Anthony Esolen: The Power of the Liturgy


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“The liturgy,” says Hildebrand, “is Christ praying.” It follows that to be transformed by the liturgy is to be transformed into Christ, which the philosopher says is the vocation of every human being. That means a transformation into the One who, as Pope Benedict has said, was all gift: all being-for, in his obedience to the Father and his love for man.”


The Painted Monasteries of Romania


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Photos courtesy of google searches.
Manastirea Moldovita, Manastirea Sucevita, Manastirea Voronet, Manastirea Humor…

The Real and the Fake (Or Why Rhetoric Schools Matter)


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“For Christians, therefore, there are two responses to deluge of pop culture, bad art, and counterfeit beauty. One response is to shut one’s eyes and plug one’s ears. Another is to not only identify the real culture, good art, and true beauty, but also to create it. This is, I suggest, the ultimate purpose of the Rhetoric School. Not merely to love what is lovely, but to make it. Rhetoric itself is the art of persuasion by means of beauty, but this is not limited to speaking well. We communicate in everything we do. Students are learning to be points of radiance in the world, which communicate to others the beauty of holiness; from the overflow of their own transformation, they become conduits for others to taste and see that the Lord is good. This is why it is so important for students to complete their Rhetoric schooling: that they might learn how, to one degree or another, we are all artists and poets, making things that contribute either to the false beauty of sirens or to the divine beauty of muses.”

Torso of Apollo


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by Rainer Maria Rilke

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber
sein Torso glüht noch wie en Kandelaber,
in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz
unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du musst dein Leben ändern.

Translation 1 (Mitchell):

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Translation 2 (Snow):

We never knew his head and all the light
that ripened in his fabled eyes. But
his torso still glows like a gas lamp dimmed
in which his gaze, lit long ago,

holds fast and shines. Otherwise the surge
of the breast could not blind you, nor a smile
run through the slight twist of the loins
toward that center where procreation thrived.

Otherwise this stone would stand deformed and curt
under the shoulders’ transparent plunge
and not glisten just like wild beasts’ fur

and not burst forth from all its contours
like a star: for there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Remi Brague on Secular Society


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By Remi Brague

“There is no such thing as a secular society. My claim is a brutal and paradoxical one: The question about the possibility of a secular society resolves itself, or rather it dissolves itself.

To defend this claim I would like to submit two-and-a-half theses. First, a purely secular society simply cannot survive in the long run. As a consequence, leaving behind secularism is a necessary move, indeed a vital one. Second, the term secular society is tautological, because the ideal of secularity is latent with the modern use of the term society. Third is the half thesis, which I won’t develop here: Whatever comes after secularism, it won’t be a “society” any longer but rather another way for us to think about and give political form to the being-together of human beings.

The use of the term secularism in English began in the middle of the nineteenth century. George Jacob Holyoake (1817–1906) may have coined the word as early as 1846,and one of his main works, published in 1870, bears the title The Principles of Secularism. In 1859, the philosopher John Stuart Mill was still treating the word as a neologism. In On Liberty, after mentioning the religious principles that can motivate human action, he speaks of “secular standards (as for want of a better name they may be called).”

Mill used the term because he was eager to avoid atheistic, which is the more fitting term to describe the opposite of religious. But atheism was hardly the thing in Victorian Britain, and the word was felt to be rude. In the same intellectual atmosphere, the biologist T. E. Huxley, Darwin’s famous bulldog, coined agnosticism during a memorable discussion that took place at the Metaphysical Society in 1869. In present-day Britain, a third word, humanism, is often used with the same meaning and with the same intention: to evoke the possibility of a nonreligious basis for a morally animated society.

The debate for which the word secularism was coined is a false one. Advocates of secularism assume they are proposing a novel possibility, which is that moral precepts can be known without any particular revelation by God. Yet this is precisely what Christianity has taught, explicitly since Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and, implicitly, since Jesus himself. This was lost sight of in the modern era, when many Christians defended religion against skeptical and rationalist attacks by arguing that it is necessary for ensuring the moral basis of society. Men without religion, it was argued, could not be trusted to behave in an upright fashion. So advocates of secularism were drawn into the false debate.”

The Divine Music of Mathematics


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David Goldman in First Things:

It is consoling to think that the emotions that music arouses in us have something to do with the makeup of the universe. The eternal relation of math and music has been a perennial question since Plato, from Boethius and Cassiodorus in late antiquity, through Dante’s celestial harmony in Paradiso and Shakespeare’s discussion in The Merchant of Venice. The deeper affinity between mathematics and music, though, is less consoling and more challenging: The modern concept of a higher-order number begins with St. Augustine’s fifth-century treatise on music, and a red thread links it to Leibniz’ invention of the calculus in the seventeenth.

Music employs number both in its harmonic foundation and its metrical presentation in time. But what sort of number is it? In the sixth book of his De Musica, Augustine asserted the existence of a higher order of number that in some way stands above the senses, the numeri iudiciales or “numbers of judgment” which “come from God” and enable the mind to judge what it perceives and remembers, as well as what it expects. Augustine’s assertion is arresting in all three of its parts: first, that neither our sense perception nor even our memory explains how we hear music; second, that the faculty by which we judge the numbers (rhythms or harmonies) of music is also a kind of number; and third, that this higher-order number comes from God.”

The Psychological Cost of Boring Buildings


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Raises some good points, makes some faulty conclusions.

One could also write about the psychological costs of starchitectural ego-tecture which pushes too far in the opposite direction.

“New Yorkers have long bemoaned their city being overrun by bland office towers and chain stores: Soon, it seems, every corner will either be a bank, a Walgreens, or a Starbucks. And there is indeed evidence that all cities are starting to look the same, which can hurt local growth and wages. But there could be more than an economic or nostalgic price to impersonal retail and high-rise construction: Boring architecture may take an emotional toll on the people forced to live in and around it.

A growing body of research in cognitive science illuminates the physical and mental toll bland cityscapes exact on residents. Generally, these researchers argue that humans are healthier when they live among variety — a cacophony of bars, bodegas, and independent shops — or work in well-designed, unique spaces, rather than unattractive, generic ones. In their book, Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment, Tufts urban policy professor Justin Hollander and architect Ann Sussman review scientific data to help architects and urban planners understand how, exactly, we respond to our built surroundings. People,they argue, function best in intricate settings and crave variety, not “big, blank, boxy buildings.”

When Narcissus became an Architect


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Architect Zaha Hadid Visits Glasgow's Riverside Museum

“Some critics say she had to be imperious in order to get her work done, as a foreign woman working in a man’s world. I don’t agree – rudeness is rudeness, whatever the putative qualities of the rude person. Rudeness wouldn’t matter so much – although it still does matter – in a genius. But she was no genius.

You can see that same disregard for people in her buildings – flights of fancy with no regard for the poor inhabitants who had to live and work in them. 

As Stephen Bayley courageously wrote in The Spectator last year, her first real building, a small fire station in Germany, never really worked for its intended purpose: ‘Its shrieking concrete angles and disruptive interiors photographed very well and were dutifully recorded in the magazines, but were not much liked by the firemen. It was decommissioned and is now an exhibition centre.’”