Czterech_śpiących_07 (1)

All the Best to the Russians, But I Am Profoundly Skeptical

The Merton Annual asked me to write a piece about the Thomas Merton - Czeslaw Milosz correspondence that was published some time ago as Striving Towards Being. The correspondence includes a long discussion of Russia. I admit Russia is a minor obsession of mine; quite natural for a Pole, after all.The thinness of today's Western political writing on Russia has something to do with the desperation of conservatives who are pretty much the only intellectuals who are actively interested in that … [Read More...]

This self-referential list has some eye-opening reads.

Ruined by Books: My TOP10 Novel List

Thinking through betrayal reminded me of Hermann Broch's novel The Sleepwalkers. It's one of those books that you faithfully return to whenever you get the chance. I've encountered my fair share of such books. I've also been tagged in those "influential books" lists on social media, but I can't get it all down into a list of only ten books from all genres.Therefore, I'll attempt a quasi-bracketology approach by making TOP10 lists of genres (to be determined later) over the next few weeks. … [Read More...]

What can we learn from the monumental intellectual betrayals of Broch, Allen, and Scheler?

Hermann, Max, Woody and Falling Out of the Ordo Amoris

 Yesterday we discussed Woody Allen as a liminal personality stuck somewhere between belief and disbelief. Being lukewarm is acceptable to most, even if it's a bit hard on God's stomach, but when one makes a jump into either committed belief or unbelief (from its opposite), then one becomes an outcast. There is nothing more frightening than the person who has betrayed a community to that community; bridges burn automatically behind them.Being haunted by both belief and … [Read More...]

There is much to say about Woody Allen and the possibilities of conversion in a secular age. Not all of it is comforting.

Woody Allen Considers Conversion

Allen’s latest film Magic in the Moonlight has not received the credit it deserves. At first glance it is a starkly different film than Blue Jasmine. It seems this way because it channels some of the brainy levity of the films from the 80s, and even 70s classics like Love and Death or Annie Hall. Such a stereotyping of the earlier films ignores the existentially dead-serious serious thought-experiments and questions posed by those films through, not in spite of, their use of the comedy genre. … [Read More...]

Archaeology and Empire building: Piero della Francesca, Discovery of the True Cross, 1466.

The Empire Strikes Back: Feast of the Holy Cross

It's easy to forget the Feast of the Holy Cross is a consummate Constantinian feast.St. Helen (patron saint of archaeologists), mother of Constantine, so the story goes, found the True Cross on an expedition in 326. This was a mere year after the imperial-doctrinal consolidation at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea that would keep Christians and the Empire together. The feast was rolled out with the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on 13 September 334. The True Cross itself … [Read More...]

Given what Zbigniew Herbert says about the Dutch Masters in his Collected Essays, Vermeer's "View of Delft" (1661) might be his idea of New Jerusalem.

They Were Not Able to Separate the Soul From the Flesh

Finishing Theology of Transformation was one of those bittersweet reading moments: I was happy to discover the work of Oliver Davies, but sad the book ended.I've already explored his discussions of what he calls the Second Scientific Revolution, the way it helps to locate Christ in our cosmos in a new way, and how it helps to put some flesh back into our theologies (I'll have more to say about his work soon).Reading Davies led me into posts about the shockingly fleshy heart of faith here … [Read More...]

We are all responsible for the Death of God by acting as if he didn't exist says Niezsche in The Gay Science: "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? "

America’s Post 9/11 Nihilism

John Zmirak's writing, while it it is not serious theology, philosophy, or economic theory, has served as a fun foil for some of my best pieces. Thanks to him I was able, for example, to put the Inquisition in proper historical perspective, or come to terms with the libertarian nihilistic option for the rich.The Z-Man has a new book coming, a kind of halfhearted rip-off of TOP10 internet lists that I like to do so much. It's called The Race to Save Our Century: Five Principles Something or … [Read More...]

Outwitting the clever men and the monster seems to have made man a sad boy: Diego Rivera, Man - Controller of the Universe, 1934.

Atheism’s Ancient Creation Myth

The cardinal rule for writing a book is starting out strong with a memorable story, anecdote, or aphorism.Frequently the promise of those first pages is enough to keep the readers glued to the rest of the book even if it doesn't live up to the promise. Michel Foucault was a master at this, for example, when he began Discipline and Punish with the enthralling story of a regicide's quartering. Tolstoy masterfully pulled his readers into the brick called Anna Karenina with a mere sentence … [Read More...]

Friedrich Herlin, Circumcision of Christ (detail), 1466.

The Fourteen Foreskins of Christ and Mary’s Hymen

One of my readers asked the following legitimate question in response to Nudus Nudum Christum Sequi: On Christ’s Genitalia:I wonder how you would feel if someone wrote a similar post discussing and depiciting [sic!] your wife's genitalia. Have some respect for Jesus' Holy Body. I'm sure I wouldn't mind if I could concoct a salvific significance to writing about my wife's genitalia (topic for a future post?). On the other hand, there's always been a salvific dimension to discussions of … [Read More...]

Henry Ossawa Tanner (American), "The Annunciation" (1896).

What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Art and Revelation?

Will Beauty Save the World?The slogan “Beauty will save the world” is increasingly invoked by religious believers these days. What this might actually mean is not given much thought, as is the case with most reflex responses. The words come from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. The Christians who use the phrase usually think the words issued from the lips of the story’s main protagonist, Prince Myshkin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dostoevsky’s intended ambivalence toward the phrase … [Read More...]


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