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Three Parables by

Prudentibus Narr

The Squirrel Who Wanted to See Everything All From One Spot The King Who Adorned His Own Splendor The Artist Who Created Works of Perfection

for Reza


The Squirrel Who Wanted To See Everything All From One Spot

T

here was once a squirrel who wanted to see everything all from one spot.

One bright morning, he scurried up to the topmost branch of the poplar in which his mother had built her nest. The breeze was soft and the air crisp. The little fellow breathed deeply and looked out over the meadow below. There, at its far side, was a doe. Across from her a turkey hen and her poults pecked their way through the tall grass. A heron flew overhead and above the heron the squirrel watched the clouds shutter and unshutter the sun. It was late enough in the spring that the bolder stalks of Queen Anne's lace had begun to unfold their flowers but not so late that the crossvines had faded, their yellow and red trumpets still freckling the cedars. The squirrel looked here, and he turned and looked there. It was all so interesting, and so lovely. He was deeply happy. "'Morning, friend squirrel."


Startled, the squirrel turned again and saw the crow roosting on the branch beneath him. "Oh, good morning Crow," said the squirrel. "You gave me a fright, I didn't see you fly in." "I didn't fly in. I've been here all night." The crow stretched, and yawned, as only a crow can yawn--very long and very gravely and very black--and continued, "but you were so fixed on clambering up to this tree top that you passed right by my branch. Lucky for you I wasn't an owl, or even worse, a bobcat." "Oh my, oh yes," said the squirrel, "yes -- I am glad for that, not a bobcat, that would certainly be a problem, but it's such a beautiful morning, I so wanted to climb up, to get to the top quickly--because there is so much to see and from here I can see everything all from one spot -- I guess I missed you entirely." And the squirrel told the crow all the interesting things he could see from his perch at the tree's top. "Yes, indeed, it's a fine spot for a view, so much to take in," said the Crow. "Do you see that tall stand of pines, just beyond the meadow's edge? And do you see that very tall pine, taller than all the rest, in the middle of that stand?" The little squirrel looked beyond the meadow. There, on its far side, was a stand of pines that that rose up against the sky. And there in the middle of that stand was a tree taller than all the rest. The crow stretched himself again. "I've flown many times to that pine and it's a lot taller than the tree we're in now. You can see much father from it and besides, that stand of pines rises up so high that you can't see the valley and range of hills behind it." The little squirrel was startled. He had been on this branch many mornings before, in fact he'd been on this branch every morning since the first one when he left his mother's nest, yet although he had seen that stand of pines he never before really noticed it and even more, imagined that something might lie beyond it, out of sight. Really? Truly? A valley, and beyond it, a range of hills? It must be so interesting, so marvelous to see, and so beautiful. The squirrel thought hard. And, from that pine, he reasoned, wouldn't he be able to see back to his familiar poplar and meadow too? Couldn't he see both his poplar and meadow and the valley and hills beyond, everything all from one spot? "Is it far to that pine tree, Crow?" the squirrel asked, hesitantly. "No, not terribly far, it's just across the meadow. But it is the meadow" Yes, the meadow. The squirrel remembered right away the little squeaks he had heard yesterday afternoon. The noise, so strange and unexpected, caught him by surprise and he wheeled around on his branch to just catch a glimpse of a hawk climbing back into the


sky out of the meadow, a bunny in its talons. He had been taught to avoid the open meadow, to stay, as much as possible in the trees, and he had followed that advice, leaping from branch to branch, tree to tree and venturing out onto the open ground only when necessity compelled him. But the meadow, no, he had not ventured out there. Yet, as he looked across the meadow to the grove and the tall pine, the squirrel grew restless and annoyed. He chuck-chucked under his breath. How could he have not seen that grove and that pine before? He found his present perch, which he had previously thought so congenial, cramped and stunted. Even the air seemed close. He looked, fleetingly, down at the crow. He felt very young, and stupid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as only a crow can yawn--very long and very gravely and very black). "Do you see those hills, beyond the river, Squirrel?" "Of course I see the hills," said the squirrel, more than a bit annoyed that the crow would think that he hadn't because he had just told the him that he'd watched yesterday as a driver, loosing control of a cart on the road going up into the hills, was crushed as the cart rolled back down the hill and over him. "Yes, I've seen the hills and they are indeed very interesting, Mr. Crow." The squirrel raised his tail very tall, very stiff, and very proud. "Yes," said the Crow, eyeing the squirrel's display, "Yes, yes, you have but have you noticed this? It's hard to see and only those with the sharpest eyes can see it from this distance. But maybe you can just glimpse it, right about the brow of the highest hill." The crow stretched his wing toward the farthest hills. "Look there." The squirrel leaned forward on his branch and looked carefully, his gaze tracing the cusp of each arch of the hills. He wasn't certain, really not certain at all, but he thought that perhaps he saw just the tinniest hint of something thin and black, rising up above the horizon. He turned to the crow. "Yes, Crow. Of course I see that, it's very small and faint, but I can see it,â&#x20AC;? said the squirrel, pointing in the same direction that the crow had gestured. "Oh, very good. That is impressive indeed Squirrel," said the crow. "Few can see that. That's the topmost spire of the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit. It's in the middle of the great city on the harbor and that lays across the plain on the far side of those hills."


The far side of the hills? There was a far side of those hills? The little squirrel was startled. He had been on this pine branch many mornings by now, looking at everything in the valley and in the town and up and down the river, and even across his shoulder to the meadow and the poplar now far back to the west, and then back again to the hills but he had never before really imagined that something might lie beyond those hills, out of sight. Really? Truly? There was a far side of those hills? A side that the squirrel hadn't seen? An unknown world just like the world that had laid beyond the meadow, beyond this stand of pines? A world with a great plain and a city and a towering cathedral? It must be so interesting, so marvelous to see, and so beautiful. And from the highest hill, he reasoned, wouldn't he be able to see back across the river and over the pine grove and even to his familiar poplar and meadow too? And the poplar, and the meadow, and the pine grove, and the village and the river, and the hills, and the plain, and the great city and the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit -- wouldn't he be able to see everything all from one spot? The crow eyed the little squirrel. His tail was not as stiff as it had been. "Is it far to the top of that hill, Crow?" the squirrel asked, hesitantly. "No, not terribly far, it's just through the village, across the river and up the hill," said the crow. The village, and the river, and up the hill -- and the carts, and horses, the men hurrying on the road and the dogs running in the fields. The squirrel had spent enough time in the pine looking out over the little valley to know the dangers in the crow's "not terribly far." The race across the meadow seemed now no more perilous than shifting himself in his mother's nest when he thought about getting to the top of those hills. Yet, it must be so beautiful, and so interesting, and he so wanted to see everything all from one spot. So, again the little squirrel steeled himself. And again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ie Heilige Weisheit, raised like a jeweled scepter over the huge city. Further to the east was the harbor, filled with ships, and to the south the arch of a great bay. Behind him, as the sun dipped below the horizon, the little squirrel thought he could see, ever so slimly, there beyond the river and the village, the silhouette of the pine on the meadow's far border and beyond that his poplar home. He was filled with wonder and he drifted asleep, his dreams sparked with the joy that he could now see everything all from one spot.

He woke deeply happy, his happiness compounded by the discovery that there was still and abundance of acorns within easy reach. For days the little squirrel looked over the city, noting the arrivals of the sailing ships, the clamor of the dock workers, the guards on the battlements, and even the arrival of the prince archbishop with his great carriage and mounted guards and gaudy standards. It was so interesting. And so beautiful. He was deeply happy and content. "Quite splendid, isn't he, that prince archbishop."


Startled, the squirrel turned and saw that the crow had roosted on a branch just above him. "Oh, hello Crow!" said the squirrel warmly. "I'm so very glad to see you," he continued. "You were right, this indeed is a marvelous place! And there is so much to see here!" And the squirrel rattled off to the crow all the wonderful things he had been observing the last several days, his words falling over themselves in his excitement. "Yes, yes" finally said the crow. "I've been many places and this is certainly the most magnificent city in the world. There is no place else like it." The crow paused, tilted his head slightly, and asked, "Don't you find that cathedral tower fantastic?" "Yes! Yes, indeed" quickly answered the squirrel, and he went on to talk about the saints he'd seen carved on it sides and the intricacies of its stone tracery, which he had looked at carefully and thought that it reminded him of the vines growing up his poplar home beyond the tall pine and the meadow. The crow interrupted the squirrel again. "Have you looked up at the very top?" The squirrel had spent a good deal of time the past several days looking at the cathedral and he was now quite offended by the crow's tone. "Yes, of course I've looked up at the top, Crow," said the squirrel. "At the top of the spire there's something like a knob and on top of the knob there's a cross and at the top of the cross there's a metal flag that moves with the wind." The crow nodded. "Yes, indeed," crow said calmly. "And as you said, you looked up". Up. Surprised, the squirrel thought to himself, yes, he looked up. The crow stretched, and yawned, as only a crow can yawn--very long and very gravely and very black -- and said, "You see, the tower of the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit is much taller than even this hilltop, friend Squirrel. From here we're looking down on the great city but we must look up to see that tower's peak. There's no higher spot than the peak of the cathedral's tower. I have flown there many times and from there the whole world is at my feet. If you want to see everything all from one spot, as you have frequently told me, there is where you must be." This time the squirrel didn't ask if it were far to the tower's top; he knew it would be a much longer journey than it looked, and far more dangerous. This was not a village, but the imperial capital. And the roads were filled not only with carts and flocks and herds and snapping dogs and boys with sticks but with wagons and carriages and mounted cavalry with swords and pistols. The city was walled and the wall surrounded by a moat


and the gate guarded by a portcullis. And the great cathedral was in the middle of the great city, across a great plaza that was never shadowed. And the great cathedral itself was not a poplar or a tall pine or an oak at a hill's crest, but a mountain of stone. Yet the squirrel knew what he must do. He had come far and had risked much, risked everything really. But across the meadow, and through the village, and up this hilltop -each time his luck had held. And each time the crow had been right. There was so much more to see, so much more to know, so much more to enjoy. And he so wanted to see everything all from one spot. So, one more time, the little squirrel screwed his courage to the sticking place and with an explosion of grit sprang from his roost in the little oak and raced down the hill toward the great city and the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit. But it was a long way to the center of the city and the plaza before the great church, the longest way yet. The highway to the city was jammed with travelers and the little squirrel was constantly in danger of being trampled under foot, or hoof, or wheel. As he neared the bridge that spanned the moat he leapt onto a hay wagon, burying himself deeply in the hay but at the barbican that guarded the bridge the tariff collectors almost impaled him as they rammed their pitchforks into the hay, searching for contraband. Inside the walls the streets were narrow and dark and filthy and airless and the little squirrel ached for the sun-dappled woods of his poplar home. But he pressed on for he so wanted to see everything all from one spot. He came to a great square and saw a mountain of stone rising up at its far side, and the squirrel dashed to its foot and scampered up its walls and up its tower but at the building's peak he looked out and saw, there still to the east, the far higher tower of the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit. And he looked to his left and to his right and saw many towers on many fine buildings and he despaired at finding the cathedral in such a great city. Downcast and exhausted, the squirrel found a corner of a dormer where he huddled for the night, the glockenspiel striking off the hours below him. It took him two days more to reach the plaza before the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit. On the morning of the third day, the squirrel crept carefully around the corner of the palace that formed one whole side of the plaza, and looked up at the cathedral. It was more than a mountain of stone, it was a continent. Rising up out from the plaza, the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit shimmered in the afternoon sun. The tympanum where Christ in Majesty welcomed the redeemed and condemned the damned, the twenty-four elders, the statues of the liberal arts and the kings of Israel, the great rose window, the columns -- higher and higher the facade of the cathedral rose until it crowded out the sky.


Looking warily to the left and to the right, the squirrel zigzagged his way across the busy plaza to the cathedral's base. A service was beginning and through the open doors he could hear the responses and smell the incense. He put out his paw and hesitantly touched the stone. It was warm. He touched it again and thought of the bark on the poplar tree and his mother's nest up in its branches, all now so far away. A little leap and he was on a low cornice. A second and he was in a niche, a third and he was climbing up the twists of a wreathed column. Up the facade the squirrel climbed. Across the tracery of the great rose window, hopping from one crocket to another, clinging to the stony robes of the Old Testament prophets; balustrades, corbels and finials and moldings, embattlements and grotesques all became stages of his ascent. He came to the windows of the belfry and climbed up the apostle who stood as a jamb at the opening's side. The wind whistled through the windows but the great bells hung silent, waiting for when they would peal across the city the paean of the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit.


He was on the ledge above the belfry now, higher now than he had ever been. From below he could hear murmurs of the liturgy, Pange, lingua, gloriosi, Corporis mysterium; birds flew around him, chirping their protests at his invasion of their realm, but he could not stop, he was not yet at the top. Past the crow-headed gargoyles, up the carved gables, along the side of the Madonna, across the splayed buttresses and through the pierced railing that wrapped around the tower like a crown of thorns, the little squirrel finally reached the raked roof of the tower. Claw hold by claw hold he crawled up, fixed only on that one goal, to be at that one place where he could see everything all from one spot. At last he reached the luxuriant finial that surmounted the roof, climbed up the iron cross which was mounted on its top and, pulling himself up on its arms, gripped the little metal flag that spun at its top, and stopped. He held himself for a moment, and then looked. There, opening itself to him in the east, lay the harbor of the city, the docks and the customhouses and the warehouses, the breakwater, the islands and the huge ocean sea beyond, stretching out forever. The moon was rising and the first stars were beginning to glitter through the purple dusk while high over him flew a wedge of swans, their lovers cries softly reaching him. To the south lay the arch of the bay and beyond that the wide salt marshes. To the west, bright now in the setting sun, the little squirrel could see the vastness of the city with her mansions and guildhalls and tenements and parish churches and towers and walls. And beyond the walls lay the fields and the hills, and the valley and the village and the pine and the meadow and the squirrel's poplar home. The vastness of the view, its sweep and grandeur, it was all more beautiful than he could ever have imagined. The fatigue and pain of the journey dropped from him and the terrors of the previous weeks were utterly forgotten. He had never before felt so completely alive and so magnificently happy. For here indeed, he could see everything all from one spot. But as he looked to the east, out over the city and her harbor and across the bay to the islands and the wide ocean, the little squirrel suddenly realized that he couldn't see the hills and the village and the stand of pines and the meadow and his poplar home beyond. He quickly wheeled around and looked west. Yes, there they all were, the hills sharp outlined against the sunset, and -- far off in the distance and faint -- the poplar, still there, still his home. The little squirrel turned this way and that as he clung onto the metal flag atop the cross, trying to find a position where he could see both the islands and the ocean sea as well as the hills and the village and the meadow beyond, to see everything all from one spot. He could find positions to see some things -- and even most things, but try as he might, it was always some, never all. He could see a bit of the ocean sea and some of the valley but not the meadow, or he could glimpse the meadow and the gate of the great city but not the arch of the bay. He turned this way and that, hung upside down on the arms


of the cross, twisted his head, but it was always the same, he could never quite see everything all from one spot. The great service in the Cathedral of Die Heilige Weisheit was ending and the bells in the tower below him were beginning to toll. Dumm, bhrang, dumm, bhrang, they sounded as they swayed, the tower shaking with their peal. The little squirrel, frantic now to see everything all from one spot, raced around the top of the cross and up and over the metal flag, spinning his head from one position to another hoping find someway, any way, where he could see everything all from one spot. But the bells continued their toll and, as the sun sank below the hills and the valley and the village and the stand of pines and the meadow grew dark, a wind came up from the harbor, suddenly twirling the metal flag and the little squirrel lost his purchase on the cross and fell. He spun and twisted in his fall, his long, long fall, past the great bells and the apostles, past the kings and the saints, past the intricate tracery of the tower and the mullions or the rose, finally hitting a gargoyle and thrown off it like a discarded toy. He struck the pavement in the square before the doors of the cathedral just as the procession emerged, the prince archbishop, the clerks, the canons, the thurifers: praestet fides supplementum, sensuum defectui. . . . The splendid company took no notice of the brave little squirrel, bloody on the pavement at their feet. On his back, now shattered, and his once proud tail crushed, he looked up. And as his eyes shuttered closed he saw the crow, gliding in the blackening sky above him and, just for a moment, a wisp of a moment, the little squirrel thought saw everything all from one spot.


The King Who Adored His Own Splendor

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here was once a king who adored his own splendor.

And because he adored his own splendor, magnificence radiated from him throughout his realm just as the sun's fire illuminates everything within its sight. The king built a palace at Fontainebleau that rivaled the even memory of the courts of the Caesars. Set in the middle of a great forest alive with game, the king commanded that it be built of only the most precious woods and marbles. He brought the greatest artists of his age to decorate its halls with paintings and statues of gods making love and men pursuing pleasure. Singers and instrument players filled the palace with music and the sent of flowers provoked -- even in the stairwells -- memories of spring gardens in full bloom. The king demanded that only the most handsome men and beautiful women attend him and required that wit, sharp as a rooster's spur, rule the conversation. The day was given to hunting, war, and matters of state and the nights to banqueting, masques, and feasting on pleasures both bold and best whispered. The king conquered Tuscany and, as a spoil of war, he claimed his right to the humbled republic's greatest artist, Benvenuto Cellini. Cellini was a man much of the king's heart


for not only was he a monarch among artist but his passions, of every kind, very much matched the king's. Newly arrived at Fontainebleau, Cellini resolved that the first work he presented his lord would be of a magnificence worthy of the king's splendor. Intrigued by the artist's project, and amused at his audacity, the king instructed the steward of the household to give the artist carte blanche; whatever the Italian needed he was to have. A workshop was setup for Cellini near the stables and the king ordered guards posted at its gates. Assistants were hired and sworn to secrecy. Carts arrived, their contents covered and their drivers muttering strange languages. Forges were built and their fires stoked, day and night. The Italian had finished the work -- no, he had grown dissatisfied and thrown it in the crucible -- he had stabbed an assistant who misplaced a great pearl -the project had been abandoned, the artist fleeing to Spain -- forbidden rituals were celebrated nightly on the workshop hearths -- one after another rumors wove through the court as weeks grew to months and months to years. But through them all the hammers were heard and the fires burned and their sparks flew up the chimneys and mixed with the stars, casting a benediction of magic over the great enterprise. Finally, Cellini announced it was done. The king commanded the artist to present his work to the court and ordered a great banquet prepared. Blazing with the fires of a thousand candles the gallery of Fontainebleau dazzled, the light reflecting off the polished panels, the gilded plate, the brilliant jewels of the women and the lambent eyes of the men. The shawms and sacbuts sounded their fanfare and, on a litter born by two guards, the great work, shrouded by a scarlet cloth embroidered with the arms of the king, entered the gallery, Benvenuto Cellini following behind. Reaching the king's presence, the guards stopped and Cellini himself lifted the veiled object off the litter and placed it on the table in front of the king. He bowed deeply and said, "Majesty." Reaching across the table the king pulled off the cover. A gasp went through the hall. There in front of the king was the most extraordinary object anyone had ever seen. Not much larger than the stuffed pheasant that had just been on the same spot, stood a sculpture of silver and gold and jewels and enamels. The king smiled, reached out to the object and looking up at the artist, gave him permission to speak. "Majesty," began Cellini, his eyes on the floor as etiquette required, "the Holy Scriptures tell us that we are the salt of the earth, and as we are the salt of the earth so much more so is Your Majesty the salt of our existence, the salt of the salt. This assembly, this salt cellar, is my stumbling monument to the splendor of Your Majesty and the magnificence of your reign." The artist glanced up at the king. The king nodded for him to go on.


"The base is black ebony, the hardest and most precious of all woods, carried here from beyond the deserts of Africa. Here, in purest gold, reclines Neptune, the god of the sea, and there, Ceres, the goddess of the earth, their legs intertwined because it is from their intercourse that salt comes to be mined deep in the earth."

The king's eyes sparkled at the artist's clever indecency. Cellini, emboldened, went on. "Neptune rides the hippocampus upon a sea blue with crushed lapis lazuli. Ceres reclines on a bed made of an emerald stolen from the crown of the Emir of Johor, shattered and ground into a paste. Note, Your Majesty the salt in this golden boat that nestles at Jupiter's thigh while next to Ceres is a jeweled temple to Venus; press the little button and you will find spices within." There were muffled giggles in the court as Cellini sprung open the lid of the temple and the smell of pepper came across the table. He continued: "The four winds and the four elements grace the base and here pearls, like tiny moons, play in the waters. Here all creation gathers to proclaim Your Majesty's glory."


Cellini described the ten thousand gold florins that went through the fire to make the saltcellar, the tiny ivory carvings, the way in which the enamels were colored and the elaborate mythologies of the figures on the temple. The court listened, hushed, increasingly transfixed by the magnificence of Cellini's saltcellar, shimmering like a second golden sun in the light of the thousand candles.

Through the artist's speech, the king stroked the saltcellar, tenderly following the supline contours of the deities, the head of the hippocampus, the arches of the temple, the sweep of the ebony base. But he looked to be far away, deep in his own thoughts. Eventually noticing the king's inattention, Cellini trailed off into a nervous silence. After what seemed like a very long time, the king whispered slowly, almost to himself: "!"#$%&'('$(')*(&#+$,"-.$,"-.$/'&.$.-0%)..1!" Wild applause and cheers erupted in the court. Cellini, flushed with triumph, bowed low before the king.


But immediately the king raised his hand and the court was silenced. "Yes, my little Italian" the king said, now much louder, "you have surpassed yourself." He paused, and continued, now more softly. "Long ago," the king said, looking at the saltcellar and stroking the thigh of the golden Ceres, "when we were young we brought to France the first jewel of our realm. He was a Florentine, like you, but very old and very frail and in need of sanctuary. We gave him a house of his own near the court where, when his strength allowed, he could continue to paint and to draw and to work on the little machines that so fascinated him. And when it pleased us we would visit him, and sometimes with our own hands bring the bowl of soup to his mouth." With a finger, the king pressed down the lid of the little temple that Cellini had sprung earlier. "On one such visit, near his end, the Florentine made a great fuss of taking us to a trunk that he summoned a servant to unlock. And, bending down, there at the bottom, wreathed in straw, he lifted out this." The king nodded and at his signal a servant placed on the table in front of him a small object, no larger than two fists, covered with a simple cloth. Removing the cloth the king picked the object up, turning it over in his hands.

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It was a horse. Rearing on his hind legs, his neck twisted, his mouth open in a mute whinny. The little statue was grey and plain. ! Holding the horse before him, and speaking more to the statue than to Cellini or the court, the king continued: "The Dukes of Milan had required a monument as immense as their arrogance and for years Leonardo labored to satisfy their folly. He would produce a bronze stallion, he promised them: strong, beautiful, and huge as a building. And he prepared pages and pages of drawings, sketching out the monument from every angle and in every detail. He even designed the machinery that would be required to cast the stallion and to transport the finished bronze from the foundry to the center of Milan where it would stand in front of the great duomo. The horse became a passion, a kind of madness for him, and for years he poured his life into the project." The king went on: "But we humbled the dukes of Milan and the monument to their pride was never cast. All that came of those years of effort were drawings, and this little statue that we can hold in our hands, cast in brass." The king watched the candlelight softly glance off the sides of the statue as he turned it in his hands. He looked up at Cellini. "This" he said, now loudly so that his words echoed through the gallery, "is our greatest treasure, greater than the islands of La Manche or the throne of Navarre or the bones in Sainte Chapelle. It is as sublime as the cosmos yet look; we hold it in our hand. Mark us carefully, !"#$#%$#&'$"(. It is in the character of the thing itself that splendor lies, not in its golden garments or silver trimmings or fantastic tales of nativity. The priests tell us that God made man out of dust and breath. Perhaps. But we know that Leonardo made this stallion out of wax and brass." He looked at the saltcellar and back at the horse in his hand, and at the saltcellar and back again at the horse. And then at Cellini. "Little Italian," the king whispered, leaning across the table to the artist and holding Leonardo's horse in front of him, "a clever ass can astound with pearls and crushed emeralds, silver and ivory, ebony and gold. But can you create splendor out of brass?"

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The Artist Who Created Works of Perfection

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here was once an artist who created works of perfection. "It is finished." The whisper was more of a foggy moan than a string of words, more gesture than syntax. Finished.

He sat down on the scaffold's top step, his old joints aching. After a long, silent moment, slowly he opened his hand, the worn rasp slipping across his palm. He watched it fall and bounce and clank across the stone floor. He looked up. Startled from their sleep by the sudden noise the swallows filled the rafters with a riot of protest, their shadows cast by the flickering lantern doubling the tumult. He smiled faintly. They had been his most faithful colleagues, these swallows, here in this stable a long dead pope had given him for a studio. Daily he forced his will upon stone and stucco and daily they built their nests out of mud and straw. Now tonight, after decades of toiling together, they flapped and chirped their applause for his latest masterpiece. Yes, he thought, they knew.


Thirty-six hands high and carved out of the finest light grey dolomite, the statue loomed over the studio's scattered detritus. The cathedral chapter had wanted an Adam for their facade, an Adam before The Fall, before God's summary act of creation was marred by pride and faithlessness and knowledge too high for him; an Adam of memory like the Adam of hope: washed, redeemed, and pulsating with life everlasting. So the sculptor had gone to the mountain and chosen the quarry's finest stone, and supervised its extraction, driving in the wooden wedges himself, not trusting even the finest quarryman to strike the right blows. And he had tied the knots that lashed the block to the cart and whipped the oxen who pulled it down the mountain and cursed the sailors who wrestled it on the bergatin and he did it all again when the boat moored in the city's harbor, resting only when the block was set up in his studio and shackled by the scaffold: tall, rough, insolent, like tribal god. For three years he hammered away that insolence, rasping it, drilling it, polishing it, forcing the block to yield to his will. He stood, took the lantern and holding it up to the statue watched as its flame transformed the moonlit stone into an almost living amber, caressing gastrocenemius, biceps femoris, tensor fasciae, serratus anterior, biceps brachii, pectoralis major, deltoid, trapezius, sternocleidomastoid; the light brushing weakly across the statue's face and disappearing up into the rafters. Yes. It was finished. Perfect. This was not a boast, this "perfect." It was a statement of fact, like saying that the Duke of Mantua was fat or that the baker in the Plaza Venezia weighted his scales. And it was not merely saying that the figure's anatomy was right, although it was, the relationship between skin and muscle, muscle and vein, vein and bone, was exact, not approximant; hours spent cutting apart the corpses of men freshly beheaded or fished -- bloated and rotting -- from the Arno, had taught him that. And it was not merely saying that the statue was stunningly beautiful, although it was; long ago the sculptor has stopped distinguishing in his mind whether he was carving an Adam or an Adonis or an Apollo, in beauty they were all one in the same. No, this "perfect" lay in these things together, and in the proportions of the figure and in the virtuosity with which those proportions echoed themselves, and in the daring of the sculptor's contrapposto -- the counterpoint between the turned head, the rotated shoulders, the twisted hips: a spiral of bestial energy that was none the less faultlessly engineered into a figure of complete physical stability. Change any one aspect of the figure, alter the rotation of the torso by two degrees, lengthen a forearm by a half inch, substitute a riffler for a flat chisel; and the play of light upon the stone would be spoiled or the figure's proportions marred or its stability weakened. Yes, it was perfect. The sculptor put the lamp down on the floor of the scaffold's platform and, turning from the statue looked across the studio. Fragments of cartoons for the great frescos -- battles, executions, floods, sibyls -- nailed here and there on the walls hung grey in the wane light like strips of shrouds. In the corners, pilled with rags scabbed with dried paint and mortors abused by pestles and stumps of broken furniture, lay remnants of marquettes of sculptures finished in stone and bronze: prophets and prophetesses, kings, popes, slaves


and madonnas. All Christendom had gasped in astonishment at each new creation and the astonishment was warranted. Perfection, wrestled from each piece at the greatest personal cost, was all he allowed. Yes, this statue now behind him was perfect. But so were all the rest. His gaze stopped on a trash heap in a distant corner and on a jerkin crumpled across a marquette of a madonna. And he remembered. He threw it there after he had torn it off the boy. Years ago, at a time when he still used them, one of his fool assistants had brought him in off the street, hiring him to fetch and clean. The boy was lively and cheerful and eager to please and the assistants and people in the square grew to love him. One afternoon he was clowning with -- the sculptor now didn't remember who -- the boy tripped and fell across a table that held a large bowl of ultramarine powder, just ground and kneaded from lapis lazuli, a priceless gift of the pope. The powder sprayed across the room and was lost in the straw on the floor. Cursing the boy, the artist flew across the studio and ripping the jerkin off his back began to beat him, kicking and hammering him across the studio's stone floor. When his rage was sated, the artist went back to work, leaving the boy in a heap. The boy was not in the studio the next day or the next. He was never at the studio again. The artist came across his torn jerkin on the floor and tossed it on a trash heap, giving the boy no more thought, focusing with all his might upon his important work at hand. The work that he would wrestle into perfection.


