Hold It All

Month: March, 2019

Four Analects, Five Translations

1.1

The Master said, “To learn, and at due times to practice what one has learned, is that not also a pleasure? To have friends come from afar, is that not also a joy? To go unrecognized, yet without being embittered, is that not also to be a noble person?”
—Irene Bloom

The Master said, To learn and rehearse it constantly, is this indeed not a pleasure? To have friends come from afar, is this indeed not a delight? Others do not know him, yet he feels no resentment, is he indeed not a superior man?
—Daniel K. Gardner

The Master said: “To learn, and then, in its due season, put what you have learned into practice—isn’t that still great pleasure? And to have a friend visit from somewhere far away—isn’t that still a great joy? When you’re ignored by the world like this, and yet bear no resentment—isn’t that great nobility?
—David Hinton

He said: Study with the seasons winging past, is not this pleasant?
To have friends coming in from far quarters, not a delight?
Unruffled by men’s ignoring him, also indicative of high breed.
—Ezra Pound

The Master said, To learn and at due times to repeat what one has learnt, is that not after all a pleasure? That friend should come to one from afar, is this not after all delightful? To remain unsoured even though one’s merits are unrecognized by others, is that not after all what is expected of a gentleman?
—Arthur Waley

Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth Sunday 31 March: Three Vietnamese Voices

In 2012 President Barack Obama In 2012 President Barack Obama signed on to a Congressionally approved on-going 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, for each year of the war’s duration. We are currently commemorating 1969.

Though we call it “the Vietnam War,” U.S. Americans are, obviously, at the center of our remembrance. We recall our veterans, our leaders, even, now and then, our dissenters.

I will explore how we can learn about ourselves and our former allies and enemies by considering reflections from three Vietnamese people intimately familiar with the war. Many of us know of the Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. He lived in then South Vietnam until he went into exile in the mid-1960s. Far fewer people know of scholar and writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, who was born in South Vietnam and came to the U.S. with his family as refugees in 1975. His novel The Sympathizer won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016. I venture that hardly anyone knows of Dang Thuy Tram, who was a doctor from North Vietnam who went South to assist in the struggle against the U.S. invaders. Her diary, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace, was published posthumously and came out in an English translation in 2007.

Please join us
Sunday 31 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00
I begin sharing at 6:45
At my home 4514 Chouteau Avenue
Forest Park Southeast 63110
Please park on 4400 block of Chouteau or on Taylor Avenue as I have limited parking passes for our block!

Photo: with Dinh, Mai, Na, and Nga; Middletown, KY; circa 1987; Mai’s watercolors are hanging on the wall.

Share the Wealth with Andrew Wimmer: “Where Can I Invest My Life?”

As a young graduate student, I had the good fortune to be exposed to the thinking of Bernard Lonergan. Lonergan, who died in the mid-eighties, was a Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian. Many of my teachers had been students of Lonergan, and through them I had my eyes and heart opened by what Lonergan called his “method.”

There is a certain mystique around the man, often lauded as the finest philosophical mind of the twentieth century, etc., etc. But he wasn’t interested in any of that, and said simply of his big work Insight, that it is “a way of asking people to discover in themselves what they are.”

And what we are, he believed, are creatures born with “a pure and unrestricted desire to know.” A desire that gets thwarted, screwed up, and shut down in all sorts of ways, but which always wells back up in us in the form of questions.

As we’re bombarded by propaganda (and so-called fake news) from every direction, we might find ourselves asking, “How the heck can I know what’s really going on?” “How can I evaluate the competing narratives?” and “What can I do about anything?” or “Where can I invest my life?”

These are Lonergan’s questions. And he offers a concrete, practical, and I would argue life-changing way of moving through them, beginning with his first precept “Be attentive!”

Lonergan taught that self-discovery demands considerable individual responsibility and that honest care for the world is always rooted in self-transcendence. “Concern for the future supposes rare moral attainment,” he wrote, “It calls for what Christians name heroic charity.”

I will enjoy sharing how Lonergan has shaped my own thinking and being, and look forward to seeing how each of you responds to what he has to say.

