Saturday, November 3, 2007

Readings: Prudence, meet Whimsy

From time to time I go online to check my account at the university library. It is my habit, at any given time, to be reading several books, of various genres, concurrently. I have found that the books communicate with each other, like, perhaps, several experts seated around the table of a multi-disciplinary symposium. I am their privileged and grateful witness.

But, I borrow so many books that I sometimes lose track of them. It is therefore prudent to peruse the online record of my borrowings. I found this morning that my current list of borrowings numbers nine, as follows:

1. Alone of All Her Sex, the Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary
~ Marina Warner

2. Intimations of Christianity Among the Ancient Greeks
~ Simone Weil

3. The Quick and the Dead, a novel
~ Joy Williams

4. A Stay Against Confusion, Essays on Faith and Fiction
~ Ron Hansen

5. The Complete Stories
~ Flannery O’Connor

6. State of Grace, a novel
~ Joy Williams

7. Mary Today, the Challenging Woman
~ M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.

8. Luther’s Theology of the Cross, Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough
~ Alister E. McGrath

9. The Problem of Evil
~ Mark Larrimore, editor

Of these, I am currently reading numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, with the rest waiting “on deck.”

The following paragraphs are the result of a whimsical experiment by which I selected at random one sentence from each of the nine books above, arranging them in three paragraphs, each containing three of the nine sentences, in approximate order of length:

In other words, philosophic theism has always shown a tendency to become pantheistic and monistic, and to consider the world as one unit of absolute fact; and this has been at variance with popular or practical theism, which latter has ever been more or less frankly pluralistic, not to say polytheistic, and shown itself perfectly well satisfied with a universe composed of many original principles, provided we be only allowed to believe that the divine principle remains supreme, and that the others are subordinate. Saint Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, a headstrong Carmelite nun in the sixteenth century, would tear off her habit and flamboyantly embrace a statue of Jesus while crying out in an orgasmic way, “O love, you are melting and dissolving my very being! The paying customer saw not at all what had been promised or inferred, only a vague, grainy drift, an emptiness that with effort might suggest some previous thriving and striving, but all in all a disappointment.

That horse represented the life he loved and couldn’t get enough of—the gear and the parades and the good camaraderie and the dragging for criminals or fishermen who drowned off the keys or in the swamp. The intense controversy between Bizer and Bornkamm over this issue has served to demonstrate how intimately the two concepts are linked, rather than to resolve the question. The relationship of the cube, which, properly speaking, is never seen in the appearances produced by perspective, is like the relationship of the stem of the sundial to the shadows.

The prolific Luke is still credited with hundreds of statues and paintings all over the Catholic world (figure 43); and there are still many
acheiropoietoi images in Catholic churches. The past and the future were the same thing to him, one forgotten and the other not remembered; he had no more notion of dying than a cat. When we, in spirit, unite our yes with Mary’s, it becomes integrated with the yes of humanity that Mary is saying.

Okay, so I’ve got too much time on my hands. Things could be worse…