Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Ec1-2 To risk answering aphorisms with platitudes, can we answer these with Jesus? v2 All is vanity, except preaching Christ crucified 1Cor15v14. v3 If we gain nothing by our toil, we gain everything by Christ's toil Rm8v32. v4 Earthly generations come and go, and even as this generation will end Mt24v34 there is now an enduring tribe to light it 1Pt2v9 (?). v5 There is a Son who is risen 1Cor15v20 never to set 1Cor15v42. v6 As the Spirit comes Jn3v8 again and unpredictably, he is no vain movement of air 2Tim1v7. v7 The hydrological cycle of a closed loop system, and what the law of thermodynamics could not do (Rm8v3), God did, so that streams of living water would flow Jn7v38 from our dry and weary land Ps63v1. v8 We wait on the Lord Is40v31 for that which the eye has not seen 1Cor2v9. v9 Yet behold He is making all things new Rv21v5. v10 You may have heard it said, but Jesus tells you Mt5v21 27 31 33 38 41. v11 Remember Jesus Christ? 2Tim2v8. ... There is a realism to these bitter snippets, history cruelly repeats itself and, with some comfort, summer follows winter follows summer. Quite beyond acknowledging cycles, there is an intellectual despondency readable here, against which I must preach to myself memorised scriptural statements of sometimes unseen reality. The reality that God is in-breaking. Oh my soul, be surprised by Hope. .. Vain knowledge etc in 2 and 1v12-18 The more you know, the more you know you don't know. The more you understand how the world works, the more you realise it doesn't. This is related to yesterday's 'ridiculous' and the day before's 'rich'. Pejorative 'rich'ness is a blindness to the happy fleeting ridiculousness of these things. So, invest that which perishes into that which cannot perish spoil or fade 1Pt1v4. Is this Being towards not-death? Out of my depth, but Hope-full.
Ec3 Reading this chapter evokes something painful, the fear of loss. Each of these couplets should be lingered over, they speak to hopes and fears of different colours and tones, but the ache in the acknowledgement of each reveals idols and insecurities, and ultimately a right returning to the God on whom everything else can crumble around. v14 everything God does will last forever, God is my rock. And in this, God's economy transforms this otherwise overwhelming transience. There is v11 eternity set in our hearts, a Levinasian longing for the God who always exceeds our horizon, v14 eliciting our awe. & so this is the infinite, the everlasting within the ever-changing. In God's economy, everything that is of the kingdom last forever: these will remain 1Cor8v13. God chooses us for fruit that will last Jn15v16. Every kingdom investment, every participation in God's salvation, all comportments of faith, hope and love, these are eternal, though the loved may die and sorrow will find you. The kingdom remains, and we will remain Eph6v13 if we remain within the God who is forever. Love wins, and the injustice of v16-18 will pass away, it will be burnt up Mal3v2-4 1Pet1v7. And Mk1v15 the Kingdom of God is near, eternity is very close. v18 We are different from animals because we are being-towards-death. We know our mortality, a marker for all our self0consciousness, which feels like more of a curse than a blessing at times 4v3 but isn't really. God we thank you for the gift of being born, the adventure of being alive, teach us unself-pity, the joy of seeking you.
Ec4 Today we talked about how a community is more-than-two. It's hard to say something that has not become a wedding-service platitude of v9-12, so God we ask for the lived experience of being not easily broken because we are two better than one and with you three. Be our un-self-relatedness. Thank you, that you made us to need one another, I am grateful.
Ec5-6 Because God is God I can let my words be few (and short). The proliferation of words, as it my wont, is an evil insofar as it obscures my v1 ignorance, v7 fantasies, v4 hidden debts, v8 power structures, and my duplicity, hypocrisy and insecurity. .. v1 Listening. Speaking the gospel is mostly listening? Listening to the shepherd and listening to his sheep. Listening to their questions, listening for the question behind the question and then offering a mustard seed sized offering. .. Wealth. The v12 sleepless restless evil and the 5v10 6v2 vanity of a 'rich' trajectory is to be contrasted with 5v20 6v3,7 present 'satisfaction'. There is a right appreciation of the present moment and its good gifts. “Where would you want to be?” asks Shame's Brandon. Here and Now? The fraught battle to be unescapist is so because we are bad people from a bad place bound unto judgement. 'Rich'ness, addiction, nostalgia, escapism are substitutes for a Cross in the past and regeneration in the future. God help us to a Godly hedonism, a right presencing, a fearless future, a listening patiently, and a diligence in the cause of speaking love concisely.
