Friday, July 30, 2010

Music not Timeless but Etched in Time

Some songs or albums are like red-tacks on the wall-map of memory and time. The best ones don't just stick there, but carry forward the past to the present and continue to be relevant.

I was reading Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace this week and had to go back and listen to Coldplay's "Death and all of his Friends". Not only was I listening to it the first time I read the book, but it captures the sentiment of the book as well. Other instances of the synchronicity of music to event that come to mind:
  • U2's Boy and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia (the books people, the books). Magical and meant for each other.
  • Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and driving around at night with friends in high school, having the world begin open up in front of me---startlingly unsettling and wild.
  • Switchfoot's "Dare you to Move" and my frightening first days stepping up to pastor a congregation.
  • The Walkmen's You and Me and the simultaneously stressful thrills of coping with the arrival of twins and applying to do a PhD. This song in particular reminds me of the drive to and from the GRE exam.
  • The National's "Fake Empire" and the election of Obama. The song was played at the televised party moments before he came out to accept the Presidency. Was enjoying the album at that time anyway, but the connection of that moment and that song has seared itself in my consciousness. The video, poignant in its simplicity, drives that home even more:

There are countless more, some with more "staying power" than others, I'm sure. Any standouts for you?

Sometimes music is referred to as timeless, but I think it more accurate that the best music is like a piece of eternity breaking through in the present expression of things---thus just right in its time, even if it talks about what's wrong. And as such it remains relevant and special to other times as well. Brings the past forward but isn't bound to it either.

Lots of music is timeless in the worst sense---so scratching the fickle itch of the moment that it brings nothing and captures nothing; is not even real to its own time. It is a leech. It uses the moment. It is cheap candy or Burger King. Might taste good but you are hungry again soon. It may remind us of past times, but not in a rich and vibrant way--more like the empty echo of a forgotten spoon clattering down to the bottom of a bottomless sink.

I am reading a lot about time as a theological category these days. I don't like the idea of timelessness. Time is a gift of eternity. Timelessness might just be hell.

And then there is this:

Or this:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Missing the NFL

Thanks Eric for posting this. Incredible stuff.

The NFL offseason is soooo long.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer of 10

My thirty fourth summer. They are a blur. This one included. Furthermore: Blog stagnant. Solution: Recap and Look Ahead.

Sincerely celebrated the birthdays of my eldest son and my awesomest and only wife. World Cup fever. Found a God-send of a new house and sunk into the reality of another year in Aberdeen.

Read Fathers and Sons: The Search for a New Masculinity by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. Not quite the compelling mix of theology and sociology that was for me the life-changing Gender and Grace, but a poignant read nontheless. Heavier on the sociological analysis, backing everything with statistics. Probably more of an eyebrow raiser for those not already convinced of the search for a new masculinity. It tended to not argue for a "new" one so much as make a case for its need. Nonetheless, I am more thoroughly convinced that we are not well-served today by the principles that have been made of our stereotypes and their thrusting back onto the Bible as if grounded universally in creation. I put the book down convicted about my own denomination's ever-stalling discussion on gender roles and troubled by the persistence of baptized gender stereotypes around me. I was also convicted about my need for God to instill the gifts of gentleness and patience into my own masculinity, first and foremost as a father, but also even as a debater on just these issues.

Also read Athanasius' On the Incarnation with some friends and bought and played to death The National's "High Violet". As you hopefully know: Reading centuries old theology is incredibly relevant, and good music restores the soul.

World Cup dramas unfolded, gripped and dissipated. Went to the Isle of Skye with my family and said "this is gorgeous" about four thousand times. (See photos at end of post). Moved into a new home and a new office. Both far more aesthetically pleasing and life-enhancing than the last. Very thankful.

Read Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir by Stanley Hauerwas and pondered the life of a man as frank and bold as he was thoughtful and influential. Very interesting to read about his youth as a bricklayer, his marriage to someone with mental illness, his back-stories of academia, his incessant swearing, and his insistence that he was a professional theologian long before he was really sure he was a Christian. Still thinking about this book. It both resonated and surprised. What is cool about it is that it is really a book about the friends who made him the person he is.

Also currently reading Augustine's Confessions with some friends. Amazing. I've started this thing like a half-dozen times and never got passed the idea that it was a wallowing in guilt. Not so. This autobiographical masterpiece is 1600 years old, and yet remains timely and penetrating.