He looked the jerkin and remembered. He sat again on the scaffold's top step, the lantern, now much dimmer, beside him. In the growing darkness he cradled his head in his hands and closing his eyes saw in the starless night of his memory all those perfect works parading before him -- or rather he was paraded before them. From jury benches on cathedral facades and palace walls, chapel vaults and garden plinths, they gazed at him coldly. In a pianissimo unison they again delivered their verdict: "We are perfect. You are not." It was always the same. "We are perfect. You are not." Scattered across the studio, among the rags and straw and litter, were metals struck by the emperor and proclamations by princes and letters from cardinals and abbots and popes, epideictics by poets, all commemorating the artist's accomplishments and praising his genius, lauding his works of perfection. And doubtlessly these popes and princes and poets thought that the artist took pride in his accomplishments, that he had a great sense of satisfaction when he finished each and that, as well as fame and their praises -- and their gold -- the masterpieces brought him a joy deeper and more radiant than that possible for less gifted mortals. But they could not be more mistaken. The completion of a work brought him no joy, no exultation, no triumph of accomplishment, only a greater weariness and an increase of pain. Like a lash added to a cat-o'-nine, the new work took its place with the old, adding its voice to their choral refrain: "We are perfect. You are not." "We are forever beautiful. You grow ugly. We are true. You are false. We are forever young and are as eternal as the mountains from which we came. You grow old and will vanish into the grave. Gaze upon us. Look back at you." His once strong hands were twisted, scabbed and weak. His ageing bent body hung soft upon him, his teeth rotted and his breeches smelling of piss. He had schemed for his own successes, prayed for the miscarriage of his rival's projects and rejoiced when their frescos crumbled off the wall. He had cheated vendors and smiled secretly at his clever deceptions. He had humiliated assistants whose only fault had been not to be as gifted as he and cursed many who only wished him well. He had beaten that sweet boy, and enjoyed the feel of his boot upon his body. His art stood before him as an incorruptible witness not to his genius but to his depravity, its perfection a template against which his life could not but be found distorted, misshapen, wanting, pathetic. "From linen and wood and clay and stone and metal you have shaped us into works of complete perfection," they whispered before him. "We are your creations, the fruit of your heart's imagination and your hands' labors. But from that same heart's imagination and handiwork you have birthed and nursed and husbanded cruelties, centrifuges, lies,


envies, seductions and rapes. You have made us, base, lifeless things, perfect yet you are utterly unable to make yourself, a living thing, a real thing, anything other than miserably ordinary. We are perfect. You are not." Wordlessly, on the authority of their mere existence, once again -- as they had done so many times before -- they passed judgment, a judgment he had authored and re-authored and re-authored again himself: damned. He was always damned. Eyes shut tightly, his fists full of hair, the artist groaned against a God who allowed him to create beauty only that it might display his own ugliness and compound his misery, the kind of God who would drive Adam out of Eden yet render him incapable of forgetting paradise. He opened his eyes and laughed a hollow laugh. Yes, it was a cruel God, a vengeful God, the kind of God who would beat a boy for innocently squandering the color of heaven. He stood and looked up into the rafters at the swallows, quiet now. Yes, they knew. His assistants had wanted them driven away but the artist always refused, they belonged here with him, their fluttered praise never without shit. He took one of the ropes that had been lashed to the block in the mountain quarry and casually tossed it over the rafter above him. Taking the end, he quickly tied a slip knot and pulled the rope taught, testing its strength against the beam. With the other end he wove a noose. He looked down from the scaffold over the studio, at the jerkin heaped in the far corner, at the cartoons nailed to the walls, at the rasp below him on the stone floor, and finally at the great Adam-Adonis-Apollo, rising up beside him. Yes. It was finished. As the first rays of the sun warmed the stone the sculptor thought that the figure seemed to take life and, turning every so slightly, looked into him. "I am perfect. You are not." The artist nodded. As he stepped off the scaffold's platform the swallows rose to greet the dawn, flapping and shitting their applause.

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THE WORK OF CHRISTIAN ART

A Protestation by Antonio Miroli, a rhetorician

The Beginning of Wisdom is the Fear of God

Michelangelo (1475-1564), "The Last Judgment"

The Work of Christian Art must shock. The closer artist’s heart is to Christ, the more shocking that work will be. The farther removed the artist’s heart is from Christ, the more mundane—the more worldly—that work will be. The artist’s purpose is not to shock. The artist’s purpose is to seek singly-mindedly after Christ. Yet if this is done, and done truly, the Work of Christian Art will surely shock. The Work of Christian Art

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must shock for the gospel shocks. Christ shocks. And a work cannot have a character different than its model, just as branches cannot bear fruit different than the vine. This is not unlike saying that the art of the Marxist-Leninist must advance the proletariat’s worldwide revolution. The artist for whom Communism is not merely a political adornment or the accident of citizenship but rather a deeply held conviction—to this artist certainly nothing could be more important than the final establishment of the workers’ state and its glorification. And that would be the purpose of the artist’s work: the single-minded promotion of revolution and the strengthening of the proletariat. So Yen Ching Chung leads his score of the Yellow River Concerto with the words of Chairman Mao: “Our literature and art is all for the masses, and primarily for the workers, peasants, and soldiers; it is created for the workers, peasants, and soldiers, and is for their use.” And at the concerto’s climax, Yen writes below the score in bold red ink: “Advance holding high the great red flag of Marxism, Leninism and Mao Tse-Tung Thought!” Western critics sneer at such works of “Socialist Realism.” For them, art is for art’s sake alone. For art to serve any other purpose, they argue, is to demean it, to somehow fundamentally dirty its inherent purity. And certainly part of these critics’ complaint must be acknowledged. Much of what passes for “Communist” art is aesthetically puerile and technically shoddy. The Yellow River Concerto suffers from both of these faults. Yet the blame for these shortcomings lies not in the notion of Socialist Realism itself, not in the desire to write for the glory of the proletariat, but rather in the manner in which such works are produced and judged. Instead of allowing the artist to be the judge of his own work, the Communist states establish committees-- writers’ unions, all union congresses of composers and the like—that regulate artists “production.” These organs commission works, and approve or disapprove of the completed products. But when artists produce what they are instructed to produce, when they do as they are told to do and as they are paid to do, they then abandon their calling as artists (for it is the duty of the artist to surrender to no one his judgment as an artist), becoming instead artisans, even perhaps highly skilled artisans, and hirelings, grinding-out what they are commanded to grind-out. “Yellow here? Yes Comrade! A bit off the nose? Of course, Comrade! The chin a bit to the left? What taste Comrade!” The works of these artists is not the result of their Communism, it is not the flower of their own deeply held and dearly bought convictions. They are not the passionate evangelists of the worker’s revolution and class equality, but just cogs in a propaganda machine, turning as they are cranked. These are accidental Communists, but intentional employees. They do as they are told, and their work is as banal as their employers’ tastes: the “art” of this proletariat is as stupid as Le Brun’s ceilings at Versailles.

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Charles LeBrun: Louis XIV as the Sun God, Hall of Apollo, Palace of Versailles (c. 1684)

Yet, when an artist who is a Marxist-Leninist out of conviction serves courageously as his own judge (which is his duty as an artist—a craftsman is a pleaser of patrons), he is able to produce works of unassailable aesthetic quality and great political power, as did Diego Rivera for Rockefeller Center’s RCA Building and Hans Werner Henze in his song cycle “El Cimarron.” But such artists pay a price for their single-mindedness. Their works will offend. Rivera’s pictures scandalized both Communists and Capitalists. John D. Rockefeller Jr himself had Rivera’s murals ripped-off the wall and the artist was expelled from the Communist Party in the 1930’s. The committed Marxist-Leninist artist is very much like the Christian artist who, desiring to serve the Gospel with his art, seeks to create a Work of Christian Art, a work which shocks. But what is this “shock?” When we say that thus and so “shocked” us, we mean that some event was unexpected and that it had some sort of forceful, and perhaps unpleasant—impact upon us. Something violently intruded itself into our daily business.

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Diego Rivera, El hombre controlador del universo o El hombre en la máquina del tiempo New York, Rockefeller Center (destroyed 1934) Mexico Dity, Palacio de Bellas Artes (re-created)

Let us imagine a friend, someone who we know fairly well, a decent man who seeks a live fulfilled by happiness, a friend not unlike us perhaps, and most of our friends. Now, should we read of an earthquake striking this friend’s city, we might speak together of the earthquake sending “shocks” through his city, shocks that came out of nowhere, interrupting the regular pace of his afternoon, filling the air with roars and turning the ground beneath his feet into a very unsteady Jell-O, throwing his life into danger. Or, perhaps this friend might speak of a dinner party that was shattered by the breaking of some sort of taboo—and obscene gesture or a particularly lewd comment, the social pleasure of entertaining conversation broken by a breach of the barriers defining the frontiers of what society considered polite from the commerce of the great unwashed. Or again, our friend might read one morning in a newspaper that an acquaintance, someone with whom he had dined and even shared confidences, that this acquaintance had been convicted of multiple infanticide. Our friend would be shocked, for that man, who he thought he knew, who he thought he understood, was not the person he had believed him to be. In all these cases, the “shocks” were surprises, something for which our friend could neither prepare nor anticipate. And they were violent, the earthquake physically violent and the social breach and the acquaintance’s duplicity psychologically violent. Our friend was left shaken. He was shocked. And he was made afraid. But there is a kind of shock other than the kind brought about by the earthquake or the acquaintance’s duplicity, the fruit of which is still fear. This is the shock of the lotterywinner, of the successful suitor, the shock of happy news. But how can this kind of shock, which causes such abounding happiness, still end in fear? Let us consider the case of a friend who finds himself suddenly the winner of a great lottery. Our friend, one of the millions of possible people who enter the lottery, selects a

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few numbers from the countless number of possible digits. He always considered it possible to win, but he knows that it was unlikely—there are so many other people in the lottery, and so many other possible combinations of numbers--and thus pinned no serious expectations on the lottery’s happy outcome. Yet, when the numbers are drawn and he sees that he has won—what euphoria! What happiness! What delight! Of all the possibilities of people who chose various other combinations of numbers—his is the right one, he is the winner! But quickly, within the shadow of our friend’s euphoria, comes something unexpected, something which, as the euphoria wanes, waxes. Quietly, as time goes on and the moment of the lottery’s conclusion recedes, it grows, and grows to where the thought of it eclipses the memory of the lottery’s drawing. What if the prize were to be lost? Our friend was not always rich. He was made rich quickly, suddenly. Can’t he just as quickly, just as suddenly, be made again poor? What if the bank fails? Or what if he has failed to take good account of his fortune’s whereabouts? What if it were stolen? Or, what if some clerk, checking accounts most carefully, discovers some mistake, some irregularity in the lottery, and the judges of the lottery decide to rule the contest now invalid? In any of these ways, and in many others, the fortune would be lost and our friend would again be poor. And so he is frightened. And his fear propels him to seek out protection for his fortune and stratagems for its enhancement. He hedges his fortune to protect it. He invests heavily in his fortune’s defense. And he comes to realize that he is not the possessor of a fortune, but rather is in the possession of a fear. So here too, the shock of delight ends in fear. Fear is the fruit of shock. But that fear is not like anxiety, diffuse and unspecific. The fear that follows in a shock’s shadow is not a general mood, but rather a real fear of something specific. A shock makes us afraid of because it carries something more than just surprise and violence. A shock carries with it revelation.1 In the shock of the earthquake our friend finds revealed a picture of the nature of his existence: that the happiness he seeks today can be torn away from him instantly, without warning. The ground under his feet—to which he gave no thought at all, but always assumed would support his every effort—is not solid. The earthquake reveals to 1

Wagner knew the fear caused by revelation. When Siegliende greets with a shriek Siegmund’s extraction of the sword Notung from the World Ash Tree in Die Walkuerie, she does so not only because she is frightened, but because the shock of Siegmund’s action reveals to her Siegmund’s status as the Wanderer’s son (and her brother). Later, in Goetterdaemerung, Bruenhilde screams in shock when Siegfried, in Gunther’s form, takes the Ring from her. But her scream stems not just from the act’s violence, but more brutally from her sudden intuitive recognition of who the stranger really is. Her horror at the rape of the Ring is in the revelation that the treachery is Siegfried’s. Brunhilde screams when she is confronted with the truth.

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our friend that he walks on a fluid earth’s crust, and that earth can break itself open, swallowing him and all his accomplishments in seconds. In the earthquake, our friend sees nature confronting him moment by moment with death, but not only his own death, but also the utter destruction of all of his and his ancestors’ accomplishments. In the shock of the social breach our friend finds himself confronted by the fragility of culture, seeing now how thin the shell is he has made to protect himself from the violence of barbarism; showing him, if but for a moment, how terribly easy it would be him to descent into a life of perpetual cut and thrust, grapple and mall. The acquaintance’s duplicity, his falsity—and the virtuosity of his deceit—illuminates the superficiality of our friend’s most intimate relationships.

San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake

The shock carries with it revelation: the revelation of death’s nearness, of culture’s fragility, of the exiguity of our relationships. And this is the reason for our friend’s fear: the shock reveals the world as it truly is and not has he has pretended it to be. Like a bolt of lightening, that slashing across the night sky lays bare each mountain crag and scrub of brush, the shock illuminates the world as it truly is: brutal, unpredictable, capricious. The earthquake rattles the shack and the palace alike. There is nowhere for the clever to hide, no place for the swift to run, no market from which the rich can buy 6


their escape. In the ruble, amid the broken stone and convoluted tendons of braided steel, the cries of the executive and the errand runner, the woman of fashion and the bag lady all grind together in deadly ensemble. The wise hurts beside the fool. The kindly are maimed along with the cruel, and the rosy lipped baby lies mauled beside the pimp. This is the world that the shock lays naked to our friend’s eyes. Yet there is more. Not all die. Not everyone suffers. There are survivors. There, among the ruins, shoving aside the rubble, pushing away the broken walls that would crush them—here the survivors crawl to the surface. These, the strong and the lucky, these live on. They live on, living-on perhaps to rescue others, perhaps to scavenge, the choice is theirs. Rescuing who they will, taking what they want, hunting through the rubble, they live on, and living-on they flourish. And they have a right to live on and to flourish because they are lucky and strong. Theirs is theirs because they have survived to take it. And having taken it, they grasp it tightly. And grasping it tightly, they proclaim their grasping “Law” and their taking “right of conquest.” And because of their lawfulness they pronounce themselves “righteous.” And they are righteous because they are lawful. And they are lawful because they can take and hold. And they can take and hold because they are lucky and strong. Through the shock, our friend glimpses all of this. And glimpsing this—the world revealed through the shock—we see our friend covering his face with his hands and cowering, trying to hide himself from the sight. For the earthquake, or the social breach, or the acquaintance’s duplicity has revealed to him, if but for a moment—a horrible moment—what the world really is, and not what he has pretended it to be. For our friend had told himself that he walked on a solid earth. He thought that he had known his society’s rules and, assuring himself of their strength and of the earth’s continuity, he has made plans for the future and set into motion schemes to fulfill his plans. And, believing himself clever, and a good judge of character, our friend enlisted the help of others, trusting them with parts of his scheme’s completion. He has summoned designers, and contractors, and laborers, and assistants, and has raised great barns. But, shaken now by the acquaintance’s duplicity, or the social breach, or the earthquake, our friend now views his plan with fear. For who knows if the great project can be finished? For there is no certainty that tomorrow will be like today. He cannot plan with assurance that he will live to see the project completed or, living, that he will have either the good health to enjoy his project or to even summon any continued enthusiasm for it. The earth may sallow him up. Or his will with the project may change. Or others, who our friend thought he knew (and whose actions he thought he could count on) might turn out to be other than they presented themselves to be and frustrate, or destroy, his project. So the shock reveals to our friend the folly of pursuing the happiness of achieving his own pleasure. And so we look at our friend, our friend who has experienced the shock. But what is this that we see? And why do we see it? Is it simply this new bit of information, this dif-

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ferent gathering of data, this new perspective, that has driven him to that posture? Is it simply the recognition that life is full of unexpected changes that has so deeply troubled him? And if that is the case, what should be so significant about simply putting aside such childish notions as expecting tomorrow to be like today and thinking that others are simply as they appear to be? So again we look at our friend, but we look closer. Is it really just the vision of the disaster, or the shock of the social breach, or the surprise of duplicity, that has caused his tears? Is this a man who is now simply older and wiser, matured through the richness of a life fully lived, or a man broken, in the full grip of despair? No. It is not that new data that has driven him to this state. It is not the mere cataloguing of fresh, objective, information, hitherto unknown (or concealed), but now brought to light through research (or the circumstance of the shock) that makes him cower. It is not the assembly of new facts that strips away his richly woven veils of illusion. No, rather the new facts would call for new programs, new ministries, new projects. That sight, the landscape twisted by the earthquake or that view revealed by the acquaintance’s duplicity—that new vision of the world as it truly is—calls not for a clawed face burned by tears, but for a new world order, a world order not based upon the pursuit of happiness but instead upon self-sacrifice and high ethics. “This is not right!” our friend would proclaim. “This is not as it ought to be! It is not right that those—the lucky and the strong—should survive and flourish while all the rest wither away! It is not right that those—the lucky and strong—should grasp and hold and call their grasping initiative and their holding righteous while the empty-handed perish! It is not right that they—the lucky and the strong—should have all while the rest have naught, or have only that it might be taken from them!” Our friend now warms to his task. He stands, raising a clenched fist, his voice cracks with emotion. “If this is the world as it truly is, if this is the vision that has been revealed, then the world must be remade! Let the old order burn. Let it’s cinders be ground to dust. Let the patriots of truth re-create a new and better world on the ashes of the old. Let the graspers be put to the sword while the empty handed are filled with bounty! Let there be new laws and statues and customs! Let that landscape, the landscape of carnage and despair, be plowed under and re-sown with a landscape of hope, and beauty, and equity! In the name of What is Right and for The Sake Of Truth, let us summon all within us to make a just and equitable society! To arms! To arms! To arms!”2 2

This is the view of Hugo’s Enjolras: the world as it is seen from the top of the barricade. But Enjolras, in all his eloquence, is deluded and his delusions will fuel the engines of all those who would engineer paradise, greasing progress’s gears with blood . For the ideal state, the earthly paradise of Enjolras’s harangue—no poverty, no superstition, no war, a realm of light into light and universal comradeship—that paradise lies not in a new century of technological progress but rather stands with him at the barricade; there, but invisible to him, invisible because Enjolras does not have the character to see it. Hugo places Jean Valjean beside Enjolras at the barricade, putting side-by-side the violent social engineer and the embodiment of the ideal state. Where is the society of generosity, of charity, of kindness and humility? Where is the culture of intelligence and industry and philanthropy? It’s in the person of Jean Valjean. Jean Valjean comes to the barricade not to spill blood but to save it, he is not there because of his idealized

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Transfixed by this vision of hope, we could imagine our friend calling us to the barricades, singing the hymn of revolution as we fight for the founding of the virtuous state. And so quickened is our friend by the world revealed to him by the shock, and so invigorated by the horrible splendor of that revelation, that for the establishment of the New Order he will risk life and limb, surrendering them all to the good of The Cause.

Eugene Delacroix: “Liberty Leading the People (28 July 1830)”

But we look again. And we see our friend, the seer of the world as it truly is, isn’t running along the barricade’s top and summoning men into battle. He is not seeking through subtle persuasion or force of arms to change the world (to alter the data). No. There is none of that. Our friend huddles in a corner. He trembles, shivers, he is so afraid. So deeply afraid. But perhaps, instead of inspiring our friend to raise the flag of revolution, the shock, which revealed the world as it truly is, might lead him elsewhere. Might he not think that hatred of injustice but because of his love for Cosette. Paradise stands within Enjolras’ reach but he does not have the capacity, or the character, to touch it. He does not really see Jean Valjean because he does not really see himself as himself. He does not see his own horror.

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if the world was indeed the way he glimpsed it for that moment—brutal, unpredictable, and capricious—he should also be brutal, unpredictable, and capricious? If this is indeed the world as it truly is (and not as he pretended it to be) where the strong and the lucky flourish, what could of greater importance than gaining strength and courting luck? And so our friend, glimpsing the world as it truly is, might seek now, single mindedly, to grow ever stronger, courting luck slavishly, stretching-out his hands so that they might grow ever stronger and his grasp ever wider, seizing and holding continually more things to be seized and held—and, glorying in his grasp, becoming a virtuoso of pleasure and a connoisseur of concupiscence. Or perhaps again our friend, sensing the fear that is the shock’s fruit, simply slams his eyes shut, resolving never again to think of that vision which for a second intruded itself upon him. He will not again look. He will not listen. He will not remember. Having seen the world as it truly is (and not as he has pretended it to be), he with utmost will, and with brutal strength, strangles that memory within him. He lives as before. But not quite, for he is now blind and deaf and living with a dead memory, rotting and stinking inside him. Yet, when we turn to our friend, we do now see a voluptuary or a revolutionary or a man blind and deaf –but neither do we see him as we remember him before the shock, for he has changed since. We look again. And we see him now, crouched, shivering, pressing himself into the corner, his legs pulled up and his hands over his eyes. We kneel in front of him, looking more closely, more carefully. Welts and bruises cover his naked arms and thighs. His nails are bloody. Jagged lacerations tear his cheeks. His eyes, swollen from crying, are crusty and dry for no tears will come. But look (and how could we have missed this before?) His mouth gapes, stretched wide, we see him howl. We see, for there is no sound. He legs convulse. He claws his hair. He opens his mouth as if to shatter the heavens with his cries. But his mouth is soundless and his eyes are tearless—for what words could convey the enormity of his suffering or rivers bear the weight of his misery? For he has seen the world as it truly is (and not as he has pretended it to be) and knows that it is his fault. He has seen that the horror of the cityscape after the earthquake lies not out there, at a locale which can be gestured to and talked about, studied and re-built, but rather within himself. The falseness of the acquaintance (he who was not who he pretended to be) our friend knows illuminates not the other man’s personality flaw (which can be argued in court, and punished in prison, and tabulated by crime rates), but rather his own deep duplicity. For the shock does not carry with it a revelation in the form of some new set of information, some uncovering of previously hidden data, things to be known about matters “out there.” Such stuff, objective information about particular or general circumstances, weights and measures and graphs and charts which can be piled-up and processed and pawed-over and referenced (in the earthquake 4,502 dead, 150,000 homeless, 3,012 structures destroyed, etc. etc.)—that kind of information does not lead to

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eyes emptied of tears by crying. Rather it leads to more objective information, perhaps the altering of graphs and charts and the like by revolution, the revolution making its own data, and that data added on top of the old data, there still, but now obsolete. No, the shock carries with it not the revelation of objective facts, but rather revelation in the form of self-recognition. Our friend knows that the acquaintance who has led a multiple life, one of respectability and another as a murderer of children, that acquaintance is no different than himself, for he too has multiple lives and crowds of wants. And if, in the confusion of his diffuse wants, has not assaulted and murdered children, it is not because he finds himself incapable of the crime, or even repulsed by it (for with thought, he can imagine how the pleasure of such a deed might be learned, and rehearsed, and honed, and made ever more exquisite), it is but that he has not made for himself, or found for himself, an opportunity to do so. And seeing himself, and seeing that the will to do so lies quiet but healthy and well within him (as do so many other wills) our friend---imagining his own children bloody in his hands---lacerates that flesh which would house such darkness, and he howls. And our friend, seeing the city around him tremble in the earthquake, and hearing the screams of the maimed and orphaned, recognizes in himself a man both afraid for his own life (for what could be more terrible than to lose his life, or for his precious flesh to be no more? What could be more horrible than the pursuit of happiness be swallowed by the abyss of death?) and a man invigorated by the sight of such destruction. And he knows that he too could find it within himself to destroy a city—perhaps for a noble reason (pull down the slums, straighten the streets, to fulfill a vow) or perhaps just for the pleasure of the sight (for Nero and Alexander too were men, like our friend). But even more than this—knowing that he could sing and toast while the city burned, or while he spilled the blood of his children—our friend knows that were the world pure, were the world free of pain and decay and corruption of any kind—that there lies within himself, strong, and virile, and potent, the will to bring all those things upon the world, and not only the will, but he knows too that he would find the strength to do it, and more than that, he knows that in every opportunity he has had to do it—to pollute the pure, the hurt the well, to sicken the healthy—that he has done it, but more than this: he has taken pleasure and pride in doing it. And being clever, he knows that he has justified his acts: he had no other choice (“The woman whom thou gavest to me. . . .”), or they were required for the good of many (perhaps to drain a marsh: “verweile doch, du bist so schoen”), or simply the natural fruit of a higher ethic (the natural evolution of the superior being). And so he howls. He howls, and howls, and howls until only the shape of the howl is left, its substance being too fragile for the ferocity of his despair. For he is not a monster. Our friend recognizes good and evil. Yet the shock has revealed to him what the world truly is and more importantly, through the shock he has seen himself as himself, and

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seeing himself as he truly is—and not as he presented himself to be, our friend judges himself (for he knows good and evil), and judging himself, he howls.3 Oh, but that he could be unmade!

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Is this all too dramatic? No, not at all! We have the entire process on film, from June 7, 1961. A prisoner at Auschwitz, Yehiel De-Nur is called to the witness box during the trial of Adolph Eichmann. After an opening statement in which De-Nur describes Auschwitz as a “planet of ashes,” De-Nur looks up and suddenly collapses, almost as if some invisible hand has maliciously struck him down. Unable to continue with his testimony, De-Nur is escorted from the court. Did the Nazi Eichmann, sitting across the court from De-Nur, possess the Evil Eye? Did this man have some sort of occult power with which he could

assail his enemies from across the room? No, not at all. De-Nur later explained that he had known Eichmann through the horrors of the camp, a camp where both his brother and sister were killed after having been brutalized by their Nazi captors. Yet now, eighteen years later, when De-Nur looked up from the witness box across the court at Eichmann, De-Nur didn’t see the inhuman monster who had supervised the deaths of so many, someone who was a freak, a misshapen farce of humanity—the Eichmann of his memory and hatred. Instead De-Nur saw an ordinary middle-aged man in an ordinary business suit—an ordinary man like De-Nur was an ordinary man. And at that moment, with that glance across the court, DeNur said that he recognized not the fact that Eichmann was a monster but that he, Yehiel De-Nur, could be a monster, just like Eichmann. The violence of this shock, the full horror of this self-recognition, this revelation of his own character, lead to De-Nur’s collapse in the court.

