Monday, November 6, 2017
In view of the daily revelations of sexual depredation, here's a reminder from the 18th century of the sublime nature of true love, the highest earthly expression of man's endless search for unity:
"I understand by this passion the union of desire, friendship and tenderness, which is inflamed by a single female, which prefers her to the rest of her sex, and which seeks her possession as the supreme or the sole happiness of our being. I need not blush at recollecting the object of my choice; and though my love was disappointed of success, I am rather proud that I was once capable of feeling such a pure and exalted sentiment."
~historian Edward Gibbon
Posted by David Angsten at 2:46 PM
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Sunday, October 29, 2017
|The Fisherman & the Syren, Frederic Leighton, 1858|
The FishermanJohann Wolfgang von Goethe
|The water rushed, the water rose|
A fisherman by the sea
Observed his line in deep repose,
Cool to his heart was he.
And as he sits and listens well,
The billow breaks and parts,
And from the waters' churning swell
A dripping woman darts.
She sang to him, she spoke to him:
"Why lure my kind away
With human wit and cunningly
To the deadly blaze of day?
If you could know how blithe and free
The fishes thrive below,
You would descend, with us to be,
And prosperous to grow.
"Do not the sun and moon take on
Refreshment in the sea?
Do not their faces billow-drawn
Loom twice as splendidly?
This sky-like depth, it calls you not,
This dank transfigured blue?
Your mirrored form enthralls you not
To seek the endless dew?"
The water rushed, the water rose
And wet his naked feet;
His heart with yearning swells and grows,
As when two lovers meet.
She spoke to him, she sang to him,
His fate became quite plain:
Half drawn by her he glided in
And was not seen again.
1779, translation by Edwin Zeydel, 1955
(thanks to James Egan)
(thanks to James Egan)
Posted by David Angsten at 10:44 AM
Saturday, October 28, 2017
|The Fall & Expulsion of Adam & Eve|
Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo
"Unfortunately, myth today has come to have negative connotations which are the complete opposite of its meaning in a religious context. A myth is often spoken of as being the equivalent of superstition and illusion, a fabrication, even a form of propaganda. We refer to the Nazi myth of Aryan supremacy or the male chauvinist myth of masculine superiority or the medical myth of laetrile. Myths are falsehoods which need to be dispelled, and the dispeller is usually understood to be scientific and historic truth. If religion is associated with myth, it is the mission of the scientific and historical method to rid the world of its fantasies and fallacies.
"In a religious context, however, myths are storied vehicles of supreme truth, the most basic and important truths of all. By them people regulate and interpret their lives and find worth and purpose in their existence. Myths put one in touch with sacred realities, the fundamental sources of being, power, and truth. They are seen not only as being the opposite of error, but also as being clearly distinguishable from stories told for entertainment and from the workaday, domestic, practical language of a people. They provide answers to the mysteries of being and becoming, mysteries which, as mysteries, are hidden, yet mysteries that are revealed through story and ritual. Myths deal not only with truth but with ultimate truth."
~from M. Conrad Hyers, THE MEANING OF CREATION: Genesis and Modern Science
Posted by David Angsten at 9:22 AM
Thursday, October 12, 2017
"We think, lazily, that what we want in our myths is something transparent and simple. But what we want in our great myths is the opposite: things that we can't so easily swallow, and at the same time, can't spit out."
~Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Rise & Fall of Adam & Eve
Posted by David Angsten at 3:48 PM
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
|St. Michael and the Dragon by Raphael|
"It is the thesis of this book that the heroic narrative is not simply our way of telling ourselves comforting fairy tales about the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil, but an implanted moral compass that guides even the least religious among us."~ Michael Walsh, Devil’s Pleasure Palace
Posted by David Angsten at 2:37 PM
Friday, October 6, 2017
|Niels Bohr (1885-1962)|
"A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, the famous physicist.As they were talking, the friend kept glancing at a horseshoe hanging over the door. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he demanded:“Niels, it can’t possibly be that you, a brilliant scientist, believe that foolish horseshoe superstition!”'Of course not,' replied Bohr. 'But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.'”
(via Lloyd Joseph)
Posted by David Angsten at 1:17 PM
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Was witchcraft just a "social construct" perpetrated by the Christian patriarchy? Or were witches herb and drug dabblers experiencing hallucinations?
"Hutton also makes no reference to the cases of ergotism in the 16th to 19th centuries, this poisoning by the fungus on rye and barley called ergot, which when baked in bread changes into a chemical similar to LSD that causes visions and convulsions often interpreted as demonic possession. The Salem witch trials occurred in a wet, cold summer favourable to the ergot fungus: the next, hot and dry, produced no reports of demonic possession. Some scholars blame ergot poisoning of both victims and perpetrators for the Salem ‘possessions’."
Fascinating SPECTATOR book review HERE.