Join us
Sunday 24 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Andrew begins sharing at 6:45
Point your GPS to 1077 S. Newstead, 63110. Park on Newstead. House is on SW corner of Newstead and Arco. Enter front door at 4400 Arco.

Seventeen Quotations from Glenn Gould in Kevin Bazzana’s Wondrous Strange

“Dying was a great career move for him.”  

—Kevin Bazzana, Wondrous Strange:
The Life and Art of Glenn Gould

 

  1. “I gather my inner resources from the outdoors.”  
  1. “Behind every silver lining there’s a cloud.”
  1. “My ability to work varies inversely with the niceness of the weather.”
  1. “From the time I was about 12, I was forced to do a complete analysis and to memorize any work I was going to play before actually going to the piano and playing it. When you are compelled to do that, you get a kind of X-ray view of the score, much stronger than any tactile imagery the piano might create for you.”
  1. “I happen to believe that competition rather than money is the root of all evil.”
  1. On Tureck: “Her records were the first evidence that one did not fight alone. It was playing of such uprightness, to put it into the moral sphere. There was such a sense of repose that had nothing to do with languor, but rather with a moral rectitude in the liturgical sense.”
  1. “I love Tristan. I was fifteen when I first heard it, and wept.”  
  1. “The greatest of all teachers ix the tape recorder.”
  1. “You owe nothing to your public.”
  1. GG on Strauss: “I’ve always been addicted to his music the way some people are addicted to chocolate sundaes. I find it absolutely irresistible. “ 
  1. “Isolation is the one sure way to human happiness.”
  1. “I see nothing wrong in making a performance of out of two hundred splices, as long as the desirable result is there.”
  1. “It’s true that I’ve driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand, I’ve stopped at a lot of green ones but never gotten credit for it.” 
  1. “Music is my ecstasy.”
  1. When asked what one must do to be a professional artist: “You must give up everything else.”  
  1. “One does not play the piano with one’s fingers. One plays the piano with one’s mind.” 
  1. “One of these times I’ll write my autobiography, which will certainly be fiction.”

Twenty-Eight Cullings on Glenn Gould from Kevin Bazzana’s Wondrous Strange–The Life and Art of Glenn Gould

I believe in God—Bach’s God.
Glenn Gould

 

