Tuesday, February 20, 2007

more on looking at vrs. in, seeing, and metaphor

If we don't know how to read, we can only look at words-pretty shapes of black on white. But when we know how to read, we see through them to their meanings.

So with the book of nature. In modern times, we don't even know that nature is a book where things are written, so we weren't even looking, let alone reading.

Because nature, creation, is a thing spoken into existence, it is something that speaks. It was made by the Word, spoken by the Father, breathed out by the Holy Spirit/Breath/Wind. Creation speaks and can be read (Psalm 19).

This means that literary concepts and ways of thinking (like metaphor, analogy, and symbol etc) are natural to nature. They are there in the things of nature and in the nature of things.

So the things of this world will endure and satisfy a great deal of seeing and looking (unlike modern architecture, which stopped imitating nature). There is intricacy and detail. Like a good painting, you can let your eyes dwell on it for a long time. Like a good book, it invites your eyes to dive deep into it. It isn't flat. You can look through it and into it.

Trees and skies are like good paintings, they invite a way of seeing that is different from how a machine sees. They invite us to look into them and through them. They invite us to listen to what they say.

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looking at and looking in/through, drawing and imaging the trinity

You look at a person's ears.
You look into a person's eyes.
You look at a car.
You look into a book; through the page to the world of the book.
You look at a wall.
You look into a painting or a mirror.
And you don't look at or into lights at all, you look at everything by that light.

When you are looking at a someone and your eyes meet, touch, that is a very personal thing. If you look at someone's eyes who is not looking at you, you are looking at.

When your glances meet you are suddenly looking into each other; and that is inevitably personal, relational, and makes us vulnerable.

That is why when strangers pass each other they often look down or away that their eyes won't meet.

For in meeting, we are faced with an image of God and are aware of our need for love and to love and aware of out sin and shame.

When eyes meet, reciprocal action is required. We must give something: a nod, a smile, a wave of the hand.

Perhaps this is because we are images of the Triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are continually giving and receiving, indwelling, dwelling in each other, loving each other, delighting in ("beholding in joy") each other.

(When you look into someones eyes, you dwell there for a moment)

When I am drawing someone, I am usually looking at them, but if you look at a person long enough, you'll see God, an image of God. The looking at becomes looking through at some point. The same is true to a lesser extent of anything created that reveals God's glory.

This reminds me, in drawing, when you seeks the truth, fidelity to the visual universe, if you keep at it you arrive at a deeply personal (but not less objectively true) vision of what you are seeing.

Because the Triune God is at the back (and front) of everything there is, to know something objectively is also to know it personally. Truth cannot be separated from morality and beauty; Logic cannot be neatly separated from ethics and aesthetics. For when we know something, (some truth) we must act (in love) and speak the truth in love. and be (and do) what we are made for: reflect the beauty and glory of God.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

my first (and so far only) foray into worldbuilding

My interest in worldbuilding and storytelling, my love of reading and drawing and my desire to be a film maker all go back to an old computer game called Myst. These are some images of a myst inspired world I made about 6 years ago.

See more images of Vynclif here in this post at my sketch blog.

Here are my myst related blog posts.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Foundation for Spiritual Healing

"Maintaining the illusion that you are a fundamentally well-balanced and relationally sound individual requires one of two things: 1) A rigorous commitment to isolation with the occasionally well-managed public appearance "when you are ready." 2) Or a presenting self that hovers at a safe level, "chipper," "interested," and kiddie-pool shallow. Politicians are not the only ones who need to air brush their images.

But isn't this precisely the kind of soft-core duplicity that Christ calls us to walk away from? None of us are really OK--and that itself is OK, for now, if we recognize it.

This was the first point that Jesus came to make. You won't ever be whole until you admit that you've been fractured. After that, your chances for healthiness get progressively better."