Posted by David Angsten at 8:13 PM
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Don't know that I have the patience for the slow film anymore, but back in the 1970s, I was enamored of what writer/director Paul Schrader dubbed the "transcendental style." The intention, much like religious ritual, is to draw you into a contemplation of the mystery of life. Still a worthwhile goal today, but given the pace of the digital age, very much harder to achieve. Here's Schrader explaining it (3:00 video):
Posted by David Angsten at 3:52 PM
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Friday, July 7, 2017
"It is a strange thing. Dozens of times I have been asked by patients or acquaintances: "Dr. Peck, why is there evil in the world?" Yet no one has ever asked me in all these years, "Why is there good in the world?" It is as if we automatically assume this is a naturally good world that has somehow been contaminated by evil. In terms of what we know of science, however, it is actually easier to explain evil. That things decay is quite explainable in accord with the natural law of physics. That life should evolve into more and more complex forms is not so easily understandable. That children generally lie and steal and cheat is routinely observable. The fact that sometimes they grow up to become truly honest adults is what seems the more remarkable. Laziness is more the rule than diligence. If we seriously think about it, it probably makes more sense to assume this is a naturally evil world that has somehow been mysteriously "contaminated" by goodness, rather than the other way around. The mystery of goodness is even greater than the mystery of evil." ~ M. Scott Peck
Posted by David Angsten at 11:52 AM
Thursday, June 15, 2017
"From the age of six, I had a penchant for copying the form of things, and from about 50, my pictures were frequently published; but until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice… Thus when I reach 80 years, I hope to have made increasing progress, and at 90 to see further into the underlying principles of things, so that at 100 years I will have achieved a divine state in my art, and at 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive."
~Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)
Posted by David Angsten at 12:53 PM
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Sunday, May 21, 2017
"Do not only practice art, but get at the very heart of it; this it deserves, for only art and science raise men to the God-head. [...] The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun." ~ Ludwig van Beethoven
Posted by David Angsten at 8:56 PM
Friday, May 19, 2017
Thursday, May 18, 2017
“To poison a nation, poison its stories. A demoralized nation tells demoralized stories to itself. Beware of the story-tellers who are not fully conscious of the importance of their gifts, and who are irresponsible in the application of their art: they could unwittingly help along the psychic destruction of their people.” --Ben OkriBen Okri is a Nigerian novelist living in London. His 1991 novel, the Famished Road, won the Booker Prize. (Thanks to David Brown and Tonie Mwangi for this pearl of wisdom.)
Posted by David Angsten at 12:28 PM
Monday, May 1, 2017
Sunday, April 23, 2017
"Stories are not just entertainment, not to me. A story records and transmits the experience of being human. It teaches us what it’s like to be who we are. Nothing but art can do this. There is no science that can capture the inner life. No words can describe it directly. We can only speak of it in metaphors. We can only say: it’s like this—this story, this picture, this song."
~Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing
Posted by David Angsten at 6:29 PM
Sunday, April 16, 2017
|Christ as the Suffering Redeemer, Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506|
The Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna has always been a particular favorite of mine. The clarity, the sculptural solidity, the vivid characters and colors, the careful detail (click HERE to enlarge) combined with epic scope, all put in service of a transcendent reality. It's a paragon of the "imaginative realism" I try to create in my novels. The stories walk that slippery line between the real and the ethereal, between the matter of the spirit and the imagination of the flesh.
Posted by David Angsten at 11:01 PM
Friday, April 14, 2017
"Mantegna's realism prevails over any aesthetic indulgence that might result from an over-refined lingering over the material aspects of his subject. His realism is in turn dominated by an exalted poetic feeling for suffering and Christian resignation. Mantegna's creative power lies in his own interpretation of the "historic," his feeling for spectacle on a small as well as a large scale. Beyond his apparent coldness and studied detachment, Mantegna's feelings are those of a historian, and like all great historians he is full of humanity. He has a tragic sense of the history and destiny of man, and of the problems of good and evil, life and death."
Posted by David Angsten at 4:53 PM
Sunday, April 2, 2017
"We live in passionate times at the moment, political and otherwise, and as usual, the art world is being encouraged to take sides and be part of the polemic. I think this is very dangerous... there's a higher calling for those of us that tell stories--there are character truths, and the idiosyncrasies are more true than general truths."
~film director Walter Hill
Posted by David Angsten at 1:50 PM
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
|Johann Sebastian Bach|
March 21, 1685 - July 28, 1750
― Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
"Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity."
Posted by David Angsten at 1:51 PM
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Friday, February 24, 2017
"If I were loosely gathering topics of study into categories, I might call them arts, religion, scholarship, and science. As important as scholarship and science are, arts and religion are more important. Those were my main goals (my wife’s, too) in educating our two boys, who are now both in their 20s. Arts and religion define, in a sense, a single spectrum rather than two topics. And this spectrum is where you find mankind's deepest attempts to figure out what's going on in the universe. A student who doesn't know the slow movement of Schubert's B-flat major op post sonata, or the story of David and Absalom, needs to go back to school and learn better."
Posted by David Angsten at 1:34 PM
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
"Why the awe for the Second Law? The Second Law defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order. An underappreciation of the inherent tendency toward disorder, and a failure to appreciate the precious niches of order we carve out, are a major source of human folly."~Steven Pinker on the Second Law of Thermodynamics:
Posted by David Angsten at 5:03 PM
Monday, January 9, 2017
I love printed books, their tactile heft, their beauty, but over the years I've developed a preference for ebook reading. Instant word-touch dictionary access, text highlighting, easy word or name search, no need to turn on a lamp at night and wake your sleeping spouse--it just offers so many advantages. And now the biggest remaining deficiency has largely been overcome: page flipping.
Posted by David Angsten at 4:31 PM