Separated at Ontological Self-Realization?

A one Mr. Mike Austin seems to think so.

A drink of a different drink…

My Lenten reading is the collected sermons on the Song of Songs by St. Bernard (no, not the keg-collared canine from unkenneled cantons  but the cantankerous crusader-collaring cowl from Clairvaux) and when I ran across this, I thought it a good shot of joy to help through the long days’ journey into a hard day’s night which make up these forty days…

     …my advice to you, my friends, is to turn aside occasionally from troubled and anxious pondering on the paths you may be treading, and to travel on smoother ways where the gifts of God are serenely savored, so that the thought of him may give breathing space to you whose consciences are perplexed. I should like you to experience for yourselves the truth of the holy Prophet’s words: “Make the Lord your joy and he will give you what your heart desires” (Ps.36:4). Sorrow for sin is indeed necessary, but it should not be an endless preoccupation. You must dwell also on the glad remembrance of God’s loving-kindness, otherwise sadness will harden the heart and lead it more deeply into despair. Let us mix honey with our absinthe, it is more easily drunk when sweetened, and what bitterness it may still retain will be wholesome. – Sermon 11:2

There’s almost 100 of these suckers. So I’m hoping and praying hard I’m going to be all loved up by the time Easter comes around…

Up next: “The Necessity of Godsbody: a Provocative Cisterican Argument.”

Today in Precious Bodily Fluids

“For men, the principal and preoccupying challenge was not to spill a drop of seminal fluid outside the sacred bounds of marriage – and not much there, either, if they could decently manage it.  As one authority explained, seminal fluid, when nobly retained within the body, enriched the blood and invigorated the brain.  The consequence of discharging this natural elixir illicitly was to leave a man literally enfeebled in mind and body.  So even within marriage  one should be spermatozoically frugal, as more frequent sex produced ‘languid’ sperm, which resulted in listless offspring.  Monthly intercourse was recommended as a safe maximum.”

– Bill Bryson, At Home:  A Short History of Private Life

Exiles Revisited

I misspoke. The Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub in fact did read another book after Stages. We (or at least I) read Exiles, lagging behind the excellent now-lost treatment of it by professional writer-readers Lickona, O’Brien, et al. Here’s a roundup of the old posts: Flip FlopsChapter 1Exiles and GarffSqueezing JuiceWreck of the Deutschland.

Now it seems our friend Ms. Speed has gotten round to scrutinizing Exiles, too, and has posted her own sagacious and succinct (children sent outside so she can hammer it out) review. Well done, Dorian!

Stages on Life’s Way Revisited

The Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub (KSRK) has never quite recovered from reading Kierkegaard’s Stages on Life’s Way back in Aught-Six. Maybe one of these days we will feel up to reading another book.

In the meantime, Craig Burrell (Korrektiv affiliate, with occasionally utilized posting privileges to boot) has hoisted that heavy tome and produced one of his characteristically crystalline reviews (although Quidam defeated even the physicist’s sharply honed analytical skill).

KSRK: Exiles

The folks at Inside Catholic did such a superb job of presenting their discussion of Ron Hansen’s Exiles that I find myself at a loss for what I could add that would be of much value. Matthew Lickona, Amy Welborn, Bishop Daniel Flores and Joseph O’Brien squeezed a heck of a lot of good juice out of the book–and I’m not saying there’s not plenty more we could wring out of it–but maybe it’s enough to just head on over there and pay some close attention to their fine work.

I like the concentric circles of cooperative literary workmanship going on here: Hopkins working on the nuns’ tale; Hansen joining him in the effort while also working out the parallels with Hopkins’ own life’s saga; Lickona & Co. digging in to bring them all further out into the light. It reminds me of the communion of saints and how we are all fellow workers in the vineyard across time.

Well, OK, I’ll try to squish a couple of grapes and do my part.

