Monday, June 29, 2015

Brodsky: On Grief and Reason

I bought a book by Joseph Brodsky.  First, I thought, I'd get it from the library, but then I was too lazy.  Amazon brought it in a day or two.  It's alright.  We will get quite a bit out of it.

It is a collection of essays:  "On Grief and Reason"

I read the first one to my husband:  "The Spoils of War".  We were hooked.  It begins with the cans of Corned Beef that were delivered by America to Leningrad after the siege.  Lovingly, Brodsky works his way through all kinds of objects that remained, the radio stations he could receive on the German radio, the movies.  He drew us in and hooked us.

My math teacher used to tell us of Care packages received after the war.  According to her, they received lard.  It seems strange to eat lard, but this would be something after the war.  My grandmother used to feed me bread with thick butter on top and then a layer of sugar.  That generation and the next could never stop trying to overfeed us.

Last night, I could not sleep because of the heat and change in weather and some things I am upset about.  I read all the way to the commencement address on "Boredom."  It is quite stark in some respects;  but he apologizes for that only very slightly.  He feels someone needs to tell the graduates about real life, about ennui, sadness, and boredom.  He says:  "lean in to it."  He gets that from Auden, he says.  (I have not read any Auden, but he comes up all the time.)

I found it comforting in the end because he gives the students a vision.  These years at school may well have been the best years of your life.  It helped me see, that it was always like that for me.  My years at school have been the best years because of friends and stimulation, learning, music, early out on hot days.

Life can't always be like that.  Deal with it.  Maybe get creative.  After that, I could go to sleep.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Books / "The Truth Behind the New Atheism"

Ok, we see that the Ukulele is great, cheap, wholesome and simple fun.  I have learned some new songs and a variety of styles--more simple fun.

Let's get back to some of the books.  There is one that I have begun:
"The Truth Behind the New Atheism", by David Marshall.

I have only read it in little bits and can't say much about it as a whole, at this point.  There are, however, cogent points along the way.

It seems to me that we bump into something called Gnosticism quite often, only that it likes to be a hidden system, though not actually very systematic, and is therefore somewhat slippery and hard to grasp or identify.  Certainly, no one comes right out to say:  I believe such and such because I am a Gnostic.

But that does not make it any less real.  I am getting to have a Gnostic--radar and think maybe I should read more about what it is.

I will quote a bit from page 105-107.  Marshall takes apart Richard Dawkins's claim that the Bible teaches caring only for your in-group.

"Jesus limited his in-group of the saved strictly to Jews,"  says Dawkins. "Sam Harris says the New Testament was written by people who hated Jews.  Hartung and Dawkins say Jesus hated Gentiles."... "Here New Atheists part company even with radical New Testament scholarship, not to mention anyone who has ever read the Book with an open mind!  Even skeptical Bible scholars say the most consistent theme not just in Jesus' teachings, but in his actions, was to tear down barriers between people.  Robert Funk, founder of the radical Jesus seminar, noted that all through the gospels, Jesus "privileged" the poor, sick, infirm, women, children, tax collectors and foreigners.  Liberal colleagues such as Marcus Borg, John Crossan, and Walter Wink underline this point repeatedly.  "In a society ordered by a purity system, the inclusiveness of Jesus' movement embodies a radically alternative social vision." ...Ironically, Dawkins hones in on the phrase "love their neighbor" to illustrate his belief that Jesus only cared about the "in-group". But there was a particular moment in history when "neighbor" emphatically stopped meaning "another Jew" and came forever to mean "anyone you meet."  Dawkins should recognize that moment, for he twice uses the term Good Samaritan."  (Marshall, p. 107)

Quote Marshall, p. 108.

A Samaritan was not a Jew.  He was a despised half-breed.  He was an improbable hero for a rabbi in an era when the always nationalistic Jews were chafing under foreign occupation.  That is precisely, Funk points out, what made the Good Samaritan so typical a hero in a story by Jesus.  The sheer absurdity of accusing Jesus, of all people, of "exclusiveness"  seems almost inspired (by whom, I leave the reader to consider). 

How did we really discover our common humanity?

Aristotle held that "from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule."  He even claimed it was better for the "lower sort" to be ruled by masters, since they were "by nature slaves."  Gnostics said some were naturally incapable of being saved from this "lowest region of all matter."  According to the Rig Veda, the four great castes proceed from the mouth, arms, thighs, and feet of Brahma.

