April 19, 2009
This fashionably battered-looking book contains a series of lectures on faith and reason given by Terry Eagleton at Yale University (the video below is the first of the four part series). They address, in a loose way, the current trend of liberal humanist atheism, which as Eagleton rightly observes, has made the violent proliferation of the capitalist enterprise possible and reduced religion to a sentimental placeholder. The flipside (or antithesis) to this reductive dismisal is of course the recent crop of new age spirituality that has replaced, or at least bastardized, much of Western Christianity. Indeed, this is what Marx was getting at when he referred to Christianity as an mass opiate. How fitting, then, that this lecture was given at Yale. Using the New Testament, Eagleton attacks American evangelical obsessions family values, sexual conservatism and even takes a jab at Obama's "Yes we can."
Among Eagleton's wittier contributions to the debate is a decision to treat the "couplet" of Richard Dawkins and his former friend/colleague Christopher Hitchens as a bland sythesis named "Ditchkins." God, Eagleton notes, is a perpetual critique of instrumental reason; and on this level, "Ditchkins" is quite right. Creation, in the Judeo-Chrisitan tradition, is utterly pointless and altogether unnecessary.
Does Christianity breed fantasy and escapism? Hardly, observes Eagleton. Christianity is (almost) disappointly materialistic and unglamorous. Practices of sacrifice and acceptance are at the heart of Christian discipleship. Though it may at first sound solipsistic, Christianity turns out to be its own best critique - which is to say, things turn sour (or untheological) precisely when Christianity is a convenient or comfortable option, as it is for most affluent North Americans. In this way, God turns out to be the enemy of religion.
This isnt' the first time Eagleton has stolen from the resources of the Judeo-Christian tradition to further his own critical Marxist enterprise. As he admits in his lecture, he grew up out of the Catholic tradition and like his (formerly Marxist) contemporary Alasdair MacIntyre, was a student of the great Catholic theologian, Herbert McCabe. Surprisingly enough, Eagleton gets most of his theology quite right (except for the comment on Christ's lack of historical forsight, but we'll forgive that one for now).
April 18, 2009
If I have one major consumerist weakness, it exists because of the record store. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I'm a music-obsessed single male. And now for a celebratory quote from High Fidelity:
The store gets "by because of the people who make a special effort to shop here - mostly young men - who spend all their time looking for deleted Smith singles and original, not rereleased - underlined - Frank Zappa albums. Fetish properties are not unlike porn. I'd feel guilty taking their money, if I wasn't... well... kinda one of them."
April 10, 2009
A History of Night
By Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Alastair Reid
Through the course of generations
men brought the night into being.
In the beginning were blindness and dream
and thorns which gash the bare foot
and fear of wolves.
We shall never know who fashioned the word
for the interval of darkness
which divides the two half-lights.
We shall never know in what century it stood
for the starry spaces.
Others began the myth.
They made night mother of the tranquil Fates
who weave all destiny
and sacrificed black sheep to her
and the rooster which announced her end.
The Chaldeans gave her twelve houses;
infinite worlds, the Stoic Portico.
Latin hexameters molded her,
and Pascal's dread.
Luis de León saw in her the homeland
of his shivering soul.
Now we feel her inexhaustible
as an old wine
and no one can think of her without vertigo,
and time has charged her with eternity.
And to think that night would not exist
without those tenuous instruments, the eyes.
April 7, 2009
Meanwhile, Begon Dull Care, the third full-length by Hamilton natives, the Junior Boys, is another fairly consistent slice of hyper-sensual electro-pop. Besides my annoyance at audience members who kept chanting for “In the Morning” (you can’t seriously think they’re not going to play their biggest single?!), I had a fine time; though the live drum-kit threw off a friend of mine. "Hazel" is certainly a punchy single, but, as first impressions go, "Work" is probably my favorite: nearly 7 minutes of grueling foreplay without any release. Actually, most of the album follows suit. Quite a contrast to So This Is Goodbye. In other words, it's good music for my bike ride to work.