-fellow blo
gger Ariel Vanderhorst, (see the original post here at his excellent blog Bittersweat Life)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

worldbuilding, storytelling and atheism

"Atheists can write perfectly good and realistic fiction, because there is nothing about being an atheist that prohibits a person from understanding human motivation and the physical world. But being nonreligious does deprive you of the one thing an ambitious fantasy author needs: a plausible cosmology, a myth that tells us how things got to be the way they are. The great religions all provide this. One could even hold, as did Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, that a religion is just a story of the world, which in the case of Christianity (they held) happens to be true. A Christian fantasist in his act of subcreation can borrow heavily from the true mythic world created by the Christian God; the fantasist might change some of the names and other details, but the basic infinitely rich story has already been told.

The nonreligious fantasy author is forced to play the mythmaker twice, as it were. He has to develop a cosmology of the way the world really is, the nonreligious account that re­ places the account given by the religions he rejects. And he has to write the fantasy story, obeying all the rules of the larger account and then creating his own world within it."

-Daniel P. Moloney, in this article about the His Dark Materials books

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Science and the importance of Metaphor

"Those who think metaphorically are enabled to think truly because the shape of their thinking echoes the shape of the world."
-Jan Zwicky

Van Fundy (who has an excellent blog) pointed me to an article on how metaphor and anology are foundational to science. The author began with the above quote and goes on to quote Kepler:
"I love analogies most of all, my most reliable masters who know in particular all secrets of nature,” Kepler wrote in 1604. “We have to look at them especially in geometry, when, though by means of very absurd designations, they unify infinitely many cases in the middle between two extremes, and place the total essence of a thing splendidly before the eyes."

Mars Hill Audio has a free sample issue (for download) which includes an interview with philosopher Mary Midgley, author of the book Science and Poetry, she talks how most movements in science occur when the metaphors change, and she talks about the attractiveness of the metaphor that nature is a machine.

Wendell Berry has a whole book against that metaphor called Life Is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition:

"The most radical influence of reductive science has been the virtually universal adoption of the idea that the world, its creatures, and all the parts of its creatures are machines-that is, that there is no difference between creature and artifice, birth and manufacture, thought and computation. Our language, wherever it is used is now almost invariably conditioned by the assumption that fleshly bodies are machines full of mechanisms, fully compatible with the mechanisms of medicine, industry and commerce and that minds are computers fully compatible with electronic technology.

This may have begun as a metaphor, but in the language as it is used( and as it affects industrial practice) it has evolved from metaphor though equation to identification."
Chemist-turned-philosopher Michael Polanyi also wrote about this relationship and the impotence of poetic and tacit knowledge to scientific discovery. Mars Hill Audio has an excellent two hour 'report' on Polanyi (Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing, second from the top)

"The modernist notion was that the scientist was an objective and disinterested observer, simply following the facts wherever they led, so that reason following the scientific method would reveal the nature of reality and could test every truth claim. Polanyi knew as a working scientist that this idea was false. The best scientists are not disinterested, but passionate. Many discoveries come not by following the facts in a laboratory, but as a burst of insight. And before the scientist begins his work, he assumes certain things are true, meaning that faith always precedes reason. So, after a long and fruitful career in chemistry, Polanyi turned his attention to philosophy."
-A review of Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing

In agreement with Polanyi, Mary Midgley thinks that "It is because we hold them [scientific and poetic knowledge] apart that we go wrong on a host of problems, from the relation between the mind and body to global warming and the debate about memes."

Related posts:
notes on science as love of beauty (aesthetics)
Leithart on the centrality of Metaphor
poet Richard Wilbur on metaphors in a God-made world

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Through a Screen Darkly

"I've always had this sense that there is another language I once know, a joy that was mine before I was born. When I get a glimpse of that glory though art, I can feel the memory of it pressing against the back of my mind, and the longing for that peace and resolution wells up inside me. I can't quite grasp it. I can't speak my native language. Not yet... but I'm learning.

If I do the difficult thing and pull myself away from art that is merely entertaining and start searching for those currents of truth that reside within beauty and mystery, I will be drawn off the path of familiarity and comfort. The reality of God is not bound to a particular earthly language, country or style. His spirit can speak through anything. But he is far more likely to be encountered in those things that are excellent rather than shoddy, particular rather then general, authentic rather than derivative. I will find myself investigating art and expression that never played for audiences in this country--art that waits overlooked on the shelves full of foreign and independent films at the video store. And I will be changed, concerned with cares and disciplines that make no sense to Hollywood movie publicists.

