Friday, September 26, 2008

A Few Questions

...That have been on my mind for a few months now:

Most of us don't reach perfection by the time we leave this life. At the end, most of us still have some (or many) rough spots, even if we have been saved and granted eternal life through faith in Christ. Now the whole doctrine of sin seems to be based upon the idea that the way things are right now are not the way things should be. Sin is an accident. And because of that sin, we are condemned to eternal death (we'll get into Eschatology in a bit). The Incarnation somehow (and this will probably be my presentation topic, oh Athanasius! You are very wonderful, checkity.) restores us back to a right relation with God. Now whatever else Jesus does in us and for us, I think it is safe to assume that we'll be free from sin. So this is my question(s):

Even if we are saved, we are still imperfect and sinful at the end of our lives. After death, are we automatically restored to perfection and holiness? And if we are, why the agony of this life if God could perfect us instantly? Why don't we go straight to Heaven after we accept the Gospel as true and binding to our lives?

Could this be the justification behind a purgatory? From what I know, the main objection against purgatory came when wicked men decided to play with hell fire and sell indulgences. Obviously, you can't buy salvation or purification (see the Simoniacs).

So to really, really get to the question:

If we are meant to eventually come into the presence of God which will destroy anything sinful, what happens to most of us who die saved but still ravaged/harrased by sin? How are our imperfect natures developed into being able to bear the presence of the Holy God after death?

I want to lean towards purgatory, but I'm confronted with quite a strong protestant reaction against this. Any Eschatological insights out there? Help?

Secondly, Shakespeare is amazing and Twelfth Night brings up some absolutely amazing questions:

How does love conceal and/or reveal identities?


Another thing that's been on my mind: Is Love a sub category of Goodness or is Goodness subordinate to Love? And what about Beauty and Truth, I'm not entirely convinced that they categories of Goodness, otherwise, why not just have Goodness? Medival Numerology perhaps?

Lastly, How do we Love rightly? What is Love?

I'd be happy to talk about this...


Had a great moment today at the Biola Library while running through the aisles of the BR section looking frantically for a book on Athanasius. Maybe it was the too powerful conditioner or just the endless row of books, but I realized something. Reading great literature, discussing great ideas, learning to love. These activities bring me into the company of a great "cloud of witnesses" who have gone before me and my peers. A community of believers who sought to love God and serve Him faithfully with their whole being. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Musical Narration

I might have commited musical blasphemy, but I'm not sure if I have or not. When I listened to Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances exactly one month ago, here's what I wrote in my journal that evening:

Note: Please forgive the horrible butchery of the grammar and beauty of the english language that is to follow. I make no excuses and beg for mercy. (At this point my head says, "drama queen"...)

I listened to The Symphonic Dances. I experienced an image of Love (First great Theme), Dreadful Fear and Sarcastic flippancy reminiscent of the Joker yet different and understood the wailing torture, fear, and despair of the Inferno. Of the frightening power of Death. (Dies Irae) But then comes the Love, this time in old age, the love of Children and Grandchildren where the passion is still there but tempered and drawn into greater things as a lump of metal is smithed into a (or tempered) into a straight, bright shining and noble blade which is both tranquil and fearsome to behold. And again the cruel spite and massive power of Death. But then, a Hero emerges. Small and weak, (in the flesh) and a fierce and awesome battle ensues with the Good dancing blithely where Death can only bludgeon and mock and frighten. Then the Triumph! Christ is Risen from the dead! For by death He tramples death. Alliluya, Alliluya, Alliluya. there is uncertainty and a bit of apprehension in the parting but never fear. Only love and hope and faith and an affirmation of them all. And suddenly! "Well done thou good and faithful servant, Enter and share Thy master's rest."

The Symphonic Dances was Rachmaninoff’s last work before he died.

Oh it's glorious!

He musically quotes a theme from his first symphony (Rachmaninoff Junkies will recognize how significant that is but for those of us who have not been enlightened here's the story:, the Dies Irae which I posted about last year: and the climax from the most beautiful Choral piece I've ever heard, The Vespers or All-Night Vigil which can be described as Russian Orthodox Aural Ecstacy.

But back to musical heresies. Is it wrong of me to have these images/sensations/feelings in my head and heart when I listen? On one hand I know that music exists for its own sake, yet I also know that music is a language and how else can I understand it but through common human experience? If you look hard enough, you can find the transcripts of one of Rachmaninoff's last interviews before he died. Basically he says that whatever he feels, that is what he tries to communicate through the music whether it be love, fear, sadness, happiness, etc. And so I'm not so sure what to do with my little attempt at Musical Narration.

I think we can safely say that Music still remains fundamentally undescribable through words. Or else it wouldn't really be music.

Go listen to Symphonic Dances. But only after you've heard the Vespers and Dies Irae.