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So, with all his strength, our friend stretches out his arms, trying with every nerve of his being to grasp the stars so that he might stop them in their courses and, having stopped them, push them back in their orbits, back before the time of his acting, back before the time of his breathing, back before the time of his making, back so that the deed that made him might be undone. But his arms are too short, and there is no rack big enough on which to stretch them (even though he would have happily submitted himself to the torture had there been any hope of success, so great is his present misery). Yet the stars continue in their courses, marking-off hours which in turn mark-off days and days months, each addition to the progression only compounding our friendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s misery. And there is no escape from his pain. Even though the white-teethed tides may gnaw away continents, time gives our friend no such possible destruction, even by degrees. With time, his agony only grows. For he knows that he cannot do the good that he wills to do, but more than that, the hurt he causes, the evil he does, he does willfully. And he knows that he does it willfully (that is his fault) because he has seen himself as he truly is. The shock has shown him the world as it truly is, but more importantly, through it he has seen himself as he truly is, and not has he has pretended to be. And seeing himself, he is ashamed. He condemns himself (for he knows good and evil), and condemned, he huddles for he knows that he is trapped and can do nothing to rescue himself. And being trapped, his shivers, wondering when the one who set the trap will come to collect its prey, and he is afraid. The Work of Christian Art will be like this. It will be like the earthquake, or the social breach, or the duplicitous acquaintance because it will shock. The Work Of Christian Art will hold-up to the observer the world as it truly is, and the observer will be shocked. And in the course of that showing, and in the course of that shock, the observer will be led obliquely to the recognition of his own self, a revelation of the world out there understood by the character of the world in here. And in that moment of self-revelation, of self-revelation of life as it truly is (and not as it is pretended to be), leads to the discovery of fear, and fear leads to the discovery of shame. So the Work of Christian Art will show the observer what it is like to be afraid, and it will make the observer ashamed.4

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Is this not the meaning of â&#x20AC;&#x153;the fear of God is the beginning of wisdomâ&#x20AC;?? Were not our ancestors afraid because of their shame in the Garden? And was not that shame the beginning of their redemption?

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Masaccio (1401-1428) "The Expulsion from Paradise" Florence c. 1426

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II Yet this is not all that the Work of Christian Art must do. To the person who sees life as it truly is, a person like our friend who has experienced the shock and in that seeing feels shame and trembles fearfully, and in that trembling, and through that feeling becomes human, that is a being, huddled in a garden, frightened, naked, and trapped—to this person the Work of Art testifies to the hope of joy. The Work of Christian Arts points to a way out of the trap, a course of deliverance—a path to joy. But more than just pointing, it itself becomes a vehicle of escape and a tool of rescue. For the Work of Christian Art provides a person with a syntax and a vocabulary and a context and a range of discourse in which joy is not only gestured to, as we might point out a star in the night sky, but also realized first in the imagination and then in life, as we might fly to that star to live.5 The Work of Christian Art will not only show us shame (and make us afraid), it will also testify of joy.6

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By placing his readers into starkly realistic yet bizarre situations (starkly realistic because of the cruel simplicity of his writing and bizarre because of the dissonance between the everydayness of his locales and the grotesqueness of what goes on in them: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect”), Franz Kafka is particularly adept at making his readers deeply uneasy and afraid. Yes his art is by no means Christian. In the rare places where Kafka deals with hope, it becomes clear that the notion is a chimera. Furthermore, the profound confusion that makes so many of his characters afraid (although “anxious” is a more precise description of their condition), never results in shame. Indeed, shame does not seem to exist for Kafka. The Trial begins, “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” Joseph K. is not to be blamed for anything, for the accusation (which is never made clear) must have been based upon lies. His situation is not his fault. Indeed, he is not really responsible for anything since he is apparently just a cog in some sort of machine, “apparently” because even the existence of this machine is ambiguous. Although terrifying, Kafka’s tales are not terrifying enough for a Work of Christian Art for they never place his readers in a situation where their own purposeful and carefully cultivated grotesqueness is held up for their own inspection.

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Tolkein uses the term eucatastrophe in a similar way to describe this kind of joy. “The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. The story begins and ends in joy. . . It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy…It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairystory were found to be ‘primarily’ true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it has possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the ‘turn’ in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. . . It look forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but is it pre-eminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite_ high and joyous.” J.R.R. Tolkein, Essays Presented to Charles Williams (grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eedrmans Publishing Company, 1966), pp. 83-84.

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But what is this joy? If fear and shame are shock’s fruit, the result of a person’s full selfrevelation of his own true condition unmuted by deception—that is, huddled in a garden, naked and ashamed—then what is joy? Joy is not a mood like happiness. It is not an emotion, like either anger or grief. It is no the result of family background or present circumstance. It cannot be inherited or manufactured. It cannot be transposed from one person to another, as one friend might “cheer-up” another friend, perhaps by causing him to forget some sorrow. Joy is not the antithesis of sorrow, or even its absence. In many ways, joy is rather the intensification of sorrow, the sharpening of sorrow’s sword, not its sheathing. Joy cannot be brought about only by the effort of the will. It is neither the residue of an aesthetic experience nor the result of an encounter with a particular philosophy. If shame is the fundamental characteristic of the person who knows himself without illusion or fantasy—the person who knows that he is condemned, and trapped, and is afraid—so joy is the fundamental characteristic of the person who both knows that there is a of rescue and is embarked upon that journey. The name of that journey, and its character, is joy. Joy is characterized by faith in the undemonstratable, hope in the presence of futility, curiosity before opaqueness, courage in the grip of defeat, happiness in the tongs of suffering, obedience before suicidal orders, simplicity in the company of the most baroque artificiality, and charity in the midst of rapacity. Because a girl is joyful, she can say, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to they word,” and a young man can sigh “never-the-less, not my will, but thine, be done.” Because he is joyful and old man can mutter “Lord, now lettest thou they servant depart in peace.” Because of joy, a prophetess can exult over her enemies’ defeat, and a patriarch can raise over his son a knife. Joy makes a boy bold enough to challenge a giant to a duel over the honor of God, and a sage stubborn enough to build a boat where there is no sea. Joy makes a people follow a pillar of fire into the wilderness, and fills fishermen with the courage to preach to the ends of the earth. Joy gives the demigod the vigor to name creation and the old man the faithfulness to say, “Lo, though the Lord slay me, yet shall I love him.” But joy is more than this. Joy is more than just one of many traits that might make up a person’s character which those things above might at first suggest. It is not that David was joyful when he challenged Goliath but in despair at Absolom’s death, having joy like a coin in his hand at one moment and dropping it at another. And it is not that Mary was joyful when she bowed before Gabriel but was joyless beneath the cross. Then joy would be like gaiety, a mood here for one moment and gone the next. Rather, joy is a disposition, the defining characteristic of a person. It is out of joy that all other aspects of a person’s character spring. To be fully human is to be disposed to joyfulness.7 7

See Paul Holmer on disposition: “A disposition describes a potential to behave in a certain way. A dog is prone to bark under certain circumstances and we think it’s barking a natural bit of behavior. The sugar will dissolve when placed in water and that again is its natural property. With a normal grain of difficulties with which we are confronted, human beings are very likely to complain and to remonstrate. Then a host of negative emotions, highly unpleasurable, ensue. All of us know the agonies of spirit that are so likely.

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And this is the greatest shock of all, before which the earthquake or the social breach or the acquaintance’s duplicity evaporates: that to be human is to be disposed to joyfulness. Yet how can this be? How can our friend, he who through the shock has seen the world as it truly is, and not as he pretended it to be, and has seen that it is his fault—that he is responsible—because he has seen himself as he truly is, and not as he pretended himself to be, and—in utter exhaustion and complete self-loathing (for he has torn at himself until his flesh hangs in strips, howling until his throat is mute) he has recognized his shame, and in his shame he condemns himself (because he knows good and evil), and condemned he knows the justice of his damnation, and justly damned he huddles, trapped, naked, shivering, and afraid---how can this pathetic fellow ever be disposed to joyfulness? For how can there be any release for him, except he kill his jailor? And how can he clothe his nakedness, except he flay others? And how can he overcome fear, unless he becomes all powerful? And who is there to rescue him, since he is justly condemned? What does joy have to do with this? Our friend’s vision of the world, and his recognition of shame, and his acceptance of condemnation—this most true of all of his, out our, self-revelations is itself still deeply false. It is itself an illusion. Indeed, it is the deepest and most malefic illusion of them all. It is an illusion because it is a false revelation for the self is false. For even when our friend sees himself most clearly, and most honestly, and most courageously, he still sees falsely. His vision even here is clouded, unclear, distorted. For when he looks at himself he sees only himself, and even that partially and narrowly. And even that partial and fractured view is seen through eyes themselves false and cracked and understood by a mind itself twisted and soiled. What our friend sees and understands he sees as through a smudged and cracked glass and understands with a perverted syntax. It is as if an actor in a play were asked to judge his performance in the play. The actor can, and does, criticize elements of his performance – this line delivered too fast, here the verse skewered, that cue given a bit too slow, these gestures overdrawn, those too subtle, etc. etc., yet there is a certain oddness to these kinds of judgments. For the actor, acting himself, sees not himself as an actor, but only parts of himself – here an outstretched hand, there a foot, perhaps a bit of wig out of the corner of his eye or the glint of a sword’s steel as it cuts the air in a particular flourish. And his speeches? How can he simultaneously deliver a speech and carefully weigh the impact of each syllable profile of But Christianity is also a mode of training in the new disposition, quite different than those which seem so natural and so obvious. Aristotle thought that all virtues were acquired and were secondary powers in contrast to the “things that exist by nature.” Christian literature simply assumes that what we are by nature must be converted and a second nature acquired. The new life in Jesus Christ has strong things to say about how we can now be disposed as reborn creatures. . . Our dispositions do not only change; rather it is the fact that God’s grace will supply a new disposition, that of thankfulness.” Although Holmer’s comments are in the context of gratitude, what here is called joy would fit as a “disposition.” Paul Holmer: “About Thankfulness” (unpublished MS, n.d.), p. 5

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the whole? How can he both speak and judge his speech? Clearly this is absurd. The actor cannot judge his acting for he doesn’t see his acting. He sees instead a glimpse of a hand, a wisp of a speech, a flash of steel – all parts of his acting but not the whole of it. And even those parts he mis-sees. For that bit of wig (perhaps from the distance of a fraction of an inch), or that sword (which is not steel at all but stage iron) are all intended to be seen not from the actor’s perspective, and not even from the perspective of those in the wings, but instead from the proscenium’s far side, from the audience. The actor can not be the judge of his performance. And neither can the performance be judged from his colleagues on stage or in the wings, anyone inside the proscenium, under the lights. Instead it is the audience, who sees everyone and everything and who knows the progress of the entire play, who judges finally and with authority. It is the audience who rightly bestows praise and malediction. Like the actor, our friend, who huddles, naked, frightened, justly condemned, can not see himself as he truly is and not has he has pretended himself to be. Even now his vision is false, distorted, twisted, nearly blind, his eyes swollen nearly shut by blows and tears. To see himself truly, as he really is, he, like the actor, but depend upon the vision of one beyond the proscenium, above the lights, one who sees all. It is God of the scriptures, who beyond the stellatum, above the lights, sees all. And this is the greatest offense of all, the greatest shock: that our friend’s most true vision of himself, a vision achieved at only the most brutal and cruel personal cost and requiring suffering to achieve and brings with it the most wretched bitterness, it itself a mis-vision. What is true in is elements, like the tawdriness of the actor’s wig glimpsed out of the corner of his eye is a true vision, our friend’s vision of his own humanity--of a being, huddled in a garden, naked, frightened, and utterly alone—is not a vision true enough. It is not the view of the audience, the audience of the scriptures. That audience tells our friend that he is not naked. He is clothed by love. He is not alone. He is befriended. He is not cursed, but blessed. His essence is not monstrous rapaciousness but joyful obedience. His fundamental character is not to destroy (and to revel in the destruction), but to create, to make, and to replenish. That audience tells our friend that he is not trapped, but rescued. Redeemed. Saved. The Work of Christian Art will be like that. It will shock. And the shock will illuminate to the attentive observer the geography of his own misery. It will propel him to fear and testify to the greater hope of joy.

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III But the Work of Christian Art here does not refer to either any work made by a professing Christian or to every piece of stuff associated with the religious assembly of Christians. Christians can make many things, and certainly even things of high aesthetic quality, things of great art, without those things being Works of Christian Art. Such things can be merely honestly crafted items for daily use. They can be items of high aesthetic quality and invention. Yet even items set apart from daily use, aesthetic things used in worship, need not be items of Christian Art. They can be merely items of liturgical apparatus. A paten—the plate that holds the communion bread—although intimately associated with the business of the Eucharist, is not always, or even usually, to be considered as a Work of Christian Art. When use by the ministers and the communicants in the business of communion it is an apparatus of liturgy, indeed a sacred object (meaning an object set apart), but not in itself sacred, like a totem, but rather sanctified by the communicants’ faithful reception of Christ’s body. Apart from the liturgy, it is just a plate. Apart from the faithful assembly of believers, it is crockery, or silverware. There is nothing in the particular roundness of the paten that immediately separates it from all other plates. Now the paten can be decorated with symbols and sayings which seek, by their presence, to separate that paten from the great body of plates, but those things are decorations, superficial things ground into the basic roundness of the plate. They can be rubbed-off without altering the paten’s fundamental structure. And though perhaps costly, and make of precious metals, the paten can be fairly easily bought. It can be manufactured and produced in mass. Its manufacturer can design different styles to respond to different market demands and various tastes. These designs can be pictured in a catalogue of church wares, and one kind or another can be ordered on demand. Because of its use in the Eucharist, the paten might be treated with particular respect, perhaps stored apart from other objects out of a caretaker’s devotion, but at the very best this respect, this devotion, is due not to the object itself but vicariously to the faith testified to by the communicants who take Christ’s body from off its surface. None of these things would characterize the Work of Christian Art. And there are those who would say that art, of any kind, and of any quality, would be an example of Christian Art simply because it was made by a professing Christian. And there is a certain reasonableness to this argument. But would we say that any act done by a Christian is a “Christian” act because it is done by a Christian? Are the rapes of children by priests Christian rapes? Are the murders of Bosnian Muslims by Serbian Christians, Christian murders? Or wouldn’t we agree that there must be a certain quality or nature to an act for it to be considered “Christian”? And if there are indeed qualities or characteristics appropriate to a “Christian” act, what might those characteristics or qualities be? For instance, would a “Christian act” be more likely described as cruel or kind? And if we agree in the nonsense of describing any act done by a Christian as a “Christian act,” surely too we can agree in the nonsense of calling any aesthetic artifact, even a work of art produced for religious purposes, made by a Christian a Work of

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Christian Art. Not every act by a Christian is a specifically Christian act. And not ever work of art by a Christian is a Christian Work of Art. A paten can be simply a plate used in communion, a piece of liturgical apparatus, serving a particular function, like the plate that covers an electric outlet. It holds the bread. And there is nothing wrong with that. It serves a useful function. Yet, could a paten be a Work of Christian Art? Could it be a Work of Christian Art as well as a liturgical apparatus? Yes, but only with difficulty (as anything of worth is difficult to attain). Imagine first an artist—not an honest craftsman or even a keen artificer, but a creator who is somehow consistently driven over the course of his entire life to the work of disciplined creation, for whom such creation is a passion and not a job or a trade (even an honest and praise worthy trade) but instead an almost providently called life of imaginative creation—an artist. And imagine that this artist is pious, and seeks with all his heart to serve Christ single mindedly. An artist who knows the character of the gospel—but not only knows but seriously tries to live out that character, the gospel being not an adornment to his character—something that he can put on or take off like an overcoat, or even rent perhaps for a particular occasion if the price is high enough—but rather is the bone on which the artist’s life hangs. And that artist—because he has truly seen himself—knows himself, and knowing himself understands trembling and fear and the hope of joy. And because of that hope, creates his art in the face of fear and trembling, offering it in obedience to the command “feed my sheep” knowing that his fate will be the fate of Orpheus, ridicule and scorn, knowing that his art will be the source of his greatest pain. Now, imagine further that such an artist decides to make a paten. This artist knows the paten’s function and fully considers its importance: here is to be displayed the mysterious memorial of the wounded body of Christ, those wounds gouged-in by the minister and the receiver and the artist himself too. And around that paten will gather the church of Christ in obedience to His command to do so in remberance of me, a shadow-play of the celestial banquet, an early vision of eternity, that sacramental assembly itself the icon of joy (and yet too, here, that body wounded, broken). Will not this artist seek to create a paten truly worthy – or as worthy as he can possibly make it – of holding the world’s most precious object, even if it costs him his life? (Tot das Haupt – erstarrt die Locken 8–). 8

Hear Albert Giraud’s Pierrot:

Heilge Kreuze sind die Verse Dran die Dicther stumm verbluten, Blindgeschlagen von der Gier Flatterndem Gespensterschwarme!

Holy crosses are the verses On which poets bleed, mute; Stricken blind by the vultures Flapping like a swarm of ghosts.

In den Leibern schwelgten Schwerter Prunkend in des Blutes Scharlach Heilge Kreuze sinde die Verse Dran die Dichter stumm verbluten.

Swords gorged upon the bodies On parade in bloody scarlet! Holy crosses are the verses On which the poets bleed, mute.

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Will not this artist seek-out the most precious materials for his paten (those materials made precious not by the market place, but by the care and imagination and discipline with which the artist handles them)? But not only will he seek-out such materials, but will he not make certain that he has the virtuoso craftsmanship required for shaping his project? And if not, will he not eagerly and steadfastly seek-out the best teachers to instruct him, perhaps apprenticing himself for many, many years even before beginning the first steps of his paten’s creation? And furthermore, will he not continually, every day and night, during every step of creation, scourge his imagination, always asking himself, “is this truly the very best that this can be?” –just as, every day and night, the artist continually seeks to be more fully conformed to Christ, praying things such “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner”? The business of taste, and who might or who might not find the paten to his liking—the stuff of the church ware catalogue and the market analyst and even the board of elders or the council of bishops—all of that is of no consequence to the artist who cares seriously about himself as an individual before God, and strives with all his heart and all his soul and all his mind to make his work the very best that he can offer Him. For the paten, like the artist’s life, is a work of deadly seriousness, and not a bauble knocked-together for the gratification of some fashionable whim, some peculiar deacon’s tastes or the most recent sales graph of a shopkeeper. For no matter how costly the paten’s materials, the real Work of Christian Art is the artist himself, his life, and that life is of the most high cost and of the most deadly seriousness, and always points to something outside of itself: “When a woman makes an altar cloth, so far as she is able, she makes every flower as lovely as the graceful flowers of the field, as far as she is able, every star as sparkling as the glistening stars of the night. She withholds nothing, but uses the most precious things she possesses. She sells off every other claim upon her life that she may purchase the most uninterrupted and favorable time of the day and night for her one and only, for her beloved work. But when the cloth is finished and put to its sacred use: then she is deeply distressed if someone should make the mistake of looking at her art, instead of at the meaning of the cloth; or make the mistake of looking at a defect, instead of at the meaning of the cloth. For she could not work the sacred meaning of the cloth into the cloth itself, nor could she sew it on the cloth as though it were one more ornament. The meaning really lies in the beholder and in the beholder’s understanding, if he, in the endless distance of separation, above himself and above his own self, has completely forgotten the needlewoman and what was hers to do. It was allowable, it was proper, it was a duty, it was a precious duty, it was the highest happiness of all for the needlewoman to do everything in order to accomplish what was hers to do; but it was a trespass against God, an insulting misunderstanding of the poor needlewoman, when

Todd as Haupt – erstarrt die Locken – Fern, verweht der Laerm des Poebles. Langsam sinkt die Sonne nieder, Eine rote Koenigskrone. Heilge Kreuze sind die Verse!

Dead the head, stiff the locks In the distance dies the rabble’s noise. Slowly sinks the sun A king’s crimson crown. Holy crosses are the verses!

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someone looked wrongly and saw what was only there, not to attract attention to itself, but rather so that its omission would not distract by drawing attention to itself”.9

The maker of the Work of Christian Art, will do all those things: stretch his technique, sell off what is superfluous to his task, risk his reputation, all for the purpose of his paten. The paten, the result of his labors—the fruit of his life—will bear the stamp of the gospel. And like Kierkegaard’s parable of the single minded seamstress, it will shock. The paten will be of such a form and in such a design that the ministers will tremble when touching it and the communicants quake when it is held out to them. For through the paten they will each find themselves confronted by themselves, in a manner they cannot misunderstand, confronted by the truth of themselves and of the eternal seriousness of the grace which is held out to them so freely to receive. Through the artist’s paten, they will each find themselves rebuked by themselves, and confronted by themselves in the cost of their redemption and the character of their lives. And, furthermore, in that paten they will see themselves and each other as receivers of joy made corporeal. And having seen all this some will truly knell, their hearts filled with joy and their lives lighted by the radiance of saving grace and their minds fixed upon heaven. But some, having glimpsed the paten from the corner of their eye, will quickly turn away their eye, taking the bread off the paten, hurrying back down the aisle to their own judgment. Others will remain in the pews but comment on the paten’s astounding novelty, and beauty, and sublime craftsmanship, and perhaps even praise its maker, proclaiming him an artist of true achievement, a genius—but all that the empty braying of asses who are empty of even the pretense of understanding. But others, will look at the paten and understand it--and they will know themselves—and turn to the paten and hate it, crying that it be smashed and its maker stoned. But all will be shocked.10

9

Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart, pp. 27-28, trans. By Douglas Steere.

10

Nicholas Wolterstorff writes: “Liturgical art, much of it participatory in character, is the art of a community, at the service of its liturgical actions and not at he service of aesthetic contemplation. For the purposes of aesthetic contemplation, much of it—maybe most if it—is inferior to a great many other works available in our culture. When it is not, its aesthetic magnificence tends to distract us from the liturgy. Bach’s cantatas are a great exception, superb both aesthetically and liturgically. But concerning these we must be reminded that listening to them aesthetically is very different from listening to them in such a way that the choir sings to God on one’s own behalf. Our great twentieth-century composers have produced a good deal of religious music. Of liturgical music they have produced almost nothing (Vaughan Williams being the exception). A few days before writing these words I heard a marvelous performance of Bach’s “Magnificat.” For me the performance was as sobering as it was exhilarating, however. When Bach composed his work, it belonged to the art of the tribe, for aesthetically glorious as it is, it was then a humble servant of the Lutheran liturgy. Now it sadly belongs almost entirely to the art of our cultural elite, who listen to it in concert halls, taking note only of its aesthetic qualities. Is it too much to hope that some day the church will once again find composers who are willing to turn their backs, for a time, on the institution of high art to compose works which are of aesthetic magnificence and yet of humble service to the liturgy?” Wolterstorff echoes a complaint common among critics who, while having a general liking for “high art,” have only a superficial understanding of it. To describe Bach’s music as a “humble servant of the Lutheran liturgy” (as if to say that either there was one particular attitude to the “Lutheran liturgy in eighteenth century Germany—which completely ignores the contemporary debates between Orthodoxy and Pietism—

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The paten will shock. But not only will the paten, but also the life of the artist who produced it, that life will shock too. The seriousness with which the artist takes his task, his willingness to sacrifice for its creation, his impatience with half-measures and contempt for ordinary imagination, these things too will shock. This artist will offend other smiths and potters who content themselves with craft—even those who content themselves with high craft. Neighbors who are diffuse in their wants he will offend by his single-mindedness. And taking their cues from the women of Thrace, they will cover his offence with mockery, encouraging his task with ridicule, many with the open ridicule of laughter while those more subtle with the ridicule of indulging tolerance. That kind of paten would be a Work of Christian Art. And that kind of artist would be a Christian artist. The gospel story has so permeated the artist’s character that his life makes no sense apart from it. The gospel is not an ornament to the artist’s life, but rather characterizes the artist’s disposition. The gospel is a fountain welling-up within him that both sustains his creation and quickens it. It is not a story for him to mouth, or even to mouth eloquently, when paid to do so. In the Work of Christian Art, the character of the gospel and the content of the gospel story has so saturated the work’s design that it can have no understandable or reasonable existence apart from the gospel The work does not merely “carry” a gospel story, as a canvas of the nativity might “carry” a picture of a barnyard and a baby and a shepherd, but rather embodies the gospel story in all of its parts. So fully has the artist poured the character of the gospel into the paten’s creation that the finished paten is completely and inextricably removed from the genera of dinnerware. It can reasonably serve as nothing other than that for which it was intended; using a paten as a butter plate---no matter how splendid the banquet—would be the act of a fool, this paten looking ridiculous among tureens and napkin rings and salad bowls.

Or that Bach’s primary concern was to subsume artistic decisions beneath liturgical conventions) bends both history and Bach’s musical decision beyond recognition. His works are models of aesthetic “shocks” on multiple levels calculated for theological purposes. Wolterstorff ‘s comments about the role of the artist are misplaced. Should the creator of the Christian Work of Art “serve” the liturgy, he is an idolater, serving a created thing instead of the Creator. And should the creator of the Christian Work of Art – the artist – surrender his critical facility to “the liturgy” – the priests and deacons and lay arbitrators of chic and the professors of aesthetics (“Is the color in style?” “Does it perhaps clash with the rug, Father?” “Perhaps it would like nice moved a bit to the left, Father?” “Would you like the oboes softer here, Eminence?”) He surrenders his most precious and desperately honed gift for the potage of somebody else’s approval. He ceases to be an artist. He ceases to be truly himself. He is no longer what the Creator created him to be. He abandons his vocation as an artist for the business of a decorator, a hireling, a chooser of fabrics and a whore of taste. Wolterstorff would do as well to chide Kierkegaard for writing disturbing discourses instead of charmingly illustrated romance novels. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), pp. 188189.

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Domenico Theotocopuli called El Greco: “The Assumption of the Virgin” (1577)

We need only to consider the plight of El Greco’s 1577 “Assumption” to be reminded of this. How sad, how ironic, the painting now looks in Chicago! The monumental canvas looms coldly over its viewers who peer at it curiously and chat about it briefly--but they look only fleetingly and talk hurriedly because they must move on to the museum’s other galleries, move on to be edified by the room of Dutch Baroque pictures, and then to the gallery of English Augustinian portraits, and then through the hall of Indian bronzes—on and on and on, ticking off one chore accomplished after another until the weight of so much edification and talk drives them all out of the museum to the nearest café—all that looking and seeing nothing. But should we return the El Greco to the high altar at Toledo’s Santo Domingo el Antiquo, place it between the painter’s portraits of Saints

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Bernard, Benedict, John the Baptist and John the Apostle and beneath his Holy Trinity, light it with candles, and gaze at it during mass, and now the wall blazes. The painting is not the object of edifying looking, but instead it is a propeller to prayer. We do not look it over and pass on to the next pretty picture, but now glance at it fleetingly, on our knees. In Chicago, in its gallery of Spanish painting, even in its new pseudo-reredos frame and above its false altar and at the summit of the flight of stairs, still the canvas looms over us in haughty judgment of the piracy that kidnapped it from its intended home and of the cupidity of those who sold it and the grasping, and hording, of those who posses it for their pride in possessing. Ridiculous though it is, yet it still disturbs, it still unsettles. There, still in this gallery, few are comfortable to look very long.

We stand long before Monet’s haystacks, but we look at the El Greco and pass on, quickly.11

11

Alfonso E Peres: “On the Reconstruction of El Greco’s Dispersed Altarpieces, El Greco of Toledo (Boston” Little, Brown and Company, 1982), pp. 149-176.

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A thing may be an example of religious art (or craft) if it has as its subject some religious story or as its purpose some liturgical function. But a Work of Christian Art is something so deeply permeated by the full character of the gospel that the beholder is sharply confronted with the truth of eternity. The work will shock and the beholder will be left ashamed and afraid, yet conscious at the same time of the possibility of joy. But we need to consider the possibility of a work of art shocking only because of its aesthetic character: might it be so beautiful that our reaction might be described as a kind of shock? If this is possible, is there then a difference between this kind of shock and the kind of shock brought about by the Work of Christian Art? Now it is indeed possible for an aesthetic object, a great work of art, to deeply surprise and to profoundly delight, a delight so profound that some can even claim that the work of art changes the viewers’ lives. But such works do not shock, or at least shock in the sense of the earthquake. They do not cause fear. And such works do not make a way of escape seem possible. Perhaps we know a man who was deeply moved by a particular exhibition of paintings. Let us say that he visited an exhibition of Monet’s works, an exhibition including the painter’s monumental water lilies canvases. And our friend told us that those paintings, some of the canvases so huge that they spread across whole gallery walls, seemed to assault him with a new awareness of color. And he tells us that standing before them, he discovered—sharply—that until then he had never before really seen color, or certainly never before felt the happiness of color. Walking through those galleries he felt as if in a different existence, almost intoxicated. For the world now was different than he had seen it before; these paintings, these aesthetic objects, had made him vitally aware of a new part of it. He now experienced color as a vocabulary of pleasure. Our friend tells us that Monet changed his life. He explains to us that in those pictures Monet taught him to carefully, and vivaciously, attend to color and to enjoy the pleasure which insightful and fiercely intelligently manipulated color can give. Those paintings deeply moved him, and delighted him, and made him see the world differently than he had seen it before (yet he had been in hundreds of galleries before those). Certainly all of this is good and worthwhile, but when we question him further we find that although wonderful and startling, the paintings did not shock him in the sense that they might have frightened him. And when we talk further still our friend says that the paintings were revelatory, showing him a truer picture of existence but that this was an aesthetic and intellectual revelation. Through an aesthetic and intellectual object he learned an aesthetic and intellectual lesson. He developed, or strengthened, an intellectual and aesthetic capacity. But that was all. This is not the case with a Work of Christian Art. For while a Work of Christian Art, as an aesthetic object, will carry with it an aesthetic illumination, that illumination, or the pleasure the aesthetic object gives, will not be all the work does. The Work of Christian Art will shock. It will lead to not only a revelation of the self’s aesthetic character, but also a revelation of the self’s ethical and religious character.