  1. Stayed out of the public eye, maintained his presence through a conspicuous absence. 9 Gould’s personality has certainly fueled his posthumous appeal. His eccentricity made him fascinating, his isolation made him mysterious, his personal modesty made him lovable, and his apparent sexlessness paradoxically gave him sex appeal among some female (and some male) fans… 10
  2. He was a powerful communicator of deeply personal, sometimes shocking and subversive, but always compelling and entertaining interpretations, which he put across with great conviction. 10
  3. Question Authority: His eccentric interpretations, his garish on-stage demeanor, his abandonment of concert life, his dropout lifestyle—all imply a stubborn resistance to authority and conventions that makes him an immensely attractive figure, even a role model especially to young musicians engaged in their own battles with teachers and traditions and clichés of classical-music business. He was refreshingly irreverent in a business whose conservatism and formality and pretentiousness have always alienated many people, especially the young. 11
  4. In some quarters he is received as a kind of guru or monk, a holy man, a Platonic ideal—the posthumous reception really does get this airy. 11
  5. For all his originality he was identifiably a product of the country, the province, the city, the very neighborhood—and the times—into which he was born…In fact, he remained, all his life, in fundamental ways, an Old Toronto boy—he never did leave town—and his work incarnated Canada in unmistakable if sometimes unusual ways. 13
  6. Both of Gould’s parents came out of traditions that were steeped in the social gospel and that stressed personal faith and morality, respect for the authority of the Bible, community service, and the belief that God should be manifest in all aspects of life. 28
  7. By the time he was ten, he could play all of the preludes and fugues in the first book of Bach’s WTC… 48
  8. As his teen years progressed, his Puritanism yielded an increasingly rational and idealistic approach to music. 87
  9. He liked to talk about “ecstasy” as the highest goal of playing or listening to music, and he meant not exultation but the sense of standing outside oneself, of stopping time, of being in touch with an otherworldly realm. 87
  10. It was interpretive wisdom beyond his years that most impressed his listeners as a child, not bravura technique. 104
  11. He was thinking, about matters theoretical and practical, about morals and aesthetics, about music and interpretation, about the piano and performance practice, about the future direction of his career and his adult relationship to the world of music. 135
  12. His was an exhilarating, modern Bach. 171
  13. His objections to the concert hall were ultimately moral: it was simply immoral to demand that someone display his wares in this way in front of a ravening public. 179
  14. Gould was not interested in money as source of status or luxury and was willing to maximize his income only in ways compatible with his lifestyle and artistic goals. 241
  15. In a recording he saw a permanent document in which he could leave a fixed, definitive statement of an interpretation, and he accepted the responsibility of that position. 260
  16. As a conversationalist he was animated, engaging, provocative, witty to the point of riotous, and usually dominating through the electricity of his ideas and sheer volubility. 271
  17. The lifestyle he cultivated was all about eliminating contingencies and distractions, maximizing opportunities, relating to the outside world on his own carefully controlled terms. 318
  18. He lived alone and guarded his privacy jealously, giving out his unlisted address and telephone number only to a trusted few. He was a classic introvert, drained rather than energized by prolonged contact with others, especially crowds, and he discovered early that isolating himself from society was essential to his happiness and security, and to his art. 320
  19. Often he would have, say, a TV and two different radio stations (news and music) playing in different rooms of his apartment, and he would keep them on while working or talking, reading or practicing. (He read several newspapers a day and a handful of books a week.) 322
  20. He did not smoke and drank nothing stronger than coffee. 325
  21. Gould had no denominational or even well-defined religious beliefs, though he was fascinated by religion and indeed by all sorts of otherworldly phenomena. 333 His appreciation of the Bible seems to have been more ethical and even aesthetic than doctrinal, but he took comfort from certain Biblical texts. 335
  22. Gould’s God was not the fire-breathing law-giver of the Old Testament, but something more akin to the transcendentalist or pantheist or Spinozist God, a timeless spiritual ideal, and like many mystics he worshipped, in some ways, the centrality and restorative power of nature. 336
  23. Gould manifested a variety of obsessional, schizoid, and narcissistic traits, too, hardly surprising given his frailty, sensitivity, and advanced intellect 370
  24. He had a sharp intellect and a quick wit, but his humor, unlike that of many intelligent and witty people, was without cruelty or spite; he used it to relax, occasionally to provoke, never to wound. 389
  25. Fugues and twelve-tone works have pleasure to Gould’s puzzle-solving brain because they need to be analyzed, figured out, to be fully appreciated, while more intuitive types of music—fantasias, aleatory pieces, jazz improvisations—disturbed him the way an unmade bed disturbs a neat freak. 401
  26. There are Bach recordings from his last years in which his control of touch and tone is so immaculate as to be almost superhuman. 427
  27. With his mother’s death, his hand problems, his family troubles, the various losses of his later forties, his apparently worsening health, and probably the realization he would never enjoy a long-term romantic relationship, it is no surprise that Gould became more introspective in his later years. 483
  28. Acquaintances that saw him in his late forties for the first time in years were shocked at his deterioration. His complexion was sickly, his hair was thinning and graying, he was paunchy and wrinkled, he was more stooped than usual. 484

Read the rest of this entry »

The Spirituality of Photography by Cami Kasmerchak

Cami gave me permission to share this essay.

I remember first becoming interested in photography a little over 10 years ago. At first, photography was simply a way to capture moments of family and friends, but over the years it has morphed into much more than that. Photography has changed the way in which I engage with the world. It has forced me to wrestle with ethical questions. It has propelled me to pursue adventure and experience. I now understand photography as a form of creative expression, a catalyst for social change, and a deeply spiritual practice. Through photography, I can be connected to the past, grounded in the present moment, and aware of the future all at the same time.

