Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

First Impressions on Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus

I have just begun to read, at the strong behest of a friend (in fact he even bought me the book), Doctor Faustus, by Thomas Mann. I think I am in for a long, wild ride into the world of mid-twentieth-century German intellectualism. And I am very excited, geeky as that may be. From what I can tell so far, it’s about the nature of intellectual and artistic genius, and particularly its dark side, as it is a reworking of, naturally, the Faust legend (the demonic side of genius, deals with the devil, etc. etc.). The prose in John E. Woods’s translation, moreover, is dazzling. Here are two quotations that have got me swooning in giddy, ecstatic, nerdy delight, and generally excited for that subgenre referred to as the “Novel of Ideas.”

Culture, specifically in its flowering in the humanities, is a beautiful thing, which embeds itself in the culture as a form of a tradition, passed on through what the narrator refers to here as pedagogy:

I cannot help savoring that inner and almost myserious bond between my interest in classsical philology and a lively and loving eye for man’s beauty and the dignity of his reason—a bond made manifest in the very name we give the study of ancient languages, the “humanities,” whereby the psychological connection between linguistic and human passion is crowned by the idea of pedagogy, so that the call to be an educator of the young proceeds almost as a matter of course from one’s vocation as a scholar of language. The man of the exact sciences can, of course, become a teacher, but never a pedagogue in the sense and to the degree that the disciple of bonae litterae can.

But the beauty of that culture comes at a price. Here the narrator is reflecting on a study trip to Greece, where he realized that the awakening of that beauty in the ancients was a ritualized form of acquiescence to a more potent, but much more dangerous power: a pact (hence, again, Faust).

As I gazed out from the Acropolis across to the Sacred Way, along which initiates to the mysteries had processed—adorned with the saffron band, the name of Iacchus on their lips—and then, upon arriving at the place of initiation itself, as I stood in the enclosure of Eubouleus under the overhanging rocks beside the cleft of Pluto, there and then I sensed something of the abundant feeling for life that found expression in the initiatory rites by which Olympic Greece honored the divinities of the deep; and later, behind my lectern, I often explained to my senior students how culture is actually the reverent, orderly, I may even say, propitiatory inclusion of the nocturnal and monstrous in the cult of the gods.

Again, my thoughts are first impressions, and I’ve been proven wrong before, but no matter what, I’m looking forward to a good read.


Lewis Ayres Summarizes Pro-Nicene Theology in Two Sentences

Wrap your mind around this, or rather let this wrap itself around your mind.

Learning to speak of Father, Son, and Spirit as inseparably operating while still affirming that any one of the divine persons is not the other two, and that each possesses the fullness of the Godhead, does not so much lead us to an easy imagining of their diversity and unity as it defers our comprehension and draws our minds to the constantly failing (even as constantly growing) character of our interpretation of what is held in faith. The development of such attention to the mysteries of divine triunity is, ideally, the shaping of an ongoing process of analogical judgement, a process in which we learn to display a balance between admitting human inability to comprehend the divine and appropriately exploring the providentially ordered resources of the language of faith (Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and Its Legacy [Oxford, 2004], 297).

Now that’s theology!

What to Do if You Are Here Searching for Ben Gibbard

Probably you should just leave. Because you’re not going to find much of interest here.

On this blog, I regularly get hits in the teens, maybe fifty or sixty—maybe a hundred if I generate some current-events controversy in my small circle of friends, family, and acquaintances. But now I am officially part of the Blogosphere. Fame! Fortune! Gossip!

I have noticed in the last several months that the number of hits has regularly crept close to 100 per day, and then 150. Where was all this traffic coming from? Well, it seems that there are a lot of tweens out there searching for pictures of Ben Gibbard, and a while back I published a post called “Monday Morning Diversions,” which was not very exciting but happened to include a few pictures of Gibbard, and not even for reasons related to Death Cab for Cutie or even Ben Gibbard himself. Nevertheless, that post has generated, by far, the most traffic to my blog that I have ever had. Just tonight I was looking at my stats for the first time in a long time, and I noticed that on September 21, the number of hits to my blog spiked dramatically. 408 searches for Ben Gibbard! 499 total hits! A quick Google search tells me that Ben Gibbard was wedded to Zooey Deschanel on September 21. A match made in indie-band heaven.

So, tweens, sorry to disappoint. Off you go now.