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Claude Monet, “Water Lilies” (1914)

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IV

Finally we must at consider if all of this is perhaps overstated. Must the Work of Christian Art always shock? Is this a true characteristic? Or is it possible perhaps for a Work of Christian Art to entertain? Certainly any work of art must maintain some sort of interest, but is it possible for a Work of Christian Art to amuse? Can we not imagine an artist, with the same single-mindedness and seriousness as the patenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s maker, dramatizing a story in such a way that we might call it entertaining and a Work of Christian Art, perhaps as Andrew Lloyd Weber has done with his Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.

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When we have a friend say that she found thus and so “entertaining,” doesn’t she usually mean that she found the thing amusing, and pleasurable? When she goes to the theater, and returns describing the play as “entertaining” doesn’t she usually mean that she smiled and laughed at funny jokes, and was amused at cleverly constructed scenarios, and perhaps thrilled by beautiful sets, evocative lighting, and splendid costumes? And doesn’t she mean that she was moved sentimentally with the predicaments of the characters, perhaps even to the point where she cried a bit? All of these various things we associate with the entertainment. And there is nothing wrong with any of them. But can we look further, perhaps asking our friend why she went to the theater, why she wanted to be entertained? Certainly one reason she does so is simply because it is pleasurable, like swimming in a beautiful lagoon is pleasurable or enjoying sun is pleasurable. But there is another reason for her desire for entertainment besides the innocent enjoyment of simple pleasures. Haven’t we also heard it said among theater goers, perhaps as they wait on the sidewalk for a taxi after a performance, that a successful entertainment “helped them forget things,” or that “it took them away for a while”? Haven’t we sometimes heard an entertainment described as an “escape”? But why do they use these phrases? What do they forget and why would they want to forget it? They are taken away from where? They escape from what? Perhaps these are only innocent phrases; the entertainment an escape from an angry boss or an annoying toothache. And certainly there is nothing wrong with an evening of fun; belly laughs and sentimental tears exorcising the little disappointment of the day. But what happens when the entertainment is no long a major exorcism, a phrase to shoo-off an annoyance, but rather becomes our friend’s principle liturgy? What happens when the entertainment becomes a mode of life? What happens when the entertainment becomes the focus of our friend’s existence and that which she places at the center of her life? The pleasure of an entertainment lies in its ability to make our friend forget herself. Or better, the entertainment nurtures her illusions, the forgetfulness that she already has. It is her pretense; it is how she pretends to be who she pretends to be. It allows her to lightly consider other people—the ones on the stage, or on the street, or in her office or at her home around the table (for they are all stage characters to her)—while continuing to ignore herself. At a moment when she might be brought to her senses, by some shock perhaps, or perhaps by the revived throbbing of a habitual pain, the entertainment sweeps her back to her fantasy: that she is a moral being in an eternal world (but even more than that, that it is not her fault). In the entertainment she continues her escape from herself.12 12

This is of course not the case with the kind of dramatic art where we are moved by the stage character’s predicaments because in those predicaments the artist/playwright has held-up to us aspects of our own lives. But such things are not entertainments. There is nothing entertaining when we see a part of our own

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These are sweet pleasure for our friend indeed, for more than anything else she strives to ignore her own work and works hard never to look too deeply into herself; perhaps that is what she works at harder than anything else. So the entertainment is her greatest treasure. She zealously cultivates it and guards it. She structures her life so that she might have as many opportunities to be entertained as possible. Her home is focused upon it, the television winks back at her as it devours hour after hour. She wants her teachers to amuse her and her politicians to A child of the rock concert, she feels herself to have worshipped where she is caught-up in a mob, swaying and muttering gibberish to the endless insipidity of a drummer’s ostinato. Or perhaps she is a child of the salon, a woman of elevated taste, and is stricken with religious palpitations by the exquisite diction of the chanted psalm echoing across the sanctuary vaults, spiced with the lingering wisps of incense—in either case, at that moment when she ought to be most terribly confronted by herself as herself, seeing truly the distance between herself and God’s grace, knowing then, as if the landscape of her life has been laid bare and naked in a flash of lightning, that had it been for her alone, had she been the single lost sheep, that the complete drama of the creation’s redemption would have been played out for her salvation—here, at this moment when she kneels to receive the physical memorials of that grace---there again she demands the arias of the opera house or the throbs of the rock bacchanal, pulling over herself the shroud of sound, hiding herself from herself, submerging herself into the ocean of the crowd. And those who spin that shroud for her, the entertainers, and their managers, and agents, and publicists, and publishers, and investors—the whole rabble of camp followers—they who protect her from that terrible landscape of her soul, she rewards lavishly, ecstatically, orgiasticly, heaping upon them mountains of riches and choruses of adulation. For she knows that all of this tribute is required—required, that is if she is to continue nurturing her illusions, keeping her world the way she pretends it to be, guarding herself from herself. Without the entertainments she might perhaps find herself, even if for a moment, naked before her own gaze, protectionless from her own judgment, and she would have nothing to shield herself from what she knows (more keenly and more deeply than anything else) lays near the root of her existence. For she knows what lies there because she has seen it: in those silent moments at three o’clock in the morning when she wakens, shivering, in terror not so much of the night itself but of that which lies in the deeper darkness beyond the night, in those moments she has glimpsed the face of the utter blackness of her pain—a meaningless writhing ache, meaningless because there is no joy to interpret it, writhing because there is no escape from it. The memory of that sight must be forgotten. Its occasion must never be repeated. Our friend arms herself with entertainments, and fortifies her frontiers with amusements. And she surrounds vast foolishness held-up to us in Lear’s posturing, or see our own blood-lust in the blinding of Gloucester, or recognize in Hedda Gabler’s desperation a passing shadow of our own pain.

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herself with diverting companions and together they build a civilization of pleasure, a nation of forgetfulness. Yet that vision cannot be forgotten. It cannot be escaped. It can only be submerged. But submerged it continues to grow, secretly, clandestinely, feeding upon our friend, growing stronger (just as an accuser grows ever bolder when prosecuting the justly accused) until the pain has eaten the entertainment and our friendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shroud becomes her own tunic of Deianeira. And when there is nothing left of our friend but her pain, when the forgetfulness of the entertainment has even snuffed the most fragile flickering of hope, then our friend finds herself in Hell, writhing in an ocean of the condemned.

The web page of the Dove Awards

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A Work of Christian Art could never be like that. It could not be an accouterment of Hell. The Work of Christian Art would compel our friend to seriously consider herself—not to forget herself or to surrender herself to a mob. In the Work of Christian Art she would find herself confronted by herself, seeing herself as she is truly and not as she, in her illusion, pretends to be. And confronted by herself through the glass of the Work of Christian Art, our friend would gaze upon her own pain, now held before her by the Work. But the Work of Christian Art would not seek to make her forget her pain but rather to help her endure it and in that endurance find joy by surrendering it to One who endured all pain innocently, and in that surrender find the transcendence of understanding. The Work of Christian Art points to a road where pain is not forgotten but where wounds are healed. And this is how a Work of Christian Art can comfort: not by providing forgetfulness, like an entertainment, but rather by providing understanding, and in that understanding, wisdom, and in that wisdom, joy. A Work of Christian Art could never entertain, or at least entertain in the sense of providing forgetfulness. For while the Work of Christian Art certainly might employ elements of the entertainment--burlesque, farce, satire and even obscenity--the purpose of the Work would not be forgetfulness of ourselves but rather a confrontation with who we are and who we are meant to be.13 And a believing artist (and an artist believing in his call as an artist) could never devote himself to the creation of a Work of Christian Art as an entertainment, or at least an entertainment as described here. For the maker of an entertainment must constantly check his work with his audience, seeing its approval, its approbation, its grins and smiles and applause, congratulations and admiration and medals and awards. His work, the entertainment, fundamentally must please them and the more of “them” the entertainment pleases the better his work is. Indeed, the creator of the entertainment is much more like a tailor than he is an artist for he cuts his material only to fit his client’s present whims. And like clothes, the entertainment’s ultimate standard is its fashionability. The maker of the entertainment cannot focus upon his individuality as a soul before God but rather upon the crowd he must amuse. And he must not make a work in which the individuals in the crowd are addressed as individuals, as souls before God, but rather as members of the crowd, as part of an audience. And the maker of the entertainment is sustained not by the inner conviction that he has truly given the best of himself that is possible for him to give to his work (because that is what God requires of him), but rather by the crowd’s coin and the din of their clappy clappy. But more than anything else, the entertainment must not shock. The entertainment might titillate and it might aggressively attack the fashionable targets of the day, but it must not shock. It must not leave the audience afraid. If it did, it would not be an entertainment. This is why it is impossible for an entertainment to be a Work of Christian Art, the 13

Pascal was more blunt. “All great amusements are dangerous to the Christian life; but among all those which the world has invented there is none more to be feared then the theater.” Blaise Pascal, Pensees (New York: The Modern Library, 1941), #11.

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purposes of the two are opposed and what would be hailed as a success in one would be reprimanded as a failure in the other. Yet perhaps this is in need of one refinement. Perhaps it is possible for a Christian artist who makes works for children to create entertainments and amusements for good purpose. For when most of us were children we had not yet practiced our illusions for so long nor guarded them so zealously that a shock was needed for us to see ourselves as we really were. When we were children, most of us were not so practiced in pain that we devoted every moment to ignoring it. So through the fun of an amusement, perhaps even of a game, it might be possible for an artist to assist children in seeing the uncompromised brightness of the gospel. But for an adult, a virtuoso in deceit, such a thing would not be possible. But apart from this, must the Work of Christian Art shock? While shock may certainly be a hallmark of the Work, must it be a characteristic of every Work of Christian Art? Might not such a work simply beguile? Might not such a Work be a recreation or even a pleasant pastime? Perhaps there is an artist with a soul so crystalline, a life so thoroughly illuminated by the brilliance of the gospel that there are no places of darkness in it, no polluted recesses ever so secret, no nooks or crannies of the personality left even minutely unexamined, that he himself is in need of no shock, no disturbance, for him to see himself as he truly is. Perhaps such an artist, utterly void of any self-deception, might create a Work in which there is no barb, no prick, no spur to jar the observer into self-awareness (for the artist creates the shock first for himself, so that he might see and understand). And perhaps such an artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s works might be performed before a community as pure as himself, a community that lives completely without illusion of any kind what-so-ever. Then, perhaps, the Work of Christian Art might not be characterized by a shock because there would not only be no need for it but a shock would be impossible because everything would already be fully known as it truly is. There would be no need for revelation because everything already would be revealed. And there would be no fear for it would have sunk in the wake of wisdom. For that artist, and for that community, the Work of Christian Art would not shock. It could not shock. But there is no such artist. And there is no such community. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So the Work of Christian Art must shock. It must make its observers afraid because through it they both find themselves revealed to themselves and glimpse the chasm between that sight and the brilliance of grace. And the fear of that sight is the beginning of wisdom and the origin of joy.

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Michelangelo, "The Last Judgment"

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! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !


THE WORK OF CHRISTIAN ART

A Lecture to Americans by Manny St James, a professor

The Story of the Father and Two Sons

Rembrandt: “Jesus Preaching” (La Tombe), 1652

I There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.” And he divided his living between them. 1


Not many days later the younger son sold all he had, Journeyed into a far country And wasted his property in extravagant living. And when he had spent everything A great famine arose in that country And he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself To one of the citizens of that country And he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he would gladly have eaten the pods That the pigs ate And no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s servants have bread to spare and I perish here with hunger. I will arise and go to my father and say to him. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you and am no more worthy to be called your son; make me a servant.’” And he arose and came to his father. And while he was at a great distance his father saw him And had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to the father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you and am no more worthy to be called your son.” And the father said to the servants, “Bring the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hands and shoes on his feet. And bring the fatted calf and kill it And let us eat And make merry. For this my son was dead and is alive, He was lost and is found.” And they began to make merry. Now the elder son was in the fields.

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And as he came and drew near to the house He heard music and dancing And he called one of the boys and asked what this meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come And your father has killed the fatted calf Because he received him with peace.” But he was angry and refused to go in So his father came out And was entreating him. But he answered his father, “Lo these many years I served you And I have never disobeyed your commandments Yet you never gave me a kid to make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came Who has devoured your living with harlots you killed for him the fatted calf.” And he said to him, “Beloved son, You are always with me And all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, For this your brother was dead and is alive, He was lost and is found.” The priest picks up the Gospel from off the altar and in great ceremony, with acolytes on either side, processes down from the marbled sanctuary and through the rood to the great crossing. Out of respect for the holy words, the congregation stands, shuffling and coughing, the squeaking of pews echoing down the vaulted nave. The golden book is opened. The liturgical formulas are intoned. And the priest reads out the words of the Savior Of The World. Or perhaps there is no priest. Perhaps there is no vaulted nave and splendid ritual. Perhaps there is no magnificently ornamented book of Gospels and no precise liturgical formula hallowed by ancient practice. Instead a deacon, or layman, or brown suited minister, reads the gospel passage from a Bible worn with frequent bedside use. But again the congregation stands. And again the congregation shuffles. And again the fellowship hear read out the eternal words.

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And so the story is rehearsed in cathedrals and country chapels, read by cardinals and journeymen plumbers, that affecting tale of the bad boy who leaves home, loses all that he has, and is taken back by his very good and kindly father. Yes, yes. The congregation has heard it all before. Yes, yes, isn’t it a lovely story? Yes, yes, isn’t that bad boy bad and isn’t that father a most kindly man? Here comes the line about the pigs, and here’s the line about the fatted calf. One phrase follows the next. Close the eyes. Shift the weight, right foot, left foot. It’ll be over soon, then time to sit down again. Yes, the pious parishioner nods. Such a familiar story. Such a comfortable tale. Isn’t God indeed like that very nice father? And yes indeed, there are many ways when I am like that selfcentered boy. How pleasant it is to know that God will be like that nice father; He will take me in too. The priest returns the gospel to the altar. The deacon sits down. The congregation settles back into their seats. The Bible has been read. The story of God’s love for His people in the similitude of a parable has been proclaimed. How lovely it all is. How pleasant the quiet of the church. But was anyone shocked? Was anyone astounded? When this story was read did anyone, in deep offence, ask for the reader’s apology? Was the reading interrupted by shouts of protest, cries of blasphemy, fists raised in the congregation? Or did anyone, fully understanding the tale, in righteous indignation, demand that the reader be punished, even perhaps put to death? Was the story’s end greeted by a hail of stones? No. Of course not. No such demonstration marked the story’s close. No call for execution accompanied the reader’s return to his seat. And that is the problem. The parable was read but it was not heard. The story was unfolded, but it was not intimately understood. It was listened to, but not felt. Today, when the parables are read they fall over us like heavy coats, familiar, comfortable, and cozy. They are sweet stories of quaint piety. Like horses, we nap standing, hearing the familiar drone of the religious words. We have heard this tale before. Buzz, buzz, on goes the reading. We have it memorized and can even perhaps cite its chapter and verse. Buzz, buzz, on goes the reading. We know its beginning, its end, and frequently even its “theological point” and the explanatory comments on the bottom of the page on where it occurs. Buzz, buzz, on goes the reading. Yet we are never shocked. We are never offended. We never hear it and then call for the death of the reader. Sometimes, perhaps there is a glimpse of some terrifying glory in these words. Occasionally, perhaps a barb within the tale pricks us into the suspicion that there is more here than the pious drone. But only very rarely, as the lector stands before us or as we read the passage alone does the parable spring from the page, grabbing us by the throat, striking us with the revelation that either we must die of the story-teller must die. Yet this is the character of Jesus’s parable (and whether the parable, in both its formal design and content, is the work of the historic Jesus or of a later redactor is of no

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significance here since the church accepts the parable as canonic; it has the full authority associated with any word or act of the Savior recounted in the gospels). Jesus tells a story that requires death; either the hearer’s or the teller’s. The parable shocks. The shock is not a studied revelation, the result of sophisticated academic labor, but an immediate response, as immediate and unstudied as is a welt to a slap or a gash to a knife’s slash. Being cut, we are not taught how to bleed. Being whipped we are not instructed in how to raise a welt. These are immediate responses, natural and untutored. So too is the shock of the parable. But we don’t respond to the reading of the parable like this. We listen, attentive perhaps, and perhaps even moved a bit by the pathos of the tale. But we are never deeply shocked. Why? We are not shocked by the parable because Jesus did not tell the tale to us. He did not speak it to us. Through divine providence and the agency of the church, the Christian believes that the parable has been preserved for us, and by faith we believe that it is useful for us, but non-the-less the story was not spoken to us. We were not there when he told it. Jesus spoke the parable to men and women and children in the villages and meadows of a Palestine removed from us by two millennia. And although scholars may translate the words of Luke’s Greek into learned and insightful contemporary English, or German, or Korean, or Farsi, the culture in which we hear those words—that culture of the private Bible study, or the pontifical mass, or the free-church prayer meeting—this is not the culture of the Palestinian peasant or the devout Pharisee or the sophisticated Hellenistic trader of the first century. We are not shocked because we do not understand. Or better, we are not shocked because we do not understand the ancient words within their own ancient context. We understand the words, and even the grammar that makes those words sensible, yet we do not understand the world in which those words were spoken and in which that grammar was manipulated. To understand those words, in the sense of understanding the shock, we must try to understand them within the context in which they were framed and spoken and heard, what Wittgenstein called their “game.” Wittgenstein observed that understanding a language was very much like understanding a particular “game.” The words we call expressions of aesthetic judgment play a very complicated role, but a very definite role, in what we call a culture of a period. To describe their use or to describe what you mean by a cultured taste, you have to describe a culture (n.b.: to describe a set of aesthetic rules fully means really to describe the culture of a period). What we now call a cultured taste perhaps didn’t exist in the Middle Ages. An entirely different game is played in different ages. What

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belongs to a language game is a whole culture. In describing musical taste you have to describe whether children give concerts, whether women do or whether men only give them, etc., etc.”1

The situation is something like this. A Moroccan, eager to both use his English and to learn about the United States, once asked a visiting American if Americans ate much tajine (tajine is a kind of stew cooked in a dish with a tall, conical lid, cooked over a charcoal brazier which is frequently used in Moroccan homes to end the Ramadan fast). “Why no,” the American replied. “Americans hardly eat any tajine at all.” “By heaven,” exclaimed the Moroccan, “couscous every day! How sad!” Couscous every day. The American laughed, and we laugh with him. But the Moroccan doesn’t understand the mirth at all. What is funny here? Has he misunderstood the English words? Did he somehow not understand the grammar? “Why no. Americans hardly eat any tajine at all.” What is comic about that? The Moroccan has understood the English words well enough. He understood the negative response. He understood the statement of fact that Americans rarely eat tajine. But he did not understand these English words in their American-language context. Another way to say this is to point out that the Moroccan’s response (“By heaven! Couscous every day!) is not truly idiomatic. While his English words are grammatically correct, they are really little more than gobildygook because they make no cultural sense. The Moroccan has understood the English words only within a North African context, not within the frame of the kind of daily American life that makes those words meaningful. So the American immediately laughs at the comedy of his Moroccan friend’s response, but the Moroccan doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t laugh because he can’t laugh. He can’t laugh because the world of Big Macs, Chinese take-outs, pizza delivered to the door or frozen in the refrigerator, the drive up Tex-Mex restaurants, the Four Seasons and California cafes that feature edible-flours—the whole world of American food—is unknown to him. It is not part of his life. And although the Moroccan may certainly understand the English words “hamburger” or “egg roll,” he does not understand their role in Americans’ eating habits. Now, the American can explain to the Moroccan why he laughs, telling him that Americans have a greatly varied diet with the foods of many cultures readily accessible and that the notion of eating couscous alone to an American is very funny because it would be so very odd. So the American laughs. And when the American tells the story to another American, they both laugh. They both laugh because they immediately recognize the incongruity between the Moroccan’s question and his response to its answer. But the Moroccan doesn’t laugh. And even after the situation is explained to him, he can only nod in a kind of distanced understanding. Yes, he can now say that he sees why an 1

Ludwig Wittenstein, Lecture & Conversations on Aesthetic, Psychology and Religious Belief, ed. By Cyril Barrett from notes by Yorick Smythies, Rush Rhees, and James Taylor (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 8, Nos. 25 & 26. See all his Philosophical Investigations, Nos. 7 & 9.

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American might laugh at his response, but he does not laugh himself. At best, he might smile a bit. And, after the explanation, he knows more about America life than he did before and, using his imagination, he can muse about what life in America must be like and how it must be to have couscous only as an exotic dish. So even if he cannot spontaneously laugh at the joke, he has gained a bit of understanding. He might now be able to smile a bit. Another way of saying this is to observe that an appropriate response to the American’s answer, that is to say an idiomatic response, lies in more than getting plausible English words together in a grammatically sensible way. The words must also make cultural sense. If this isn’t the case, communication doesn’t take place. Here, the Moroccan thought that he was responding with sympathy at the improvised cuisine of Americans when the American heard it all as a joke. A misunderstanding took place, and we would not say that the Moroccan exhibited an idiomatic fluency in American English. This kind of misunderstanding can take place within the same culture. Here is a passage from Walker Percy’s Thanatos Syndrome: Here’s old Frank Macon, polishing the terrazzo floor. I saw him a week ago, just after I returned. Frank Macon is a seventy-five year old black janitor. I have known him for forty years. . . He clapped his hands softly and gave me one of his, a large meaty warm slab, callused but inert. “Look who’s back!” he cried, casting a muddy eye around and past me. He throws up an arm. “Whoa!” “How you doing, Frank?” “Fine! But look at you now! You looking good! You looking good in the face and slim, not poorly like you used to.” “You’re looking good too, Frank.” “You must have been doing some yard work,” says Frank, good eye gleaming slyly. “Yes,” I say, smiling. He’s guying me. It’s an old joke between us. “I knowed they couldn’t keep you! People talking about trouble, I say no way. No way Doc going to be in trouble. Ain’t no police going to hold Doc for long. People got too much respect for Doc! I mean.” Again he smote his hands together, not quite a clap but a horny brushing past, signifying polite amazing. He turned away, but one eye still gleamed at me. One would have to be a Southerner, white or black, to understand the complexities of this little exchange. Seemingly pleasant, it was not quite. The glint of eye, seemingly a smile of greeting, was not. It was actually malignant. Frank was having a bit of fun with me. I knew, and he knew that I knew, using the old forms of civility to say what he pleased. What he was pleased to say was: So you got caught, didn’t you, and you got out sooner than I would have, didn’t you? Even his pronunciation of police as po-lice was overdone and farcical, a parody of Black speech, but a parody he calculated I would recognize. Actually he’s a deacon and uses a kind of churchy English: Doctor, what we’re gerng to do is soliciting contributions for a chickendinner benefit the ladies of the church gerg to have Sunday, and such like.2

Percy’s point here is that to understand the language the hearer must understand more than the words. Even an American who is fully fluent in American English would profoundly misunderstand this exchange unless he were also idiomatically familiar with the subtleties of race relations in the Deep South. Understanding the words isn’t enough. 2

Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome (New York: Ballantine Books, 1987), pp. 9-10.

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The words must be understood within a context of gestures, particular syllables stretched—and other clipped—postures and glances, and even the history of the region; in other words, the whole language game must be grasped for the words to be understood within their appropriate arena. To understand the parable, and thus understand much of Jesus’s purpose in telling it, requires understanding its shock. And to understand its shock the original context of Jesus’s story must be resurrected and his tale placed within it. 3

II But before we go on to examine that context, two caveats are needed. First, by saying that the parable’s modern hearer does not understand the parable in the sense of understanding its shock, I do not mean to suggest that Jesus’s first century words are by definition completely opaque to modern hearers. That would be patently ridiculous. No one understands the parable as a story of a generous younger son and a stingy father. The basic contour of the story, that of a son who misuses his father, squanders his resources and is graciously accepted back by his father when he returns home paupered—is certainly understood by any modern hearer and the gap between the first and the twentyfirst centuries is not so wide as to obscure that.4 3

Even significant modern scholars run the risk of misunderstanding the parable by ignoring its original context. Note this discussion of the parable by John Crossan: “The story is utterly believable and quite possible. Can you imagine, asks Jesus, a vagabond and a wastrel son being feted by his father and a dutiful and obedient son left outside in the cold?” The problem here is that the first century Palestinians couldn’t imagine such a scene at all. It was bizarre quite to the point of incredulity and shocked them to the quick. See John Dominic Crossan, In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus (Somona, California: Polegridge Press, 1992), pp. 12-17.

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This is not always the case. Occasionally cultural differences are so great between antiquity and our own era that contemporary Western readers completely misconstrue the earlier materials. Modern exegetes of Luke 2.7 have almost universally interpreted the Messiah’s birth in a manger described there as evidence of Mary giving birth in some sort of a livestock shed because she and Joseph had been denied lodging in an

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Second, The kind of understanding of the parable about which we are now concerned (the kind of understanding that makes its shock comprehensible) in-other-words a historical/aesthetic understanding, is not necessarily the only or even the most important kind of understanding to have of the parable. We have already seen that one way of knowing if a language is understood is to see if responses to phrases, questions, statements, etc., in that language are idiomatic, if they make sense. Can we then ask, what would be an idiomatic response to the story of the Father and Two Sons? What kind of response would demonstrate that the hearer understood the story and sensibly reacted? Another way of saying this would be to ask how would we recognize a comic response to the story, a response like “By heaven! Couscous every day!” Paul Holmer suggests that there are a variety of ways of knowing and that the different avenues of knowing produce different kinds of knowledge, or fluency, in different games. The “historical/critical” game is one. The theological game is another. My point is that it is one kind of game in which the telling of the story is done only to fill out the account of Middle Eastern history, and quite another to tell it in order to make the reader a part of a community of faith, Jewish or Christian. In the former game, one addresses curiosity, one serves the interest of being accurate, and one provides an explanation of how people got the way they 5 did, granted their time and circumstances.

