February 13, 2014

Hodge Podge of Items

This morning read some of that deliciously written book about Detroit, which led me to YouTube a song the author mentioned (a song designed to give Detroit the boost that Frank Sinatra's New York, New York did, though Sammy Davis Jr. had a hit with it only in Belgium, inexplicably).

(Speaking of 'boost', grandson Sam humorously used that word in asking someone to push him on his tricycle: “Mawmaw give me a boost!” Okay, maybe you had to be there.)

Since I was in the YouTube app for the Detroit song I decided to re-live  Lady by Styx. The obvious occurred to me: Growing up with so many songs such as that one which idolized women it was no wonder I worshipped them as a young adult. Apart from simple lust, there's also the cult of romance-as-salvation via pop culture that makes God seem like a back-up salvation plan.

Some excerpts from Binelli's "Detroit City is the Place to Be": 
In 1995, in a deadpan, deliberatively provocative essay, Vergara proposed the city “place a moratorium on the razing of skyscrapers, our most sublime ruins, and instead … stabilize them,” setting aside a dozen or so downtown blocks as an “urban Monument Valley” that would act as a “memorial of our throwaway cities,” an “American Acropolis”: Midwestern prairie would be allowed to invade from the north. Trees, vines, and wildflowers would grow on roofs and out of windows; wild animals, goats, squirrels, possum, bats, owls, ravens, snakes, insects, and perhaps even an occasional bear would live in the empty behemoths, adding their calls, hoots, and screeches to the smell of rotten leaves and animal droppings. 

But now much of the attention being showered on Detroit from the trendiest quarters came in no small measure thanks to the city’s blight. Detroit’s brand had become authenticity, and a key component of this authenticity had to do with the way the city looked. Would fixing the very real problems faced by Detroiters, I began to wonder, mean inevitably robbing Detroit of some part of its essential Detroitness? 

Ruin porn was generally assessed the same way as the other kind, with you-know-it-when-you-see-it subjectivity. Everyone seemed to agree that Camilo Vergara’s work was not ruin pornography, though he’d arguably been the Hefner of the genre....

The post-apocalyptic grandeur of the scene momentarily silenced us, as if we were in the presence of something demanding respectful meditation—but what, exactly? If you manage to slip inside certain Detroit ruins, you are sometimes struck by their sacred aura; like cathedrals, they can feel beautiful and tragic at the same time, monuments to flawed human aspiration that, in an unintentional way, begin to approach the holy.

Oh the lovely "print" of the everloving Kindle! Some riveting lines from the Karl Ove novel "My Struggle) on the scarcity of sanctity, put in the mouths of the characters (NSFW as they say):
“What is innocence? It is that which has not been touched by the world, that which has not been destroyed, it is like water into which a stone has never been thrown. It’s not that you don’t have lusts, that you don’t have desire, for you do, it’s just that you conserve innocence. Your insanely huge longing for beauty comes in here as well.”
“Innocence and purity have become a symbol of stupidity, but that’s nowadays. We live in a culture where the person with the most experience wins. It’s sick. Everyone knows which way modernism is going, you create a form by breaking up a form, in an endless regression, just let it continue, and for as long as it does, experience will have the upper hand. The unique feature of our times, the pure or independent act, is, as you know, to renounce, not to accept. Accepting is too easy. There’s nothing to be achieved by it.“
"You wallow in asceticism. As I see it, it’s extremely unusual. Extremely deviant. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone, or heard of anyone … well, as I said, then I have to go back to the saints or the church fathers…Others search and search, and when they find a nugget, they sell it to acquire life, splendor, music, dance, enjoyment, luxury, or at least a bit of pussy, right, throw themselves at a woman just to forget they exist for an hour or two. What you lust for is innocence and this is an impossible equation. Lust and innocence can never be compatible. The ultimate is no longer the ultimate once you’ve stuck your dick in it. Not to strive for a happy life is the most provocative thing you can do.“


Spent part of Saturday excavating old 1998 writings saved as individual Word documents. Also found some writing snippets I was able to date from 1989 to 1992 based on the content, such as a comedy piece about the Exxon Valdez spill (can it really be almost 25 years since?)

It felt so archeological, finding these things written by a much younger me expounding on an even younger me.


Peer pressure has really bumped up the rigors of parenthood.  Transporting and attending sporting events alone is huge. Fathers today are much more active with kids. I'm reminded of the anecdote about how aunt said when she was a child it drove her crazy that her father wouldn't play with her after work and that he'd just read the paper. You can say, “what's in a newspaper more important than spending time with your own child?” or you can say, “this newspaper represents the tissue-thin difference between my going insane from kids and not.” Ha, just a joke!

“Greek confidence in the [naked] body can be understood only in relation to their philosophy. It expresses above all their sense of human wholeness. Nothing which is related to the whole man could be isolated or evaded; and this serious awareness of how much was implied in physical beauty saved them from the two evils of sensuality and aestheticism.” - Kenneth Clark
The key phrase for me is “serious awareness” and how that is the foundation for a Christian view of sex. There has to be a serious awareness of what the purpose of sex is, of its nobility, and how it's related to wholeness and integrity.

It's interesting that even the Greeks only allowed men to be naked in Olympic games. The women were “lightly clad” which perhaps undermines Clark's own argument. Were there limits to what Clark suggests the Greek felt, that they alone had “[overcome] Original Sin.”

The Greeks felt spirit and body were one, which is extremely unfashionable in our Gnostic-influenced environment where body is seem to have nothing to do with spirit and or that the body is a weight on the soul (to the extent moderns believe in a soul).

Clark says the Greeks had the “gift of giving to abstract ideas a sensuous, tangible, and for most part human form.”  Isn't that the goal of many a Catholic apologist? To imbue abstract ideas like natural law and the evils of artificial contraception with a tangible, explainable, “human” form?

That spirit and body are one ultimately seems a matter for faith, which the Greeks had in a pre-Christian sense. Clark quotes William Blake: “Greek statues…are all of them representations of spiritual existences” and then goes on to say that that:

“the bodies were there, the belief in the gods was there, the love of rational proportion was there. It was the unifying grasp of the Greek imagination which brought them together. And the nude gains its enduring value from the fact that it reconciles several contrary states. It takes the most sensual and immediately interesting object, the human body, and puts it out of reach of time and desire; it takes the most purely rational concept of which mankind is capable, mathematical order, and makes it a delight to the senses; it takes the vague fears of the unknown and sweetens them by showing that the gods are like men and may be worshipped for the life-giving beauty rather than their death-dealing powers.”

My atomistic, individualistic tendencies were sadly on display in my surprised reaction to Lino Rulli's proposal that the remaining Beatles have a “moral obligation” to get together more than occasionally and to thus use their talents. My take has usually been something of: “earn enough money and then retire,” so I don't fault them for not playing music. But that ignores the fact that we're not here on earth to simply satisfy ourselves. What is valid in monetary terms (i.e. Ringo and Paul can support themselves and thus can support themselves) doesn't necessarily translate in religious terms (i.e. Ringo and Paul can give pleasure to others by their talents).

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