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Oh, and did I mention the apocalypse / terror connection?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Robert Dear, a crazed? apocalyptic? Christian? terorist? — & what of William Blake? ]
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John Horgan commenting on Robert Dear:

Horgan on Dear

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Apocalyptic? Here’s Richard Faussett, For Robert Dear, Religion and Rage Before Planned Parenthood Attack, in the NYT today

In a sworn affidavit as part of her divorce case, Ms. Micheau described Mr. Dear as a serial philanderer and a problem gambler, a man who kicked her, beat her head against the floor and fathered two children with other women while they were together. He found excuses for his transgressions, she said, in his idiosyncratic views on Christian eschatology and the nature of salvation.

“He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions,” Ms. Micheau said in the court document. “He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases. He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.”

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Was William Blake crazy?

Beatrice Addressing Dante from the Car 1824-7 William Blake 1757-1827

In this month’s Literary Review, Nicholas Roe reviews Leo Damrosch, Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake, and offers an anecdote about David Erdman, the editor of The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake and his psychologist wife:

I recall a conference twenty-five years ago at which the great scholar David Erdman was lecturing brilliantly on Blake’s poetry; in the audience his wife, Virginia, a distinguished clinical psychologist, leaned across to the person sitting next to her and observed, ‘I’ve never been able to convince David that Blake was completely mad.’

Terrorist?

The closest Blake came to terrorism was this, as reported in his Poetry Foundation bio:

Before Blake could leave Felpham and return to London, an incident occurred that was very disturbing to him and possibly even dangerous. Without Blake’s knowledge, his gardener had invited a soldier by the name of John Scofield into his garden to help with the work. Blake seeing the soldier and thinking he had no business being there promptly tossed him out. In a letter to Butts, Blake recalled the incident in detail:

I desired him, as politely as possible, to go out of the Garden; he made me an impertinent answer. I insisted on his leaving the Garden; he refused. I still persisted in desiring his departure; he then threaten’d to knock out my Eyes, with many abominable imprecations & with some contempt for my Person; it affronted my foolish Pride. I therefore took him by the Elbows & pushed him before me till I had got him out; there I intended to leave him, but he, turning about, put himself into a Posture of Defiance, threatening & swearing at me. I, perhaps foolishly & perhaps not, stepped out at the Gate, & putting aside his blows, took him again by the Elbows, &, keeping his back to me, pushed him forwards down the road about fifty yards–he all the while endeavouring to turn round & strike me, & raging & cursing, which drew out several neighbours….

What made this almost comic incident so serious was that the soldier swore before a magistrate that Blake had said “Damn the King” and had uttered seditious words. Blake denied the charge, but he was forced to post bail and appear in court.

Christian?

Theologian Thomas Altizer writes of Blake that “From the beginning, he rebelled against God, or against the God then present in Christendom” — perhaps thinking of Blake’s own words in The Everlasting Gospel:

THe vision of Christ that thou dost see
Is my vision’s greatest enemy.
Thine has a great hook nose like thine;
Mine has a snub nose like to mine.
Thine is the Friend of all Mankind;
Mine speaks in parables to the blind.
Thine loves the same world that mine hates;
Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.
Socrates taught what Meletus
Loath’d as a nation’s bitterest curse,
And Caiaphas was in his own mind
A benefactor to mankind.
Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white.

— and then calls him “the most radical of all modern Christian visionaries”, explaining that “no poet or seer before him had so profoundly sensed the cataclysmic collapse of the cosmos created by Western man” —

So yes, apocalyptic, too.

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Terrorist? Christian? Muslim? Artist? Mystic? Poet? Blasphemer?

Words strain, TS Eliot wrote, Crack and sometimes break, under the burden / Under the tension, slip, slide, perish, / Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place, / Will not stay still.

It is more important to have equations in your beauty..

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — musings on PAM Dirac and Hedy Lamarr ]
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PAM Dirac once famously said, “it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations that to have them fit experiment.” I was reminded of that quotation while musing over this DoubleQuote in the Wild celebrating the birthday yesterday of Hedy Lamarr — stunningly symmetrical movie star and frequency-hopping inventor:

Hedy Lamarr DQ Wild

To the left, the beauty herself, and to the right, the equations in the beauty — if one may take the liberty of saying that thoughts are “in” their thinker’s body — shown here in the form of the patent application Lamarr and composer George Antheil submitted fora “a system for the radio control of airborne torpedoes”.

I put that last phrase in quotes because that’s the way a New York Times piece described their joint invention. Me, I haven’t the foggiest about their inner workings, whereas the outer face of Hedy Lamarr I can see with utmost clarity.

