Auden and particularity

To give someone or something a proper name: to my mind, this is what great art does. Art removes us from our petty selves and opens us to the unique reality of the other. In this sense, a religious impulse is at the core of all great art. Like the God “Who numbers each particle / by its Proper Name,” art attends to the miracle of the particular…

Auden was acutely aware that he rarely lived the commandment to love one’s neighbor. But holding the commandment front and center kept him honest about his moral lapses into ego-driven self-regard.

The commandment was also, Mendelson adds, behind Auden’s statement that the purpose of art, to the extent that it has one, is to make self-deception more difficult, and “by telling the truth, to disenchant and dis-intoxicate.”

My friend linked to this article by Peggy Rosenthal, in which she revisits her first post for Good Letters, in which she had read, “in The New York Review of Books… a review-essay, ‘Auden and God,’ by Auden’s literary executor, Edward Mendelson. The book under review was Arthur Kirsch’s Auden and Christianity.”

The bits above are the bits that especially stood out to me in the article. Continue reading


Church Sketch 14

We have been attending St. Thomas Episcopal Church for a few weeks, and it has taken some time to adjust to a different preacher’s sermon style. Fr. John reads fairly quickly and doesn’t dwell on any point for long, so there’s not a lot of time to sketch note much; perhaps with more practice I can capture more and get a better feel for how long a typical sermon of his might be and what kinds of structural cues he may give. One of my choirmates found the idea of sketch noting intriguing and enjoyed seeing some other pages from my sketch book.

I missed a few days of the Colossians study last week, but caught up today.

Church Sketch 13

Quotations from two of the songs.

There’s going to be a parenting class based on this book. Looking at reviews, it sounds fairly innocuous, maybe even good overall, but hardly revolutionary. We both question a) whether twenty-somethings are the best gauge of good parenting, b) what bias is involved in defining and identifying spiritual “champions,” and c) how many families who practice the recommended things have children who are not spiritual “champions”?

The sermon was the final one (I think) in the series on choices. Todd Stillson preached. I appreciated his emphasis on the Bible — that any time we think we should take a stand on something, we need to be sure it’s rooted in truth and in abiding in God. It’s so easy — whatever the cause, however holy and righteous — to get caught up in activity and service and rhetoric and to forget God himself and our need to sit at his feet. The “I choose to take a seat” bit, with Mary at the feet of Jesus, is my addition.

I started a dancer doodle and it fit nicely with a line from one of the closing songs.

Church sketch 12

I had a dream last night that, among other things, included me saying “I want to be in a boat on the edge of rough water.” It was one of those things highly invested with feeling and meaning, even though the words don’t seem to say much on their own. It might have to do with trepidation mixed with yearning — on the edge is safer than IN the rough water. In the dream, though, I seem to remember that the rough water did NOT stay safely near the boat — I think the waves crashed in, and perhaps even swept the boat away or overwhelmed it entirely.

The song lyrics in the water are from the first song in the service — I think — “One thing remains” by Jesus Culture Music on their Come Away album.

The sermon was another in the series on choices. It was based on 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter that talks about love as the top priority. There’s a clanging cymbal there, with a drum beside it, and a high horse for all sorts of arrogance and jealousy and rudeness and the like. For our pastor, Scott, the message seemed to especially hinge on prioritizing family over work. I think for other folks it might be about other things — it makes me think, for example, of the Chick-Fil-A controversy, and the way we can get so caught up in a cause that we stop seeing — and loving — people.

A bit of humor — family IS important, but not at all mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13, nor in the two greatest commandments. We do well to remember that our neighbor can be a family member and not just the objects of our ministry people we desire to reach in our ministry.

Random cat doodle that started with a lidded eye. It is interesting to consider where “random” doodles come from — what sparks the various ideas that pop up, what influences which we choose to follow, what influences how a doodle progresses from its beginning.

The last song was “Behold our God” — which brought to mind these other two songs. One by a local band in the 80s called Saved By Grace: “Here we are — standing by the throne; it’s so good to see you, Jesus.” The other, from college InterVarsity meetings, “Behold, bless the Lord, ye servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord…” I was singing this one on my way home from picking green beans in the dark at our CSA farm Friday evening.

Church sketch 11

Today we attended the church we belonged to when we lived in Virginia. It was encouraging and refreshing.

I think one of the first songs mentioned trees…

The fellow commissioning a short term team encouraged them to interact with people as Jesus would — with eye contact and a smile. A little cheesy, maybe, if it’s put on — but a good reminder that Jesus really SEES people.

From one of my most favorite hymns, Jesus Lover of My Soul — different tune than I’d heard before — a nice one.

Mercy. How good it is to be bathed in God’s mercy — in songs like Thy Mercy O God.

The sermon was about the Holy Spirit. The text was a verse — Matthew, I think — where Jesus tells his followers that when he leaves, the Father will send another helper to them.

The word for helper is “paraclete,” and it includes the idea of a legal helper, an advocate or friend in court. Also, Amy’s been enjoying playing Star Wars stuff with her friend JT, and when the pastor talked about the Spirit showing us Christ, pointing us to Christ, I thought of that scene where R2D2 shows Leia’s message to Obi-Wan.

I liked this point about not seeking the gifts of the Spirit — the miraculous and wonderful powers he gives — above the fruit of the Spirit — the character qualities he produces in believers. Not that there’s anything wrong about his gifts… but that it’s easy to get caught up in show.

Lovely song, including the lines “All will be well,” and another “All is well” and again “All must be well,” because of God’s loving sovereignty.

Another of my favorite hymns, O Love that will not let me go. Envisioning God as stay-listening, staying with me, the little child caught up in big feelings, holding a safe space and warm connection.