“STJ 86: Taste and Bee” – Process & Theology

This art piece – STJ 86: Taste and Bee – thinks through Anglican, Sarah Coakley’s, articulation of desire in a Mennonite context. Here are a few slightly edited excerpts of an essay I wrote for professor Jeremy Bergen this year at Grebel Uni.:

STJ 86 Taste and Bee

“STJ 86: Taste and Bee” by Lisa Obirek, December 2015

5 reduction linocut on stonehenge paper with added media: water soluble oil, paint pens, raw bees wax, nail polish, gold leaf

This piece is called a “print” and fits within the broader artistic medium of “printmaking.” The more specific term for this particular print is called a five-reduction linocut. This means I use a traditional piece of rubbery linoleum which is essentially just heated up linseed oil and I carve designs into the same block of linoleum in five different stages.  I use carving tools that are similar to traditional wood carving tools on a smaller scale. These carving tools have different ends, or “bits,” that make their own distinct cuts into the linoleum. Continue reading “STJ 86: Taste and Bee” – Process & Theology

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Simone Weil on justice and the cross

“At the touch of the iron there must be a feeling of separation from God such as Christ experienced, otherwise it is another God. The martyrs did not feel that they were separated from God, but it was another God, and it was perhaps better not to be a martyr. The God from whom the martyrs drew joy in torture or death is close to him who was officially adopted by the Empire and afterward imposed by means of exterminations.”

“To be just, it is necessary to be naked and dead. Without imagination. That is why the model of justice has to be naked and dead. The cross alone is not open to imaginary imitation.”

In bombastic show of force against “Bully Putin” Trudeau does shirtless photo shoot riding moose

Newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rides moose, threatens Vladimir Putin, all while shirtless Newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rides moose, threatens Vladimir Putin, all while shirtless. Photo Andrea Kwan

Yesterday afternoon, newly-elected Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau demonstrated his tough stance against Russia’s Vladimir Putin by organizing a photo shoot. Trudeau dashed into the Canadian wilderness where he lassoed a bull moose, mounted it, and rode it top-speed through a pristine stream, while photographers jockeyed to get the best shot. The photo shoot took less than an hour, according to True Facts Wire photographer Andrea Kwan. “It was astonishing, really” Kwan confided, “We weren’t there more than fifteen minutes before Justin had subdued the moose, using nothing but a lasso and his chiseled figure. He’s clearly done this before.”

Trudeau’s photo shoot comes in response to a well-publicized photo, released by the Kremlin, that shows Putin riding a bear. “This kind of imagery is meant to intimidate,” Trudeau said. “I wanted to…

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Ripe to compose a poem?

I have become really excited about poetry recently. I love the power that it has. The power to transform your experience, to change your perspective and to show you something new. Poetry has given me a new tool in which to think about music, and, probably more importantly, has given me more tools enabling me to provide rich ways into unfamiliar music.

Rainer Maria Rilke is my current favorite. In my last concert project, one quote by Rilke helped me to unify the program. “For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.” – from his first Duino Elegy.

Without much trouble, this idea could easily be a theory of dissonance (which was part of the reason why it helped to unify the program): Dissonance on it’s own is rather painful and nasty to listen to. However, in the context of consonance, the places where dissonance is found are some of the most beautiful in music. Take for example the dissonance at 3:20 in Bach’s St. Mathew Passion. If Bach wrote ONLY those two notes, it would be painful, and in some contexts — terrifying. The preceding material (the consonance) to such moments allow such dissonance (beginnings of terror) to be experienced as beauty.

There are, as I have mentioned in other posts, many forms of dissonances. But it seems like the balance between nasty, painful and terrifying sounds with fairly neutral or pleasant forms holds up quite well with this theory: Beauty is only the beginning of Terror.

But this post is about my newly found admiration of Poetry. I have given one example as to why I have found it helpful. Here is another selection from Rilke’s work that I also find rather exciting.

“…You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed in to our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves – only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth them.

But all my poems had a different origin; so they are not poems. ” – page 20 from The Notebooks of Malte Lauride Brigge by Rilke 

In this young man, Rilke prescribes a certain method, attitude, or style with which one must approach such a subject as reverend as poetry. He is not advocating that one should not write at all until one has something to write. It is necessary to practice and learn. In his letters to young poet he says:

“Avoid at first those forms which appear to be the most facile and commonplace — they are the most difficult. It takes a great, fully matured power to give something of your own where good and even excellent traditions come to mind in quantity. Therefore, save yourself form these general themes and seek those which your own everyday life offers you… if your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.” – Rilke

philosophy with art via Grosz

It has been a while since I have been grabbed by a book but I think I may have found a new friend in Elizabeth Grosz. Here is a quote from the introduction to her 2008 book Chaos, Territory, Art; Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth.