Ec7-8 8v14 Vanity, vanity. Vanity, we noted, is both vain and in vain. Vanity is the lies we tell ourselves, others and God, as last night's Acts5. Vanity is unconfessional self-deceptive anti-grace. Nostalgia 7v10 is a vanity, it wants to blame modernity, society, or technology rather than oneself for injustice. Prosperity theology 7v15 is a vanity, it believes it can earn or bargain with God, rather than surrendering to the 8v12 but-if-not that is God's glorious economy of wellness. Power over others 8v9 is a vanity, the attempt to pretend to ourselves that our dominion over another will validate us. But in vain, 8v7-8, death reveals our lie, the Holy Spirit shines uncomfortable light onto out pretence, sweeps the carpet from under us. So truth then, the integrity & authenticity of the 7v4 house of mourning, & of 7v13, 23, 27-28, 8v17 confusion, questions & mystery. Jesus meets us here Mt5v3-4.
Ec9-10 Here in the kitchen a spider's silhouette is busy on the other side of the glass and a crow, a few houses down, drops into flight from a tv aerial which sways a little to a stop, its place remembers it no more and feel like I'm in a French film. .. Ec9-10 Better and necessary Ecc's reminder of death than our culture's tireless denial of death. 9v10 Better life lived on all cylinders towards an imperfect ambition than the idling engine of the perfectionist procrastinator. 10v16 To all the kids on the catwalk, and the anti-aging cream of Greer's babes and 24/7 McDonalds, to these we say 10v7 you are not hedonistic enough. There is a better joy than escapism. 9v7 8 9 God approves, imagine that. God approves, and by living with a Jn12 sense of the sense with such faith we seek to hear the good-and-faithful-servant, and the Mt15v38, let us be such living dogs v4.
Ec11-12 Too much study is weariness, how does the academic hear this? Too much study is study done 12v11 not listening to the voice of the good shepherd, like all things, we can choose whether we are listening to the good shepherd or not, that is the measure of its value, whether we are inclined to the voice we love and recognise, being led trustingly and adventuringly. Jesus, you are the good shepherd, we want to know the sound of your voice in & through & before all things. These passages are about wasted time and valuable time, 12v1-8 on being-young and being-towards-old-age (I think more of being-towards death than these two, what might these perspectives offer?) You will die, whatever you do, & as long as you stay alive you will get older, regardless of your ways, but there is a divine economy 11v9 12v14 where what you do matters, it can have value, good or bad, and we will be held to account. I will be held to account for today, for the extra sleeping, for my working, resting, listening, giving. Let me hear this God, and so so not drift through. Let today count, let us approach today as holy ground, with holy fear, but also joy and thankfulness for what can be. Let us hear 11v1 as a word for ourselves, let us invest and overflow and give ourselves to goodness. & let us stop, as Kieślowski to 11v7 watch the light play, this is time well spent.
Zaha has conceived an immaculate space for androids to wash their electric sheep by night, a virtually spotless bathroom where the hash-tag generation can perform their algorithmic ablutions, and where homesick aliens can hang their towels on scripted fixings beside their washbasins 2.0. Melancholic and strangely waterless, it is yet a beautiful thing. With all the sensuality of a conch shell combed from the barren beach of Imperial Wharf. Here is a gem, a cavern of delight, sculpted by the surge and throb of digital streams whose hypertext hydraulically has gouged grooves with a ripple and bubble, smoothed to sexually slick finish. It is a lickable tribute to our present obsession with the body, as much as it is to the erasing of the body in our obsession with cleanliness.
I was struck by the joints and junctions which distinguish this building from its YouTube rendering. This is the work of art in the age of mechanical production, a strange dialogue between us and our robots. Traces of production keep us from complete immersion in this confection, disclosing the contrivance and boasting in machine power. Such concessions in realisation function both as an architectural Brechtian alienation device and a signature that Zaha and her machines was here.
Come, Jägerbombs. Come drown this out.
Steam age, steam punk, post punk, what now?
Absolve this bar, it knows not how,
To rightly mix.
Come spirits, cast in blurry fuzz,
The faux stained steel and junctions of,
The scaffolded carbuncular,
Bottle rack bar.
Come cocktails, overpriced and sweet,
Obscure the hightech, quick-fix feat,
Of this revivalistic seat.
But comfy though.
Organic stout. £7 beer.
