Remembering Father Louis

Jan 25 2015 @ 8:31am

Father Louis, of course, was Thomas Merton, who was born 100 years ago this month. Carol Zaleski looks back at his complex life and faith:

[H]ow inscrutable you were, for all the self-revealing writing. You wrote a memoir worthy of comparison to Augustine’s Confessions—were it not marred by a Holden Caulfield–like contemptus mundi. You tapped into the wellsprings of monastic spirituality through scholarship and reflection on the Rule of St. Benedict, the Desert Fathers, John Cassian, Bernard of Clairvaux—and then you translated that spirituality into an idiom of authenticity and alienation that now seems dated. You restored contemplation to its rightful centrality in Christian life and did much “to reassure the modern world that in the struggle between thought and existence we [monks] are on the side of existence, not on the side of abstraction”—and then you portrayed contemplation as so radically self-emptying that it sheds much of its specific religious content. You fought for the privilege of living as a hermit on the abbey grounds—but you let your hermitage become a gathering place for your nonmonastic friends during a period when you were (as you told Rosemary Radford Ruether) “browned off with and afraid of Catholics.”

On a reductionist psychoanalytic reading, you were an orphan searching for his lost parents, a repressed lover, and a narcissist drowning in his own reflection. On a more discerning Augustinian reading, though, you were an Everyman whose heart is restless until it rests in God; and on a sound monastic reading, you were one of thousands of essentially good monks who strayed but stayed the course. I believe you did stay the course. Had it not been for the faulty electric fan, or the fault in your own heart, I believe you would have returned to Gethsemani to be a model of monastic wisdom after the storms of youth had passed.

Quote For The Day

Jan 25 2015 @ 7:34am

“Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers the most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture,” – Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain.

Priceless Particles

Jan 24 2015 @ 8:34pm

dish_stardust

For her project Stardust, Corinne Schulze photographed the “the bits and pieces of archaeological artifacts” she discovered while working with historical treasures at a New York museum:

One day, Schulze looked down at her studio sweep and those tiny pieces of dust and debris left behind struck her differently. Rather than unfortunate casualties of the job, the debris looked to her like celestial formations. She transferred it to a black background—like the vast canvas of space—and snapped a photo.

“It reminded me of the idea that we’re all made of stardust—Carl Sagan and all that stuff,” she said.

Most of the objects she shot were gathered in the early 20th century, when the collection process was far less careful than it is today. Archaeologists shoveled up the objects, dumped them in a box along with whatever dirt and fragments surrounded it, and closed them up with notes about what was found that still left much to the imagination.

See more of Schulze’s work here.

How To Flirt On The Internet

Jan 24 2015 @ 7:22pm

According to Emily Witt, who investigated the live webcam site Chaturbate, it helps if you’re a woman:

At first I avoided the most sexually explicit channels. I preferred to watch women, but not usually at their most pornographic. I watched when they were just doing things, chatting or cutting out paper hearts for Valentine’s Day or listening to the songs of Miley Cyrus. I watched the women because they were more interesting than the men, who invariably positioned themselves in a black computer chair at a desk in ghastly desk-lamp illumination, dick in hand, making the usual motions, unless they reclined in bed and did the same, with little in the way of creativity or gimmicks. It was amazing the diversity of what men wanted performed for them and how little they offered to others, except for a few of the gay guys, who seemed to understand that some form of flirtation might exhilarate the spirit and therefore did yoga routines in bike shorts or lip-synched to pop hits.

Witt goes on to consider whether “internet sexual” qualifies as a new orientation. She talks to Chaturbate performers Max and Harper – whose webcam performances have included a penis-in-ice-water endurance test as well as “puppet shows, and threesomes, and a food fight” – about how their ideas of sex have changed:

Read On

Hathos For Herzog

Jan 24 2015 @ 6:44pm

Werner Herzog narrates one of Klaus Kinski’s outbursts on the set of Fitzcarraldo (language is NSFW, especially for German speakers):

Kinski appears to have experienced the “compulsion of revulsion” for the director. Charlie McCann, who recently saw Herzog speak at the New York Public Library, elaborates:

At one point [event director Paul] Holdengräber read a particularly vivid passage from an autobiography by Klaus Kinski, the mercurial actor who starred in several of Herzog’s films:

Read On

Conflict Cuisine

Jan 24 2015 @ 5:49pm

Lionel Beehner considers a correlation:

In my past life as a freelance reporter based in post-conflict countries, I used to think there was a direct relationship between war-torn places and good cuisine. Maybe an inventive menu was a sign of ethnically diverse cultures, which may be synonymous with internecine conflict. Conflict zones, after all, tend to bestride former empires. Or perhaps the horror of war is what lends itself to good food – as a form of culinary escapism.

Read On

The View From Your Window

Jan 24 2015 @ 5:22pm

Phoenix, Arizona, 4.33 pm

On The Sanity Of Artists

Jan 24 2015 @ 4:55pm

Maria Popova digs up a nonfiction gem from Henry Miller, To Paint Is to Love Again, in which he addresses the question:

Certainly the surest way to kill an artist is to supply him with everything he needs. Materially he needs but little. What he never gets enough of is appreciation, encouragement, understanding. I have seen painters give away their most cherished work on the impulse of the moment, sometimes in return for a good meal, sometimes for a bit of love, sometimes for no reason at all — simply because it pleased them to do so. And I have seen these same men refuse to sell a cherished painting no matter what the sum offered. I believe that a true artist always prefers to give his work away rather than sell it. A good artist must also have a streak of insanity in him, if by insanity is meant an exaggerated inability to adapt. The individual who can adapt to this mad world of to-day is either a nobody or a sage. In the one case he is immune to art and in the other he is beyond it.

Mental Health Break

Jan 24 2015 @ 4:20pm

It’s hard to believe all this was 17 years ago:

Papa’s Masculinity

Jan 24 2015 @ 3:31pm

Tyler Malone interviews Adam Long, the director of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer House in Arkansas, where Hemingway once lived, about the subject:

Hemingway is sort of the prototypical machismo American writer, but that uber-masculinity aspect of his persona often gets played up. He seems to me a much more complicated man than the mythical bull-fight-loving tough guy allows. Do you agree? And if so, in what ways do you see a different side of Hemingway? And how can highlighting those alternate aspects of his personality help to open up his novels in different ways?

I agree that Ernest is more complex than his one-dish_hemdimensional macho performance. Certainly, Ernest was obsessed with masculinity, as were many men in his time and place. Because of this performance, he seems to have worked to ensure that his public persona was quintessentially macho. This probably becomes more and more true as his celebrity grows.

Beneath this, though, I think there is a much more complex person. Looking at his texts, I think that, at times, you see his narrators regret their own chauvinism. It seems to me that many of his narrators are speaking about past events, like one might in a confessional. I think seeing the difference in age in the first-person narrators and the events they narrate is important in seeing growth (or at least regret) in some of the Hemingway heroes.

Previous Dish on the author here, here, and here.

(Image of Hemingway with Col. Charles T. Lanham in Germany 1944 via Wikimedia Commons)