“What can philosophy contribute to an understanding of art other than an aesthetics, that is, a theory of art, a reflection on art? Instead of supervening from above, taking art as its object, how can philosophy work with art or perhaps as and alongside art, a point of relay or connection with art? Only by seeking what it shares with ar, what common origin they share in the forces of the earth and of the living body, what ways they divide and organize chaos to create a plane of coherence, a field of consistency, a plane of composition on which to think and to create. In other words, what common debt do art and philosophy share to those forces, chaos, that each in their own ways much slow down, decompose, harness, and develop (through the construction of the plane of immanence in philosophy and the constitution of the plane of composition in the arts)? How, in other words, do the arts and philosophy(“theory”) create? With what resources? Techniques? Counterforces? And what is it that they create when they create “works,” philosophical works and artistic works?”

Christian civilization and the refugee crisis

To say that I am unsympathetic with the idea, practice, or nostalgia for Christian civilization is an understatement. The coercive nature of such “civilization” strikes me as unavoidable. At worst Christianity collapses into and becomes equated with a particular culture’s norms, which gains further legitimation through Christ’s blessing. Equipped with this blessing such a culture becomes the norm; it defines what it is to be civilized. The step from here to the violent preservation (defending civilization itself!) and expansion (providing enlightenment to the unenlightened) of this norm, at all costs, is a natural one. We’ve seen this played out over and over again by the destructive conquests of western Christianity.

But are there more sympathetic ways to go about the project of Christian civilization? Some may well argue that working the idea of neighbour-love, as articulated by the Christian tradition, into a society’s basic self-identity and organizational principles is a laudable goal. Such people may even go on to say that such efforts have been crucial to the formation of better (more peaceable and compassionate) civilizations and cultures over the years. Even if this is possible for a society (and I’m not sure that it is), I still am unconvinced that it is worth striving for. Continue reading Christian civilization and the refugee crisis

Russell’s Paradox – A proposal for a better explanation.

I think I finally have a good way of explaining Russel’s paradox.

Think of the box that holds all of the boxes.

This box is the biggest possible box. This seems to work.

The definition of a box is to contain something smaller than itself.

What if instead of the word box, I replace it with its definition:  Something that holds things smaller than itself. If we want to have THE thing which holds ALL things smaller than its, then it would have to be smaller than itself and bigger than itself at the same time. As in, The Biggest Box, as that which can hold/contain things, must hold itself, but since this is impossible we cannot conclude that this Biggest box exists. There are only some Boxes.

Or, think of The Container that contains All the containers. If ALL the containers are contained in this One Container, then this container should also be contained in this One Container. This One Container that supposedly contains All containers can no longer said to be a container. By its definition/property (containment) then becomes contradictory.  How can a container contain itself? It cannot. Can’t we just change the name to, say, The ONE?

No. that is, not if we are trying to provide the foundation for what exists based on containment (set), which is a collection of objects determined by a property. The sole “being” of the set is determined by how the objects relate to each other in the set.

It’s tempting to give a Wittgensteinian answer: “When we try to determine what things are based on their definition and not by their use, we run into all sorts of funny trouble.” This would not hold up for a number of reasons. First, though sets are defined by their composition, “use” is not excluded and is in fact an essential part in identifying a set. A set is determined by a property, which is chosen based on its use. Badiou’s “Count-as-one” is essentially the same as Wittgenstein’s “use”  or “game.” Second, if a being is determined by its use, what would it look like to determine “all that exists” by its “use”? We would have to remain silent on this question, or have many different definitions. Third, if we are looking to define beings with use, then we would have to determine how we use, use, in order to make any attempt to define “all that exists.” Finally, for those that are skeptical in applying set-theory to ontology, and therefore skeptical about rejecting The One, the being that contains all beings, one would have to demonstrate an alternate formulation of differentiating between beings, that is, the one and the multiple.

If The One is defined as that which contains everything, then it is contradictory and another way of making distinctions between beings must be proposed, that is, an alternative ontology.

What do you think?

Proust on cars

Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is a work of self through memory. The search is conducted through memory with the aid and hindrance of phenomena and habit, but done for the authentically expressing self. Or at least so I read it from my vantage point, a few hundred pages into The Captive.

One of the more interesting moves Proust makes in this great search of recollection is that time is not neutral: the wager of the search is that time can be lost and regained. In the course of his search the author comes face to face with the different natures of time, and how each of these differently impacts our self, world, and memory.

Part of the reason for this is that Proust is figuring out how to be an authentic self in a world in which time (and our entire being) has been so uprooted from the natural and tradition-based rhythms in the world around us. In a similar vein as Heidegger, Proust observes that modern technology confronts our world in “the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging forth.” And because this setting upon “expedites in that it unlocks and exposes…driving on to the maximum yield at the minimum expense,” our time and the world’s time changes, taking on different modes depending on which techniques of revealing and bringing forth are at work. Continue reading Proust on cars