July 15, 2009
I apologize for the light posting over the last couple days… Job search stuff occasionally winds up being amazingly time consuming, especially when it seems to be productive. Unfortunately it looks like this most recent glimmer of opportunity was for nought and so I’m back to hoop jumping for at least a few more weeks. And of course, dear readers, to blogging.
Which brings me to this essay, which Peter Lawler recommends and I am puzzled by. So far as I can tell, its central argument is that America is aging and finding less space for the kind of expansive, manly excess that characterized the world of The Right Stuff. Instead we are getting older, finding that government dependency is easy, and sopping at the consumer trough. All of this with nary a mention of women’s exclusion, the rampant alcoholism, the miserable children, the suicidal closeted homosexuals. (Or heaven forbid, the south.) What really mattered about that era was that a miniscule portion of the population went really fucking fast and could have killed themselves doing so, and they were real men for doing so.
But setting aside the historical blindness necessary to write this kind of essay, maybe the most bizarre part of Domenach’s thinking is the fact that the world he mourns did exist less than two years ago, on Wall Street, among bankers whose belief in their testicular infallibility drove the economy off a cliff. And its their failed heroics now forcing the rest of us, unwillingly I might add, to rediscover the values of dependence, whose gifts include such unmanly traits as gratitude and humility. But this could only be a signal of decline, goes Domenech’s thinking, because we weren’t being manly anymore, and dammit, manliness built ‘merica.
There’s a metaphor involving heroin withdrawl here but somehow I think my point has been made. Good riddance in any case.
Edit: As if on cue, Will finds the best Craigslist ad ever.
July 10, 2009
Man, the more I read his writing, the more Cyprian is becoming my new favorite church father… Who else’s eschatology is so scatological, I ask you? This quote, from an online excerpt of De Mortalitate, has really caught my fancy, though in good faith I should probably add that its disgusting in that way only historical documents can be:
This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened;–is profitable as a proof of faith. What a grandeur of spirit it is to struggle with all the powers of an unshaken mind against so many onsets of devastation and death! what sublimity, to stand erect amid the desolation of the human race, and not to lie prostrate with those who have no hope in God; but rather to rejoice, and to embrace the benefit of the occasion; that in thus bravely showing forth our faith, and by suffering endured, going forward to Christ by the narrow way that Christ trod, we may receive the reward of His life and faith according to His own judgment!
Via the Western Confucian, some very thought-provoking archaeology news: newly unearthed third century depictions of the Apostle Paul show him portrayed in the mold of the Hellenic philosopher… This is interesting for a lot of (admittedly obvious) reasons, since the ferment of that period more or less set the tone for medieval Christianity and the political institutions that came out of it… Definitely worth the read:
“The problem was posed between the third and fourth centuries, when a Church that had become widespread and well structured made the great and brilliant wager that is at the basis of our entire artistic history. It accepted and made its own the world of images, and accepted it in the forms in which the Greco-Roman stylistic and iconographic traditions had developed it. It was in this way is that Christ the Good Shepherd took on the appearance of Pheobus Apollo or Orpheus, and that Daniel in the lion’s den had the appearance of Hercules, the victorious nude athlete.
“But how could one represent Peter and Paul, the princes of the apostles, the pillars of the Church, the foundations of the hierarchy and doctrine? Someone got a good idea. He gave the first apostles the appearance of the first philosophers. So Paul, bald, bearded, with the serious and focused air of the intellectual, had the appearance of Plato or perhaps of Plotinus, while that of Aristotle was given to the pragmatic and worldly Peter, who has the task of guiding the professing and militant Church through the snares of the world.”
If this is what happened, then the Church in the early centuries had no reservations about attributing to the apostles, and to Paul in particular, the title of philosopher, nor of handing down, studying, and proclaiming in its entirety his thought, which is certainly not easy to understand and accept.
To my mind, what’s most interesting about this equation of philosopher and apostle is that it’s being articulated at the same time that the Messiah is first being equated with the Emperor; the crystallization of the disruptive power of the Messiah coincides with the end of the apostolic ideal of martyrdom and its institutionalization as an epistemic and political hierarchy. But the end outcome of these shifts is not the creation of a philosopher-elite, as revelation is final and apostleship is universally open, nor the creation of a new empire, since the Messiah has not arrived, but a whole new configuration (the medieval church) which can lay claim to the Messiah’s body and which was amplified by the decline of the Roman body politic. So an image where Paul is portrayed as a philosopher isn’t just indicative of a shift of in Paul’s meaning, but for the meaning of the images entire social field: reconciling Paul’s image to Plato’s establishes a world where neither is entirely at home.
Mmm, textual instability. How I love thee.
June 28, 2009
I apologize to any readers who may have dropped by over the weekend. I’ve needed a few days off to pause and get my thoughts back in order, which they now are, and I will be back to full steam tomorrow.