Lend me a Betjemanian ear,
To hear the ordinary here,
And after one more gin or two,
I'll populate Pancras with people true,
Not portraits through a rosy hue,
But real men.
Come drunk friends, and wreak revival,
Imagine this Victorianal.
Picture hard wrought stone and marble.
No plastic tat.
Come Jägerbombs. Come just once more.
Help me through the revolving door.
Help me forget the night before.
The piped music.
But spare our preppy bar attender,
Ignorant with no agenda,
An architectural bystander,
Who likes to dance,
'And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead.'
with thanks to Betjeman's Slough
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Man dwells balletically. He does. When your comportment and composure find that effortless grace and complete thoroughness, when all of your senses are alive, when you cannot but glide and alight, when you can find allusion in steps and metaphor in seats and a landscape of perpetual suggestion in the shape of touch, when with a clarity of delight you are able to redeem every mundane action and motion with an expression of the privilege of being so singularly now, then you have begun to dwell.
This film will not be reduced, conveyed or improved in any way by words, least of all mine. I saw Pina on a screen of regular proportions in only two dimensions, I can only guess at the mixed blessing stereoscopy would offer here. I would however implore you to see this film, and on the largest, most full-bodied screen that makes itself available.
I met the late Pina Bausch in this film through her dance, introduced to her in her pain, her struggle and her loneliness which she manifestly poured into her gorgeous work. It is her anguish which animates so many of the pieces and perhaps the crux of the film is expressed in her question: “What are we longing for? Where does all this yearning come from?” along with the film's subtitle, “dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” Her company dances desperately, for dear life, against the dying of this light, and their urgency and utter abandon show in what they dance against and what they dance towards.
Against contemporary dance's spartan stage sets familiar angers are played out in vital and riveting ways: scorning the shame of the suits, yearning for the earth, raging against beauty contests and wilfully ploughing disruption through the empty chairs and empty tables our fathers left behind.
And towards an intimate picture of the company, one gets a sense of their brotherhood in their clinging to, leaping and being caught by, falling and being caught by, and diving into one another. These summon a longing in this viewer to be held so, to trust and be trusted so, to be borne up on wings.
As in Man on Wire, we have an intensely gifted performer combined with a heist of talented teamwork to produce a spectacle to showcase the singular vision of that charismatic individual. As in Jesus of Montreal, we have an examination of the process by a sect of devoted bohemians towards the saving cause of Art pour l'Art. By comparison to these, this film's key weakness is in the needlessly sentimental mute talking heads and the resistance to offering any humanising flaw in their portrait of Bausch, in the way Petit is shown to be an imperfect, yet real, hero in Man on Wire.
There is a joy in colour here, so occasional and so intense. The battle for the red dress in the first piece is a reverence for the irreducible which reflects the whole practice of choreography at one level. Seeking that gift, and thrusting the gifted into the light. Complicated. And the gold dress in the city wind, oh to be so lusciously enswathed.
Finally, the landscape. The hanging monorail is the most dancerly mode of public transport imaginable. Exquisite. The scenes outdoors are profound and would accompany Manufactured Landscapes well, Wenders doing far more subtly what Burtynsky attempts in his photography. We swoop organically amongst the tracks and cogs of factory spaces, complimenting and protesting them in the same deft action. And whirling in the dust atop the strip mine, precipitously allusive. Amazing.
In all, we dance in search of an unknown God. Pina should convict any who pretend to claim that it is “in Him we move.” Acts 17v28.
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Pr1-2 We need wisdom literature. All the time. Especially now. .. v7 “What would you understand by someone identifying themselves as 'God-fearing'?” A question asked over the washing up here. It made for an interesting works/grace conversation, and asked whether God's friendliness or fearfulness should be primary. God-honouring is good, but not quite synonymic. You can boast in the works of honouring something. The fear of God speaks plainly, that He is big and we are small; his carpet is perfectly white and we have just dragged muddy boots across it. If knowledge does not begin there we presume grace and leapfrog the cross is our epistemology? v9 Clothing metaphors. v17 (c2004) After thousands of Napster tracks downloaded (filling electronic devices v31), I found this hoarding had hollowed out the joy of 'live' music.. Pr2 If-then promises. If you seek you will find: so let Tuesday nights be such search parties.
