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Apocalpyse, not!

Friday, June 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — in using the word apocalyptic to describe mundane (or zombied) disturbances such as Brexit, we lose sight of the beauty and mystery it conceals & reveals ]
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In fact, not so much as a whiff of fresh napalm in the morning.

Tim Furnish has been on a mini-crusade recently against the misuse of the word apocalypse, tweeting examples along with this meme-image:

Furnish Apocalypse N0

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Here are two examples of the genre. which Tim featured last night because each comments on Brexit in apocalyptic terms:

Apocalypse No

Sources:

  • Financial Post, Trump, Clinton and Brexit — the three horses of democracy’s Apocalypse
  • Japan Times, Brexit: The Apocalypse … or not
  • **

    Tim is right.

    The word apocalypse properly refers the vision John, the seer of Patmos, had, tearing away of the veil which so often hides the divine glory from mortal eyes: the Greek word apokalypsis is appropriately translated revelation, and the first verse of the book called The Apocalypse by Catholics and The Revelation of John in the King James Version runs as follows:

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.

    **

    Consider the beauty — and the otherworldiness — of this image from Albrecht Durer. illustrating the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” of Revelation 12.1

    :Virgin-Sitting-In-Crescent-Moon

    **

    The imagery of this final book of the Bible does not show us the usual world of our senses, but a realm of great symbolic beauty, far beyond the reach of unaided eye or camera — as the great literary critic Northrop Frye notes, when he calls the book “a fairy tale about a damsel in distress, a hero killing dragons, a wicked witch, and a wonderful city glittering with jewels” in his Anatomy of Criticism, p 108.

    Like the works of the English visionary William Blake, Revelation is more poetic than literal, visionary in the best sense — and it is hardly surprising that Blake is among its foremost illustrators:

    The_Four_and_Twenty_Elders_(William_Blake)
    Blake, Four and Twenty Elders Casting their Crowns before the Divine Throne, The Tate Gallery

    Brexit simply cannot match the darkness of Revelation’s Babylon in its final throes, nor the “new heaven and new earth” that succeed it — “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”.

    That Bach Chaconne

    Sunday, May 8th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — JS Bach in Palmyra, in the DC Metro, and variously on YouTube ]
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    I have to applaud Putin and the Russians for bringing the full orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater from St Petersburg to Palmyra now that the Islamic State has departed, with added kudos for choosing Bach‘s towering Chaconne from his Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 as one of three works to be played there — by the Tchaikovsky Competition winning soloist Pavel Milyukov:

    As I say, I applaud the gesture. OTOH, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, according to Breitbart, called the event “a tasteless attempt to distract attention from the continued suffering of millions of Syrians” and said it “shows that there are no depths to which the regime will not sink.”

    **

    This may not be the greatest performance of that work musically, but the work itself is extraordinary. Johannes Brahms said of it:

    On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.

    **

    It was famously this Chaconne that violinist Joshua Bell played — twice — with his violin case open to receive tips, in DC’s L’Enfant Plaza metro station, during a 45 minute anonymous session in which he netted $32. $32 and change, for a man whose upcoming performance with the National Symphony Orchestra at DC’s Kennedy Center (February 11, 2017) is ticketed at $216 or $223, depending on how well seated you wish to be…

    Here’s the poorly recorded, hidden videocam account of the second of those performances, which starts at about the 30’15” mark:

    Gene Weingarten‘s description of the event in the Washington Post, Pearls Before Breakfast, won the Pulitzer..

    **

    For the fullest musical appreciation, here is that same Joshua Bell playing the Chaconne in 2014 in the DeLaMar Theater, Amsterdam:

    Hillary Hahn, also superb:

    The no less beautiful Hélène Grimaud, playing the Busoni transcription for piano:

    And last, violinist Christoph Poppen plays the Chaconne, with added chorale motifs as reconstructed by violinist turned musicologist Helga Thoene sung by the Hilliard Ensemble — the culmination of the group’s celebrated album, Morimur:

    Post-modern adaptation, or quintessential Bach? Either way, I find the entire project enthralling.

    Bach and the sacramental arts

    Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — closing out a thread that began with anoither recent post of mine ]
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    Berlin Cathedral
    Organ, Berlin Cathedral

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    The immediate occasion for this [second] post is my reading about the book Eucharistic Poetry: The Search for Presence in the Writings of John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, and Geoffrey Hill, by Eleanor J. McNees. Her subtitle names four poets I greatly admire, and whose company I would aspire to keep:

    Though widely separated chronologically, all four poets use the Anglican and Roman Catholic doctrine of eucharistic Real Presence (the literal embodiment of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion) as model for their own poetry. Each poet seeks to charge his words with a dual physical/spiritual meaning that abolishes the gap between word and referent and so creates an immediate presence that parallels Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

    **

    That pasage, in turn, reminds me of some words John Eliot Gardiner spoke on the topic of Bach and grace,
    on the DVD of a rehearsal of Bach’s cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag (BWV 63) right after Sara Mingardo sings O Selger Tag. Gardiner first quotes Bach, then translates him:

    Nota bene: Bei einer andächtigen Musik ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart.” Now I find that very, very significant. That he’s saying wherever there is devotional music, God with his grace is present.

    How close is that to the poets McNees talks about, creating with their poems “an immediate presence that parallels Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist”?

    And then he comments —

    Which, from a strict theological point of view is probably heresy, heretical, because it’s saying that music has an equivalent potency to the word of God.

    I’m not so sure about the heresy, but this is the point at which I turn to Lexington Green‘s comment on a recent post of mine, in which he quoted the Cathecism of the Catholic Church:

    1374 The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”

    **

    Whether in the performance and hearing of Bach, Christ can be said to be “wholly and entirely” or “devotionally and musicially” present is a delicate question, one part ontological and absolute, I’d suppose, and one part epistemological and subjective.. but I find myself in warm agreement with Gardiner’s elaboration of his theme..

    And I think that in essence is why Bach is so attractive to us today because he is saying that the very act of music-making and of coming together is, in a sense, an act which invokes the latency, the potency, the potentiality of God’s grace, however you like to define God’s grace; but of a benediction that comes even in a dreadful, overheated studio like Abbey Road where far too many microphones and there’s much too much stuff here in the studio itself, that if one, as a musician, puts oneself in the right frame of mind, then God’s grace can actually come and direct and influence the way we perform his music.

    I really must read me some Hans Urs von Balthasar.

    Premasticated, predigested

    Thursday, March 31st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — executive summaries — aren’t they just babyfood for thought? ]
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    I have nothing against Alicia Silverstone, that’s the first thing:

    tablet dq premasticated

    What interests me more, though, is the necessity for executives to be fed (readers?) digests on matters of national security.

    If I recall correctly, Jerome Ravetz once made the point that the chief executive charged with the oversight of dozens of nuclear power plants may well have to make multi-million dollar decisions very rapidly, after brief briefings, and with full confidence that his orders will be obeyed without question.. which is not a situation that encourages nuanced discussion.

    Brevity may be the soul of executive decision-making, I can see that. I don’t have to like it.

    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.”

    **

    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.


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