This historical game is played by gathering data, digging at archeological sites, learning old languages in order to read primary writings, checking this against that and in interpreting the stuff in a sensible way—usually in the form of a book. For the kind of understanding this yields is just that—a certain kind of understanding, and there are several kinds and way of understanding. Because we can do this sort of thing for the Old Testament and the New does not mean we are closer to understanding them truly. Instead it only means that we can now understand them historically.6

Playing the historical game results in historical understanding: knowledge of who did what to whom, when they did it, perhaps some reasons why, and a few things that the deed possibly lead to. Theological understanding is not like that. inn. Furthermore, such a reprehensible violation of traditional hospitality codes is interpreted as one part of Luke’s multifaceted portrayal of the Messiah as rejected by his own people. Yet Kenneth Bailey suggests that this might be a misinterpretation. Citing both traditional practice and archeological evidence which suggests that first century Palestinians lived with their livestock under one roof in a kind of “split-level” arrangement (the manager in such a structure marking the division between the family and livestock zones), Bailey argues that the Holy Family were not shutted-off to a barn by a cruel innkeeper but rather taken in a private home. See Kenneth Bailey, “The Manager and the Inn: The Cultural Background of Luke 2.7”, Theological Review (Beirut: Near East School of Theology, Vol. 2., Nov. 1979), pp. 35-44. 5 Paul Holmer, The Grammar of Faith (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1978). P. 5 6 Ibid., pp. 7-8

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But when I tell the story, maybe the same story even down to the details, so that one will emulate the ancients’ courage, live their virtues, eschew their vices, find their law, and seek their God with might and finesses of spirit, then I am doing something quite different. Another game is being played.7

That other game is the theological game and playing it results in theological understanding: “What the hopes, fears, and loves are, what the beliefs are for those who find God in Christ Jesus.”8 Just as the historical game required historical tools for its playing, so too does the theological game require theological tools. But the tools here are quite different than those usually required for other games. Guilt and shamefulness is required if someone is to be fluent in theology, that is if he is to respond idiomatically to theological statements. And a hunger and thirst for righteousness and a love for one’s neighbor are also helpful.9 It is crucial to recognize that an idiomatic theological response to the parable is not dependant upon historical knowledge just as a historical understanding of the work does not depend upon a theological understanding. Although these ways of knowing may, or may not, buttress each other, they are not dependent upon each other. They are different ways of knowing and they do different work. Historical understanding makes you a historian. Theological understanding makes you fearful of God. Let us go back to our question of which might be an idiomatic response to the parable? If we consider that as a theological thing, then someone who responds idiomatically to it would say things like, “I am disobedient and foolish, like that younger son, and I am ashamed for it,” or “Self-centeredness is wrong. That elder son is self-centered and so am I. I want to be made different.” Certainly we would agree that someone who, upon hearing the parable and responding in those kinds of ways, understands the parable, at least basically. Such a person’s response would be idiomatic. And since such a response shows a fluency with theology, which is to note that the sayer knows shamefulness and seeks mercy—among other things—what is the purpose of placing the story within its original first century context? If historical understanding is a different kind of understanding than theological understanding, and since only theological understanding focuses upon the life-and-death issues of “what must I do to be saved?” (which is the theological issue, what someone did because he thought it might save him is the historical issue), isn’t the kind of thinking we’re doing here in this lecture unnecessary? It might be interesting certainly, but not fully required? We must recognize that today, just as it was two thousand years ago, it is fully possible to understand the parable without understanding anything what-so-ever about its historic context (as if the Pharisees and publicans and children around Jesus were historically 7

Ibid., p. 5. Ibid., pp. 8-9 9 Ibid., p. 9. 8

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conscious of their context—that they were in a province once invaded by the Hittites, largely ignored by Alexander the Great, that their spoken language was a linguistic subset of a larger family of Semitic tongues, etc., etc.!). When people hear the parable in modern English or German or Korean and respond with a deep conviction that their lives have been changed they are responding idiomatically. In short, they understand the parable. But this apparently doesn’t happen very often, at least now here in America (and I am an American lecturing only to other Americans, I have no right to speak to any others). When we earlier considered the scene of the parable’s reading, with the congregation standing like horses in the noonday sun with barely even a swish of a tail or a shake of the harness—with the story whizzing around their ears like summer flies—that scene was not unfamiliar to any of us. That is indeed what happens when the parable is read in church, any church: Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Fire-Baptized Apostolic, Syrian Orthodox, Korean Presbyterian or Swedish Baptist. And, upon reflecting on that universally sleepy response, it appears at least very different from the responses of the Palestinians who heard the parable from Jesus’ own lips because a good portion of those listeners apparently rejoiced in later killing him. Nobody nowadays wants to kill the reader of the story. Hardly anybody really notices. And that’s the problem. Why don’t we listen? Why don’t we respond? Why are we at best sentimentally moved by a touching fairy tale instead of shaken to our quicks by our confrontation with truth? We don’t listen because we are largely deaf to the story. And we are deaf to the story in part because the parable is first an aesthetic object that was created for theological purposes that, being transposed from one culture to another, has lost a significant part of its aesthetic power. In short, we are back to our first observation. Or near to it. Most of us don’t respond to the parable, we can’t make an idiomatic response to it, because we are not fluent in the “game” in which it is cast. We are in the position of that Moroccan who stares back at the American, wondering why he laughs. We can see now that our lack of fluency with the parable is more profound than that original observation would suggest. It is not only that the parable traffics in matters common to first century Palestinians and are therefore foreign to us, but more importantly it requires us, as hearers, to possess certain personality qualities (shamefulness, hopefulness, humility, etc.), things that we have described as showing “theological fluency,” for us to understand the parable and to respond to it idiomatically, sensibly. I have said that we fail to understand the tale because we are theologically deaf to it. Here at least, we are on common ground with Jesus’s first hearers. Jesus invented his parable for the theologically deaf. Because he appeals to characteristics which his listeners possess either not at all or weakly, Jesus uses the parable to engage their imaginations. He uses the story to place his hearers within a context in which things like repentance from an unforgivable sin and mercy beyond all reckoning are seen as possible.

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As Paul Holmer observed, “Imagination is the broker between what is learned and what is, in consequence, possible.”10 “Alright,” Jesus is as much saying, “You don’t know what mercy is but listen to this story and imagine what it might be like. And in your imagining, if only for a moment, put on mercy, imagine yourself as being merciful, and see what it is like.” And having fully followed the parable (which is an aesthetic medium), the idiomatic responses of Jesus’s listener would be things like, “Ah, yes, that is what it is like to be fully penitent,” or “Ah, yes, that is what it is like to be truly loving,” or “Ah, yes, that is what it is like to be someone who serves willingly, with joy.” Or even, “Ah, yes, this man contradicts all that I live for, and he must be done away with.” The purpose of the parable is to open the theologically deaf to the idea, the possibility, of godly speech. Again, from Paul Holmer: When we do not know the meaning of Christian teaching, it is also the case that we do not have any way to put on the saying, to make it work for us. The expressions lose their life, and they become dead in our mouths. The task is not always to revivify the teaching; instead it is to place 11 the listener in another context, so that the words will spring to life.”

That is the purpose of the parable, to put the listener in another context. And by in large, we don’t get it. Or better, we don’t get it with the same immediacy with which Jesus’s Palestinian hearers got it. Of course one reason we don’t get it is that we don’t much hunger and thirst after righteousness and we believe mourning is to be cursed, not blessed; we don’t much possess the theological dispositions required to hear the tale. And that point must not be over looked. But also we don’t get the parable with the immediacy of its first century audiences because the tale does not impress us aesthetically. Because we fail to experience the parable’s aesthetic strength the story’s theological barb is dulled. The theological purpose is weakened because it is the aesthetic form which propels the theological point. And we fail to experience the parable’s aesthetic strength because it is cast in and trades with the aesthetic and cultural vocabularies and expectation of a people and time foreign to us. It is not in our vernacular. An aesthetic object itself, the parable fails as an aesthetic object to modern hearers because it fails to fully engage the imagination in the manner in which any aesthetic object should and in which it was intended. How the aesthetic response to an object changes as the culture around it changes is another lecture. Here it is enough to say that the things about an object that are considered worthy of aesthetic attention change not only according to whoever is attending to it but more significantly they change according to that person’s culture. In

10 11

Paul Holmer, The Grammar of Faith, p. 28 Ibid. p. 29.

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the case of the parable, it is cast in a storytelling form no longer immediately recognizable to our culture and trades upon expectations foreign to our daily lives. Historical research, by reconstructing for us the aesthetic and social expectations of the parable’s culture, can help us see how its first hearers experienced the tale during the course of its telling. Of course historical research results in historical understanding, not in Godly speech (which is the parable’s purpose). Yet, if we are concerned with the Work Of Christian Art, and since such a work will always exist within a particular culture and trade in particular ways upon the aesthetic and social aspects of that culture, it is important to have a historical understanding the culture of this parable so that we can understand how Jesus shapes his story to exploit those cultural expectations. Jesus was an artist. His parables are the first and greatest Works of Christian Art. They most profoundly shock. To hear them is to feel an earth quake beneath our feet and to have a vision of ourselves as ourselves. But to understand His art as art and to feel its shock we must understand the culture for which he crafted it and the aesthetic shape of his story.

III Jesus casts the parable of the Father and Two Sons in a form that Kenneth Bailey calls a “double parabolic ballad,” each section of which is formed out of symmetrical thematic arches with the second section’s final stanza purposefully omitted.12 Jesus’s first century 12

Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 158. Almost all of the formal observations and cultural comments here (as well as the version of the parable quoted at the chapter’s head) are from Bailey’s magisterial work. Using modern

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A. Introduction There was a man who had two sons 1. A son is lost and the younger of them said to his father, “Father give me the share of property that falls to me.” And he divided his living between them.

2. Goods wasted in expensive living Not many days later the younger son sold all he had, journeyed into a far country and wasted his property in extravagant living.

3. Everything lost And when he had spent everything a great famine arose in that country and he began to be in want.

4. The great sin (feeding pigs for gentiles) So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country and he sent him to his fields to feed pigs.

5. Total rejection And he would gladly have eaten the pods which the pigs ate and no one gave him anything.

6. A change of mind. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s servants have bread to spare but I perish here with hunger. 61. An Initial Repentance I will arise and to my father and say to him, “Father I have sinned against heaven and before you and and am no more worthy to be called your son”

51. Total acceptance

And he arose and came to his father. And while he was at a great distance his father saw him

And had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 41 The Great Repentance And the son said to the father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you And am no more worthy to be called your son.”

31 Everything gained, restored to sonship

And the father said to the servants, “Bring the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hands and shoes on his feet.

21 Goods used in joyful celebration And bring the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and make merry. 11 A son is found. For this my son was dead and is alive, He was lost and is found.” And they began to make merry.

Example I

Western exegetes, medieval Arabic translations and exegetes (hitherto almost completely ignored by scholars), and his own significant experience with peasant Middle Eastern peoples, Bailey has offered a carefully considered reconstruction of the first century Palestinian’s cultural milieu.

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hearers would have recognized this as a common literary form (although they probably would have found its artistic quality remarkable) and would have known that Jesus used the shape to structurally emphasize his tale’s most important points. Two groups of three line stanzas form the parable: the first group cadencing with the father’s joyful reception of his younger son and the second section cadencing with the father’s defense of his action before his elder son. The symmetrical structure of both sections can easily be seen if the general content of each stanza is diagrammed.13[Example 1] The younger son’s transformation is dramatically articulated by its placement in the parable’s formal center. Here he repents, the story literally pivoting at its center. The first five stanzas deal with this son’s descent from a relationship of true sonship with his father, the second set of five marks his return and restoration. By placing repentance at the structural keystone in this arch, Jesus formally emphasizes it for his hearers as one of the two principle themes of this part of his tale. The other theme, grace (which is exemplified by the father’s steadfast love), Jesus emphasizes by binding the story with the father’s gifts of the inheritance and the celebratory feast of reconciliation. Within a literary form circumscribed by the father’s love, Jesus formally emphasizes the superiority of grace over individual repentance, as if repentance occurred within the orbit, or embrace, of steadfast love. Yet no such thematic closure characterizes the parable’s second section. That this second arch is left purposefully incomplete can be seen by again diagramming its thematic progress [Example 2].14 B. Introduction Now the elder son was in the fields 1 He comes and as he came and drew near to the house he heard music and dancing and he called one of the boys and asked what this meant.

2. Your brother is safe, Feast. And he said to him, “your brother has come and your father has killed the fatted calf because he received him with peace.”

3. A father comes to reconcile But he was angry and refused to go in So his father came out And was entreating him.

4. First complaint (how you treat me) But he answered his father, Lo these many years I have served you and I have never disobeyed your commandments yet you never gave me a kid to make merry with my friends.

13 14

Ibid., p.160. Ibid., p. 191.

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41 Second complaint (how you treat my brother) “But when this son or yours came who as devoured your living with harlots you killed for him the fatted calf.”

31 A father tries to reconcile

And he said to him, “Beloved son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours.

21. Your brother is safe, festival feast. It is fitting to make merry and be glad For this your brother was dead and is alive, He was lost and is found.”

11. MISSING FINAL STANZA?

[And he came and entered the house and joined in the music and dancing and he began to make merry.]

MISSING CONCLUSION? [and the two sons were reconciled to their father}

Here, in the parable’s second arch, the final stanza and conclusion are missing (a 1 prime corresponding to the earlier 1). Because of the carefully completed arch form of the parable’s first part, and because of the similar formal care taken through most of the parable’s second arch, the first-century listener would expect one more stanza to complete the story. Its omission is jarring. To provide some sort of literary closure the hearer must supply the final lines himself. In other words, by first crafting his story within a set of formal thematic inversions and then, at the last minute, violating that structure, Jesus shocks his hearers not only with the tale of the forgiving father but with the formal incongruity of the parable itself. If the story is to have an end the listeners themselves must provide it. As a piece of literature, the parable exhibits a degree of economy and concinnity typical of the most artfully crafted aesthetic objects. Superfluous detail is absent. The arched structure is not a mannered artifice but is instead a carefully considered form designed to clarify each of the two section’s principle themes by placing them at the arche’s centers. The double arch formally testifies to the thematic parallels between the parable’s two sections. Each arch deals with a type of sin and chronicles its progress: the sin of rebellion and the sin of pride. Each arch traces a mode of repentance: the elder son (who believes that he can justify himself) and the younger son (who knows he can not).15 But the double arch design also helps to emphasize the differences between the two sons. While the first arch centers on the younger son’s decision to return to his home, the second arch contrasts this with its rehearsal of the elder son’s complaints, which are really a litany of his refusal to seek grace. One arch ends with the celebration of a son entering into his father’s banquet of reconciliation while the truncated second arch ends with an invitation to which no response is offered.

15

Ibid., p. 205.

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What might such a response be? Will the elder son go into the house and be reconciled with his brother, or will he refuse? Although the carefully balanced structure implies that this elder brother will be reconciled, the final stanza thus complementing the “arrival” character of the first stanza, the nature of that missing stanza is ambiguous. Its absence requires Jesus’s listener to consider himself in the story and forcibly turns the listener’s attention from considering a story “out there,” involving someone else, to a story “in here,” focusing upon himself as an individual. How this move dramatically affects Jesus’s principle listeners, the Pharisees, can be seen after we reconstruct the events of the story’s telling.

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IV

A crowd has gathered around the storyteller. Dignified and pious Pharisees, more learned in religion than this country teacher, are curious as to what he might say—or better—in what kind of mistakes he might make and which they might correct in front of the gathering (because they have heard of his bizarre teachings before). Children play in the dust while their mothers watch from the well nearby. The din of peddlers hawking their wares, braying donkeys, haggling merchants and screaming children all makes conversation difficult. Everybody shouts. And there are others here too. Gentile guards (here from the Roman garrison), and even the town’s moral rubbish mix with the crowd. Apparently the teacher has such types as intimates for several known reprobates – a tax collector, a prostitute, and there are others (they are all well known)—seem to be on the friendliest terms with him. Seeing them, the Pharisees step aside for a moment, murmuring, not wishing to dirty themselves by accidentally brushing against one of them. “What kind of teacher is this man that he associates with such wickedness?” they ask each other with raised eyebrows. “Doesn’t he know what kind of people these are?” The teacher appears to hear them and turning to them begins a new story.

There was once a man who had two sons. The crowd quiets. The Pharisees nod knowingly to each other. Yes, a good way to begin a tale: a father and two sons, a traditional situation, one we ourselves have used to instruct the ignorant. We know well how it will go: a story concerning the dignity of the father as against one son who is wise and one who is foolish, like the tales of Jacob and Esau and Cain and Abel, stories about the working-out of the judgment and the majesty of the Lord. A good choice, with strong precedent, they all agree. Ah, but much of the power of the tale lies in its telling, in the story teller’s craft. Let us wait and see how this teacher spins-out his web.

And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.” A gasp goes through the crowd. Could we have misheard? Did he really say that? A son demanding his inheritance from his living father? Could it happen? Have you ever heard of such a thing? Would it even be possible? Never in my village, never in the memory of all the elders. Never in yours either? Such a thing doesn’t even happen in the houses of the idolaters! Surely, we misheard. The wind scrambled the phrases, it’s not believable. No? You heard the same? How horrible! What effrontery! The boy has asked for his father’s death! The upstart can’t wait for his father to even become infirm; so impatient

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is he for his inheritance he demands it now. The boy has treated him as if he were nothing, this, his father! The insolence! Is there a law for such a thing? Did not Abraham, while living, give gifts to his sons by Keturah? Yes, you’re right but this was not the assigning of an inheritance but gifts given to Isaac’s potential rivals to invalidate any claim they might have upon Isaac’s inheritance. And it was a gift, not a response to a demand! But does not the Mishna speak of a father assigning his property to his children while yet alive? Yes, but there the heirs have no right to sell the property until the father’s death and besides such a decision is the father’s alone and done while ill, perhaps anticipating his death. The heirs do not demand the gift. No, that act of this son, this demand for his inheritance is so monstrous that it lies outside of the Law. It is unimaginable. We must have misheard. But we did not mishear. This is indeed what the storyteller has said, this is what that younger son has done. Ah, what will the father do? The lad is a beast, a shame upon his whole family, an unclean thing like a snake that would strike its own father and live-off the flesh. Like any father, this father is a man of dignity. He is a man of property, respected in the village. And this boy has given him the gravest insult possible. “Go off with you old man!” the boy has as much said. “Be dead to me!” Of course the father must beat the boy, beat him across his head and shoulders and back until his cloak is wet with his blood, until it streams down across his loathsome face. The boy must be punished. And he must be driven out of the village and his name cursed. Or perhaps the father is a man of unusual self-control, of the greatest dignity, and of profound wisdom. The boy is a fool, and beating a fool never brings him to wisdom. Yes, such a father might spare his son the beating (and himself the indignity of such a scene), but he would none-the-less banish the boy forever from his presence. Yes, perhaps. But there is a law for this. Has not Moses written, “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones, so you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”16 Certainly this is a most rebellious son, is he not? Should not he be stoned, for isn’t his demand a monstrous evil? Yes, indeed! This creature can’t be tolerated. It must be done away with, destroyed, like a misshapen thing that comes out of a cow’s womb. Destroy it, purge our village from the monster! Oh, but this is a better story than we expected! This weaver of tales is clever indeed! Who would have imagined such a novel situation!

16

Deuteronomy 22.18-21.

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Let us see what this storyteller’s father does. Does he now drag the pup before the elders? Will this father demand his stoning?

And he divided his living between them. Silence. Stunned, dumb astonishment. The father gave it to him? And not only to the younger son did the father give his inheritance, but to the older son too? To both of them? We could not possibly have heard this right. This can’t possibly be what the storyteller said. But again, this is what you heard too? The father is a fool. He is worse than a fool. He is a man without dignity, without selfrespect, without honor. He did as that monster of a son asked? How can that father ever again show himself at the village gate? What man would dirty himself by sitting beside him? Who would heap derision upon his head by consulting that man, asking him for advice? No one. No one would have such contempt for his own person as to associate with such a fool. This father does not take that son to the elders to be stoned? He gives him no beating? He pronounces no banishment? The son is not the fool! It’s the father who is the fool! While living, the father divides his wealth between his sons? He makes himself a pauper, a bondsman in his own sons’ house. Where now are the dowries for his daughters? Where now are the flocks and herds that testify to the Lord’s blessing upon Him? Where are the lands, the lands of his father and his father’s father, lands that sustain him and his household? And what now can he sell to buy the sacrifices required at the Temple? Nothing. All is gone. Given away. He has turned-over all to his two sons. And like the poorest menial, when he goes up to the Temple he must now beg a pigeon to offer-up on the altar in atonement for his sins. And what sins. This man is no man at all. He is even less than a woman. Perhaps he is mad. The storyteller goes on.

Not many days later the younger son sold all he had, journeyed into a far country and wasted his property in extravagant living. What a disgusting family! May they all be accursed! The father is a man without any manliness and look at this second son! Having been given his inheritance—let such a notion be accursed—this son now has sold it! He sold it! Sold the land of his father and his father’s father and his father’s father’s father! The herds, the fields, the slaves, stores of grain and vats of oil—all sold and changed into jingling coin! Most certainly he went into a far country, for who in his village would let such a son remain, who would allow such a disease to fester among them? Would you? Or you? Would anyone in your village? The father is a fool but the village is not a village of fools. Of course they would drive the boy out, cursing his backside. Phath! Let such a one live and die amid foreigners! Phaht! Let him take his filthy coin and squander it with worshippers of idols and imbibers of debauchery! Phaht! Phaht! Of course he shall come to ruin, for the Lord is not blind. He is not mocked. He has seen all that his wretch has done. Oh blessed be the Lord for the justice of His judgment! 20


The Pharisees again turn to each other. This is an odd family indeed yet God’s judgment is just. The storyteller has done well here. Let us now observe the final condemnation of this miserable boy!

And when he had spent everything a great famine arose in that country and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country and he sent him to his fields to feed pigs. And he would gladly have eaten the pods which the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. Ah, the Pharisees say. Blessed be the Name Of The Lord and blessed be forever the justice of His judgment! How fitting it is that this son has sold himself into a gentile’s service. As the Lord did punish the sins our ancestors with exile in Babylon, so too is this miserable sinner punished with menial service to the foreigner! How fitting it is that this rebellious boy now feeds swine! Let him wallow in their filth! And let him fight with them for their muck-stained swill! So let it be to all who flaunt their disobedience before the Law of the Lord Almighty. Let judgment flow down from the heavens like mighty rivers and let the sinner stand in fear of the Lord! This is a good storyteller! An interesting tale! Why did we hear rumors of this man’s unorthodoxy! This is sound instruction, of benefit to all of those sinners who gather about him—ah, how frightened thy must be for their own futures! How they must shudder! This is an excellent man indeed, to make these sinners see so clearly the wickedness of their ways! Certainly, the people in this story are unusual, so much the better to grab the attention of those simple folk, scattered over there, around him. We have misjudged the man, this is excellent instruction. But he continues, let us listen:

But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s servants have bread to spare but I perish here with hunger. I will arise and go to my father and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you and am no more worthy to be called your son; make me a servant.’” A good story indeed! Ah, the fool has come to himself. Perhaps he has really repented. It is possible, it is not? Did not the great King David himself repent his adultery with Bathsheba? And did not Abraham repent his lies before Pharaoh about Sarah, his wife? Or perhaps this ill-begotten son simply has seen that while he starves, his father’s servants have bread. Desperation has driven him to return home, complete with a nicely prepared speech! Can you imagine the scene his return will cause in the village? Ha, ha! With the women mocking and the men turning to him the soles of their feet! Ah, what a farce we will have here! The fool of the boy, how richly he deserves the humiliation he has wrought for himself! But what will the father do? I wonder, don’t you? Who can tell, with such an unpredictable man? Is he now wise? Will he devise some stratagem to test this son’s 21


sincerity, to see whether he has truly repented of his evil or is only hungry, and will do even this to fill his belly? Will he trick them, as Joseph tricked his brothers when they came to him in Egypt, seeking relief from the famine? This is a very good storyteller indeed! Such a cleaver turn here. How shall the father complete the righteous judgment of the Lord?

And he arose and came to his father. And while he was at a great distance, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to the father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you and am no more worthy to be called your son.” And the father said to the servants, “Bring the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hands and shoes on his feet, and bring the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and make merry, for this my son was dead and is alive, he was lost and is found.” And they began to make merry. Silence. Even the donkeys have ceased their braying. Have the flies stopped their buzzing too? Dumfounded shock. This can not be! This is an outrage! Does this storyteller mock God? Does he blaspheme divine justice? This father is a monster before all heaven! Does he see his son from a distance because he has been looking for him? Looking for this fool? Looking for this wretch who wished him dead and makes his own honor a mockery? And seeing this son, this father runs to him! Runs! Like a boy, or a servant, or like a calf running to a cow, the man runs! He runs! What village elder would run anywhere? A man with pride walks slowly, with dignity. Servants run to him. He runs nowhere. But this father runs to him! To him, his son, a miserable wretch who should fall at his father’s feet, prostrating himself in the dust before his father, kissing his feet holding the hem of his cloak. But this father! He grasps his son, and kisses him! This kiss, this sign of reconciliation, of forgiveness, this father bestows upon his son even before the boy has asked for forgiveness! But perhaps the boy is not such a fool after all. He too is shocked by this father’s actions. Before such behavior, he changes his little prepared speech, now only confessing his sin and worthlessness, knowing that there is nothing that he can do to make amends. And now what does the father do? He has run out from the city gates to this beggar who was yet a distance off. He has created a public scene, and has been followed by his own servants and who knows what else village riff-raff! Will he lecture the boy on the enormity of his sin? Will he recount to him his follies, both for the boy’s benefit and that of the gathered townspeople? Will he pronounce judgment, as the dignity of the Law demands? 22


No! This storyteller’s father does none of these things! He tells his servants to clothe this, this . . . this piglet with his best robe, his own robe, the one he reserves for only the highest feasts and festivals! And he commands that a ring be put on his finger, a signet ring! This son can now bind contracts! And shoes are put on his feet, shoes as befit a freeman, a master of servants! And the father declares a feast for the entire village with a roasted calf! The son is not to return to universal mockery, but to a festival in his honor! And the reason? That the father thought him dead, and he is alive! Dead? But he should be dead! Did he not wish his father dead? And did he not sell the lands of his ancestors? And did he not engage in filthiness with foreigners, polluting himself, bringing shame upon his family? And did he not squander his inheritance? And did he not live as un-unclean animal, more foul than Nebuchadnezzar insane, on all fours? Dead? Honor and justice and righteousness require his death! His bones should still lie outside the village gate, there, in that spot where he was stoned and the jackels ate away his rotting flesh and the ravens picked at his bones —in the spot where his father now embraces him! Is there no man under that roof who can restore the clan’s honor with that monster’s blood? Miserable and sorry household, when the men are less than bitches. And this father, this worse than a fool who runs out to greet his returning son, who rejoices in his life and who forgives him for all the grotesque deeds in which he has reveled—such a father is a monster greater than the son. Ah, but a greater monster still is this storyteller, this man who would turn honored custom and Divine Law on their heads! But this cannot be the tale’s end, formal convection does not allow. What about the other son? The elder son, who stayed with his father? Perhaps we have a man of honor here. Perhaps he will redeem his family’s reputation. We must see. The teller goes on.

Now the elder son was in the fields. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing and he called one of the boys and asked him what this meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come and your father has killed the fatted calf because he received him with peace.” But he was angry and refused to go in so his father came out and was entreating him. At last! A voice of righteousness! The presence of honor! This older brother has been working in the fields and comes home to find a feast in progress, a feast in honor of the brother who has brought so much shame upon the family. Yes, his father has proclaimed the feast and yes, custom and decency dictate that this brother should bow to his father’s wishes and attend the banquet, but a banquet for him? For that dog? Surely he can be forgiven the insult of refusing his father’s hospitality in these circumstances? Did not that other brother humiliate his father when he took his leave? Why should he have him back now?

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Yet again this father demeans himself – he is quite unbelievable, isn’t he? He comes out from the banquet and asks the elder son to join their celebration. First this father runs out from the village to his younger son and now he abandons his guests for his elder son. Such a father may be a fool, and he may have no sense of shame before his guests (humiliating himself before these boys!) but it is a serious insult to refuse hospitality, and the elder sons knows better. He should go in, he should obey. The storyteller continues. His elder son speaks.

But he answered his father, “Lo these many years I have served you and I have never disobeyed your commandments yet you never gave me a kid to make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came who has devoured your living with harlots you killed for him the fatted calf.” Ah! Even this one has no respect! He addresses his father without any salutation, as a man would address a servant or a child! He disobeys custom and shames his father by refusing his invitation to enter into the feast yet he has the cheek to say that he has never transgressed his father’s wishes! Yes, he has worked in his father’s house, yet apparently he was working grudgingly, for now it seems that he resents that even little feasts were not prepared for him and his cronies! But here is more here. Since his younger brother demanded that his inheritance be given him, the estate has been divided between the two sons. Although the property of the elder son, that half of the estate which his father gave cannot be disposed of by the elder son until after his father’s death. Of course his younger brother did just that, breaking the law, but while this older brother kept the letter of the law, doesn’t it at least seem possible that he too resents the fact that the estate is not his to do with as he pleases? Not his, so that he might kill a kid or his own pleasure? Is he too, within his heart, looking for his father’s death? So, how will this father deal with these new insults? Furious, he should chastise this son for his haughtiness. Yet, will he strike him, as he should have struck his younger son before? Has this father learned something now of the value of honor? How will he address this other son?