With a few kindly allies such a Confuscius, the bible taught us racial unity.  It has always been a theistic dogma that humans are alike in nature and dignity as the image of God.  In one of the earliest Old Testament documents, Job said, "  If I have denied justice to my menservats and maidservants... what will I do when God confronts me?...did not he who made me in the womb make them?"  (Job 31:13-15)  Paul wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female;  for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  Augustine thus rebutted Aristotle:  Whatever society may do to us, no one is a slave by nature.  There was a great future in that insight.  but there was also a great future in the response by social Darwinist Hermann Klaatch:  "The humanitarian nonsense which grants equal rights to all on the premise of the unity of humanity, is to be condemned from the scientific standpoint." 

---------------  end of quote

This is also interesting from the point of view of the Reformation, where a great popular movement brought literacy and biblical teaching to the masses, wresting it from a priestly class, that had gone quite corrupt.  Also, it was noted quite clearly that there needed to be a shift from Aristotle to Augustine, which I sometimes wonder what that could all mean. Here is one aspect of this shift. 

We hear often, however, even in Luther that people should stay in their callings.  What he means, though, is not that some should be serves and some Lord, but that each should faithfully do his work, since each has his own load to carry.  We need not aspire to all be in a spiritual class, but we serve God in our vocations, as husband, wife, child, student, king, soldier, farmer, pastor, etc.  These are all ennobled by the blessings and callings of God.  This teaching is quite contrary to those who see in the daily affairs a kind of bane that we need to escape.   

We see also how some rationalize their tendency to cruelty, pride and unjust behavior. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Gene Veith lecture notes and Youtube link, from Edmonton lecture 2014: "Christian Imagination, Art and Culture"

For ease of retrieval, once more, below, the lecture notes from Dr. Gene Veith's talks on Christian Imagination, Art and Culture, in Edmonton, 2014

One,  Two  and  Three.

Dr. Gene Veith blogs here:

Also, here is a link to the Youtube video of the keynote lecture.  Dr. Veith spoke several times, however, and not everything will be found in this video.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Luther and his stringed instrument

I always enjoyed this painting of Luther and his singing family.  The instrument must be a lute. And, the name "Luther" comes from luthier, which is a person who repairs stringed instruments.

(We know that he liked to do skilled work with wood for relaxation, but I don't think he was a luthier.  He was a poet and composer, however, among many other things.)

Note, also, the lute on the stained glass window, on the sidebar.  Song means so much to us.

Yesterday, music store, summer night

Yesterday, I went to an actual store that has an actual selection of guitars and ukuleles.  You will be proud of me that I made no impulse purchases, maybe because the things I really liked cost over $400.00, at least.  They had a bass ukulele with rubber strings.  You plug it in and it is a really, REALLY, cool bass.  There was a baby guitar with a fantastic sound for the size...

But, alas, I bought new strings and a foldable music stand, a snark tuner and some little hand-held percussion instruments.  The music stand is impressively sturdy and cost $34.00.  I don't see it on Amazon.  It is a Yorkville BS 321.

When I got home, we went for a bike-ride with the neighbors, sat up late drinking lemonade and wine with strawberries and the new quinoa chips from Costco.  (16 gr of protein per 50 chips).   I sang for them from the new music stand and took the strings off the old guitar, which, on closer look, was very grimy.

This inspection caused me to sit up even later to look at restore-your-guitar-videos on Youtube.  Then I watched a video on how to build an entire guitar from scratch.  WOW.  Workmanship. Watching all these guys lovingly take care of an instrument in their workshops was a beautiful thing to see.  Something to meditate upon.  Foreign to me.  A man's workshop:  so close and yet so far.

I am lacking that sort of love of handiwork and being terribly picky at it.  BUT, I will try to get the old guitar useful before deciding on a purchase of a new one.  It would be the baby guitar, if I did go for it. And then there is the bass ukulele...  The bass ukulele is really awesome.  And I need an acoustic amplifier.  Maybe, if I sold all the things I don't use, I could just roll over the cash into something else...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

More Ukuleles

People always said that if you own one guitar you feel like owning a whole lot of models.  I am beginning to feel this way about the ukulele.