I laid the book down a week or two ago and haven’t cracked it open since and now I’m sitting in the dark on our back patio typing this on a wireless laptop, smoking a cigar, drinking a glass of wine, our new puppy, Noam, lying at my feet chomping (pun intended) on something, probably one of Tink’s favorite toys. The book is resting on the table nearby but if I want to consult it I’ll have to either get a flashlight or jump around in front of the motion-detecting light above our garage, neither of which is beneath my dignity but I also have an ice pack on my knee because I went for a run about an hour ago and it started to hurt at about mile three. (The puppy just scurried off into the darkness beyond the garage as if in pursuit of a varmint of some kind, hopefully not a skunk.) So I’ll just wing it without reference to the text, like they do in many of the graduate seminars I’ve ever attended.

First of all, I’d like to say that ….

[We interrupt this blog entry to go to the grocery store, which I just remembered I promised Mrs. McCain I’d do, to get some milk, baby formula, and bananas. Sorry for the inconvenience. To be continued.]

KSRK: Exiles and Garff’s Kierkegaard

The Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub lives on. Mainly in comments posted here and there at this point, some of which I’ll reproduce here to bring us up to speed.

Last Thursday, June 17, I posted the following comment over at Godsbody:

Sorry I haven’t finished the book and jumped into the discussion either. Got started too late and had too much going on at home this week. Maybe the Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub will pick up a few slackers that you guys leave in the dust this week.

I agree (I’m into ch. 4 now) the nuns’ tale is what makes the book live. In an odd way, I think it retroactively redeems what might be lacking in the first chapter. And I like the neat way ch. 3 segues from the tales of the nuns’ various discoveries of vocation to that of Hopkins.

Anyway I haven’t followed the discussion closely over there–because I keep wanting to finish the book– but I will say I think the “worms” image is just fine. I actually think it’s not too far from something that could have flowed from Hopkins’ pen, partly due to the sound of it and how it fits with the sound of other words in that sentence.

I also posted this, in response to someone’s comment about casting the movie adapation of the book:

Obviously: Casey Affleck as Hopkins. (He’ll have to work on the Brit accent.)

Hugh Laurie as Rev. James Jones.

Let’s get some genuine German actresses for the nuns:

Alexandra Maria Lara as Sr. Henrica.

Anna Maria Mühe as Sr. Aurea.

Claudia Michelsen as Sr. Barbara.

Franziska Petri as Sr. Brigitta.

Inga Birkenfeld as Sr. Norberta.

And let’s have the nun story actually scripted in German, with English subtitles.

Directed by Wim Wenders.

More recently–this morning in fact–I posted this comment on the most recent post at Godsbody:

I finished the book last night. My opinion of it has gone way up–although I’m still not sure I’d call it a novel. More like an imaginative essay or creative non-fiction. A hybrid, really. But the best sort of work–in that love for his subjects was obviously a large motivating factor for the author. I loved how Hansen, in a way, worked side by side with Hopkins, to bring the obscure nuns up out of obscurity. And at the same time Hansen brought Hopkins further out of obscurity and into the light; which is a good thing. I often had the feeling that Hopkins and the five nuns were smiling down from heaven at what Hansen did. More anon over at Korrektiv, just as soon as I peruse the Inside Catholic discussion more carefully.

See that–I’ve actually finished the book! And I like it! And now I’m trying to work my way across the high seas of erudition at Inside Catholic.

Now, on the Garff front, Quin implied, in a friendly jab, that I pulled the KSRK magic carpet out from under him just as he was poised to lead the Katholische-Kierkegaardian blogosphere in a fly-over of that mountainous tome. To which I replied with the following comments:

There are many books and many paths up the KSRK mountain.

The Garff book arrived with a thud on the front porch yesterday.

A new meme for anyone who’d like to play along: find any book of at least 666 pages, find the sixth word on page 666 and post it here in the comments, along with your interpretation of what that might mean vis-a-vis the coming apocalypse and the number of the beast:

In my copy of Garff, the word is:


A key word in the Kierkegaardian lexicon. How does one become a Christian in Christendom? –was the central question SK posed at the outset of his career as an author. Becoming versus being. He who is not busy being born is busy dying. But what are we becoming? What is the world becoming? Are we going to hell in a handbasket?