And he said to him, “Beloved son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad for this your brother was dead and is alive, he was lost and is found.” He calls him son! He calls him beloved son! He ignores his rudeness, the haughtiness of his address, the selfishness of his complaints—however valid they may be—and the arrogance of his conduct! He ignores the fact that this son too wants him dead! In the face of all of that, this father reminds his son of his continual love for him! And he defends the appropriateness of celebrating his brother’s return!

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What will this brother do? How will he respond? Will he enter the banquet and be reconciled with his brother? Will he humble himself before his father? But does such a father deserve honor? Does such a man who violates all the dictates of a man of honor, of dignity, a man who does violence to the traditions of his village—does such a man merit any consideration at all? Does not such a man—this father who fails to whip his son for violating his family’s honor, who runs to greet him upon his return (soiled and unclean as he is), who accepts the public insults of his elder son—does not such a man himself demand punishment? So, what does the elder brother say? How will this tale end? What? The storyteller has turned his back. He is walking away. He has left the story unfinished. What does the brother say? The crowd shouts after him. Finish the tale! What does the brother say? What does the brother say?

V Jesus’s parable shocks. It disrupts the status quo. It frightens its hearers because it presents them with a dilemma that they must resolve on pain of their lives. Or better, through the telling of the parable, Jesus purposefully places his hearers in a situation where, through their imagination, they must confront themselves with themselves, judge themselves, and contemplate the possibility of joy. And they do this by ending the parable themselves. What does the elder son do? What does he say? They each must decide.

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And who are these hearers? They are the Pharisees, the men Jesus heard murmuring about the presence of sinners among his listeners. The parable is directed to them. What would the Pharisees say? What could they say? As Jesus abruptly ends his story the Pharisees find themselves looking at those sinners around Jesus, knowing that they are like the story’s younger son, defilers of the Law. The Pharisees know that those sinners should be punished, their sin purged from the people. And the Pharisees look forward to a time when the Lord’s reign will be returned to Israel and those sinners, and all others like them, will be judged. Yet here Jesus tells a tale of the repentance and gracious acceptance of a sinner far worse than any of those people who the Pharisees see standing there in the market, listening to the parable with them. If such a one as that younger son can be given forgiveness, what about those others? And if they, blatant sinners, can be forgiven, what about the Pharisees themselves? Of what merit is the piety of those who have served the law many years and never disobeyed a commandment? With alarming directness, Jesus turns the parable on them in his second section. They, the Pharisees, must recognize Jesus’s intention of identifying them with the stubborn and graceless elder son, just as they must recognize the identification of the wicked younger son with the sinners standing around Jesus. The elder son insults the father by refusing to come into the feast. He will not participate in the feast not only because his brother has been forgiven and restored, but also because he believes himself slighted. But Jesus does not complete his tale. He does not give this elder brother’s response to his father’s second invitation. What might it be? Join this feast? Eat and make merry with that wicked brother, come so late to decency? Where would be the joy in such humiliation? And with that father? How can such a father be honored and obeyed? What would the Pharisees think? In the father, Jesus presents to them a character they can only abhor. He is disgusting. He does not behave even as a Gentile father ought, let alone a Jew. He does not discipline his wayward son, but instead yields to his evil request. He mocks God’s law in failing to fulfill the requirements of Deuteronomy 21.18-21. He does not defend his own dignity. He abases himself twice: before his younger son when he returns and a second time before his elder son when he refuses his invitation to the banquet. A father is the pillar of social order and stands before his family as God stands over Israel. Yet this father fails to honor God’s commandments by not keeping them, brings derision upon his household, and threatens his community with social disintegration. The Pharisee would recognize the storyteller’s intended similarity between the father and God, the actions of the father being conventionally understood as similar to the actions of God. But such a comparison here, between Jesus’s father in the parable and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would be monstrous to the Pharisee. It would be more than

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monstrous, it would be blasphemous and the pious and Law-keeping Pharisee would be forced into demanding that Jesus be killed for suggesting that God would behave in the spineless and immoral manner of this father. The Pharisee’s conclusion is clear. Jesus presents good as if it were evil and evil as if it were good. And for such blasphemy Jesus must die. Or perhaps, must the Pharisee die? Must he alter his life so much, refocus his mind and action so completely that he in a sense (or perhaps literally), must die? Must he die, perhaps so that he might be born again? And so the ground moves beneath his feet. The world the Pharisee thought he had inhabited is not the world he lives in at all. The God whose Laws he keeps on his forehead, to whom he offers sacrifice and obedience is not as he imagined Him. The Pharisee looks at the sinners, those other ones whose very wickedness defines his own righteousness (they break the law, he keeps it; they mock God, he honors Him) and no longer sees their sins but now stares into the face of his own wantonness. Through the shock of the parable (a shock like an earthquake), the Pharisee has seen the world as it truly is and not as he has pretended it to be, and he has seen that it is his fault. He is a sinner. But how can he, he who contemplates on the Law both day and night, he who through his own discipline (and indeed, suffering, for it is hard to keep the Law)--upholds the Law and thus both proclaims the Law before the people and spares them God’s judgment— how can he be so unrighteous? How can he be so wrong? And yet, he has glimpsed the world as it truly is, and not as he has pretended it to be, and he has seen himself as he truly is. And so he howls. He howls like a man fighting with swine for swill. He howls in shame and disgust and horror. “O miserable wretch, how might I be unmade!” Yet, seeing himself as he truly is, his sight is yet faulty. For he is not a miserable wretch, but a beloved son. And God, the God of the Law who he had thought he had known— this God will embrace him, and kiss him, and place a ring on his hand and a lordly cloak upon his back and shoes on his feet—not because of what he has done but because he is beloved, and he has returned. What is this Pharisee to do with this vision of the world as it truly is and not as he pretended it to be, this world revealed to him through the shock of the parable? Will the Pharisee, like the elder brother, put aside all the good he has done, all the commands he has fulfilled, and enter the banquet as an equal with his brother the lawbreaker, enter only because his father invited him and loves him? And shall the Pharisee obey the father, not because the Pharisee (through his own will, or by merit of his own strength, or because of the happenstance of his own condition) fulfills the Law as it is written, fulfills it like a contractor fulfills a contract (out of self-pride or fear of litigation)

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but simply because the father is his father, inscrutable, and beyond his ken? Will the Pharisee become like a little child, who sits at his father’s knee not because his lessons are learned or instructions are obeyed, but because his father loves him, and he loves his father? Does the Pharisee hunger and thirst after righteousness, or is he perhaps sated? Does his Law-keeping make him pure, so that he has no need of seeing God? Is he poor in spirit, or is he already so rich that the kingdom of heaven has no attraction for him? Are his daily actions so balanced, so chaste before the Law, that he needs no mercy? Or is his life already so lost that he is willing to lose it completely so that it might be gained? Seeing the world as it truly is—that brief vision revealed through the shock as if by a lightening bolt, will the Pharisee ponder the vista, or will he shut tight his eyes, having no taste for panoramas other than the one he has cherished for so long? What does the elder brother say? What does the Pharisee himself say? The answer lies in the character of the listener. Through the bizarre and shocking shifts and turns of the parable the listener finds himself confronted by himself so that he might both judge himself and find mercy imaginable. This is why the parable is described as requiring death, either the death of the storyteller of the death of the hearer. For the storyteller places the listener in a situation in which the listener finds himself confronted with a character of a life so different from his own, that either his own life must be transformed to conform with the parable—where the listener must die to his own dearly cultivated delusions—or the storyteller must die, killed as an act of self-defense. What then is an idiomatic response to the parable? How do we know if the parable is heard and understood? The listener howls. He howls for either his own death or the death of the storyteller. An idiomatic response to the parable is a call to death. The Pharisee who has no hunger for righteousness—but rather possesses a desire to be dressed-up in righteousness, as one might dress-up in a particular hat or wear a shiny medal—who has no love of justice— but instead loves his power to judge others and the weapon with which he taunts them— who sees within himself no need for mercy—for to see that in himself would be to also see his faults—and whose testimony of meekness is given in proclamations in market places—such a Pharisee will seek to lay hands on the storyteller and kill him. And the Pharisee who, in loving the Law, continually seeing how far short of it he comes, who recognizes in himself the pride of the elder son—and who is willing to contemplate that recognition—who looking upon the sinners around Jesus sees them suddenly as his brothers and sisters—such a Pharisee will hear the parable and cry within himself, and come to Jesus, perhaps under cover of night, and say, “Rabbi, what must I do to be saved?”

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And a sinner, standing near Jesus, hears the story (although Jesus has not really directed the parable to him, but to the Pharisees, standing over there, away from him), this sinner knows his sin and finds it a comfortable companion. This sinner is miserable yet he loves his misery. He is hopeless, but finds a kind of solace in his hopelessness (for at least he thinks he knows who and what he is, and there is a kind of pride in that knowledge). This man hears the parable, and hates the teller, and with the first Pharisee, he too would pick up a rock to stone the storyteller because this story has challenged him to the quick. If joy is possible then he should do all he can to possess it. But if there is no joy, if there is no restoration possible, then there is a certain glory in the man’s misery. And there is an honor in knowing what you are beholding to nothing. So he clings to his misery, and he too wishes the storyteller dead. But another sinner hears the parable. She has no pride in her actions and despises herself for what she has done and aches with a knowing pain that the evil she has done can not be undone. Now this woman hears the parable and pictures herself as that younger son and now imagining that before unimaginable love of the father and now believes that forgiveness might be possible and now through the jostling of the crowd she crawls in the dust and now reaches out with all her strength and now clutches at the hem of storyteller’s cloak so that she too might be healed from her misery now – so that she might be made whole and live in joy. These—the response of disgust, and hope, and anger, and desperation—are all idiomatic responses to the parable. Each of these listeners has heard the story had has immediately understood it. Their different responses, determined by their individual characters, are all appropriate. They have recognized immediately the shock of the parable and, through their imagination, have found themselves compelled to recognize themselves through it. Finally, the formal design of the parable not only emphasizes the story’s crucial points but more importantly propels each of them to a point of decision: what does the elder brother say? What do I say? All of this is done immediately and without explanation. And the idiomatic response— “what do I say”—is as untutored and spontaneous as the American’s laugh to “Ah, couscous every day!” But again, this is not the usual response to the parable as it is read in our churches, or in our libraries, or on our park benches today. The response is not an immediate one of shock, that shock leading to outrage or profound repentance from self-righteousness—we seem to largely misunderstand it, even giving it an absurd title, “the Prodigal Son,” as if the younger son were the most important figure in the tale, and not the elder brother and the incomprehensible father! And even now, having briefly rehearsed the cultural setting of the parable and considered a variety of idiomatic first century responses to it, the modern reader’s reaction to the story is still not outrage or remorse, but rather bemusement. “So that’s what it’s about? How very interesting. How quaint.” The reaction is like that of the Moroccan to the American’s explanation of his own laughter. There is no immediate outburst of belly shaking jollity but rather, “So that’s what it’s about? How very interesting.”

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It is the purpose of the creator of the Work of Christian Art to invent works like Jesus’s parable, audacious, troubling, shocking-- so that, through their imaginations, the artist’s listeners, ,or viewers, or readers might find themselves confronted with themselves to the point where they are presented with a decision about how they will choose to live their lives. If theology “is that interpretation and that game which we all must play if we are to refer our lives to God,” then the Work of Christian Art is theology in an aesthetic form.17 Rather than being a piece of “art for art’s sake” the Work of Christian Art is a kind of “active pedagogy.” This is how theology finally realizes itself in its correct form. The teachings do not have to change at all, for they are a kind of constant stretching through the ages. But the active pedagogy in which they are exercised must insinuate the listener into a new role; his self-evaluation, his subjectivity, his aims, wishes, hopes, desires, must be altered so that the grammar of faith becomes relevant. When the right supposal envelopes him, when he understand himself to be a prisoner, a victim, a sinner, a changeling, then the teachings will come to life.18

The purpose of the Work of Christian Art is to bring the teachings to life. The model for this “active pedagogy,” the template for the Work of Christian Art, are Jesus’s own aesthetic works, his parables. These parables are masterfully crafted stories of sophisticated aesthetic interest. Their formal design reinforces their disturbing content which purposefully undermines the listener’s conventional understandings. In this way, the parables engage the listener’s imagination (and through his imagination, his emotions) in a situation where the teaching of the Faith takes on a plausible vividness. And in a world of browns and grays, of perhaps’s and maybe’s, of pluriform veracities, such vividness shocks. The Work of Christian Art will shock. For the Gospel shocks.

17 18

Paul Holmer, The Grammar of Faith, p. 9. Ibid., pp. 29-30.

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31


STREET SERMON heard on the corner of West 4th and MacDougal Street

. . . . and you knew that but pretended you didn't you're running you have appointments you're busy you don't have time to stop and hear the words of life even though they're being given to you for free no cost but you can't stop to listen because you're running you think that you have appointments you have too much to do you're busy but you're really running and i know why your running you're running away you're running away from that big hole that big hole that's going to swallow you up that's going to devour you it's a big hole in your heart a big empty space where your soul is supposed to be oh yes there's a hole there and you know it down the island from here down at the tip of manhattan look you can almost see it from here you know where it is there's that new building they're building where the world trade center used to be before nine eleven its the freedom tower and next to it they have the nine eleven memorial and you know what that memorial is its a couple of holes that's all it is its a couple of holes with water pouring in water pouring in all the time a couple of holes with water pouring in every day and night because the holes can't ever be filled they are just holes people were upset about the memorial they said it wasn't appropriate it wasn't good enough for the victims of nine eleven they said it just wasn't the right kind of memorial but all the critics are wrong all those people were wrong have you seen the memorial have you gone down there you go down there and see the memorial and i tell you that it's the perfect memorial those two holes it's the perfect memorial because that's all america is that's all you are america is just a hole that can't ever be filled up just like you're just a hole just an empy space where your soul is supposed to be because you're a great american and those holes those big holes of the memorial those holes where the buildings used to be where there used to be real things those holes are really two mouths two big open mouths two mouths just mouths of appetite because that's all america is it's just appetite its just a mouth that always wants more just like you're running you're in such a big hurry you can't stop and hear the words of life because you're just an appetite you're just a huge open mouth a hole that can't ever be filled and you're running to get stuff to stick in that hole to try to fill it up and no matter how much stuff you stick in that hole you can't plug it it just gets bigger and wants more and that's why that memorial down there is perfect it's perfect because it is true it's true and i bet almost none of you have been there to see it and i know why it's because deep down inside yourself way deep down you know it's true that america is just an appetite that it's just a open mouth that wants stuff that america is just a consummer the consumer society is just a society that wants stuff crammed in its hole america the united states of america is just an


appetite america is just a big hole and you know in your heart that america is hell that you're living in hell because hell is just a big hole that can't ever be filled and you are just a big hole yourself you want to fill it with that thing that job that apartment that next person you're going to have sex with its all stuff to go down that hole just like those holes at the memorial that have water pouring down them but can't ever be filled but you haven't gone there because deep down in you know you know it's all true but you don't want to see the holes because it's too painful to look at right there in front of you that hole hurts you so much it hurts you more than anything else that hurt wakes you up at two in the morning and you feel that hurt and you cry at night because of that hurt and you can't go to that memorial because there right there in those holes is that huge hurt its a nightmare but it's not like the bogie monster it's not the ghost in the closet when the lights go out it's a nightmare because it's true it's not made up you know you're living in hell you're running because you're trying to get out you're trying to escape the vortex but i'm tell you i'm here telling you you can't escape the hole by running to get more stuff you can't escape the hole by cramming it with more stuff america is hell and you can't get out of hell by running because the current those waters at the memorial have will keep you under will overpower you everything will only get worse and that nightmare that horrible pain and fear you have when you wake up at two in the morning and before you can get that medication to knock you stupid again all that will every day get worse and more and more painful because you can't escape it by doing what you're doing by running you need to hear the words of life you need to stop and listen and be quiet and learn the true fear of the lord you need to stop because you can't run out of hell you can't escape satan and his american kingdom you need to stop and be quiet because god is running to get you the god of abraham and isaac and jacob is running to get you he's hurring to rescue you he's got his robe on and he's been looking for you and now he's running to rescue you and to give the ring on his finger but you're running away you're running to get more stuff to put in that hole where . . . !""


Retirement Address [transcript]

[applause] President Matthews, His Excellency Andres Halversen, Ambassador of Denmark, Provost Hofstein, Dean Peterson, my esteemed colleagues, honored guests -In this day and age it's sometimes nice to honor the old etiquette with that formal salutation -- well the younger folks here will find it quaint and those of us who are crippled and tottering will be warmed by its nostalgia and I can rely on the generous patience of you sleek and lean moderns to excuse the verbiage -[laughter] but thank you all for coming. Phyllis and I are greatly honored by your presence here in this fine hall that has seen so much history, as we're looked down upon by the portraits of the men who have come before us -- Jonathan Edwards, Reinhardt Niebuhr, Roland Bainton -- no paintings of women yet but those will come -[applause] and this splendid meal and the musical entertainment by the Wiffenpoofs, and all of those kind words and generous remarks that you have made, some of which were actually true. It's a splendid "I'm glad to see you go" indeed, how I would have enjoyed this sooner! [laughter, applause] I will go, I won't keep you long, you have trains to catch and rendezvous to keep and it's been a splendid but long night, but at an event like this the honoree is expected to say something witty and profound enough for you to know he's a learned professor and leaves with a few of his wits in place but not so profound as to spoil the dinner and, distasteful though it be, I will do my best to fulfill my duty! [laughter] Most of us are thinker types here. We put a great stock in words, particularly our own words. And you know that words have been of the greatest importance to me, and particularly religious words. We've been using words a very long time, using them casually, sometimes cruelly, occasionally kindly, but it's been remarkable to me how little


weight we give to words. I remember the first time I came to a hint of a realization of the weight words carried. I was 24, at the beginning of what I knew would be a brilliant career characterized by all sorts of smart things that I would say and that smart people would then repeat because they were smart too [laughter] -- and I had lunch with one of my professors, a man who had the most profound impact upon my life, many of you here remember him. We were discussing the Christian concept of salvation and whether or not it was necessary for someone to believe in Jesus Christ as his savior to be redeemed. I was going on, quite smartly, about the various problems with the various doctrines, when my guest -- word to the young people: your professors are most happy to have lunch with you and to pay for it but it's a nice move to pick up the bill [laughter] -- looked across his lunch and said, "Well, I don't know if Jesus is required to save everybody." Coming from my religious background, I was a bit surprised to hear this said, well, so pointedly. And I asked him what exactly meant by that. He said, "Jesus said that he came for the sick. He didn't come for the well. He didn't come for the ones who didn't need a physician. He came for the diseased, the sick." He then looked straight at me. "Are you sick?" [laughter] Yes, ah, "Are you sick?" Words have real meaning. They have consequences. Jesus really meant what he said. It wasn't pretend. If you're not sick, you don't need the physician. As the current bumper sticker says, "Born right the first time." If you have no idea that anything might be fundamentally lacking in your life then you have no hole to be filled, so illness that needs to be cured and no need of a Savior. Jesus came for the sick. That's what he said and that's what he meant. Was I sick? [laughter] Yes, I appreciate all that laughter and probably best not really to explain why, shall we -[laughter] but having told this story you deserve to know my answer. Just like you were just now, I was a bit taken aback, but after a moment, said, well, yes I was sick. To which my professor said in that case I very much needed Jesus and that He and come for me and people like me, to cure my sickness. To save me. Our conversation wasn't a game, or a game in the sense of it being something trivial, like Monopoly, that if I said the right words I'd get Park Place. Words have weight, they


have consequences, they change our lives, or ought to. There's a story about a man in the early days of the church who felt compelled to search for the Lord in the wilderness. He went to the desert to pray. He set himself up in a cave on the face of a high cliff. Sometimes people could seek him out, asking him for his advice on certain matters, and it came to pass --- isn't that a wonderful old phrase, "it came to pass" --- it came to pass that he became famous through the region, the people who came to him believing that they truly took back from him a "word from the Lord." He began to be regarded as a saint. The emperor in Constantinople heard of the man in the desert and, very mindful of guarding holy orthodoxy, assembled a group of clerics and sent them out to find this man. After a long journey into the wilderness the emperor's embassy found the man's cave and assembling at the foot of the cliff called up to him. "Oh holy one," they called. "We have come from the Emperor in Constantinople. We seek a word from the Lord." After a few moments a face appeared at the cave's mouth, the man looked down at the imperial delegation and then returned to the cave's darkness, saying nothing. The delegation was stunned, but there was nothing more to be done, so camp was made and the emperor's emissaries vowed to repeat their appeal on the morrow. The next morning, they again assembled at the cliff's base and called out to the man in the cave above them: "Oh holy one," they called. "We have come from the Emperor in Constantinople. We seek a word from the Lord." Again a face appeared at the cave's mouth, and again it disappeared back into the darkness. For weeks the scene was repeated. The delegation would assemble and call up to the holy man, his face would appear but just as quickly retreat. Food and water were carried up to him by local Bedouins who cared for him and peasants would call up to him and they would be granted admission to the holy man. A lame boy was hauled up the steep face of the cliff by his family; when he was lowered he could walk. But the imperial delegation was always ignored. After a month, the delegation's patience was exhausted. The Patriarch of Antioch himself, who was the senior member of the assembly, stood at the foot of the cliff and called up to the cave above him. "Oh holy hermit! We have come on command of the Emperor Himself in the holy City of New Rome. We seek from you a word from the Lord! Yet you refuse to hear us. You hear the petitions of peasants. You heal the lame. Yet us you greet, we who have come so far and through such difficulty, only with silence! Why do you grant them hearing yet meet us only with silence? Oh holy hermit! We seek from you a word from the Lord!" Again there was silence. But after several minutes the man appeared at the cave's entrance. He was a small man, clothed in a brown sack. He looked out on the splendid delegation, down at the Patriarch, and out over the plane beyond. "Yes!" The holy hermit said, his voice surprisingly strong. "Yes. I hear the pleas of the lame and the poor and the distressed, they who come to hear a word from the Lord. They


come to hear, to listen, and to do. You come and seek a word from the Lord so that you might discuss it! There is no word of the Lord for you!" [longer laughter] We tend to put a high value on chat in places like this, on discussion. On talk. You look out at a university like this, and go to the library and walk around all those books, stacks and stacks and floors and floors of books, and even go to a spectacular building like we have here that is built only to hold really very old and rare books -- a building that we've made like a Holy of Holies, even with it's own miraculous light -- although the talk was that President Brister wanted that design because he was too tight to with the budget to buy real electric fixtures -- why pay for something New Haven gives free. . [laughter] and you might think that we'd take something away from all those books -- from all that semi-holiness -- that the main thing that would characterize a place where there was so much chat and so many books to chat about would be that it would be a place where you'd find a lot of humility, in fact it would be a place where the main thing about it would be it's humility. And gratitude. Humility and gratitude. You'd visit the university, and talk to the students, and with the professors, maybe even with the dean, and you'd come away saying, "Oh. My. What very modest people. What a humble place. How self-effacing!" And you might go to our commencement ceremony and say to your companion, watching all the goings-on, "How very meek these folks are. They seem very grateful." [light laughter] Yes, that doesn't necessarily appear to be the case. We keep words at arms distance. But far too often it seems to be the case that we don't let those words do any real work on us, we toy with them. But that might not be ultimately helpful, unless we really are toys, which might be the case. I'm so honored to have Ambassador Halversen here tonight. We have known each other for a very long time, we meet when I was in Copenhagen a few years after the War at an inappropriately jolly dinner party hosted by fellow enthusiasts for the work of the melancholy Dane, Soren Kierkegaard. It's very generous of Ambassador Halversen and his wife Louisa to join us tonight. Kierkegaard's words have interested me a great deal since I was introduced to them by David Swenson back at the University of Minnesota. As almost all of you know, my parents were immigrants from Denmark and Danish was the language of my Minnesota childhood so the combination of my background and Prof Swenson's wonderful instruction served as happy preparations for a life reading and rereading Kierkegaard's works. When it came time for the full range of those writings to be made available to English speakers, I was approached by the publishers of Kierkegaard's works to take up the general editorship of the series. I thought about it, but declined their


offer. You see, if what Kierkegaard said was right, it would be wise of me to pay attention to that and take his suggestions, in which case it would be a waste of my time to edit his materials. And if Kierkegaard were wrong, it would be a waste of my time to edit his materials -[laughter] -- of course, an existentialists must always keep himself in his own thoughts and I have to let you know that when this offer was made I already had tenure and was a full professor so the vitae didn't need stuffing, it didn't take a whole lot of professional courage to turn them down! [prolonged laughter] But it wouldn't make sense to not fully engage the words and the life of the words. That's a very odd way to say something, saying "the life of the words." And words of course don't exist on pages, they don't float around on print, they come from ways of life, from habits of hearts, from people, people with passions and duplicities and multiple wants and hopes. There's an Ojibwe saying from back home in Minnesota. They say "There are no messages, only messengers." We need to keep in mind the life of the bearer of the messages, because it's just not words, it's the life of the words in the lives of the people bearing those words that we need to keep in mind. We can't forget the ambiguity that is part of every message and every messenger and every hearer and every human heart. So many of you earlier said so many generous things about my life here and my teaching and writing, and I am grateful. But it's all a bit odd. Something else has to be kept in mind too. I need to end with a story. After I had been teaching here for about a decade, coming here from a very happy appointment in the Twin Cities, I got a letter from a former student. I still have that letter but I didn't bring it with me tonight. But I think I can remember its contents pretty accurately. It went something like this: Dear Professor Larsen: I know you don't remember me, you've had a great many students and I'm certain that I didn't stand out. But I took your introduction to philosophy class when I was a sophomore at the University of Minnesota and it was the most important class I had in college, far better than any other class, in fact it was the best class I'd ever had and you were my best professor. You and that class had a tremendous impact upon my life and I learned more from you than from anybody else. Your students now are very lucky to have you. I'm sure that they know that. I have some time now and I just wanted to thank you for everything I learned from you. Signed: sincerely, and then his name.


I looked again at the envelope. It had been postmarked from Stillwater, Minnesota. From the Minnesota Correctional Facility where my correspondent was a guest on an extended stay. For armed robbery. [outburst of prolonged laughter and applause] So, I thank you for your kind words but I greet them with a bit of wariness. Things aren't always quite as they seem, one needs to keep in mind the messenger when considering the message. That's called a "hint." [extended applause] President Matthews: Thank you Mr. Larsen for this wonderful "table talk", and we look forward to the generations of redactions it will go through as . . . . !


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KIDDY PORN

a festive áź?!"#$"%&"%'( by

Girolamo Buonarroti Sandro, a decorator


I

t's all so beautiful, so divinely beautiful. The floor of nave, lined with English

maples, sharp in their spring green, the our eyes lifted to the Waterford chandeliers, glistening like constellations, the gothic vaults knotting themselves at their gilded bosses, the stained glass, the brilliant choir screen, the sculptured monuments of heroes and saints; the Zoroastrians of ancient Persia gave us its name: pairidaeza, a "walled garden", a paradise. Eden.