August and September:
About six months ago when I asked my supervisor's advice on the article and conference ideas I was pitching, he warned me that if I spread myself too thin I might end up with a mediocre dissertation rather than an excellent one. By not heeding his caution I have proven him wise by getting too much on my plate. By September I endeavor to have written and either had published or presented the following:

I do hope that by grace the prophecy of mediocrity will nonetheless be averted.

Also, my folks will be here for most of August, which is great, and during that time we will accompany them to London for probably our only visit as a family to that city, in what promises to be a whirlwind 48 hours. So that's what's up. Thanks for stopping by. Here's some highlights from Skye and the Scottish West Coast:

Glenfinnan viaduct with my incredible wife.
Yeah, its in Harry Potter somewhere, but it was cool before that.

The frightening hike to the Quirang on the northern tip of Skye.
Frightening with young children in tow anyway. But worth it. Breathtaking.

Eilean Donan Castle.
10 minutes up the Loch from the pastor's manse where we were so gratefully able to stay. A memorable family holiday to say the least.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Scooby and Skye

I was doing some research for my upcoming contribution to the 4th annual Blog Barth Conference--Barth in conversation with the Coen Brothers--and I came across this clever mix up of the film trailer with Scooby Doo clips. Thought you might enjoy it along with me.

Might be away from the internet for a few days. Thanks to the generosity of some church people I will be holidaying with my family on the West Coast of Scotland, situated just off the Isle of Skye at a house just a short drive down the road from this!:

Monday, July 05, 2010

A Football Epic

The World Cup has had some highs and some real lows. The quarter-final match between Ghana and Uruguay was heart-wrenching drama the likes of which I have not felt since the Colts lost to the Steelers in 2006. I sometimes think that I'm not as into sports as I once was, and then a game comes along to remind me of the incredible array of emotions that can unexpectedly fall upon a person in less than 3 hours.

It is truly tragic that this years World Cup has been so tainted by "injustices", some of which could have been eliminated if the beureucrats had seen fit to allow video replay of some form or another. I don't think they need to do much. Just replays for goal-line situations and events directly effecting a goal.

That said, as a relative neutral to this game (albeit one whose heart had been won by Ghana early in the tournament) I have to say it was as epic as they come.

I love the World Cup. I like that I can measure my life by it. I can vaguely remember the hype of USA 94, and played my first soccer that year. Four years later my camp-counselor nick-name was "FIFA" during the lead up to the French victory of '98. I was engaged to my wife a few weeks later. We watched the Brazil victory of 2002 in the wee hours of the morning on a black and white television plugged in outside a campsite washroom with friends. And in 2006 it was with family and friends and our first two sons in the living room at my in-laws, watching the Zidane shocker and Italian glory. This year in the UK, feeling the palpable tension of the England build up and inevitable let down. My sons now as emotionally invested as I am! Its been quite a ride already. How will it end this time?

I was beginning to think that I might cheer for Uruguay, but this incident has soured those prospects I'm afraid. I had come in cheering for Spain and England, but Torres not being in form has dampered my enthusiasm. I guess at this point I'm hoping for a Spain Holland final. Both these teams have knocked on the door for years, I think it would be cool to see one win it. That said, you have to admire this young German squad and you hope to see their style of play get contagious. It should be a good finale.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Zach Meisenheimer on Simulation in Football

A friend of mine, my former football manager to be exact, has posted a brilliant piece at the Vancouver Sun blog on the phenomena of "simulation" (i.e., embellishment, or "diving") in the World Cup. It is a must read. As is the remainder of the World Cup a must see.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Controversy and the Church

I am greatly looking forward to the conference being hosted at the University of Aberdeen this weekend. The theme is "Nihil Illegitimi Carborundum: Theology, the Church and Controversy"--a theme that not only has always been forefront on my mind but is also fairly central to my dissertation topic (forgiveness in the church). Here are the papers I'll hear over the course of the next few days:

Carl Trueman, "Protestant Polemics in Seventeenth Century Reformed Orthodoxy"

John Webster, "Theology and the Peace of the Church"

David Bentley Hart, "A Penitential Approach to Controversy"

Robert Jenson, "On Creative/Destructive Provocations"

Brian Brock, "Controversy in Christian Ethics: The Case of Stanley Hauerwas"

Peter Leithart, "Fighting Fair? Athanasius and the 'Ario-maniacs'"

Susan Frank Parsons, "Prophecy’s Grace in Times of Controversy"

Vigen Guroian, "Debating the Status of Same Sex Unions"

Markus Muhling, "Divergent Oneness: The Church's Unity Without Consensus"

Oh, and here's a decent satire on these theology conferences.