So I take this word as a warning: become … what God intended you to be and what God’s grace in Jesus Christ makes possible. Don’t become what your worst impulses and the Devil would deceive you into being.

That’s my contribution to the Garff track of the KSRK.

KSRK is really more an attitude of resignation in the face of Great Books rather than an actual reading club with a schedule and whatnot.

Stay tuned for more! And don’t miss Quin’s recent YouTube post with a teaser for our upcoming reading of Love in the Ruins (because Cubeland Mystic hasn’t read it yet, and because we’re due to be rereading it in this campaign season).

Israel Levin on Kierkegaard

This again from Joakim Garff’s biography of Kierkegaard, which is great, great, great. I have not, unfortunately, been able to lay my hands on a copy of Exiles (I’m #63 in the queue at the Seattle Public Library), so I’m forging ahead with what should have been the work featured in the KSRK.

Israel Levin, who had served as Kierkegaard’s secretary for years, surveyed the problem from the opposite side – absolutely from within, so to speak – but he, too, found the prospect of a Kierkegaard biography no less suspect than did Brøchner: “Anyone who wants to deal with Soren Kierkegaard’s life must take care not to burn his fingers: This is a life so full of contradictions that it will be difficult to get to the bottom of his character. He often refers to double reflections; all his own words were more than sevenfold reflection. He fought to achieve clarity for himself, but he was pursued by all manner of moods and was such a temperamental person that he often alleged things that were untrue, deceiving himself into believing that they were the truth.

I should have noted that in Garff’s book, this quotation comes on the heels of a famous quote by Kierkegaard himself, who seems to have been begging for just the sort of biography Garff has provided, and perhaps the mania and obsession experienced by many of us at Korrektiv … anyway, here’s SK himself: And therefore the day will come when not only my writings but precisely my life – the intriguing secret of all the machinery – will be studied and studied. I’ll also note that Hans Brøchner was a friend of Kierkegaard’s who provided this important sketch of SK: “”My only definite impression was of [Kierkegaard’s] appearance, which I found almost comical. He was then twenty-three years old; he had something quite irregular in his entire form and had a strange coiffure. His hair rose almost six inches above his forehead into a tousled crest that gave him a strange, bewildered look.” (Wikipedia)

Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub: Exiles

KSRK: Parasite Edition

We’re jumping on the InsideCatholic Book Circle bandwagon reading of Exiles by Ron Hansen. Get the book, read it, join the fray.

KSRK: Exiles by Ron Hansen, chapter 1, "Hopkins in Wales"

A few jotted thoughts:

Not a bad opening chapter, but a little too reeking of research–to the detriment of story. I’m not sure I can pin down from whence the reek arises, but I smelled it wafting through the entire chapter: things that Hansen the researcher kept inserting against the better angels of Hansen the storyteller. Just enough of a whiff of it, like a skunk outside one’s bedroom window, to intrude on the proceedings. Perhaps it’s partly a matter of not anchoring us firmly enough in Hopkins’ point of view. We are anchored there much of the time, privy to Hopkins’ thoughts and perceptions, but then Hansen the researcher intrudes like a documentary voice-over and enforces our awareness that we are in a fictional world “based on fact.”

Hansen pulls off some very fine Hopkinsesque descriptions of clouds and such. For example: “The air smelled cleansed; the leaden sky was roped with cloud; a blue bloom seemed to have spread upon the distant south, enclosed by a basin of hills. And again he felt the charm and instress of Wales” (20). Nice use of Hopkins’ trademark “instress” there, too.

And he offers up plenty of erudite banter and wit in the English style. All good. (And yet we’ve seen these scenes so many times before.) The nickname “Hop” is an interesting detail, as against the other Hopkins who is dubbed “the genteel Hop” (9). And yet this sort of detail plays into that reek of research I’m talking about, maybe.

