Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Intemperate" Thoughts Related To Yesterday's Post

I'll start by saying I read Anthony Esolen on bad poetry. He's right, of course. And despite my healthy dislike for some of his other pieces, I got through it all right. I did snarkily wonder when they were going to start putting "Trump 2020" banners on all of his essays. [You flat-out consider voting for Trump a moral failing, don't you?--ed.] Yes.

Anyway, I got to thinking about it--there was a funny moment in my grandmother's funeral Mass, of all places--when we sang "On Eagles' Wings". I get it, it's a terrible song, that no faithful Catholic should ever love. Yet I do. I really do, and I'll tell you why: I've experienced some really tough things in this life. I'm not trolling for sympathy, I'm just letting you know. I got pretty emotional just typing that out, honestly. Anyway, every time I hear that song, I understand God is here, and He loves you. That's what it means to me.

I understand people hate it, and I understand that many people associate it with liberalism in the Church in the '70s. What is that to me? I wasn't here. I would even agree that we shouldn't sing it in Mass, if we have a choice. I'm still glad somebody wrote the song.

Which brings us to the funny moment: Father hates it as well. He processed out in his beautiful, reverent vestments, heard the song, and rolled his eyes. Then, in a great act of virtue, humility, and service, he began singing loudly, with great gusto. Think of what that says: I hate this song, but I'm the priest. We're thankful to God, and we're going to act like it.

Finally, I have a vague distrust of people who don't like popular things. Even if I become a total snob, I'll never lose this. I'll probably dislike myself, if I turn my nose up at Bette Midler, or Barry Manilow. Yes, mock if you must. I've obviously overcome this vague distrust, in several instances. Ahem.

Perhaps I could learn to regret that I know more pop songs than sacred songs. Then again, I am The Man Of A Thousand Friends, and such people know the words to "Don't Stop Believin'".

Another thought on this "moral failing" discussed above: It's not that I don't understand the difficulty of making a binary choice, especially if you think you ought to. But I don't see the cause for celebrating, cheerleading, that kind of a thing. If I know that you see what I see, and can articulate it, I can see voting against transgenderism, homosexuality, abortion, etc. but somebody ought to be able to say that the daily denigration of the office that's occurring now is really happening. I don't fear "The Left". I am who I am; I don't need a champion or a "fighter". I expect my presidents to behave with a modicum of dignity, and good sense, and despite my own radicalism, I don't favor blowing up "the system" just to make a point. I'm happy for President Jimmy for being the oldest living president ever. It's common and decent to wish your opponents well, even to think of them well, and so I do. We can't even get the current guy to lay off a dead guy! Don't dare ask me why I don't like Trump. If you don't know, I can't help you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Beauty Is Objective, But

I heard a lecture on beauty by my good friend, Dr. Larry Feingold. I am fully convinced that Aristotle and St. Thomas are right about this, of course. I'm Catholic, after all. [You don't realize how easily, or how often, that is taken for granted.--ed.] Nevertheless, as far as I am able, I will intentionally plant myself in that tradition, and I will take the Catholic philosophical, theological, aesthetic, etc. as a starting position.

So it's not rap I will defend, but pop-folk-rock legend James Taylor. This is my "teenage rebellion" of the day. My musical formation is partially owed to this guy. Don't worry; I will listen to Mozart or Palestrina after this or something. How I wish Dr. Cross knew this man's music as well as I do! Which isn't to say that I know it well, in some respects. But you could do much, much, worse. As a side-note, you'll see in fact that he's the whitest guy ever, in case there had been some doubt.

I appreciate that Dr. Feingold said that there is some goodness in any art, no matter how low-brow, or lacking in the transcendentals. For the purposes of this discussion, that's all I needed to know. [You just want license to indulge your terrible taste in music.--ed.] Perhaps! Ha! But what's really exciting is, I'm always expanding my tastes. I'm no longer an egalitarian, with respect to any art, or with respect to expertise. Therefore, experiencing art in the broad sense is about discernment, from here on in. For whatever it's worth. Inquiry: If the problem with modern art or music is that it prizes self-expression that ends in a kind of nihilism and banality, how do we convey things like sorrow, deep disaffection, and tragedy, in a world made by God, against the backdrop of putatively desiring to be in harmony with Good?

As one example, evangelical Christian movies are preachy, heavy-handed, and arguably, not art. This is because the works themselves are so subordinated to conveying the message of good news as they understand it that the works lack the mysterious power of the beautiful. We want to inspire mankind to its highest end, but we don't want to destroy the natural in that pursuit. It's a trickier set of questions than it may appear. Further investigation is warranted. And long live JT!