Pr3 Wisdom, what is wisdom? Right knowing at the right time plus the capacity to apply it in some transformative action? v25-32 Practical advice, a demonstration by example of the shape of wisdom, a sort of 1Cor13 for wisdom: v25 Wisdom is unafraid, v26 Wisdom is never mean-spirited, v28 it is very present. v29 Wisdom does not intend evil but is always trustworthy. v30 Wisdom is not competitive. v31 It does not delight in violence, but dwells and delights in uprightness. .. v9 honouring God with your wealth - of late I think I self-deceive, a limited generosity masquerading as a right frugality...wisdom trusts all its money to God. v3 14 15 22 - ornament metaphors. God makes us beautiful in and by making us wise. Today's wedding is all ornamented, flowers and jewels, declaring this symbolically over their marriage as adorned by v3 love, faithfulness and wisdom.
Pr4 v1-3 Coming as children. Father's sons are we and still young, daughters, beheld, beloved and under instruction. We are childs of the only wise God. But also. We image and embody this as parents and children biologically and pastorally. The wisdom to live intergenerationally and the wisdom for living intergenerationally is a wisdom learnt by living intergenerationally. .. A little struggle with how to read the necessity-for/emphasis-of Ch1-9's celebrating the notion of wisdom as if wise living did not speak for itself (vs v20-21 memorising aphorisms) .. Also struggle to separate wisdom from works and unwisdom from sin (vs v4-13 if-then clauses). We have to assume that grace is at work for the strength to work out these proverbs? As savviness will not save, and salvation does not automate savviness in your life. .. v16 Vice and sleepless spirals, we know these addictions and their unwisdom, yet we persist. v17 Bread of wickedness and wine of violence, this is the unHoly communion of unjust food that we labelled Tescos with at lunch. There are many tight bonds between our wrongdoing and our appetite, seen in the price we pay for battery cruelty, a culture's obese gluttony and the imperialism of unFairtrade. Let us seek wisdom and wrestle with wisdom and memorise wisdom, before we make food choices. Sin and the senses also at play in 5v3, get wise before the honey is before you, long in advance.
Pr5 This here is the only safe sex. Serious. v9-10 the consequences of an unprepared and flimsy theology of sex and sexuality is slavery v10, measured in years v9, concluding in wasting v11 and death v11. Strong words. .. Further, sex is intoxicating. Is this a self-evident platitude? Is v20 a rhetorical question? There is a radically contradictory philosophy of sex in culture which needs v20's interrogation. Illustrated in the question about The Artist's mixed fortunes, which concede, if bemusedly, that pride could be a deadly sin, but is dismissive of the weightiness of marital fidelity. We live in a culture in which, to a greater or lesser extent adultery is a sport and being-true-to-oneself is the trump card in moral inquiry. Why should embrace the bosom of an adulteress? Because it is my right and it feels good and, to answer a question with a question, why not? Because it is a death v23. .. v19 The power of breasts to intoxicate. The power of the powerful. The power to ruin v14. You are powerful and these are hard words. Oh how shall we then live?
Pr6-7 Preferring the GNB today, & navigating 'it's good to be good platitudes on one side, and problematic moral logic on the other (6v26-35 it's not worth the risk because you might get caught?! Is there a better interpretation?), there is gold to be mined. How is 6v1-4 different from Acts4v32-37? The proverb suggests we can take responsibility for the other in the wrong sense..how do we discern this without self-deceiving? Perhaps this is an issue of v3 power. When we hold the other in our power we relate to them sadistically, and when we let them hold us in their power we relate masochistically. Contrasting with right responsibility – a well functioning community who share everything they have will dissolve these power dynamics, there will be no debts between us. Power dynamics are, in part, what's at issue in the sexual pathologies here too. .. Seduction 6v24-25 7v6-23 is an exercise in power, and only in marriage, where both parties are submitted to each other might the power dynamics of sex be dissolved, and sex and wisdom come together. The seven things God cannot tolerate v16-19 - manifestations of ungrace and untruth. v9-11 lie-ins and self-deception: make me wise God.