Then there’s the offhand suggestion that Hopkins is gay (11). Here I’m forced to wonder once again, in a different way, about the research. I’m forced to question whether there is evidence to support a gay Hopkins or whether this is idle speculation, based on … what? And how much will our knowing that Hopkins is attracted to “big, bluff, confident, manly sorts” advance the story? Maybe it will, but, again, it’s the oblique way Hansen introduces this detail that falls flat for me. OK, you’re going to advance the thesis that Hopkins was gay. Fine. Take the ball and run with it. Show us Hopkins’ view of it interiorly. We get a hint of that here–“Hopkins was vigilant in his vow of chastity”–but it’s the exterior narrative voice-over again.

So in sum: I’m not entirely pleased with how Hansen is handling his material in this opening chapter. It’s a pleasant enough read, as material for a documentary. But I think as a novelist Hansen should be a bit braver and make the leap into Hopkins’ skin a bit more profoundly, anchor the story in Hopkins himself as a fictional character–even if that fictional Hopkins is a gay Hopkins.

I wonder if Hansen will prove braver and less bound to his sources in his treatment of the German nuns in the next chapter–since there is far less material to be bound by.

Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub Selection Process Underway

Love’s Labour’s Lost in the Cosmos. William Percy

Bri considers Lost in the Cosmos on shyness.

Jerry Seeger, of Muddled Ramblings & Half-Baked Ideas, continues to wrestle with Lost in the Cosmos

What to Read Next

Now that the Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub is preparing to go on summer vacation following our arduous seminar on Lost in the Cosmos, here are some ideas for what to read next:




Korrektiv 101 Winding Down

Although our Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub seminar on Lost in the Cosmos may seem like one of those dreams where you find yourself at the end of the term and panicking to realize you’ve forgotten to attend class since day one — or one of those real life seminars where the professor has been phoning in from never-never land and all you have to do is appear to be breathing and you’ll get an A — in fact I suspect it has been quite a reading adventure for the vast silent majority of readers. If you have been reading, or long since finished the book and moved on, please drop a note in the comments here and let us know how you did and what grade you think you deserve. We’ve still got the Space Odysseys to consider, and we will, but in the meantime, here’s an old link from Prof. Finnegan to bring us a little further along.

Lost in the Cosmos, Depression, and the Virtue of Hope

Joel Garver, a professor of philosophy at La Salle University, uses Percy’s take on depression as an entry point for talking about hope. Read it here.

My Semiotic Profile

Relation of Self to World:
Hopefully tending towards creaturely cohesion, transparency under the transcendent I-Thou creator, sustainer, redeemer — hallowed be thy name; but fraught with problematic immanence and transcendence troubles per usual: at times fucked up beyond belief and falling off both sides of the horse whose cart I keep putting first, etc, i.e. a sinner constantly weaving and unweaving a web of lies to cover my own ass; occasional bouts of anxiety, depression, momentary elation; but nevertheless a participant in sacramental reality and thereby a recipient of tactile signs of God’s transcending love and grace (my wife’s eyes, the words of absolution, Christ’s body and blood) paradoxically incarnated within the spheres of immanence.

Relation of Self to Others:
It’s always been shifting sand, the parable of the lost sheep, losing them and running after them, or getting lost my own self and avoiding every effort at being found. Putting undue store in signs of synchronicity, astrological mumbo jumbo, fortune cookies, parlor games, coincidence, flips of the coin, blips on the radar screen signifying my path and yours converging and then diverging in a deep fog. Also trafficking in quirkiness and goofball humor, poesy and suchlike, wishing to attract your attention with fresh reformulations and approximate revelations of truth and beauty — and you rarely ever noticing.

Identity of Self:
A Married Man, a father, a son, a mower of lawn, a castaway who’s heard and believed the news from across the sea but now what. A 10th grade poet.

Movement of Self vis-a-vis World:
Pilgrim, wayfarer, traveler, occasionally consulting the map and seeing that I’ve lost the trail, occasionally enjoying the view, occasionally stubbing my toe, occasionally asking for a sign and occasionally receiving one.

Chart your own semiotic profile.
(Cf. Lost in the Cosmos, Question 13: “The Transcending Self”)