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The guests, happy and handsome. The kings of the Bulgarians, the Hellenes, Norway, Romania, Tonga and Swaziland, the queens of Spain and Denmark, princes and princesses (crowned and uncrowned) of Morocco, Monaco, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Thailand, the Netherlands, Belgium, Felipe & Letizia, and Abu Dhabi; sheiks and emirs, dukes and duchesses (grand and otherwise) of York and Gloucester and Kent and Edinburgh, Luxembourg and #$%&'()*&+,-./ lords and ladies, Elton John and David Beckham (pop stars and athletes aren't of a class, they are sui generis); governor-generals and prime ministers and premiers of Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Lucia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Canada, the Falklands, the Bahamas, Gibraltar, the United Kingdom; generals and admirals (rear and vice) archbishops of Armagh and Wales and Westminster and York and Thysteira, rabbis, primates and moderators of Scotland, right reverend doctors, the commissioner of the Salvation Army, cardinals of Westminster and Edinburgh, deans, an imam, a Venerable

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Bogoda, members of government elected and appointed, secretaries, chancellors, speakers, presiding officers, mayors (plain and lordly), representatives of all countries with whom the United Kingdom has diplomatic relations and friends of the bride and groom from student and army days; the best of the best. And the music. The glorious music. The choirs of Westminster Abbey and Her Majesty's Chapel Royal, St. James Palace, trumpeters of the Household Cavalry, the London Chamber Orchestra. Anthems by Parry, Rutter, and Mealor. And hymns. The great Welsh hymn "Guide me, O thou great Redeemer" to Cwm Rhondda, Wesley's

"Love divine, all love excelling" and Parry's "Jerusalem" to Blake's text ("And did those feet in ancient times. . . "), and "God Save the Queen" with trumpet fanfare.

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And the bride. Utterly lovely. Graceful, poised, somehow both modest and womanly, her smile radiant and apparently effortless. She even makes the gown she wears admired by the most cattish critics. "Perfection in every detail" they all say. And they are right.

And the Prince. Resplendent in his colonel's red jacket of the Irish Guards with its gold braids, the blue sash of the Order of the Garter over his shoulder, he carries his 6' 3" slightly stooped, like his father, yet there is warmth to him and a generosity that reminds us of his mother. Oh. His mother. Diana, Princess of Wales. Just a few feet from the very spot where the bride and groom now stand before the Archbishop of Canterbury taking their vows

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Diana's corpse lay for her funeral, 14 years before, murdered by the people who gather to celebrate her son's marriage. Murdered? No, certainly not. On August 31, 1997, Diana, her companion Dodi Fayed, and their driver Henri Paul were killed in a car crash in Paris. Diana's bodyguard Trevor Reese-Jones was seriously hurt. Official governmental inquiries in both France and Britain concluded that blame for the deaths lay with the driver Paul who was not only drunk at the time of the crash but also dosed with anti-depressants and tranquilizing antipsychotics: Diana was "unlawful killed" by a grossly negligent driver. Not murdered. We are to believe that the most famous and guarded women in the world, with almost unlimited funds available to her, employed a driver prone to drunkenness and drug abuse, that the witnesses who were with him that night were lying when they categorically denied that Paul was intoxicated and that the video we see of Paul, tying his shoe while standing up without any apparent unsteadiness whatsoever--filmed just before he leaves to get Diana's car--shows someone significantly impaired by alcohol and drugs. We are to believe that it was nothing more than a remarkable circumstance that Diana would tell a friend in October 1996 that she feared that her ex-husband was planning kill her in very much the way that she actually died. We are to believe that assignation is not a part of governmental policy and that there is no such thing as the "Boston brakes." We are to believe that both the British establishment wasn't deeply troubled by a person whose outspokenness and popularity eclipsed that of the monarch and the heir to the throne and

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that the American military/industrial machine didn't find her highly effective lobbying to ban all use of mines threatening to their business. And we are to believe that this same British establishment had nothing to gain from her death and that there was no relationship between President Clinton's initial agreement to support the Oslo treaty that would create an immediate and total ban on anti-personnel mines--a position that was the result of a personal appeal by Diana to Clinton--and his sudden reversal on the treaty on September 17, 1997, two weeks after her death. And we are to believe that these establishments would not be willing to take drastic steps to ensure their self-preservation or their business interest; we are to believe that their deep moral character would not allow it. That's a long list of credimus. But the list is longer. We are to believe it was not the British who, upon the collapse of the Nazis in 1945 turned surrendered German soldiers and POW's into slave laborers. A century earlier we are to believe that the British did not wage war upon China for the purpose of forcing her to abandon tens of thousands--and perhaps millions--of her people to opium addiction so that the British could grow rich off the opium trade (and that the lords and ladies, the bishops and archbishops, and the merchant princes were ignorant of the war's purpose even though Lin Zexu's "Memorial" letter to Victoria was published in the Times). We are to believe that it was not the government of that same sweet Victoria that invented the concentration camp and the concept of strategic starvation in the South African War. And here, on this day, we are to believe it is inconceivable that these people--archbishops, monarchs, men and women of politics and industry, seated in such splendor in the magnificence of the Abbey, in such near divine beauty, are anything other than what they appear to us to be: creatures of honor and benevolence and broad !

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humanity. And on this day, we are to believe that they could have had nothing to do with those tragic events of fourteen years earlier apart to grieve, like the rest of us. But they did, or at the very least we deeply suspect that they did: they planned, or participated, or applauded, or simply blessed it all with silence. And now, standing there in the midst of fifteen hundred years of the breath-taking splendor of Westminster Abbey, all those events of the past are of no matter, they are washed over by the brilliance of the day's glory, all is illuminated and transfigured by the radiance of the day's beauty. But what about us? Are we transfigured too? Have we forgotten the events of fourteen years before? And even more, have we forgotten the lessons our grandparents learned in the trenches of northern France and we saw rehearsed in Dallas and Vietnam and Memphis and Iraq? Or have we been so unschooled that the sight of the bejeweled Archbishop of Canterbury, with his exquisite fringed cope and golden mitre, pronouncing his benediction upon these two young people -- knowing what he must know of that place and about that assembly and about himself -- doesn't strike us as the grossest obscenity, sending us into convulsions of disgust? If there is an iconostasis of molestation, of indecency, of kiddy porn, certainly this is it.

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But no, we've been well schooled, we don't convulse. We don't gag. Indeed, you find my comment indecent, obscene. No, we rejoice with the grand assembly. Indeed, we're thrilled. We heartily join in the singing. "And did those feet . . . ." We wave the flag. It is all so wonderful, so deeply wonderful. We're carried way! Yes, that phrase, "carried away," that's it exactly! Carried away! Yet why do we find the phrase so apt? What are we carried away from? Where are we carried to? And who carries us?

Beauty carries us. It carries us away to god. Not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the God of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a very different god but a deity non-theless.

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II Here is a picture of part of his temple. Or a place that was once one part of it. It is the great Abby Church of Cluny and for five hundred years it was the most splendid building in Christendom.

This is all that remains of the famous abbey: a street that was once its nave and the rump of one of its south transepts. But drawings of the complex done before revolutionary mobs blew it up in October 1793 (the remainder sold for scrap stone soon afterwards) along with modern reconstructions can give us an idea of its medieval magnificence. Together with its additional structures, the abbey buildings covered twenty-five acres, a community enclosed by a wall with guard towers that included two churches, an abbot's palace, numerous cloisters, twelve church towers, rooms for pilgrims, an infirmary, bakery, a scriptorium, and stables. The chief function of the monks, which at one time numbered as many as two hundred and fifty, was the celebration of the liturgy. The original dual work of Benedictines, prayer and physical labor, was replaced at Cluny by

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monks who devoted the entirety of their day to the liturgy while paid employees and peasants, bound to the land, provided the necessities required of the huge establishment.

a reconstruction of the abbey's nave

And the monks celebrated the liturgy in the most magnificent way possible. At its completion the main abbey church was 580 feet long, the largest building in Europe before the completion of St. Peter's in Rome (the Roman basilica is about 150 feel longer). The main abbey church (called "Cluny III" by modern historians) had five aisles, an extended narthex, two transepts, six large bell towers, as many as five hundred elaborately called capitals (and perhaps twice that number), a twice lifesize apse fresco of Christ in Majesty and at least two elaborately carved tympana over the abbey's principle entrances, represent ring the finest sculpture of the age. Medieval visitors described Cluny with awe.

Such glory does not come cheap. Looking to expand the his abbey's holdings along the lucrative pilgrimage routes to Compostella, Abbot Hugh bought the abbey of SaintMartial in Limoges from the Viscount Ademar in 1062. But the sale was not approved by the monks of Saint-Martial or their abbot and they resisted Hugh's claim of ownership. Eventually Hugh himself, in a cabal with the viscount, came to Limoges, forced the monks out of the abbey and elected a puppet abbot, actions which caused the original monks to take up arms and rise up against Hugh. House-to-house fighting erupted in the city with both sides augmenting their numbers with mercenaries. Only when the papal legate Peter Damian threatened the monks of Saint-Martial with excommunication did they submit to Cluny's rule, assuring the income from the monetary to Hugh. That same year (1062) King Ferdinand of Leon and Castile committed to an annual payment of 1,000 mancus in gold to Abbot Hugh. Fifteen years later, in 1077, Ferdinand's son Alfonso VI doubled that already enormous amount, income that allowed Hugh to begin the final stage of his abbey's construction. In an accord from that year, the king stipulates that in recognition of his gift, the monks of Cluny will celebrate masses for himself, his ancestors and his descendents. In 1090, King Alfonso met Abbot Hugh in Burgos where the king pledged an "eternal" payment to the monastery The medieval gold mancus

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and Hugh promised to decree that all his successor abbots at Cluny would celebrate masses on the behalf of Alfonso's dynasty forever. Furthermore Hugh promised that the expanded abbey church would contain a major altar that would be reserved in perpetuity for the recital of masses celebrated for Alfonso's salvation alone. Taking the macus at roughly the value of a skilled laborer's monthly wage (which is probably a low valuation), Alfonso's annual pledge to Cluny equaled the wages of a laborer for two thousand years. That's a lot of gold. And where did these Spanish monarchs get it? From a tax they imposed upon their Muslim subjects and tribute they collected from neighboring Muslim kingdoms. So, the kings of Christian Spain, by threat of violence and even death, extorted gold from Muslims--people to whom they were commanded to show the love of Christ and his mercy for the purpose of bringing them to eternal life -- so that these kings could send this Islamic gold to Cluny for Hugh to spend on building and adorning his enormous abbey. Horrible though this is, the kings' behavior wasn't that different from that of the Muslim monarchs with whom they contested the Iberian peninsula who exacted similar taxes upon the dhimmi in their realms. But the abbot. . . . . The surviving abbey transept

Through fraud and eventually violence Hugh forced his possession of the independent abbey at Limoges. "Forced possession", that's called rape. Because he paid for the privilege -- and not just because he loved him "even as ye have loved me" but because he paid -- Hugh pledged the monks under his control and their successors to pray for the salvation of the King Ferdinand and his dynasty's heirs, "forever." That's called pimping. But Hugh not only sold all the monks of Cluny, stretching to perpetuity, into whoredom, he trafficked God's love. This not even the Muslims would do. When the Caliph of Egypt Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah razed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 1009, he only destroyed a building. This holy abbot, this saint, made the Holy Spirit his bitch. Does the blasphemy make you shudder? Good enough. But do you shudder at the size of the abbey? The chief priests and elders refused blood money, they refused the thirty pieces of silver that betrayed the Savior. Do you shudder because payment for this great abbey required violence and the threat of murder and the betrayal of the Gospel? Yes? !

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No? Or are you moved at the artistry of even the abbey's remains, beautiful in their broken splendor? Does such beauty excuse the abbot? Does it, speaking to us across the centuries, even justify his work? Does beauty mute the grinding cackle of the whoremonger, barking his wares?

one of the capitals from Hugh's great abbey

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III Does beauty mute this?

This is Bernard Francis Law, Archbishop Emeritus of Boston and Cardinal, celebrating mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome where he is Archpriest Emeritus. While bishop of Boston, Law actively participated in covering-up the molestations and rapes of thousands of children, shielding priests accused of being sexual predators from criminal prosecution by shuttling them from one parish to another and either cowing or bribing their accusers into silence. In December, 2002, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly's office delivered a subpoena to Law at his Boston offices but, tipped off about the subpoena, Cardinal Law had already fled Massachusetts' jurisdiction, flying first to Washington D.C. and from there to Rome where he resigned as archbishop. After a brief appointment as chaplain to a convent in Maryland, Pope John Paul II "the Great" appointed Law to one of the most prestigious positions in the Roman Catholic Church: archpriest of the ancient basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. According to a 2006 archdiocese report, the sexual abuse crisis had cost the Boston archdiocese one hundred and fifty-eight million dollars, most of that paid out in settlements to almost nine-hundred victims and their families. But that staggering amount says nothing about the suicides of the predators' victims who Cardinal Law had shielded, the thousands who found their faith twice maimed -- first by the molestations themselves and a second time by Cardinal Law's refusal to address the issue until relentless reporting !

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by the Boston Globe forced civil authorities to begin formal investigations -- and the number of Boston parishes that the Roman Catholic Church's financial and moral collapse pushed into closing -- or the damage the scandal did to the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion (why should the Church's position on protecting the unborn be taken seriously when it did so little to protect from rape children born already?). Back to that photograph of the Archpriest at mass. Makes you squirm, doesn't it? Not very comfortable to look at, it is? Two priests, the boy. . . . . The Cardinal, with his red cap, who though not accused as a child-rapist himself none-the-less abetted the molestation of hundreds of children. The human heart is a very dark place. Maybe he shuffled the molesting priests around because experts told him that therapy had corrected their problem and these men were no longer dangerous, his mistake was a mistake of innocence and naivety; but then again maybe he liked the idea of priests screwing the kids. Maybe he knew what would happen and he, in a dark crevasses of his soul, found himself smiling with each move. For our purposes here it doesn't matter. The children were violated. And the faith of their families maimed. About that there is no uncertainty. And there is also no uncertainty about Cardinal Lawâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s culpability in the violations. And today, there is certainly no lack of public awareness of Law's history. We all know.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, nave interior

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mass at the basilica

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Yet, knowing this, a mother allows her son to hold a towel for this man as he ritually wipes his hands. What is she thinking? Is she thinking at all, or is she overcome? The glory of the ancient basilica, the antique mosaics and marbles, the Renaissance ceiling (radiant with the first gold Cortez plundered from the Aztecs), its tower and baroque domes and facades, the vestments and finery and the altar hangings, the incense, flowers, processions and chanting -- all this overwhelms her; even more than the fairy story of the sacred nature of the priest in who's hands the bread and wine are transformed in to the Holy and Divine Body-- the entire panoply of Papal Rome carries her away. Beauty -- and magnificence and grandeur and splendor and mystery -- wash over her, drowning her impulse to protect her child. The great abbot of Cluny only made his monks into whores. The glory of Papal Rome makes the woman forget she's a mother, she abandons her son to the sea.

IV The beauty of the royal wedding sweeps us away from our memory, making us forget the royal murder. The beauty of Cluny mutes complaints of treacheries and simony. In Rome beauty overwhelms even the love of a mother. There are theologians, men who pride themselves about how keenly they discern the logic of God, who busy themselves with "beauty." They don't paint, sculpt or compose. They write no plays and design no splendid buildings. They write no poetry. They do not skimp and save so that they might purchase an item of particular beauty simply because they want to delight in looking at it daily. But they jabber and squiggle about "beauty" and "God" at great length. They spin magnificent taxonomies and catalogues of beauty: beauty of artistic things, the beauty of nature, they even rob beauty of its physicality and chat about it as an idea, an idea that, standing on great ladders and looking out at it into the infinite, report back to us how beautiful it is. Fools. Beauty is not an idea. We do not hear an idea. We do not run our hands over an idea. We do not taste an idea or smell it. David was not driven to adultery and murder !

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by an "idea" of beauty, it was the beauty of Bathsheba's body that drove him, it was the look of her flesh, the gleam of her eyes, the taste of her lips and the heat of his body in hers that inflamed him with life. No artist puts himself through the travail of creation to make an idea inside somebody else's head. How absurd. No. The artist slaves to make something real, a sculpture that can be caressed, a painting that can be looked upon, a sonata that can be played and listened to, a drama that can be performed, a real thing that can sweep you away.

And these same religious chirpers say that beauty can sweep us away to God. They look at a spider web in the quiet moments of dawn, hung with dew drops that glisten on it like tiny pearls, and say it speaks of the splendor of God. Yes, truly, the sight is beautiful, the web is lovely but it is the web's beauty itself that makes us forget that it's a trap, that the only reason it exists is to ensnare and consume and if it speaks of the glory of God it must speak of the glory of a cunning deity who delights in deceit. Beauty draws us only to itself. It makes us forget everything else. Beauty has no memory and recognizes no other loyalties. It is not fixed but is infinitely kaleidoscopic, changing itself moment by moment yet always demanding our complete and absolute submission to itself. It is idolatrous and deadly; Homer knew: devotion to beauty turns men into pigs and for good reason Odysseus filled his sailors ears with wax and lashed himself to the mast. Beauty is not just related to sex. It and sex are one and the same. !

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No, better, beauty and fucking are one in the same. My vulgarity take you aback? So be it. We fuck. And when we fuck we forget everything but the thrill of our own pleasure, being in that impossible state in which the cosmos both ceases to exist and explodes with life --- our life, life singular because in fucking we think of only ourselves; duties, customs, oaths, vows all consumed in the sweet heat of the fuck. The joy of the fuck makes us forget our beloved. Beauty makes us forget God. Oh, but you take offence at all this. You find me indecent. You think my analysis absurd. You even judge me unbalanced. To equate beauty, the windows of Chartres, the pages Les Très Riches Heures, the paintings of Velåzquez, of the poems Crashaw, of the frescos of Giotto, the motets of Bruckner, the buildings of Saarinen, even the alley of Yosemite -all of that -- with bestial sex, it is beyond the pale. No. It is beauty that lies beyond the pale, that takes us to that other region, into darkness.

A Boston Performance of the St. Matthew Passion

I have an acquaintance, he is not a friend but we know each other, an acquaintance. He is cultivated, educated with a doctoral degree in music, articulate (in both English and German), and professionally successful. He is a conservative Jew and honors the traditions and beliefs of Judaism. He has frequently said that his favorite piece of music is Bach's St. Matthew Passion, it is his "desert island" piece. This means that he, with eagerness and appreciation, will sit through the three hours of Bach's music with the greatest pleasure. He will find himself moved by it. But I have no doubt that he would !

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not spend three hours focusing on Matthew's text. Twenty minutes perhaps, once or twice in his life, simply as a way of broadening his cultural awareness, yes, that might happen, I have said that he is a cultured man. But saying that the Gospel of St. Matthew would be one of the books that he would take with him to a desert island, no, that would not happen. Simply put, my acquaintance has no problem whatsoever spending three hours listening to a piece of music the words of which he believes are false, even absurd. And my acquaintance here is not at all unusual. In fact, he is typical. Tens of thousands of people listen to the St. Matthew Passion in concert halls and study it in university settings who find the story moving in a broadly mythological way and the texts quaintly poetic, but they don't believe the words to be gospel. They don't believe them to be true, to demand a change in their own lives. Why then do they so admire the St. Matthew Passion, and even love it? The answer is obvious: because the music is so beautiful. And Bach's magnificent music renders the sacred words innocuous. It drains them of their power. It makes them impotent. Many, perhaps even most, of the thousands of people who listen to the Passion would be profoundly offended if they were required to sit and simply listen to the Gospel text, but clothe the divine words with beautiful music and they sit eagerly, even rapturously, participants in a bourgeois orgy of aesthetic pleasure, gasping and moaning and clapping their delight. That is the case with my acquaintance. He finds the St. Matthew Passion beautiful because Bach's music overwhelms the words. The texts don't really matter -- because the music is so beautiful. And so secularists are thrilled by Messiah and tourists stroll through Sainte-Chappelle, aesthetes marvel at Shaker furniture and busloads of gawkers tick the Isenheim Altarpiece off their list in Colmar, because it is all so beautiful. Beauty so effectively drains the works of the human character-- their moral power -- that we hardly note its absence; we don't even believe it's important. And so we don't find it odd when a seminary hires a choir director who is an atheist because his performances are so beautiful, and a church employs an unbelieving architect because his buildings are so beautiful, and a theater celebrates a conductor who is a child molester because his productions are so beautiful. Oscar Wilde pontificates: $%&'('!)*!+,!*-.&!/&)+0!1*!1! 2,(13!,(!1+!)22,(13!4,,56!7,,5*!1('!8'33!8()//'+9!,(!41:3;!8()//'+6!%&1/!)*!1336$!! <)3:'!)*!1!.-++)+0!:'.')='(9!1!3)1(!>('2'24'(!/&'*'!8,(:*!<)3:'!8(,/'!)+!/&'! ?('@1.'!,@!!"#$%&'(#)*9!1!+,='3!14,-/!1!:'.'?/),+A9!4-/!8'!:,+B/!.1('9!&)*!3)'*!1('!*,! 8)//;9!*,!*/;3)*&9!:'3)='(':!8)/&!*-.&!?1+1.&'9!*,!+)%,-$.,/6! ! But you protest. Did not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob delight in the beauty of the Tabernacle? Did He not give specific instructions for the gold, the silver, the wool of sheep and goats in blue and red, the sweet-smelling incense, the cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant, their covering of pure gold, the acacia wood table with its cover of pure gold and gold rim, the list goes on? And do not the scriptures attest to the splendor and beauty

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of the Temple? And did not the Lord himself commend the woman who anointed him with precious oil? And you even quote Holy Scripture to me, "Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness"! "They will thus make all that I have ordered, the Communion Tent, the Ark of the Covenant, the ark cover to go on it, all the utensils for the tent, the table and its utensils, the pure menorah and all its utensils, the incense altar, the sacrificial altar and all its utensils, the washstand and its base, the packing cloths, the sacred vestments for Aaron the priest, the vestments that his sons wear to serve, the anointing oil, and the incense for the sanctuary. They will thus do all that I command." To do all that I command. The God of the Exodus delights in obedience of his people, not in the preference of blue over orange or four rings on the side of a box as opposed to eight. When the writer of Hebrews searches for a model of the faith, he does not point to the splendor of Solomon's Temple or the glint of the Ark of the Covenant but instead to Abraham's obedience. And Jesus commended the women not because of the beauty of the alabaster jar or the extravagance of the perfume, but because of her faith. And we are to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, not the beauty of chintz, a holiness which we acknowledge with the fear of the Lord and prove through our love, keeping his commandments, that we love on another. But the professors who go on about the theology of beauty aren't entirely wrong. They have one thing right. Beauty is an avenue to the divine, it is the divine Zeus, Molech, Ragaraja, Astarte, Bes, Beelzebub, Rati, Lucifer, name the god what you will, here they are all the same: the god who consumes us with our own appetites, the god who blinds us with light and chains us in darkness where we rot having forgotten our moral selves, incapable of love but fucking with virtuosic abandon. Beauty -- the beauty of the liturgy, of the architecture, of the pageantry -- blinds us to this god's heilige Geschichte: murder, simony, torgure, rape. And knowing this we makes ourselves the god's accessories, using beauty to trap each other, to deceive, cover our crimes (and is this the source of our hatred of spiders? We are

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jealous of their success? We envy their cunning?) This deity of beauty is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the law and the prophets, the God of the Holy Trinity. This True God does not reveal himself in beauty. He reveals Himself in ugliness. He shows Himself in suffering and in pain. Giovanni di Bernardone did not find God in the silk brocades of his father's shop or in Constantineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s great basilica in Rome, but instead in the ruins of Porziuncola, in the leper's kiss, in the agony of the stigmata. The True God does not reveal himself in the dazzling needle work of the Temple curtain but in spit and mud and the crusted eyes of the blind, not in the cool fountains of a Palestinian garden but in the stinking corpse of a dead friend, not above the splendor of the gold cherubim but in the brute ugliness of a naked death upon a cross.! !

! The Orthodox, the church of the golden domes, the metropolitans, patriarchs and holy hermits, say that God is approached through the senses, and the Orthodox are right. But it is not through the glittering iconostasis, the clouds of incense, the glow of Holy Fire or the icons roped with strings of pearls or the cherubic hymns or the clergy with their diamond crowns and golden copes that we meet God. No. We met Him where He told us to look for Him: in the taste of rotten fruit and trampled grain, in the sound weeping widows and crying orphans, in the smell of piss and shit and fetid flesh; we find God in the ugly stench of Hell where he has come to find us.!

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! These words are true. They are not the invention of professors or archbishops or shamans who spin out their chit-chats in eloquent books or from deeply cushioned thrones or at sulfur fumed temples. God reveals Himself through the cross. Through the ugliness of the cross. And time after time He tells us to seek Him in the poor and the diseased, in the wastelands and the backwaters, in the twisted and deformed. In the ugly. In the cross.! ! But we dare not look upon that, upon the ugliness of God. We glimpse it and shrink away. It is too hideous, too terrifying, and we find that we do not have the strength to seek Him. Give us instead the lovely wedding and the splendid abbey and the soaring liturgy; they are so divinely beautiful. Give us porn.! !

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Lecture Thirty-Seven The Bach Prelude, Part Two a transcript of a lecture delivered by

Aaron Hochberg

Good morning. We are at the point of our course together where we must return to the Bach Prelude in C Major we studied earlier. You will remember that this is the piece with which Bach opened his famous Das Wohlemperierte Klavier, a collection of twentyfour preludes and fugues that Bach assembled in 1722 while in the service of Leopold, Prince of #$%&'()*+(%,$-!.%,!/01$2,!3&4!&!5,678(!9&'61$14(!&$5!:,2&84,!;,<70=,5! 3704%1/!515!$7(!=&>,!84,!7<!,'&:70&(,!=8412?!@&2%A4!/01=&01'B!27=/74,5!$7$) '1(80C12&'!370>4!3%1',!1$!%14!,=/'7B!D@&2%!370>,5!<70!(%,!/01$2,!:,(3,,$!"E"E!&$5! "EFGH-!!So this assemblage of keyboard music is roughly contemporaneous with the suites for unaccompanied cello, the sonatas and partitas for violin, and the Brandenburg concerti, works that Bach also wrote in *+(%,$- An argument can be made that this prelude is Bach's best known work; it's certainly his most performed since it is well within the grasp almost any beginning keyboard player.

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We left that earlier discussion with several questions posed but unanswered but before we return to those questions I'd like to briefly recap what we did before. We used the prelude as a summary of our introduction to tonal harmony. And if you'd turn in your notes to our analysis we can review it together. The first graphic is a rhythmic simplification of Bach's prelude (you'll remember that we're using the thirty-five measure version of the prelude, something that we'll talk about more in a moment) and the second is a summary of Bach's harmonic movement.

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#$%&!'()'*&!+,-./$'0$!$.!/1,1,21/!3405',10$'(&!216'4&1!)710!)1!3./81$!$71,!)1! (..&1!.4/!raison d'ĂŞtre, our "reason to be", and we become imbeciles going through meaningless motions. I have said this before but it needs to be repeated: the fundamental reason you are here, in this class, studying this subject, is because you love music and have made a decision to try to spend your life with music as a musician. The study of harmony is part of the professional training of a musician, so you are enrolled in this professional curriculum. But I want more for you than merely to be a competently trained musician factotum. I want you to become a passionate lover of great music -- to study it, preserve it, perform it, compose it -- and at the same time cultivating a distain for bad music, that distain radiating out in your life to anything mediocre and slovenly, first in yourself and then in the worlds you inhabit. For several hundred years we have held Bach's music, and most certainly this piece, in the very highest regard. That's very important: "very highest," it means something, it's not a casual saying. And because of this tradition we can use this prelude as a template of excellence. But what is "greatness" in this tradition? And is this "greatness" fundamentally different from "greatness" in other areas? And why is this prelude "great"? Is it really as good as so many people have said that it is? Might it even perhaps be improved? So, you can see that there's much more at stake in our study of this prelude than simply the matter of the way chords are spelled and the business of voice leading. And you can see why we have delayed this second part of our discussion for nearly twelve weeks, dealing with a good deal of bass line realization and chorale analysis before we were adequately prepared to return to it. But now we are prepared and we are at the point where I can remind you of the questions I left you with when we finished our initial work on the prelude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The shape of human face seems to be characterized by a ratio that is repeated across its most important characteristics. And faces we find particularly attractive, and even beautiful, display this ratio to a high degree. This is certainly the case here (even when we take into consideration that the fact that many of the faces above are the result of professional photographers and are possibly manipulated). And we can see this phenomenon dramatically when some of those proportions are a bit "off." Hugh Jackman is most certainly a handsome man. But when he smiles broadly while dropping his jaw he appears even better looking. This is because smiles are always attractive but also perhaps because this move slightly lengthens his face and the longer

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visage gives a more pleasing proportion between the length of his face and the length of his nose; it's closer to the golden ratio. Although certainly not anything close to being disfigured, we notice something odd about Barbara Streisand and the Princess Beatrice of York. Streisand's mouth is very wide and Beatrice's eyes, although beautiful, seem a bit misplaced. These characteristics are quite different from the vertical proportions of their faces which in both cases conform to the pattern we saw before. But here we sense the oddity that part of their faces fits the golden ratio while another part violates it.

