On Reality

I made the following comment on a blog post at Circe Institute. I reread it today and thought it could stand on its own.

We tend to grant “realness” to tangible things and “metaphorical reality” to intangible things. In doing so, we wrest the status of ultimate reality from God, whom “no man has seen” according to Christ.

Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word seems apropos here. Caldecott writes that imagination is the proper tool for thinking about the future, as memory is the proper tool for thinking about the past. If that is so, we dare not fall prey to the tyrannical eye. Ultimate reality, after all, is beyond our eyes but not our imagination.

The Lord of the Rings illustrates this, it seems to me, in Sauron’s great and burning lidless Eye, roving over Mordor (and beyond) seeking the one thing that will assure his future victory and enthronement as lord of Middle Earth. Despite Sauron’s vast knowledge, despite his expansive vision, Gandalf says the Dark Lord has lost the power to imagine anyone refusing, much less destroying the Ring. And it is this “folly” that Gandalf suggests may be a “cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy!”

Some (Peter Jackson included, I think) read our times into the Eye, perhaps seeing in it the 21st century’s constant surveillance. But might it not instead or also represent a slavery to what may be seen, that which St. Paul writes is temporal?

What Gandalf suggests of the heroes of Middle Earth is true of us: our enchantment with the “invisible” Ultimate Reality leaves our materialist foes befuddled and frustrated by our apparent folly. Why, they say, can we not admit the lack of tangible evidence and admit that God is a metaphor? In fact, the veil that once blinded our eyes is torn and the Glory it once hid is on full display, as we realize God is not merely a metaphor but the metaphor, literally carrying over the “unreal” into the “real” world.

Reading List Update: Mid-November

A couple of sidetracks this time, but really fruitful. Case in point, Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb. The last 2-3 pages are worth the journey, but I found an awful lot of treasure buried in the pages of this book “about food.” I’m losing hope that I’ll be able to finish, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’ll see how it ends up, with some vacation time to read coming up.

The most significant book I finished was Silence, by Shusaku Endo. Simply devastating, and in a way that I’m not yet prepared to discuss. Word is, it will be Martin Scorsese’s next film, with Liam Neeson.

Completely random list this year, except that I’m reading a lot about beauty. I expect to read more, but am really hoping to finish the list this year. Finished. Reading now.

DEVOTIONAL/DISCIPLESHIP, ETC.

A Long Obedience (Peterson)

The Good and Beautiful Life (Smith)

Living the Sabbath (finish, Wirzba)

Questions for Ecclesiastes (Jarman)

Everywhere Present (Freeman)

EDUCATION

Philology (Turner)

Education for Human Flourishing (Loomis)

HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY

A Distant Mirror (Tuchman)

Until the Last Trumpet Sounds (Smith)

Bonhoeffer (Metaxas)

PHILOSOPHY/THEOLOGY (esp. on Beauty)

Beauty of the Infinite (Hart; yes, again)

Beauty Will Save the World (Wolfe)

The Relevance of the Beautiful (Gadamer)

On Beauty and Being Just (Scarry)

Beauty: A Very Short Introduction (Scruton)

Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty (Turley)

On the Good Life (Cicero)

The World Outside Your Head (Crawford)

POETRY/FICTION/LITERARY STUDIES

How Dante Can Save Your Life (Dreher)

The Nightingale (Hannah)

The Fifth Heart (Simmons)

If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler (Calvino)

Silence (Endo)

Complete Poetry of George Herbert (Herbert)

Descent into Hell (Williams)

MISCELLANEOUS

Antifragile (Taleb)

EXTRAS

The Fellowship (Zaleski & Zaleski)

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (Shaffer/Barrows)

When Athens Met Jerusalem (Reynolds)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Delights and Shadows (Ted Kooser)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Mornings on Horseback (David McCullough)

Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry)

Leading with a Limp (Dan Allender)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Sacred Rhythms (Ruth Haley Barton)

Habits of the Mind (James Sire)

The Return of the Prodigal Son (Nouwen)

The Supper of the Lamb, Robert Farrar Capon

12 Months of Monastery Soups

Reading List Update: Late October

More sidetracks this month, but some good ones. I finished the last two Harry Potter books; I finished a Nouwen book that has been on my nightstand for too long. That brings this year’s total to date to 18, and just 4 of those from the original list. We’ll see how November goes.

Completely random list this year, except that I’m reading a lot about beauty. I expect to read more, but am really hoping to finish the list this year. Finished. Reading now.