It could be a lonely road. But it's a road that leads farther up, farther in, to greater majesty and more transforming truth."

-Through a Screen Darkly by my favorite film critic Jeffery Overstreet

Do I need to say this looks like it will be a good book?

Chapter One of Jeffery Overstreet's book is available online here

Also check out his blog and his an interesting discussion of his favorite movies of 2006

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Interveiws Galore!

I've been browsing the archives (over 6 years) of the Connection, the radio program that interviewed Richard Wilbur in the last post.

All of these are 45 minutes:

One of the main points of this blog is to collect links and quotes and thoughts that I want to go back to.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

poet Richard Wilbur on metaphors in a God-made world

"You could say that all poetry, however much it may be irrational, moves towards clarity and order, that it affirms all that is clear and orderly in the world, affirms the roots of clarity in the world. Then, you might say that poetry is given not only to saying that this is like that as in the simile; it's given also to saying that this is that, to affirming rather nervily that prosaically unlike things are to poetry's eye identical, co-natural. I think there is a natural disposition of the poetic mind to assert that all things are one, are part of the same thing, that one thing may be compared to anything else, the ground of that comparison is likely to be divine.

Interviewer: Then poets believe in metaphors?

...I think that in poetry of the highest quality, in poetry of great genuineness and seriousness, the metaphors are believed. I remember that my friend Joseph Beach, ... used to talk a great game of atheism; and in his last book called Involuntary Witness, I was surprised to find a poem of his which ended with a thumping religious affirmation. I took it around to him and I said, " Look, Joseph, I though you were an atheist. What about this?" and he said, "If it says I believe in God, it must be true, because you never tell lies in poetry." I think that's right. It seems to me that poetry is one's way of talking at one's most serious, and that you outdo your prosaic mind. You do better than your prosaic apprehension of things in poetry."

-Conversations with Richard Wilbur (this interview is from 1964)

That first part reminds me a lot of what Doug Wilson says in this credenda agenda:

"All things are therefore cognates. And the wide-eyed Christian should look around at the resemblances. The affinities are necessarily there. If a meadowlark is tied to some aspect of the Creator, and the tidal wave is reflective of another characteristic within Him, and so on, then what follows? All attributes within the Godhead are all internally consistent—He is never at odds with Himself. This means that all things in the universe (the meadowlark, tidal wave, and bamboo grove) are all created cousins at peace. And this is what makes effective "horizontal" metaphor within the created order possible."
The last few sentences remind me of Micheal Polany's concept of tacit knowing, how "We know more then we can tell.", how so much of our knowledge cannot be put into words (knowledge of throwing a baseball, for example)

Edit: there's a nice long (45 min) audio interview with Wilbur here.

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40min interveiw with Santiago Calatrava at BBC

(watercolor by calatrava, out of this book)

Check it out. (realAudio or text)

I love interviews, I've been reading a lot of them lately. A lot of interesting things explored in this one:

  • metaphor and symbolism in architecture
  • biomorphic architecture
  • importance of drawing
  • his love of Bach
To continue the thoughts of my last post on Calatrava, Leithart pointed out how Calatrava has been criticized for being too natural, too imitative of nature.

Calatrava's architecture is, as he says, symbolic and metaphoric; consciously or not, (and from his familiarity with the Bible, I would guess consciously) part of Calatrava's imitation of nature, (of God's art and architecture) is that it is symbolic and metaphoric, just as trees and mountains are (and they really are) symbolic and metaphoric.

Edit: Also if you're in Dallas, you can check out his kinetic sculpture at SMU, where I heard him speak at my sister's graduation.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

"i am not a heterosexual" and thoughts on knowledge without god

I found this blogpost the other day via Alastair, it sums up some things I've been thinking about:

"i am not a heterosexual

doubtless, this will not come as a surprise to all. i hear there are rumours that i’m ghey. i am not ghey or homosexual either.

being ‘heterosexual’ seem to imply that i am ’sexually oriented’ towards approximately half the human population, and that i am not. w/e sexual orientation i have is limited to a rather small group of people. it is not that i am sexually oriented firstly to a generic category of beings with vaginas and only next to smaller groups therein defined and chosen by means of certain criteria; rather, it would be always towards specific people at specific times. as is the case with a lot of the words in the english language, i do not like the word ‘heterosexual’ and its opposite ‘homosexual’.

