Friday, November 14, 2003

I just got back from the classics trip to Baltimore to see the Archimedes Palimpsest, which was way cool, though it's a shame Neani had to miss it owing to an untimely faint. Still, the trip was wonderful. A few highlights of non-Archimedean character (and, fair warning, my highlights are long):

Listening to Michelle Tumes' Dream on the flight back. Dream would probably strike someone of more advanced musical training as musically weak, especially compared to her earlier work, but I do not care because the album touches me, musical merit or no. Antilles once said that an album should be experienced as its own artistic creation - or words to that effect; I don't recall the exact quote. Dream is especially touching to me as an album, as it is obviously the product of a recently married, Bible-loving girl who lives far from home and sees the road of love as the adventure which validates all her dreams of ancient nobility and wonder to which she has clung all her life. If it surprises you that I resonate with this album, you need to go back and read some archives. Besides, decent ideas about love and marriage occur infrequently enough that they ought to be treasured when they do.

Re-finding my favorite waltz quote, in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia: "I must waltz, Septimus! I will be despised if I do not waltz! It is the most fashionable and gayest and boldest invention conceivable - started in Germany!"

Listening to the Philosopher perform his epic poetry (and here's where it starts to get long, since I'm about to meditate on Ephesians). Of course it was good to see one of the good old Hetairoi again, and his poetry embodies the Hetairic ideals of heroism, integrity, and bringing scholarship to life. A right good gathering of classicists it was, there in my room with even Alexander himself present, the man who taught us Homer - but there was more to it than that.

Simply put, the poetry was good. The Philosopher also demonstrated a real gift for storytelling - it made me long for storytime, or Phoenix Earth, or just to get up myself and tell the assembled classicists a story from Phoenix Earth - to tell the tale of Dis Neanidos, or of the final confrongation between Chastity Tomalov and Karlhoss Modron, or the destruction of the Paul Revere and the deaths of Veronica Kayne and Mackenzie Taylor. To tell the tale in the language of epic, not of history like I usually do.

It was interesting t hear the Philosopher's decidedly secular, and rather humanist, take on heroism. On the one hand his take on the modern heroic ideal is that of character shown through peril, and so far we are in accord. On the other hand, his hero Erik goes sailing to the ends of the earth to prove the measure of the worth of man, and that is where I differ with him. The Philosopher seems to view the worth of man as something intrinsic, waiting to be exploited or discovered or utilized - I see it as potential to be put into us "according to the power that works in us" (Eph 3:20); and again, "that He would grant you to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man" - and this strength of the inner man is character; i.e., the worth of man (Eph 3:16).

And of course that is another difference - I don't think honor and courage and nobility and heroism (i.e., character) are precisely good things (i.e., worth) inherently. I do think they are good, but only because (as my sister has recently observed) they are integral parts of Christianity and part of the "fullness of God" which Paul prays that we be filled with (Eph. 6:19). And to be sure, like Erik the viking, we must choose to be grand and true; I do not mean to suggest that we will one day wake up irresistibly heroic: "put off ... the old man;" "be kind to one another, tenderhearted;" "be imitators of God;" "love your wives;" "be strong in the Lord" - all things we are told to do, things we cannot do without God working in us but things which we must ourselves will to do all the same (Eph. 4:22, 32; 5:1, 25; 6:10). And truthfully these things are not really the "worth" of man - as if God valued the hero who believes and walks in the light and fullness more than the man who persists in his folly and mistrust of God. On the contrary, neither faith nor good works make a man worth more than his fellows, "lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:9). This strength of the inner man is less the worth of man than the potential: what we were created to be.

And because this strength of character is merely (merely!) returning to what God has always wanted for us, I must take issue also with haring off after adventure in order to discover it. On the contrary, we operate "by what every joing supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share" (Eph 4:16) - in other words, according to God's plan and not ours, the "good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). To do those works we must certainly partner with God as He invites us to do, but to choose our own good works - our own perils and quests - is folly.

This brings me back full circle to Dream, for in that album's liner notes Tumes writes, "It occurred to me this year that God is the only love, because He invented love and displayed love by sending His Son. So all the love we give would not exist without Him. I know it sounds simple, but it is so real to me." This connection of love (and especially romantic love, given the album context) to God makes me wonder: is it possible that love for a woman stems from a love for God? Of course a love for God and from is a prerequisite, but is it also possible that love for a woman may in fact be an act of loving God, part and parcel with that larger, more primal relationship? Is it possible that for the time to come when love for God demands love for a particular woman? Something I intend to think about.

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