DEVOTIONAL/DISCIPLESHIP, ETC.

A Long Obedience (Peterson)

The Good and Beautiful Life (Smith)

Living the Sabbath (finish, Wirzba)

Questions for Ecclesiastes (Jarman)

Everywhere Present (Freeman)

EDUCATION

Philology (Turner)

Education for Human Flourishing (Loomis)

HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY

A Distant Mirror (Tuchman)

Until the Last Trumpet Sounds (Smith)

Bonhoeffer (Metaxas)

PHILOSOPHY/THEOLOGY (esp. on Beauty)

Beauty of the Infinite (Hart; yes, again)

Beauty Will Save the World (Wolfe)

The Relevance of the Beautiful (Gadamer)

On Beauty and Being Just (Scarry)

Beauty: A Very Short Introduction (Scruton)

Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty (Turley)

On the Good Life (Cicero)

The World Outside Your Head (Crawford)

POETRY/FICTION/LITERARY STUDIES

How Dante Can Save Your Life (Dreher)

The Nightingale (Hannah)

The Fifth Heart (Simmons)

If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler (Calvino)

Silence (Endo)

Complete Poetry of George Herbert (Herbert)

Descent into Hell (Williams)

MISCELLANEOUS

Antifragile (Taleb)

EXTRAS

The Fellowship (Zaleski & Zaleski)

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (Shaffer/Barrows)

When Athens Met Jerusalem (Reynolds)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Delights and Shadows (Ted Kooser)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Mornings on Horseback (David McCullough)

Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry)

Leading with a Limp (Dan Allender)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Sacred Rhythms (Ruth Haley Barton)

Habits of the Mind (James Sire)

The Return of the Prodigal Son (Nouwen)

In Rotation

I just happened to click on my own Spotify profile, and I found the Recently Played list–the most outward-facing of Spotify’s lists–the most interesting. Here are the 20 artists on that page, with commentary.

  • Colony House: Not on the list yet, but I’m listening this morning. A band formed by two of Steven Curtis Chapman’s sons and a friend, great music, styling, and harmonies. Recommended by Andrew Peterson.
  • Bill Evans Trio: Jazz pianist, whose work I like more and more. Recommended by Josh Gibbs.
  • Andrew Peterson​: One of my favorites, for his songwriting, imagination, and feel.
  • Midlake: I’m a long-time fan of this band, from way back in my In Touch days. I used to listen to the Van Occupanther album front to back. Thanks, Cameron.
  • The Black Keys: Everybody knows the Keys now. Like most people, I started really listening at Brothers.
  • AC/DC: When I need big rock sound, tends to be one of my go-tos, despite long conditioning against them.
  • OK Go: The treadmill video for “Here It Goes Again” was my intro to OK Go. Like their accessible math-rockish feel.
  • Coldplay: What can I say? Oh, probably my son’s favorite band.
  • Great Lake Swimmers: Another In Touch discovery, thanks to Cameron. Have been a regular listener.
  • Lecrae: I’m not a hip-hop or rap aficionado. I do sometimes get the urge, and I like Lecrae’s spirit.
  • Brian Tyler: I listen to soundtracks when I’m writing, and he’s working in action films and video games right now. Also, my son loves soundtracks.
  • Queen: Mainly for traveling to basketball practice, especially “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites the Dust.”
  • Taio Cruz: “Dynamite” is on the other son’s dance list.
  • Sonny Rollins: I like jazz, but have little knowledge or working appreciation beyond the usual suspects. So, working on my jazz appreciation, and Sonny is one of the saxophone greats. From this list.
  • Pharaoh Sanders: Also from the jazz list, Sanders is one of the more innovative and artistic, and sometimes unlistenable, saxophonists.
  • ELO: From a conversation with Derek Monjure about ELO, in which I falsely attributed “Love Is Like Oxygen” to them. (It was by Sweet.)
  • Switchfoot: Enjoy Jon Foreman’s songwriting. This is on my running list, and the kiddos enjoy “Salt Water Heart,” especially.
  • Trevor Jones: More soundtracks, in this case, one of the best: Last of the Mohicans.
  • The Appalachian Guitar: Looking for Appalachian music. I listened to one track. Meh.
  • Josh Garrels​: One of my favorite songwriters. Found on NoiseTrade. Current favorite: “Heaven’s Knife.” I dare you to listen.
  • Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. “Blinded by the Light” is on the running mix.

by Jamie Cain