"Blagosloven yesi, Gospodi,
Nauchi mya opravdaniyem Tvoim"

"Blessed art Thou O Lord,
Teach me Thy Statutes"

I recommend these recordings:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Epilogue

Been reading C.S. Lewis' Grief Observed.

Wonderfully refreshing. Really knocks some sense into you.

He talks alot about what we thought to be true being houses of cards when those assumptions are actully put to the test.

After the initial gut reaction though and the first few days of ridiculously ridiculous emotional body slams, you become sane again.

Anything I've ever lost is nothing compared to what Jack lost.

I have a feeling that I'll be coming back to this book quite a few more times before I will be in the position of sympathizing with it.

It's a treasure trove of courage and the fight for sanity against overwhelming odds. It's encouraging.

Not that I have anything comparable to his. Jack's courage shames me in so many ways I don't even know where to start.

Moreover, the sheer patience and goodwill of my friends, I'm astounded! How is it that I (of all people) should have been so blessed?! Perhaps it is born of love...

It's like coming out from the dim half light of a cave into full sunshine. I'm reminded of the last line of the Inferno

"He first and I behind, we climbed so high
that through a small round opening I saw some of the turning beauties of the sky.
And we came out to see, once more, the stars."

And also of Eliot:

"And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of motives late revealed, and the awareness
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer."

Each end is a beginning.

How great is the Love of God which redeems all our loves!

I owe a great debt to you, my friends. For your love and patience I will ever be grateful.

Blessings and Happiness as you begin your Journey and thank you for indulging my extended farewell.

"And the dashing and handsome hero gets the beautiful lady and they ride quickly towards the sunset and into Happily Ever After."

Roll Credits.

P.S. That was the Sappiest post ever. ;)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cyrano de Bergerac...

Was a drama queen. A very good one at that. But reading that last scene is always good cartharsis, even if it is a bit embarassing. It's funny too! =]

Life imitates art and Art imitates life. That's the way things work.

Of course, watching this also helps:

(Watch at your own risk, this is PG ish for some language and relationship humor)

And this:

=] =] =]

These two are my favorite shorts, besides Pixar.

Ahhh, isn't it great being a hormonal teenager? ;)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Taking a Compliment

I'm not sure if I'm unique in this area or not. You see, whenever someone praises me for something I've done (genuine praise mind you, not flattery), I redden ever so slightly and mumble something like "erm...thanks" or "praiseGod" or even "no, no it was nothing". After which I shuffle off and try to hide from the next person who looks like they're going to say something nice to me.

Now it's laughable I admit, but I genuinely have trouble taking a compliment. The problem is intensified when someone I respect and hold in high regard praises me. Boy! It get's so bad, "oh, you're just saying that to be nice" etc. In fact, I've been told that I often come across as being falsely humble, which is just a small minded form of pride.

So, as always, Dante and Lewis have something amazing to say about this:

"And when the voice had ceased, and all was still,
I saw four mighty shades approaching us
with neither joy nor sadness in their eyes.

'Behold that shade whose right hand wields the sword,'
my worthy Teacher thus began to say,
'who comes before the others as their lord.

Homer the sovereign poet is that soul.
Horace the satirist comes after him,
Ovid comes third, and Lucan is the last.


So did I see united that sweet school
of the lord of the most exalted song
that like an eagle soars above the rest.

When they had talked together for a while
they turned to me, and beckoned me to come,
bringing a smile unto my Teacher's lips,

And greeted me, and honored me so well
that they included me among their band,
and made me sixth in that academy."

-Dante, Inferno, Canto Four

Keep in mind that when he writes this, he doesn't know for sure that 700 years from when he's writing he'll still be considered one of the greatest if not the greatest poet of all time. For anyone but Dante, this blatant self praise would be at best ridiculous and at worst falsely prideful. This is but the first of many instances throughout the Comedy where he basically praises himself. But he deserves it! But he's only in Canto Four! How does he have the guts (Even if he is DANTE) to compare himself with Virgil and Homer!

Dante is certainly worthy of the praise he gives himself, but how was he able to praise himself without sinning?

Contrast that passage with this one from Clement I:

"The humble person should not testify to his own humility, but leave it to someone else to testify about him. " -38:2

"Let a man be faithful, let him be able to expound knowledge, let him be wise in the interpretation of discourses, let him be energetic in deeds, let him be pure; for the greater he seems to be, the more he ought to be humble, and the more he ought to seek the common advantage of all, and not his own." -48:5-6

Dante fulfills all of these, but I'm not sure if he makes a mistake in praising himself, if he is praising himself.

In Purgatory, on the ring of the prideful where the penitent are stooped under huge boulders, Dante also stoops down in order to talk to them. In effect, he participates in the penitence. I think he does this two other times, but I shall have to re-read to be sure. The fact is though, that he knew he had leanings toward being pride ful and yet he included himself in the "Academy". Can a virtuous man praise himself?

