Practice instructions to a piano student with a tendency to overdramatization.
”[ … ] If we are to use the words childish or infantile as terms of disapproval, we must make sure that they refer only to those characteristics of childhood which we become better and happier by outgrowing; not to those which every sane man would keep if he could and which some are fortunate for keeping. On the bodily level this is sufficiently obvious. We are glad to have outgrown the muscular weakness of childhood; but we envy those who retain its energy, its well-thatched scalp, its easily won sleeps, and its power of rapid recuperation. But surely the same is true on another level? The sooner we cease to be as fickle, as boastful, as jealous, as cruel, as ignorant, and as easily frightened as most children are, the better for us and for our neighbours. But who in his senses would not keep, if he could, that tireless curiosity, that intensity of imagination, that facility of suspending disbelief, that unspoiled appetite, that readiness to wonder, to pity, and to admire? The process of growing up is to be valued for what we gain, not for what we lose. Not to acquire a taste for the realistic is childish in the bad sense; to have lost the taste for marvels and adventures is no more a matter for congratulation than losing our teeth, our hair, our palate, and finally, our hopes.”
Lewis, C.S. An Experiment in Criticism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2004 (pp 71 - 72)
In photo: JHA, Esq. (Nashville, 2012)
“One of the reasons why Medieval and Renaissance architecture is so much better than our own is that the architects were artists—individual artists of genius. The master masons of the Gothic cathedrals started as carvers working on the portals; in the Renaissance, Brunelleschi was originally a sculptor, Bramante a painter. […] And this has given to their work a power of plastic invention, a sense of proportion and articulation based on the study of the human figure, which knowledge of the tensile strength of steel and other prerequisites of modern building doesn’t always produce.”
—Lord Kenneth Clark, Civilisation (Episode 7: Grandeur and Obedience)
'We couldn't save the Pieta,’ says Colin, ‘It was already smashed by the time we got there.’
— screenplay: Children of Men
While searching online for a painting depicting King David’s dance-fueled return of the Art of the Covenant to Jerusalam, I happened by chance to come across a still from the 2006 film Children of Men. Having seen the film a few years after it was released, I was arrested again by this image of Michelangelo’s towering nude of the shepherd (and future King) David set in dramatic antithesis: dogs lounging insouciantly at its base, backlit and framed by the hard angles of modernist architecture, and approached mysteriously by a suited man in silhouette. A few online clicks led me to stumble on a short video of philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s commentary on the film:
"I think that the film gives the best diagnosis of the ideological despair of late capitalism, of a society without history. This I think is the true despair of the film. The true infertility is the very lack of historical experience, and that’s why I love this elegant point in the film of importing all the works of art. All those classical statues are there, but they are deprived of a world, they are totally meaningless—because what does it mean to have a statue of Michelangelo or whatever? It only works if it signals a certain world, and when this world is lacking, it is nothing."
Zizek goes on to offer some sharp commentary on a few other aspects of the film—the significance of the story being set in England; the impotence and failure of 60s radicalism—most of which I find myself agreeing with. At this point, Zizek offers an interpretation of the symbol of the boat at the end of the movie: the boat floats on the water, without roots, carrying the woman and the life she carries in her womb to safety, because, “The condition of the renewal means that you cut your roots. That is the solution.”
Whether this is Zizek’s personal viewpoint, or simply his reading of the viewpoint of the filmmaker, remains unclear. We could of course just as easily read the boat gliding to safety over the water as a symbol of the new man traveling through the waters of birth (or re-birth)—birth being a process which is at least as much about connectivity and dependency, as it is about any sort of cutting of ties.
If I read Zizek correctly on these last points—if he does believe man’s way forward necessitates a cutting of roots—then I must declare myself as holding rather the opposite position. Without roots, man has no memory beyond the confines of his own narrow experience, place, and time. Without memory, man loses both his collective identity (culture) and his self identity (consciousness). Man’s rediscovery of himself must come then not through the cutting of roots, but rather through their reconnection. Man’s rediscovery of himself must come by rediscovering the longer line of his collective memory.
Memory as central to man’s identity and consciousness: this was a major theme of the work of Pope Emeritus Benedict, both from his days as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, as well as through his pontificate as Pope Benedict XVI. In Lumen Fidei—a joint work by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis—the theme of memory is given central place vis a vis the questions of truth and faith:
"The question of truth is really a question of memory…for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path."
But the development of this theme here must remain a subject for another day. This is just a simple posting: Michelangelo’s David sculpture, missing part of its leg, set in a glass terrarium.
Oh—and a Pieta, shattered somewhere off-camera.
Sandro Botticelli: The Annunciation (c. 1489-1490)
Commissioned for the Cestello convent chapel, Florence.
Current location: Galleria Degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy
Dimensions: 59” H x 61” W
As the day’s golden hour dies into lavender, one could do worse than listen to the Adagio of Beethoven’s Eb Piano Concerto, its heart-catching pivots to minor which break into counterpoint like glass shattering in slow motion.
Certainly two of the most important hands in the 20th century belonged to the Canadian piano virtuoso Glenn Gould. Though most well-known for his revolutionary (and technically dazzling) interpretations of Bach, in the video above he plays the Adagio to Beethoven’s Eb Piano Concerto. The audio is somewhat unsatisfying (a better, audio-only version of his studio recording can be heard here), but the video does offer a good look at Gould’s technique and intensity of focus. Though his technical mastery is not as showcased here as in say, his recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, his absolute control in the trills near the middle of the movement (starting around 3:30) is stunning.
A bit of Gould for the golden hour. Or should I make that…the Goulden hour?
The Irish poet and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature introduces and reads “Miracle”, a poem inspired both by the stroke which left him paralyzed and hospitalized, and the Gospel account of the men who cut a hole in the roof in order to lower a paralytic for Christ’s healing, here (Heaney’s introduction to the poem begins at the 3:00 minute mark).
Having recovered from the stroke, several years later Heaney was hospitalized after taking a fall outside a Dublin restaurant. He passed away the next morning, just before a scheduled medical procedure.
His last words, sent from the hospital in a text to his wife, were “Noli timere” — the Latin form of the most frequently occurring command in the Bible: “Be not afraid.”