The cheap Mahalo is quite nice, really, and the Epiphone I have tried plugged in, by now.  The plugged in sound is not as nice to my ears, but maybe I need a different amplifier.

And then there is the tenor or baritone ukulele with six strings.  I watched several videos on how you play this thing, and while it sounds nicer, it must be more difficult to double up the strings and play them all in GCEA.  I think some people string it like a guitar.  That could be nice.

I think I have to get myself down to an actual store with a selection to try.

This man here below, gives a nice demo and sings a song about how the ukulele came from Portugal to Hawaii.  Sweet.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ukulele choir

Wow, this is lovely work.  The Senior's choir might be able to do something like that.

This is interesting:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ukulele / Guitar

OK.  I have got used to the little, cheaper blue Ukulele from Mahalo.

After putting on a quality set of strings and getting them in tune, I find the tone is quite acceptable and the tuning pegs are alright.--You won't believe it-- my husband picked it up voluntarily today, and we practiced "Going to the chapel... going to get married..."  He can't quite put his fingers down properly, yet.  He needs to develop some calluses.

I am having so much fun with all the interesting chord changes possible for me on the Ukulele, I am considering buying a child size 3/4 guitar for myself.  I could never reach very well on the guitar, nor, as said before, could position myself very well with it.  Maybe, I will try some at the store.  There also appears to be a Luna guitar line built more specifically for women.

In looking online,  I see that there are also hymn and gospel Ukulele song books and in the comment section, we see that there are such things as Ukulele choirs at churches.  Ha.  Should check that on Youtube.  Such easy fun and joy.  Sing to the Lord with the Ukulele.  King David would have approved.  I can't imaging that his harp sounded much better and it soothed the depressed Saul's troubled soul.

Friday, June 5, 2015


How to talk about it.  Grief.
How to share, or not.
How to complain, fear,
want to live or die,
go on or not.

Jesus was deeply moved when he saw them grieve Lazarus.
He wept.  He came.  He was no stranger.
Even Job had advisers, albeit bad ones, to wail to.

Someone wrote this.  I think it applies in a way.

With unshaven face half concealed in the collar
of some deceased porcine philanthropist's
black cashmere rag of a coat,
I knew that I looked like a suicide
returning an overdue book to the library.
Almost everyone else did as well,
but I found no particular solace in this;
at best, the fact awakened some diverting speculations
on the comparative benefits
of waiting in front of a ditch to be shot
alone or in the company
of others, and then whether one would prefer
these last hypothetical others
to be friends, family, enemies, total
or relative strangers. Would you hold hands?
Or would you rather like a good Homo sapiens
monster employ them
to cover your genitals?
What percentage would lose bowel control?
And given time restrictions —
and assuming some still had the ability to move —
would ostracism result? Anyway,
I knew the rules on this bus.
No eye contact: the eyes of the terrified
terrify. Look
like you know where you're going,
possess ample change to get there,
and don't move your lips when you talk
to yourself: the destroyed
and sick, the poor, the hungry
and the disturbed estrange.
The badly dressed estrange, even,
and that is uncalled for. The degree
of one's power to estrange will increase
in direct proportion to the depth
of need for others. Do not cry.
This can only bring about, on the one hand,
an instant condition of banishment
from the sole available companionship or,
on the other, a near-
fatal beating (one more disappointment).
Just follow the simple instruction
if you ever come here.
It's easy to remember — any idiot can do it.
Don't cry,
the world has abandoned us.
~ Franz Wright

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lots of yard work and such, but these were interesting.

It's a busy time of year, but I just want to remember these below.

1.  An interview Ezra Levant had with Noam Chomsky, on freedom of speech:

2.  Great guitar and theory instruction by a  fellow Lutheran, Rob Bourassa, on Youtube:

I also bought a little cheap Ukulele from a shop nearby, to see it might be good enough to use with beginners who may have other difficulties.  It was the regular Malhalo, made from laminate, with a light blue paint on the surface.  Most certainly, it is not as nice as the Epiphone, which has a Maple top, but it is also useable.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Law, Gospel

It seems a profound thought to me, that those who seek to be "bad", or antinomian, are also laboring under a legalism and self-righteous effort.  In fact, it explains a lot.