Now that I think of it, Paul does the same thing:

But I'm not Paul or Dante, how should I take a compliment?

Here's one from Lewis:

"I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child - not in a conceited child, but in a good child - as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised...Apparently what I had mistaken for humility had, all these years, prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most creaturely of pleasures - nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure of a beast before men, a child before its fathe, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator. I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment - a very, very short moment - before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure."

-C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

I do feel much much pleasure when I am complimented (or as MKR would say, "my ego is stroked" ) But try as I might, I rarely am able to hold on to that first moment of pure satisfaction of having pleased another soul. Which sends me careening to the other extreme of trying to reject praise, which is a problem.

So the question is, how does one take a compliment in a way that glorifies God and allows one to rightly take joy in having pleased someone by good action?

Perhaps I am being too anxious...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sun Soaked Soul

Think of this post as a stream-of-consciousness piece...written at some ungodly hour on a Saturday night.

Okay, I don't remember what exactly he said, but somewhere in "The Joy of Music" Bernstien says that Bach slowly but surely becomes your favorite composer. I think that's true.

Rach and Bach. =]

There was this one moment when I was listening to Rach's 2nd Symphony where I had to go, "STOP!"

Bach, though, is so permeated with beauty, it's like the sun. He gets in all the cracks of my small little soul and warms every nook and cranny of me. He loved God so much, and it shows! Everything comes together when you listen to Bach.

And so after all this CM panel preparation is over (sometime next year). I want to start on Rachmaninoff's transcription of Bach's Violin Partita No. 3. I own a set of his complete recordings and his performance of that particular piece is shot through with such joy and wonder its...its....*happy sigh*. But of course, tomorrow is another day...of work...which means just sticking to it and getting all those fingerings right for the Rach piece and treating Annabelle like a raw machine. There's no other way for me (at least for now). Anytime I try to lay myself into the music, my fingers aren't ready yet. ;) I've also been banned from reading "The Art of Piano Playing".

Enthusiasm must be coupled with action. Good, True and gritty action. haha! Music takes hard work and to shrink from that and be lazy would be acting in a manner that is unworthy of the beauty that comes through it. Strive. Excellence.

I ramble so much....

Take ten minutes off, and listen to the Bach piece on the link above. Don't do anything else. Just listen and watch. And pray. =]

Let's keep praying for one another, always.

I'm decidedly terrible at describing music. =P

Monday, September 8, 2008

"A Symphony of Crisps"

So I was strolling through Vons and all of a sudden the PA comes on:

"Hello Customers, thank you for shopping at Vons! To show our appreciation, the first three customers to come to the bakery will be given a free loaf of French Bread."

And seeing as I was already at the bakery, I got a free loaf. =]

Mmmmmmhmmmmm it was freshly baked and still warm, it was gloriously empty of all nutrition and I was hungry. =]

I guess some things in life are free. =]

Now if only this happened more frequently....

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tangability in Music

The thing about great composers is that they each have their own 'voices' that are recognizable if you listen closely. For example, I've come to know Mozart (ah, my first love!) very well (for various reasons) and now whenever I hear him on the radio (which is alot!) I can tell if it's him or not within the first 5 seconds. (About 45 out of 50 times) =] It's quite fun! Certain characteristics and sounds often give composers away. In Mozart's case, it's usually an extended trill that ends with a lower note, a higher note, and then a lower note again.

It starts by being able to tell which period the music is from (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, 20th Century). And slowly progresses to a group of composers. (Haydn and Mozart are sometimes hard to tell apart). Elgar has a voice (Very English!). Beethoven is Mr. Cadenza. Vivaldi is Mr. Concerto. And Rachmaninoff is the Russian Dante. ;) Etc. etc.

But it really really really gets awesome when you can tell what period, which composer, the type of composition, what instruments, AND the soloist playing the piece. (Something I've only achieved once, that was while listening to the Beethoven Triple concerto with Anne Sophie Mutter on the Violin [I own a cd set of her playing all the Mozart violin sonatas, her Stradivarius has a very distinctive accent to it, it reminds me of German] and Yo-yo Ma on the Cello. You know you've crossed over to nerd status when.... =]

But silliness aside when I'm listening to individual pieces, there's a certain mood/feeling/memory/sensory sensation that is almost touch-able. Rachmaninoff for example runs the gamut from overwhelming ecstacy and breathless tenderness of the Second Concerto to the unequaled sparkling joy of his Bach transcriptions. (Especially when he himself plays it!). Oh Bach! You don't know what you do for my soul. When I listen to you, it's like having my soul soaked in sunshine after coming out of a refrigerator.

But seriously though, each piece, I believe, has a memory/feeling that is that piece. The mental/spiritual sensation is burned in. I can sometimes almost taste a piece! It's so hard to describe. =P

Anyone else feel the same way?

Tonight is Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff at the Bowl.

It will be good. =]