On a friend’s recommendation, I rented Warm Bodies this weekend, expecting nothing more than a little mindless entertainment to provide an occasional distraction from homework. What I got, instead, was a break from the usual genre exercise with a symbolic structure that’s almost too overtly Christian to be unintentional. (Spoilers below the break).
I call the attention of Orthospherians to my article “I get a Kick out of Fugue II: Fugue in the Twentieth Century” at Kidist Paulos Asrat’s Reclaiming Beauty website; “Fugue II” is a follow-up to my article from early in summer, “I get a Kick out of Fugue,” also at Reclaiming Beauty. Meanwhile, Angel Millar has given my essay on “Richard Wagner, Revolution, and the Re-Founding of Humanity” a generous presentation at his website, The People of Shambhala. The two essays on fugue argue, with plentiful musical illustration, my anthropological theory of fugal practice as reflecting the patterns of social breakdown and reformation. The essay on Richard Wagner and Musikdrama likewise has an anthropological slant: I take seriously Wagner’s writings, wherein, once one gets past the florid rhetoric, one finds a genuine and plausible theory of the origin alike of consciousness and culture. I recommend both Reclaiming Beauty and People of Shambhala as interesting and valuable websites.
As is his inimitable, charming wont, Mike Flynn eviscerates eliminative materialism in the nicest possible way. A summa:
Science is a filter, much like a fishing net; but we mustn’t conclude from the fish caught in the net the sizes of fishes in the deep blue sea. Yet some people reason that if science cannot distinguish between the mechanistic and the volitional, everything at bottom must be mechanistic. The apparently volitional is “really” mechanical. But surely it is just as reasonable to conclude that everything is at bottom volitional. The apparently mechanical is “really” the working out of a Will. At least from the scientific perspective you cannot prove otherwise.
Flynn is one of the most amiable rapiers you are ever likely to encounter. Feser cheerfully and relentlessly obliterates his adversaries, pounding their smithereens into dust; Flynn just lops off their legs, in such a gentlemanly fashion as to make it seem as though he is doing them a favor.
A guest post by commenter Bill:
Back when I was a neo-con doofus, the movie Matewan was a guilty pleasure. For those unfamiliar, Matewan is a fictionalized depiction of the events surrounding the Battle of Matewan. This was a violent confrontation, set off by a union organizing drive, in Matewan, WV between members of the United Mine Workers and the Stone Mountain Coal Company. One of the many intellectual benefits of moving to the real right is appreciating this film without guilt.
Seen through one lens, the movie is straight-up socialist agit-prop. The protagonist is a former Wobbly, career labor activist, Joe Kenehan. The antagonists are a couple of drunken, degenerate, dishonest pinkerton goons. The movie is well-made and visually beautiful, but its plotting is crude and predictable with the socialist Kenehan as improbably angelic as the pinkertons are demonic. The Kenehan character is boring to watch and difficult to identify with.
So, how does the movie draw our sympathies to the UMW’s side? There is only one technique on offer. We are presented, over and over, with the clash between real, organic, traditional cultures on the one side and the cold, empty, but overwhelmingly powerful forces of modernity on the other. Modernity is played by, first, the railroad, and, second, the pinkertons.
Early in the movie, the pinkertons get off the train in Matewan and find, sitting at the train station, a pretty young woman. It seems that she spends her days watching the trains come and go. This seemingly stock character is not. Normally, Hollywood portrays this woman very sympathetically as a visionary and dreamer, a woman “too big for this small town.” Here, she is portrayed as empty, stupid, and essentially autistic. Naturally, the pinkertons are very unpleasant to her, but the interaction comes off less as the pinkertons victimizing her than three people failing to interact meaningfully because there is an empty space where
that-which-interacts should be. They who come from the railroad and she who hankers after it.
Later, the pinkertons go to a Sunday service at the local Baptist assembly and drunkenly laugh through “There is Power in the Blood.” Again, what one comes away with is not so much hatred for the pinkertons but horror at the contrast between the evident fullness, community, and rootedness of the townspeople and the yawning, tinny, broken emptiness of the pinkertons.
In another scene, Kenehan recounts his time during the First World War in prison with some Mennonites. He describes with evident awe watching, day after day, as the Mennonites pried the buttons off their prison-issued clothes, sure in the knowledge that they would be punished but surer in the knowledge that their traditions require that they take the buttons off.
In a climactic scene, the strikers (now consisting of blacks & Italian immigrants brought under false pretenses by the company to break the strike, along with the indigenous Appalachians) are at
their campsite. They are about to be dispossessed of what little they have left by the pinkertons. From nowhere arrive a bunch of Hillbillies who chase off the pinkertons via a show of force (evidently, they have been harboring a longstanding grudge against the company). As the pinkertons leave, one comments on a
Hillbilly’s outdated firearm, asking if it was used in the Spanish War. No, he replies, in the War Between the States.
One could go on in this vein. The case the movie makes for the UMW could not be more clear. The union will protect your culture and way of life. The company will destroy it. Whether this is actually true in the real world is of no moment. The sales-job presupposes traditionalism. As Bonald points out in one of his posts, Hollywood sometimes makes traditionalist movies by accident. We are so off their radar screen that they sometimes stumble accidentally into our territory—because we are right about how humans are, humans respond to traditionalist themes.
I originally published this post on my now-defunct blog Dispatches from the North in January of 2012.
- To reduce the prison population and ease police workloads. As of 2008, more than 175,000 Americans were behind bars for ILA. Statistics for other countries with anti-ILA laws are similar. Anti-ILA laws thus put a tremendous strain on both prisons and law enforcement, giving them less time and fewer resources to deal with other, more important problems, such as poverty and racism.