My Grandpa Harry gave me my first digital camera back before smart phones and selfies. I never saw him that often growing up, maybe a handful of times throughout a year. He lived alone with his dog Co-Co three hours away in northern Wisconsin and was generally a closed-off person (read: alcoholic with PTSD). On holidays and my birthday he would send me a card with Kodak prints of Co-Co out swimming in the river and a black sharpie arrow pointing to where her dot of a head was bobbing above the water. “Co-Co,” he would write, making sure I didn’t mistake her for a log. Sometimes he would send pictures of roadkill he found on the back country roads of Wausau while roaming around on his scooter. He hardly ever responded to letters I would write or expanded on more than the seasonal sentiment in cards, but he always included pictures. It didn’t matter that these pictures were kind of weird and sometimes gross. He captured what he found interesting and meaningful, and that’s all that really mattered. My freshman year of college, my Grandpa Harry died from lung cancer and even though he had been living much closer for about two years prior to his death, I still didn’t feel like I really knew him. Photography has been the way I continue to reflect on him and our relationship even after all these years. Whenever I talk about photography, I have to talk about Grandpa Harry because he was intertwined in the beginnings of my passion for it. He gifted me both with my first equipment and an example of the freedom to notice what you notice without judgement. Read the rest of this entry »

“Speaking Truth to Power Makes No Sense”

Noam Chomsky, The Common Good  [1998]

Brandon,

I first read this collection of interviews between Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian twenty years ago. The interviews were from the second half of the nineties, the Clinton years when the UN/US sanctions on Iraq were decimating thousands of Iraqi children each month and people like Madeline Albright justified it.  The following are some passages  worth understanding…

Mark

Truth to Power:  “Speaking truth to power makes no sense.  There’s no point in speaking the truth to Henry Kissinger — he knows it already.  Instead, speak truth to the powerless — or, better, with the powerless.  Then they’ll act to dismantle illegitimate power.” 158 

Prophets:  “True prophets like Amos — ‘dissident intellectuals,’ in modern terminology — offered both elevated moral lessons, which the people in power weren’t fond of, and geopolitical analyses that usually turned out to be pretty accurate, which the people in power were even less fond of.  Naturally, the true prophets were despised, imprisoned, driven into the desert.  The public also hated the true prophets — they didn’t want to hear the truth either.  Not because they were bad people, but for all the usual reasons — short-term interest, manipulation, dependence on power.”  148

Looking for the Magic Answer:  “When I speak to elite audiences, I constantly get asked, What’s the solution.  If I say obvious things like Pick your cause and go volunteer for a group that’s working on it, that’s never the answer they want.   They  want some kind of magic key that will solve everything quickly, overwhelmingly and effectively.  There are no such solutions.  There are only the kind that people  are working on in Massachusetts towns, in self-governing villages in India, at the Jesuit Center in Colombia.” 152

Illusion of class harmony:  Like in the faculty departments, “we’re all in this together.”

Business Week Survey:  “95% of the people — there’s a number you almost never see in a poll — said corporations have a responsibility to reduce profit for the benefit of their workers and the communities they do business in.  70% thought businesses have too much power, and roughly the same number thought business has gained more by deregulation and similar measures than the general population has.”  61 Read the rest of this entry »

An Introduction to Simone Weil: Concentration Is Consecration–Spring Class 2019

Humanity is divided into two categories—the people who count for something and the people who count for nothing.

To believe in God is not a decision that we can make. All we can do is to decide not to give our love to false gods.

Today it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent.

_______________________________

French philosopher Simone Weil has been described variously as a “utopian pessimist,” a “mystic of passion and compassion,” a “cross between Pascal and Orwell,” a “Catholic Jewess,” and, by French writer Albert Camus, “the only great spirit of our time.”

In this spring class, we will learn about Weil’s life and work, and let these interrogate our own. We will explore selections from Weil’s classics books, Waiting for God and Gravity and Grace, which will serve as promptings for examining our own spiritual path through journaling and correspondence.

Essentials:
Simone Weil, Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us
Notebook and pen
Curiosity, attention, openness Read the rest of this entry »