my view of history, however, is that the dawn of modernity (about 1600ish) brought to bear upon us the loss of those very "essentials" discussed above in regards to the first paper. Of course, the loss didn't happen overnight. I think it was pretty much final at the dawn of the "postmodern age," which also happens to be dawn of the age of "pop culture."
I think there are some key turning points in that modern history, too. For example, a movie director whose online blog I've been following, in trying to struggle with the money-concerned studio, wanted to have some Mozart or Bach or something in a particular scene to try to "express the feelings of death." The studio, of course, wanted "something with a newer feel." But according to said directore, he doesn't think that any music after 1800 comes anywhere near "expressing the feelings of death" as compared to the music produced prior to 1800. Interesting, the early 1800s-ish is the dawn of Positivism, which is pretty much when modern science won out.
The basic idea of Positivism, in regards to this conversation, is that things in the world have no "essential" or metaphysical meaning. Mathematics, previously having a connection the sacred and providing an "essential" grounds for all art, is now simply an operation of mechanically describing physical reality. Morality, of course, also looses its "grounding." And now, of course and not surprisingly, we think of ethics and aesthetics as two different and separate things. And its only some of us who even think of morality as being "grounded" in "non-negotiable essentials."
For me its not necessarily an issue that ancient cultures are "more biblical." That also sounds to me like a bit of a diversion from what is "essential." Partially because I don't even know if I agree with "Solar Scriptura." Partially because I think of the "essentials" of biblical truth as sort of hiddenly embedded in all cultures, whether they even realize it or not.
I had mentioned the loss of connection between mathematics and the sacred. Keller says: "Just as it is a lack of humility to disdain tradition, it is also a lack of humility (and a blindedness to the 'noetic' effects of sin) to elevate any particular tradition or culture's way of doing worship." What if, however, a particular culture doesn't view art, "truth" or anything else as having the purpose to "elevate" or "edify" (as per its roots or influcence in Postivism and such things as that)? Well, of course, we think that art should be "edifying," but what we mean by that has nothing to do with the actual "aesthetics" iteslf, in, for example the actual "edification" of a building. Insead, we just want to make sure that a movie doesn't have too many cuss words or too much nudity (which is fine, but...).
And we may claim that we are Christian, so we don't agree with Positivism, but yet it still so influences our view of "aesthetics;" and if beautiy is the splendor of Truth, then it also influences our idea of "truth!" And it certainly influences us "in practice" (of how we do worship, for example), which I think is where it really counts.
Keller says: "'Historic Worship' advocates often speak...about how incorrigibly corrupt popular music and culture is, and how they make contemporary worhip conpletely unacceptable." As you may have noticed from my above discussion, my issue with contemporary "culture" is not its "corruption." As I mentioned, I think that all cultures are just as corrupt or not corrupt as the next (for the most part). My issue is with the "aim" of a culture. When things are "corrupt", everyone is "looking down," so to speak. But what happens when there is no such thing as "looking up," when there are no metaphysical essentials, and a culture is not even meant or aimed at being something that "elevates" or "edifies." Its one thing to die trying, its another thing to stop trying.
So what does all that have to do with what I had said previously?
I had said that maybe I should just go to a "high church" and quit bugging everyone around me and making them somehow feel lesser. Obviously, from above, I feel strongly that contemporary culture actually is "lesser." Obviously, most of those around me don't feel the same way. My problme is that I actually view it as an issue of "essentials," whereas, like most other's view of "art," they don't. Keller says in note number 7 of Evangelistic Worship: "Too often, advocates for 'high culutre' or 'pop culture' worhip musich try to make their advocacy a matter of theological prinicple, when their conviction is really more of a matter of their own tastes and cultural preferences."
But my issue is not one of "theological principle," but of "cultural essentials." Or you could say that my whole problem is that Keller would say that it, like art, is a "negotiable" matter of "taste." According to my whole view of history, that's the very point (and it is in fact an actual point in history) when society starts to and then finally does simply come apart at the seams.
I had a bit of a conversation with Eric on Thursday night, which we did not get a chance to finish. It ended by my saying: "I'm interested in hearing more about why you think that the sacraments are not a question of 'essentials.'" And he then ended it by saying: "I'm curious to hear more about why you think that Catholic sacraments are a matter of essentials."
Additionally...you had noted during our car ride that to you Taize isn't so much a worship service as a worship experience. You actually had good reason for that, I think. I think there's good reason why many Catholics don't know their history or their Bible. They often learn their docrtine from conversations with Protestants, if at all. In regards to my points above - mainly the ones about "left and right brain" activity - I think that the whole reason why a Catholic service (or a Taize service) is more of a "worship experience" is becuase of the "world view" that it comes out of.
To me its sort of a trade off. Either you have a worship that is more about "experience" and yet also takes into account intellectual truth as part of it at its very core (but then lay folks who don't know their own history or doctrine), or you have a schizophrenic contemporary protestant service born out of the modern world view that was largely developed out of a heated arguement between modern philosophers over whether truth is known rationally by the intellect or experientially by the senses (leading to some big argument or discussion over how worship has to "touch the emotions" but then not "focus" on them).
The end. Lol.
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