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Jay Leno is an enormously successful comedian. His success is because of his great intelligence and wit (luck helps too) but it's certainly not hurt by the fact that he literally looks "funny."

His nose is too short for the length of his face. It's a bit comic. Yet even here there's a consistency: the relationship between the lengths of the eyebrow and the mouth and nose and the smaller distance of the golden mean across the face are all the same, just like Matt Damon's. And if we go back and look at Matt Damon's face and compare it to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esides being stamped on our faces, the golden ratio is also found in the relationship between the lengths some of the bones of our hands. The proximal phalanx is about .618 of the length of the metacarpal bone below it.

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The middle phalanx is about .618 of the length of the proximal phalanx.

And the distal phalanx is about .618 of the length of the middle phalanx.

With the golden ratio playing such an important part in the two most visible parts of our bodies, our faces and our hands, it's not surprising that the ratio is found in sculpture, architecture, painting and drawing. We create works of art that reflect our basic characteristics. But we must be careful here not to overstep. A great deal has been written on the golden ratio in the plastic arts and far too often we find occasions of authors imposing answers upon their examples. The Parthenon in Athens is a good example. Frequently discussions of the golden ratio begin with the Parthenon and claim that it was designed and constructed according to the golden ratio and diagrams are presented to support the claim. This is problematic on several levels. First, it's exceedingly difficult to produce a reliable survey of a building that has gone through nearly two and a half thousand years of history, reliable in the sense of showing the building's form in antiquity in great detail. So we need to be modest about our claims. And even when we have the modern survey it's difficult to know if measurements should

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be taken including or excluding the width of walls (with interior measurements) and just which exterior elements to include or exclude (should we include steps and moldings, etc.). Euclid (c. 325 - c. 347 BC) famously described the golden ratio as the "extreme and mean" in his Elements but the ratio wasn't described as a decimal until 1597

Benoit Loviot's reconstruction, 1880

when Michael Maestlin (1550 - 1632) mentioned it in a letter to his friend Johannes Kepler. In any case, the writers of classical antiquity did not have irrational numbers !

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available to them so the ratio they used was 5 : 3 or 13 : 8 (which is the ratio of the golden rectangle we use earlier). Finally we have to remember that critics of people who claim that the Parthenon is constructed according to the golden ratio are frequently mathematicians and mathematicians, with good cause, have little patience with imprecision. But mathematicians need to remember that artists, when they use mathematical principals, frequently arrive at them through intuition, not measurement. And when they measure they make the mathematics subservient to their expressive purposes. They approximate. If we keep these things in mind I think that we can see evidence that something approaching the golden ratio governs the relationship between the cap of the gable and the height of the columns, but other exterior golden relationships are less persuasive.

And if we apply our calipers to the Parthenon's interior the relationship between the buildings two chambers does seem suggest that something approaching the golden ratio played a role in their design.

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In medieval architecture, and in particular the architecture of the French gothic, we sometimes clearly see principles similar to the golden ratio governing the relationships between the buildings' sections. This is the case in the cathedrals of Paris and Chartres. If we look at the peaks of the vaults in the nave at Chartres (completed around 1250), we find that the crossing is the golden mean of the distance from the cathedral's entrance to the vault over the high altar.

Furthermore, the width of the nave and the distance across the transept also are very close to the golden ratio. The nave is as wide as smaller part of the golden ratio of the distance from the end of the interior crossing to the far pier of the crossing, and that far pier is itself the articulation of the golden ratio of the full distance across the transept.

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In the interior, the height of the nave arcade marks the golden mean of the height of the nave walls.

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The cathedral's late gothic north tower (dating from about 1515) also shows signs of being partially designed according to principals approximating the golden ratio.

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The west facade of Notre Dame of Paris (the building was begun in 1163) shows several proportional relationships that are similar to the golden ratio. As in Chartres, the proportion is found between large sections (as between stories of the facade) and smaller details. And again, I must emphasize that these proportions are very similar to the golden ratio, not mathematically precise reproductions of the ratio.

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The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is one of the most famous churches in Florence. The interior of the church was finished about 1350 but the front facade was left incomplete until Leone Battista Alberti designed and completed it in 1472. Alberti was one of the most important humanists of his day and it is to him that we owe the introduction of the notion of "concinnity," a term we'll discuss in a moment. It's not surprising that his design has elements very close to a series of golden proportions. Here, as in the facade of Notre Dame of Paris and the north tower of Chartres, we see the same proportion repeated across the design.

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Leonardo's Mona Lisa (which he completed around 1506) is also frequently cited as an example of a painting designed according to the golden ratio. But, as these two examples show, the analyses tend to be examples of what I mentioned earlier was a potential problem of this kind of study: solutions are imposed upon the evidence. And more than that, they frequently seem oblivious to the important features of the works of art themselves. For instance: in this analysis there's no compelling visual reason for the importance of the bottom of the large golden rectangle. In fact, the straight line that parallels the bottom of the frame violates the "V" Leonardo creates by the hands and arms gently crossing over each other. The golden sections are forced on the painting and emphasize things that aren't necessarily of the greatest importance. The second analysis constructs a completely different golden rectangle over the figure's face from the first one.

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Both of these pretend to reveal something about the work of art while being deeply insensitive to its artistic character. The face of Leonardo's figure does display the characteristic relationships of the faces we looked at earlier but, if Leonardo is interested in naturalism, which he was, that is to be expected.

What is important in this painting, and does rather strongly suggest the purposeful use of the golden proportion, is the height of the balcony rail and the corresponding horizon of the landscape in the background.

The balcony rail marks the golden mean of the full length of the painting and the distant horizon marks the golden mean of one of the smaller sections; it is a second golden mean, the golden mean of the golden mean. This does seem to be a purposeful calculation. !

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This is Leonardo's "Vitruvian Man" dating from about 1487, so called because it is accompanied by the artist's notes on Vitruvius' De architectura which the great Roman architect dedicated to Caesar Augustus and completed around 15 BC. Vitruvius

believed that buildings should be based upon the same proportions as the human body and included a template of relationships at the beginning of his treatise. The work was known in the Middle Ages (ancient texts were re-copied and thus preserved during the reign of Charlemagne) but had little influence until it was rediscovered in the second decade of the fifteenth-century and popularized among intellectuals. A printed copy had only been published a year before Leonardo's drawing.

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Although occasionally similar to the golden section, for instance, Vitruvius describes the ratios of the face as 3 : 2 or !"#$%#&'(%#&)%#)%*+)&#,"#&)%#"'-%#*&.%/"0#&)%#1*.&'2-%#"3,4#&)%#5,&&,4#,"#&)%#-)*2#&,#&)%# 621%3#.*1%#,"#&)%#2,.&3*/.#*.#,2%#&)*31#,"#*&7#&)%#2,.%#"3,4#&)%#621%3#.*1%#,"#&)%#2,.&3*/.# &,#'#/*2%#5%&$%%2#&)%#%8%53,$.#*.#&)%#.'4%7#"3,4#&)%3%#&,#&)%#/,$%.&#3,,&.#,"#&)%#)'*3#*.# '/.,#'#&)*310#-,493*.*2+#&)%#",3%)%'1:# # $%&'!()&!*+$!,-.$&!$%&!/(0&1!!2*3!.$!./!.04+)$(*$!$+!*+$&!$%($!5.$)-6.-/!47(8&/!$%&! *(6&7!($!$%&!8&*$&)!+9!$%&!:+3'1!! Leonardo, importantly, changes that position, making the navel the golden mean of the figure's height.

And should we extend our caliper to include the circle we see that point marks the center of the figures chest. And, as in the case of Leonardo's Mona Lisa, the face also conforms to the near golden ratio relationships we discussed earlier.

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The Virtruvian Man is probably Leonardo's most widely known drawing. The David is Michelangelo's most widely known sculpture. Completed in 1504, Michelangelo's figure has the same proportions as Leonardo's and it's conceivable that he knew of Leonardo's work. The navel is quite close to the golden mean of the figure's height.

But as in the case of the face, we can see that the golden ratio is a close approximation of nature (or at least the nature of the model $%&'(!)%*+,-..

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The "Great Wave off Kanagawa" is a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai dating from about 1833.

Here two golden ratio spirals have been imposed on the woodcut, one focused on a point in the middle of Hokusai's piece and a second that seems to be imposed upon the curve of the wave in such a way as to highlight the similarity of the wave's arch and the golden ratio spiral. But as in the case of the Mona Lisa, this analysis actually distorts the work of art and is deeply insensitive to it.

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There are interlocking golden ratio relationships in this woodcut and they dramatically heighten the work's power. The greatest opposites in the woodcut are the huge wave, which is fluid and unstable, and Mount Fuji, which is in the extreme distance and is of course solid and stable.

The opposition between them is emphasized by the fact that both elements articulate vertical and opposite golden means through the woodcut. Furthermore, Mount Fuji not

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only marks a lateral golden mean, it also articulates a vertical golden mean, making it thus a double golden section.

The inversion of this horizontal golden ratio (turning the calipers upside down) marks the division between the sea and sky at the woodcut's edges.

The opposition of stability and instability, water and land, sky and sea, and violence and serenity are all emphasized by Hokusai's use of the golden ratio on multiple levels. The use of the golden ratio is not an esoteric trick or a trivial element of design but an essential element of the work's expressive eloquence. I will mention this again later.

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One of the most beautiful architectural ensembles in the United States is the Center Green of New Haven, Connecticut. The tallest spire is that of the First Church of Christ, a congregation founded in 1639 and the present church built in 1812 by architect Ithiel

Town. The white tower just behind it is The United Church, designed by David Hoadley in 1814. The proportions of the steeples of both churches are a series of interlocking golden proportions. First Church of Christ (1812)

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The United Church (1814)

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And our final example is local, the California Tower in Balboa Park, here in San Diego, designed by the great American architect Bertram Goodhue and completed in 1915. The four upper stories of the tower, including the stylized bell at the top and even the weather vane atop that, are series of golden ratios, each one progressively smaller as the tower rises.

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Goodhue was also the architect of the Nebraska State Capitol and the tower of that building displays similar characteristics But we can tell when things don't quite work. This is the Edman Chapel at Wheaton

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College in Wheaton, Illinois. Built in the early 1960's in an approximation of a Federal style, the clock tower looks OK up to a point but then something happens. Something is not right about the rest of the design. It looks stumpy. And it looks stumpy because it is stumpy. The clock portion of the tower is too short for both the distance between the base of the wood-faced section of the tower and the tip of the gable and the height of the section between the base of this clock section and the gable's tip. Out intuition tells us this and the calipers confirm it. Compared with all of the other towers we've looked at here, this leaves us a feeling a bit sad.

I want to dwell on that last point just a little bit more. It isn't that the Wheaton tower is mis-designed because of its failure to conform to golden sections, it's that when we look at the tower we see that something isn't quite right about it. It's a bit off. Like Jay Leno's nose or Barbara Streisand's mouth. When we look closer we noticed the golden ratio problems. It's intuition first. Mathematics second. The problem is inconsistency, and we'll talk about that more in a moment.

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! $%&'!(%)!%!*%+,-&./%+/0!(1//!12.&%,12!3.)-&-%4!56+!'-)!2%0!%42!36),!&1+,%-4/0! +1%2-47!8.&/-2!56+312!*%+,!65!'-)!,+%-4-479!!:1313;1+-47!8.&/-2<)!215-4-,-64!65!,'1! 76/214!+%,-6!%)!,'1!=extreme and mean" it's almost as if Bach, in his presentations of this sonority, is rehearsing in harmony what Euclid described in distance. That may be pushing the point a bit but I think you see what I mean.! ! >'-)!&'%+,?!)-3-/%+!,6!641!(1!.)12!1%+/-1+?!(-,'!-,)!%+&'1)!)'6(-47!,'1!@%+-6.)! 76/214!+%,-6)!%42!,'1!&6++1)*642-47!'%+364-1)?!).33%+-A1)!,'1!+1/%,-64)'-*)! (1<@1!2-)&.))12!,6!,'-)!*6-4,9! ! !

But what makes this piece so remarkable, and I'm going to talk about just how remarkable in a moment, isn't the fact that it displays the golden mean. Any string or length of drain can be described as having its own set of golden ratios. And while the golden mean of the entire piece in measure twenty-one is precise, some critics can

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quibble that the secondary golden sections are perhaps forced since they involve approximations of one kind or another. I of course disagree, they are as close as can be achieved in a work of this dimension and harmonic rhythm in four-four meter, none the less the point could be argued. But what is unarguable about this piece -- and what makes it so remarkable -- is the depth of these relationships. The golden sections all emphasize major-major sevenths chords and the sonority isn't found anywhere else in the piece. All the seventh chords are subdominants. The first two, in measures eight and sixteen, present a kind of foretaste of the sonority in measure twenty-one yet the earlier chords present that sonority in a close, almost cramped construction while the sonority, now fully un-pleated, is given at the golden mean of the full piece, measure twenty-one. That same chord in measure twenty one marks the bottom of the bass line's descent and is followed by the dramatic leap up of an augmented second in the bass to the chromatic A-flat and the simultaneous move of the dissonant seventh in the soprano down by chromatic half-step to the E-flat. All of this is done with a figuration of the greatest possible simplicity. Change any part of this and the structure falls apart. Change the length of the piece in any way, by extension or subtraction, and the golden sections are all altered. Include a major-major seventh chord in any other measure or on any other chord and the significance of the spiraling golden sections is destroyed. Even change the octave in which the "F" appears in measure twenty-one and the "middle C" with which Bach begins the piece, placing them in any other octave than Bach places them, and the form is warped. Change anything about this piece at all and it becomes less than it is. The piece is perfect. I need to say that again. The piece is perfect. That is a stunning remark. I doubt if you've heard anything seriously described as completely perfect. We use the term casually, talking about the "perfect storm" or a "perfect" score on a test, but I'm not talking about that kind of perfection here. We're going to return to this but I need to introduce a term now that is going to be very important in our future work.

V

That term is concinnity. For our purposes we will define it as "the purposeful reinforcement of the various parts of a work of art." Great works of art, literature, sculpture, architecture, painting, music, or theater, are characterized by a high degree of concinnity. Art of lesser quality, or even bad art, is characterized by a low degree of concinnity.

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We're going to use this idea a great deal in our later work and this is only the beginning of a quite extended discussion, but for now let's just accept that definition (borrowed from Jan LaRue who took it from Alberti) and look back at the "Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Hokusai. The use of the golden mean is one element of Hokusai's design. The subject matter: the sea, Mount Fuji, the air, the boat and its occupants, is another. Color is another element. The perilous situation is another. The difference between the solidity of the land, the instability of the sea and sky is yet another. Even the complete title is part of the work of art (it's part of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$%&'(!)*+!,*!%-,!.+-',/)!0*1!$!2-3+,'!$3(!4+%,!1'2'25'1!,6$,!'78'1-'39':!;6$,!)*+! ,6*+<6,!*0!,6'!8-'9'=!!>?(!/-&'!)*+!,*!3*;!1'2'25'1!,6$,!0-1%,!'78'1-'39'=!!>?2!3*,! 9'1,$-3!*0!9*+1%':!5'9$+%'!>!6$@'3?,!$%&'(!)*+:!5+,!>!'78'9,!,6$,!)*+!0*+3(!,6'!8-'9'=! 8/'$%$3,:!/*@'/)!8'16$8%:!5+,!81*5$5/)!$!5-,!(+//=!!A*+!;'1'3?,!'7$9,/)!5*1'(!5)!-,!5+,! >!'78'9,!,6$,!)*+!;'1'!9/*%'=!!B*;:!3*,-9'!6*;!)*+!,6-3&!$5*+,!,6'!8-'9'!$%!>!8/$)!-,! $<$-3! I expect that this time your reaction to the piece is quite different. I think you now find the piece deeply moving. And here I'd like take a moment to briefly review something we discussed when we first started studying music together but at the time you weren't really prepared to understand. And this is the definition of "classical music." You will remember that we discussed the problems with the term "classical," that it can refer to the cultures of ancient Greek and Rome (but not Egypt and Mesopotamia), that the French use "classic" to describe their own culture during the reign of Louis XIV, that musicians have in the last century used the term to apply to both the European music of the period of Haydn and Mozart and concert music in general, and, broadly speaking, anything old, such as "classic rock." This is very confusing. It's most helpful to remember that when we now refer to "classical music" we're not referring to the music of a particular era but instead to a particular kind of music and a particular kind of musical culture. We don't need to go into the details of this music, we've already done that, but we need to be reminded of the general characteristics, of which there are three. First, this is a kind of music that is supported by a large body of philosophical and or theoretical literature. In other words it's music that people not only perform, listen to, dance to, etc., but also think about. It is music that is considered to have intellectual as well as aesthetic significance. Second, it is music that is valued primarily for its aesthetic content and because of that it is primarily associated with a leisured class. And third, it is music in which the emotional content is conveyed through form, or the form of the piece contributes to its expressivity. There are three classical traditions: the Western European, the Carnatic (the music of South India), and the music of China and the civilizations in China's orbit, meaning Korea and Japan and Tibet. The classical music of all these traditions displays the characteristics I just reminded you of. And you will remember that having said that something is a piece of classical music isn't a statement about its aesthetic quality, there can be good and bad classical music, it's a statement about its general cultural character. The first two characteristics were pretty easy to understand. We've talked a bit about Plato's discussion of music and we've looked briefly at Rameau and Zarlino. We talked about how jazz, which began as a kind of folk music, is now fully a part of the tradition of Western Classical Music since there is a large body of literature about jazz, both philosophical and theoretical, jazz is very much associated with a leisured class, and the

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blues is an important form for expression. We also talked about how rock, which is not now a part of Western Classical Music, could become classical if it became primarily valued for its aesthetic content (instead of its commercial value) and developed significant forms. But the third aspect was more difficult to explain. I think that now, having looked and thought about the shape of the C Major Prelude, you can now begin to understand how form can be a part of expression. You're much more moved by the piece emotionally having understood its form intellectually than you were when you heard it earlier not, at that time, understanding Bach's shape ("shape" is another word we can use for "form"). We will talk about this at much greater length in the next semester but that's enough for the moment.

VI Finally, I'd like to return to that rather audacious statement I made and then left. You'll remember that I said that this piece of music was perfect. We need to address that before we conclude. Some of you, with reason, might object to the use of the word perfect, thinking of all sorts of philosophical objections with that notion, but for now I'd like us, for the point of our discussion, to accept the idea that perfection exists and that we can recognize it -- and again I know that raises not unimportant philosophical objections but let's but them aside. We last discussed "perfection" in the context of Pythagorean tuning and the Greek idea of the perfection of numbers. You'll remember that for the Greeks the primary characteristic of perfection lay in "changlessness" and they saw that "changlessness" in mathematics and in the heavens and musical intervals (A squared plus B squared equals C squared always, two points always make a straight line, Orion's belt always has three stars, an octave is always defined by the ratio 2 : 1, you remember the discussion). This time I'd like us to think of perfection in the context in which we thought of the bridge we imagined earlier when I introduced the "rule of just enough." Let's say that the "perfect" bridge is fully characterized by the "rule of just enough." But let's extend that and think about those things as evidence of the bridge's integrity. Integrity is an extremely important matter in engineering and there are people who are "intergiry engineers." For our purposes here we can say that bridge has integrity when it supports us, when it, and all its parts-- the bolts, the girders, the cables, the concrete and the steel reinforcement within that concrete -- do what they are intended and supposed to do, they keep us up as we cross. To have integrity, the entire bridge has to function that way, meaning that some parts of the bridge can't be designed and function to hold it up while other elements are designed purposefully to bring it down. The whole structure needs to have integrity.

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In 1983 a one hundred foot span of the bridge across the Mianus River on Interstate 95 in Cos Cob, Connecticut, collapsed, killing three motorists who plunged into the river. A couple of pins that supported a part of the bridge had failed, weakened (the engineering term is "fatigued") through corrosion from standing water. In this case, the pins lost "integrity" and three lives were lost. Not all the pins failed, just two of them, most of them were just fine, yet because of this failure of a part the whole bridge lots its integrity and failed. It wasn't a good bridge any more. Now right then I introduced another word, it's an important word and I don't want it to slip by you. I said "good." I said that it "wasn't a good bridge any more." I want to talk about goodness and what is essential about "goodness." Again, I'm asking you to be patient with me, putting aside the very interesting objections to what you might be seeing as far too casual a discussion of these things. What is the essential character of "goodness"? Well, as we have done with other things in this class, let's address this question by turning it around. If goodness is to exist in any sort of a meaningful way it must be different from something else, in other words we need to be able to recognize "goodness" from something else, like "ice bucket." And if we can tell it apart from something else what is the most "apart" from goodness? What would goodness be least like? Goodness would be least like badness. Goodness is the opposite of badness (and of course I'm making that word up, badness, and it's interesting that we don't have a word that describes the category of "bad" that mirrors the use of "goodness" for the large category of "good," but I don't know how significant that is). So, let's define "goodness" by first defining its opposite, "badness." Let's think of something that we'd all easily recognize as "bad." Just in our common use of the term, what would most of us agree as being "bad"? How about telling lies? Can we agree, that generally speaking, lying is understood as being one of those things that would come under the character of "bad."? Ok, yes we can say that there are all sorts of occasions where we might think that telling a lie isn't completely bad, it's justified -- the whole business of espionage is built on that principle, and when a friend tells us how she looks in a particular outfit we all know it's acceptable to fudge the truth a bit, especially if that friend is your wife -- yet generally I think we can agree that telling lies is bad. No, let's go further. Let's imagine some one who is a really great liar. In fact, let's imagine the best liar in the world -- I hope you have to image him and that you haven't met him -- but let's imagine him and think about what would be his essential quality. What is it that makes him such a very, very good liar? Is it that he's able to tell convincing stories? Certainly that's part of it. And is it important that he keeps track of his lies, that he doesn't get caught in telling different versions of his story? Yes, that is very important too. But if we really think about this carefully, I think we can see pretty quickly that the essential character of the virtuoso liar is that he doesn't lie all the time.

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Indeed, his most important characteristic is that he usually tells the truth. If he lies all the time we have no problem identifying his lies. He's easily caught. But, if he lies only rarely, and is careful about his lies, and even lies about only the matters that are most essential to him --- that kind of liar is a virtuoso. We believe him to be always telling the truth, he deceives us skillfully. His virtuosity helps us see the essential character of his deceit, of his "badness:" he can not lie with integrity. He can only be a successful liar if he only rarely lies and has a reputation for honesty. And he can only succeed as a deceiver if he lives in a culture that values truth telling and punishes deception. His success comes at the expense of his society; he is parasitic upon it and can be eventually deadly to it. He is like a bridge some parts of which are engineered to support weight but which has other parts that are purposefully corrosive. If the lie is "badness", and we're concluding that badness is exemplified by the impossibility of its integrity -- just as the excellent liar is marked by the care and calculation of his honesty, and "badness" is the opposite of "goodness", we can see that the essential character of "goodness" is integrity. I think we've come to something very important. The essential character of goodness is integrity. And let me change the word "badness" to "evil," because that's what we're talking about. And the primary characteristic of evil is its lack of integrity -- and something that lacks integrity we say is "corrupted." Goodness is characterized by complete integrity and that kind of integrity, like the perfectly engineered bridge, is stable and enduring. It's worthy of trust. We can put our confidence in it. It won't harm us. But evil, because it cannot be purely itself, cannot have integrity. It must exist as a parasite upon goodness, it is corrosive to it, cannot be stable, it cannot endure, it can only deceive and can be nothing else but harmful. I'm almost done, but there are just a couple of things left to say. Schindler's List is a 1993 movie based on the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved over one thousand Jews from Nazi extermination by employing them in his factories. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it won seven Academy Awards and three Golden Globe awards and in 2007 the American Film Institute ranked it as eighth on its list of the one hundred best American movies. Many of you have seen the movie but I'd like to play five minutes or so of the film now. We see Schindler come upon the idea of rescuing the Jews he's leasing from the Nazis by bribing the German officers. He instructs his accountant, a Jewish prisoner by the name of Itzak Stern, to prepare a list of the people Schindler intends to buy from the Nazis. In the clip we're going to see, Liam Neeson plays Oskar

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Schindler, Ben Kingsley plays Itzahk Stern, and Ralph Fiennes plays the SS officer Amon Goeth. In the last scene we saw, Stern holds up the completed list. He gestures and simply says, "The list is an absolute good, the list is life. All around the margins lies the gulf." There is only one source of light in the scene, a bare hanging fixture to our right as we look at the picture, but the white pages of the list, held by Stern, become a second source of light, casting back the light from the fixture upon Schindler and throwing it upon us. This is one of the most moving and beautiful moments in any film I've seen. The list, the "absolute good" quite literally pushes back the darkness of the rest of the room. And the list is an "absolute good." It's a mitzvah. A mitzvah (plural: mitzvot) in Judaism is a commandment. It refers first to the commands given by God Himself to the Children of

Israel from Mount Sinai and extends these to the seven rabbinic commandments associated with liturgical practices. The mitzvot are completely and utterly good. But any act of kindness and generosity -- goodness itself -- is also seen as mitzvot. Here, in this scene, the list is a mitzavh. It is perfect. And here we need to return to the beginning, to a matter of the greatest seriousness. After all that we have been through with this little piece of music -- this little Prelude in C Major -- the extended discussion we're about to conclude, the weeks through this semester it has taken us to get to this point where we could begin this discussion, the years you have taken playing and studying music before you were equipped to begin this discussion and the decades I have spent preparing to lead you through it -- after all of !

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this, what does it matter? Is it worth it? Is it important? Are we well using our time, because there is nothing more important than our time and to waste time, to squander it -- that is a failure of the deepest significance. The prelude is a mitzvah. It is an absolute good. It pushes back the darkness that surrounds it. Like a mitzvah, it is not divine itself, but it testifies to the divine. Our own mitzvot, acts of goodness -- digging wells, paving highways, inventing devices that save labor, promulgating fair laws and dealing justly with others, helping the powerless, paying our fair share -- these are all ways of driving back the darkness. Our greatest works of art are like this too. They are great in their complete integrity demonstrated by their profound concinnity -- that sounds foolishly mechanistic but I think you understand that it isn't, or you're beginning to understand that -- you listen to the Prelude and look at the Hokusai and know these aren't mechistic. And perhaps because they are of so much more limited scale than a drainage project, or a factory, or a legal code and thus we can work on them more minutely and more finely and for a longer time -- because of this some of us can sometimes make a work of art perfect. This prelude is one such work of at. The St Matthew Passion is another. Beethoven's Third Symphony is another. We are musicians and we will be studying great works together in the months to come and as we do I hope you will come to have not just a greater understanding of these works but, far more importantly, a deeper love of them and a more profound sense of gratitude for them and humility before them. Such perfect works of art are worth making sacrifices to understand and to preserve. So, I think that it has, quite literally, been worth the years of work you have done to get to this moment. As we compose new music, the kind of care and craftsmanship and imagination that this piece exemplifies chould serve as a model for the same kind of care we ought to take with our new music. Not that new music will sound the same as Bach's, but the goal of excellent is still there and the values are the same. We are left though with an irony, a kind of barb, that we intuit but rarely -- if ever -discuss. This prelude, this perfect work of art, leaves us a bit sad. As here, elsewhere too: there is a tinge of melancholy to every great work of art. And there is a reason for this. The greatest works of art are better than the artists who made them and those who admire them. They are better than we are. And as we listen to them, or look at them, it sobers us to recognize, ever so briefly, that we are not as good as we should be, and that we are capable of great goodness. Our greatest works of art testify to the fact that we can do better. !

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The Cabinet