To be a heterosexual is something more like this. not only is it a more generic attraction to ‘women’ in general, but it also involves what a t-shirt has said well: ‘i’m in favor of lesbian marriage, as long as both of them are hot’. for whatever reason, i don’t think male ‘heterosexuality’ has much to say against lesbianism. as many jokingly admit, men who are heterosexuals only happen to be male lesbians. whatever the case, Christendom needs some work on sexuality … a philosophico-theologia sexualis."

- blogger Berek Qinah Smith, "i am not a heterosexual"

This reminds me of how arbitrary and ultimately non-nonsensical all knowledge is when pursued without the starting point that we live in a God-made world and that all knowledge is directly related to him.

In modern secular views of things all study of history, society, art or philosophy will ultimately be a division of anthropology which in turn will be a division of biology which in turn will be a division of perhaps geology which is really a subset of astronomy and physics and chemistry.

Where as, if we acknowledge that we live and move and have our being in God and live and think and speak in a God-made world we know that all these areas of knowledge are really subsets or divisions of theology (queen of the sciences), we know sociology isn't simply a complex working out of chemistry and physics, and that anthropology is theology before it is biology.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Eugene Peterson on good storytelling

"Good storytellers, by enlisting our imaginations, tease us into participation in the story they tell. When storytelling is good we pulled into a world that is both truer and larger then the one we ordinarily occupy;but it is not an alien world. (The exception is escapist entertainment that deliberately falsifies by depersonalizing and manipulating reality--horror stories, harlequin romances, pornography, propaganda.) Good storytelling involves us in what has been sitting right in front of us for years but we hadn't noticed or hadn't thought was impotent or hadn't thought had anything to do with us. Without leaving the world in which we daily work and sleep and play, we find ourselves in a far larger world; we embrace connections and meaning and significance in our lives far beyond what our employers and teachers, our parents and children, our friends and neighbors have told us, to say nothing of what is conveyed by the experts and celebrities with whom we anxiously surround ourselves."

-Eugene Peterson, pg 47-48 of Eat this Book

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Wisdom on Worldbuilding

The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man."

-The Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 8

When I read this last week, I was surprised how much it reminded me of something out of Tolkien's Silmarillion. Of course, as as secular Rings fans are always quick to point out, Tolkien "despised allegory", but also in Tolkien's own terms, "We make still by the law in which we're made." Tolkien, like me, you and the secular Lord of the Rings fans live in a God-made world of symbols and they themselves are self-portraits of the Worldbuilder. The connections are necessarily there.

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John Howe on seeing

"I was born with busy eyes.
It’s not my fault, it’s just the way things are.
... Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, it’s just that they are hard to keep up with at times. One ends up doing a lot of explaining, usually about just what exactly the devil one is doing in restricted areas, on the wrong side of high fences or locked gates, at the top of stairwells clearly posted Not Open to Public.

... They always seem to be wandering over textures, judging light and the thickness of the air. Chasing motes and dandelion seeds, calculating the flight of birds. They are continually going astray. I never know where I’ll find them.
They’re a little shy, that’s why they skirt warily around the edges of other eyes, just in case they slip and plummet down to whatever deep waters are awaiting, but otherwise they’re fearless. No sky is too big to scan, no detail to small to focus on.
When in company, I am continually having to explain why I’m so slow. Well, I stammer, there was a statue back there, yes I know it's been there for ages and it’ll be there tomorrow, but that’s just the point. Maybe tomorrow it’ll rain, or there’ll be sun backlighting it or there’ll be different clouds. I just had to make sure I saw it properly today
SO much to look at, and only the two of us, they must think. So much moss on trees, so many trees in a forest, such a variety of leaves for all seasons, such endearing smile lines at the corners of mouths, such grace in hands and strides... It’s a full-time job to get all that seen. "
-John Howe

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