Monday, July 20, 2009

Dappled Things SS. Peter and Paul, finally.

And I'm just going to have to wait even longer for it to come in the mail to read all of it.

I have to say that I quite like James Dean Erickson's paintings. He picks up on a light in his subjects' faces; people from common walks, and street walks, of life.

I was jiving and swimming along nicely with the feature piece, Restoring the Fresco of Progress, by Wilfred M. McClay, right until it got to this part: "We now understand the peril."

Fiddesticks. What is meant by progress now is radically different from what was meant by progress in the 19th. century - not only what was meant, but the very form and dynamic of the progress itself. Now this is obviously part of the writer's point; that our notion of progress gets purified, indeed, progress itself gets purified; and this by no means assures us that we are not contributing to some even greater darkness, which again, is part of the writer's point, as he states how careful we must be.

But my beef is this: that none of this really goes into assuring that "we now understand the peril"; for we don't know precisely what is germinating in our present progress - indeed, what is already being delivered. That is to say, the telltale warning signs we should know from the 19th. and 20th. century forms of progress may be either completely absent or perfectly assimilated so that we don't see about them what we are supposed to see. After the first act of clunky deception and the second act of brutal horror, there is always a cumulative third false past participle, that very persuasively acts as both closure, catharsis, and new beginning; generally it is the devil's masterstroke, which of course blooms from out of all that preceded it.

The devil does not come along only after some particular manifestation of progress has been made and then screws with it and perverts it; what he does is quite different. He slips unnoticed, into the germination stage. Like the way the Elves are aided by Sauron in the forging of the seven and the nine rings; and then the three alone by Celebrimbor, though with knowledge obtained from Sauron. These rings remain of themselves, good and beautiful, because of the virtue of the elves (a smaller incarnation of what happens in the Music of the Ainur when Melkor's dissonance is used as something to create something even more profound) that went into their making; nonetheless something of Sauron's imprint is mixed in. And Sauron at that point had not yet made his one ring.

McClay does mention a Doppelganger, just before dropping it as pessimistic. But I think when McClay says, "We understand the peril", what he should be saying is that we only understand the peril of 19th. century progress, as gleaned from the consequences in the 20th. century, and gleaned only in looking back from a very, very tectonically-shifting, technologically-expanding, accelerating present; our present.

And God, Our Source, is not some Grand Dispenser of our self-understanding and consequent progress; and He would rather not that we approached Him so.

Anyhow enough of that; I'm just throwing my own slop.

There is poetry, which is typically what I read first, though you wouldn't think it. Easily my favourite is one that I've read before: Meredith Wise's Roman April. For a poem I had read before on her blog, I was taken by how it flowed anew.

"Daybreak: the streets are empty for archangelic hours,
And the dark domes rise in rank on the tide of wonder."

Dear Lord is what I say to that, and to lines like:

"And we remembered you, Zion, fearful city of lightnings,
Fearful city of victorious beauty and everything in an instant;"


"Quiet city of perfect waters and white courtyards;
We longed to wake in the sweetness of your gaze."

Well, to the whole poem. It ain't no mere stockpile of images. Within this praise of Rome there is a Biblical thrust, or parrallel, to all the keen emotions and airs felt in a single day, in Rome, that goes from the noon's judgement to a night that seems even more new than the morning. The thread especially starts to become apparent in the last stanza where the night's closure to the events of the morning and noon is envisioned, in part, as a victory dance after battle in triumph (over Egypt's plunder), rather than wistful retirement. I like how this present-to-past connection is not on the face of the poem; it's behind it, very naturally.

Go read Dappled Things.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I found the Fresco essay somewhat naive.