- To combat discrimination. In many countries, those who have been convicted of ILA are forbidden from voting or running for political office. Furthermore, tremendous social stigma is attached to ILA, reducing practitioners’ opportunities in housing and employment, among other things. Laws against ILA are also often used to legitimize institutional racism: In the United States, a disproportionate number of people convicted of ILA are Hispanic or African-American, and again, the statistics for other countries are similar. We believe that the legalization of ILA should be complemented with anti-discrimination laws, mandatory sensitivity training for police and public servants, and the introduction of an ILA History Month aimed at making society more inclusive of ILA and its practitioners. Continue reading
Glorifying God, leaking into the world the love that he leaks into us through the wounds and breaches and gaps of our own lives, is a severely practical and down to earth activity.
In that sense we do in the world what God does in us. We receive His love where we are vulnerable and weak, and lose sight of it when we claim strength and power. Christians reach to the jagged edges of our society, and of the world in general. Food distribution, places for rough sleepers, debt counselling, credit unions, community mediation, support for ex‐offenders, support for victims of crime, care for the dying, valuing those who have no economic contribution to make, or are too weak to argue for their own value. All this is the daily work of the church, which goes on every day and everywhere. We leak out into the world the love that God leaks into us.
The above bit of revoltingly banal, worldly shlock comes to us from the Christmas sermon of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who was enthroned today as head of the Anglican Communion in a ceremony that looked like this:
Fellow orthospherean Kidist Paulos Asrat has a new project, with a new site: Reclaiming Beauty. She’s just gotten started, and already it’s well worth a look. Those who are interested in architecture and design will find it particularly interesting.
And sad. Our civilization was once much more beautiful than it has been since the Second World War. Is not the sheer ugliness and discomfort of modernism in design a sufficient indication of modernism’s philosophical wickedness and falsity?
Synchronicity alert: I went over to Kidist’s site to grab the URL so I could paste it supra, and found that she had just posted there my Amazon review of physicist John Barrow’s book on beauty, wherein I make a point parallel to the argument in my second paragraph above:
… animal minds and bodies subjected to natural selection are in big trouble if they embody propositions about the world, and therefore about the appropriate way to behave, that are in any important way essentially wrong.
Fellow orthospherean Joseph of Arimathea sends along word that this coming July, our own Professor Dr. Tom Bertonneau will be a featured speaker at Doxacon, a convention for Christian fans and writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy, sponsored by the Protection of the Holy Mother of God Orthodox Church in Falls Church. Be there and be … spherical?
Joke! I’m sure the discussions at Doxacon will be absolutely fascinating. From Out of the Silent Planet to Count to a Trillion, from Last and First Men to Up Jim River, those trad Christianist geeks will be tripping the light fantastic. In a manner of speaking only, I hasten to add; few things could be more disturbing than the sight of science fiction fans dancing …
I’m putting this in the Civilizational Twilight category, because almost all science fiction and fantasy involves the adventures of a hero in an age that has Fallen from its halcyon days of yore – this Fall being the generator of the Problems the hero must solve. Meaning that science fiction and fantasy are *essentially* traditionalist.
This should hardly suprise us. After all, *reality* is essentially traditionalist, no? That’s why there are regularities in nature, so that there can be science, so that there can be … science fiction.
When I talk about classical music with people, they sometimes ask me who is my all-time favorite composer. I never quite know what to answer, but the name I usually mention is that of Ralph Vaughan Williams. (The “Ralph,” by the way, is pronounced “Rayf,” as with the actor Ralph Fiennes.)
You may or may not have heard of Vaughan Williams before—he’s considered a national treasure in the UK, particularly in England, but is much less well known on my corner of the continent—but even if you haven’t, chances are good that you’ve heard his music. For example, his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis for—get this—two string orchestras and string quartet has been used in several film scores. Many of Vaughan Williams’s works have a nationalist tint, and often take their inspiration from English folk music and Tudor-age hymns and dances. (Apart from composing, Vaughan Williams also did groundbreaking work in the collection and study of English folk songs, and was one of the editors of the first English Hymnal.)
I can pinpoint the moment Vaughan Williams became one of my favorite composers Continue reading
Today’s reactionary composer, Stefania de Kenessey, is a recent discovery of mine. De Kenessey is a Hungarian currently living in the United States, and is the founder of the Derriere Guard, an affiliation of anti-modernist artists whose best known member is the author Tom Wolfe. While I’ve heard de Kenessey’s highly tonal music described as “neoclassical,” it differs in some very important ways from the compositions of the original neoclassicists, an early to mid-20th century school whose most notable representatives were Igor Stravinsky and the group of French composers known as Les Six. (No bonus points for correctly guessing how many members Les Six had.) For one, it seems completely free of the winking, self-conscious irony typical of the original neoclassicists. For another, de Kenessey is not, as many of the original neoclassicists were accused of being, a dry and unemotional composer. Her music is earnestly lyrical, as neoromantic as it is neoclassical. The name that kept popping into my head as I listened to this CD of her chamber music was Schubert’s; in particular, I hear strong echoes of the first movement of the “Death and the Maiden” quartet in parts of the first movement of the clarinet quintet Shades of Darkness. My one major complaint about the music on the CD (which is my only exposure to de Kenessey so far) is that I found it a little tiring in large doses, as she has a tendency to overuse certain motifs and ideas. (To see what I mean, listen back-to-back to Shades of Darkness‘s “Death and the Maiden”-ish opening and the very beginning of the piano trio Traveling Light, or compare the first entry of the clarinet in that same movement to the first entry of the flute in The Passing.) I couldn’t find excerpts from the CD on YouTube, but on Amazon and ClassicalArchives.org, you can listen to some free samples and buy full MP3s for a pittance.