Sunday surprise – beauties, Beauty

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — i’m inclined to call these beauties respective variants on Beauty physical, mental, and spiritual ]
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Beauty is beautiful, and never more so than when she conveys Beauty:

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The beauties:

  • Surfer Maud Le Car
  • Violinist Hilary Hahn
  • Professor Lera Boroditsky
  • I’ve posted la belle Hélène‘s interpretation of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne on Zenpundit before, but in case you missed it, there’s also..

  • Pianist Hélène Grimaud
  • Christmas and Season’s Greetings

    Thursday, December 25th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — eine kleine weihnachtsmusik ]
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    Since we are divided on the name, nature and very existence of the all-encompassing, please allow me greet you this day from within my own “home” tradition:
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    Wishing those of my friends who are believers a blessed Christmas, and to those who are not — why, feasting, family, joy, and a great blast of Bach’s trumpets!

    May you each and all find even the gloom of the gloomiest circumstances and darkest days of the year a little lifted by the spirit in these voices!

    Brief brief: religion and story

    Thursday, December 4th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — the bookstore in a church, spirituality in the movies, and the church in a mosque ]
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    Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore 602

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    There’s a recent post in the New Statesman titled The books of revelations: why are novelists turning back to religion?.

    It seems to me that’s a difficult topic to prove or disprove, since it depends on which novelists you read before debating it, and perhaps even what your criteria for excellence in writing might be. I read very few novels these days, and tend to confine myself to those whose language, sentence by sentence, gives me joy to equal that of a topic I enjoy. John Fowles did that for me, John Le Carré, and most recently Ann Patchett with Bel Canto.

    Are they turning back to religion? If they are, I haven’t noticed.

    But then the novel isn’t where I go for story in any case, and if I suspect there’s a better medium to check in on, film would be my next choice up — and yes, Tarkovsky‘s The Sacrifice, even his Nostalghia — not to mention his Andrei Roublev — definitely yes. Kurosawa? Not so much: in his films it’s more a case of “all human life is there”.

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    This quote, from Adrei Tarkovsky’s Cinema of Spirituality, may be helpful:

    In the entire history of cinema there has never been a director, who has made such a dramatic stand for the human spirit as did Andrei Tarkovsky. Today, when cinema seems to have drowned in a sea of glamorized triviality, when human relationships on screen have been reduced to sexual intrigue or sloppy sentimentality, and baseness rules the day – this man appears as a lone warrior standing in the midst of this cinematic catastrophe, holding up the banner for human spirituality.

    What puts this director in a class all his own and catapults his films onto a height inaccessible to other filmmakers? It is, first and foremost, his uncompromising stance that man is a SPIRITUAL being. This may appear to be self-evident to some, and yet it is just on this very point that 99% of cinema fails. Man’s spirituality is quickly and conveniently pushed aside in favor of other more “exciting” topics: man’s sexuality, man’s psychology, sociology and so on. In today’s cinema, if spirituality is dealt with at all, it is never treated as the foundation of our existence, but is there as an appendage, something the characters concern themselves with in their spare time. In other words, while in other films spirituality may be PART of the plot, in Tarkovsky’s films it IS the plot; it permeates the very fabric of his films. It can be said that his films vibrate with his own spirituality. As he himself states, in all of his films the main characters undergo a SPIRITUAL crisis.

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    Whether sticking a stylish set of bookshelves and other trimmings in a beautiful old church should have won the Lensvelt de Architect prize in 2007 to the designers who added the bookshelves to an already stunning edifice is an interesting question. Is the beauty theirs, or borrowed? Have they incorporated the old church into “their” bookshop?

    I think, too, of the Mezquita in Cordoba, with a cathedral dropped into the heart of it:

    Mezquita_de_Córdoba aerial view

    His Catholic Majesty King Charles V of Castile and Aragon said of this:

    They have taken something unique in all the world and destroyed it to build something you can find in any city.

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    Is there an aesthetic principle we might consider here?

    The Japanese haiku master Basho was once approached by his pupil Kikaku, who showed him this verse:

    Dragonfly
    I remove the wings
    A pea pod!

    Quickly Basho wrote in response and mild correction:

    A pea pod
    I place wings on it
    A dragonfly!

    Poetry, in Basho’s view, should lift us from the lesser to the greater, not bring the greater down to a lesser level. It’s an interesting concept, and one with wide potential application beyond the sphere of the arts.

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    Or — let’s cut the architects, Merkx+Girod, some slack, because the bookstore is indeed quite stunning! I love bookstores, yes, and I love cathedrals.

    Is the whole thing, perhaps, a DoubleQuote in stone and stories?


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