Pr8-9 Wisdom's description here applies two-fold. Both-and the Wisdom and the Wise, personified wisdom and those persons wise: v1-7 Wisdom is a streetwise self-evidence appearing at intersections, truths visible at the city gates, the natural grace of due prudence; v1-7 a Wise woman is vocal, a street pastor, strategically situating herself at city intersections, speaking the truth in the ordinary, naming the elephant in the room. v10-11 Wisdom is priceless, v10-11 The Wise pursue priceless things. v31 Wisdom rejoices in God's inhabited world; the Wise inhabit God's world rejoicing. .. The Word. He was in the beginning with God Jn1v2. Wisdom. She v1, was in the beginning with God v22. Is there any mileage in considering wisdom's femininity and femininity's wisdom? Is it only quaint and patronising to ascribe gender in this way? What is wisdom? How would this chapter be rendered in your imagination if she were written a he? 8v1, 9v13 Both Wisdom and Folly are vocal, loud even. Life is lived out loud. What will we speak and will we have knowledge when the occasion to speak demands an answer for the hope that we have? Be prepared. Get knowledge, be it even tacit. .. 9v4, 9v16 Both Wisdom and Folly offer hospitality. Hospitality, we learn, is by no means a certain good. Looking for guidance here in becoming lifely not deathly, churchic not cultic, self-giving not self-related. (1) v17 Transparency or atleast non-secrecy? (2) v5 The involved economics of the production of bread and wine? (3) v3 Going to them, and sending others Mt22v9? Acticly outward bound, rather than sitting v14, in doorways v14. (4) v1 Preparing a 'good sized' (ESVSB) house? (5) v6 Inviting people to change, loving them as they are, leading them out of simplistic ways, so to be a wayside wise way for wayward wayfarers.
Pr10-11 God, still setting before us life and death, there is something urgent in the presentation of these two ways: choose life, choose life. Thinking some more about shame and the public/private distinction, there is much here about good and bad concealments and disclosures – the concealment of our dysfunction 10v11, v18 perhaps because we are ashamed, but making us hypocrites rather than open to transformation, and 11v26 holding back good things for selfish motives. Further, the disclosure of that which is properly private 11v13a, v22 which is a false authenticity, and does damage to self and other. There is, however, a prudent restraint 10v19 11v12, v13b which keeps private what is properly private, and is wise to how words can damage, choosing them deliberately. Lastly, right exposure in 11v10 evident worship and gladness, and 11v24, v26 the giving freely of good things. So let us properly reveal and conceal. Boldness reveals, and as such it is not the same as exhibitionism, but rather, boldness is like generosity. Jesus' truth is for the public domain, it is a truth for the specific other, confided, declared. And if shame can reside in the places where the supposedly private are exposed to the public, a false shame – premised on the sense that Jesus' truth is not for the public domain – may inhibit our boldness. We ask that God would make us new, clearing out the lingering cobwebs of false shames, that we might be bold. The good news we proclaim: 11v12 love covers all offences.
Pr12-13 Here we are at 13v22. This is a tree-of-life: We, three, here, now, with-Jesus. Jesus desired, Jesus fulfilled. .. Wisdom elsewhere in this. Love discipline 12v1, discipline in love 13v24. make a plan 13v22, plan to make 12v11. Amongst the it's-good-to-be-good appeals, there is a call to be long-hauliers, long-termist lovers who leave a legacy, agriculturally engaged: diligently 12v11 and compassionately 12v10. Lovers in our doing and lovers in our speaking. Our words should be 12v18 healing, v19 enduring. We have so many good things to say, why waste breath on ironic angsting discontent? Why waste time worrying? Oh God make our words count.
Pr14-15 Trying to gather around these aphorisms, struck by 14v3 & 15v17 and the emptiness of life without God, good things become tasteless, like Melancholia's ashes, like Shame's dead eyes; addiction, depression and consumerism rob the world of joy, in frenetic pursuit or resigned overwhelmed numbness. But 15v30 the light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones. Deep down joy. God I want you today. I want those we love to know your deep down joy. Please come refresh our bones.
Pr16 v1, v9 How is your heart? How do we consider our hopes and ambitions, our loves and our plans? God entrusts our hearts with much: the responsibility for desiring well. Tend your heart, guard your heart, consider your one thing, articulate your passion. God longs to blossom your ten, five and one talents. .. v8, v19 and previously. For all our fears of proverbic prosperity theology, it is very clear in its support of austerity done well, poverty rightly embraced, living minimally rather than, in any way, effecting injustice. My life is still replete with unjust gain, sweatshopped clothes, cruel food, impatient transport, exclusive language, a grabbing, hoarding, defensive conception of material wealth. v19 it is a pride game, this richyoungmanist affliction. .. v26 the force of fasting, evangelism born from your belly 1Cor4v11-12, gutsy going, a missional appetite. Be workers for their joy, ravenously.
Pr17 v6 Grandparents. The currency of 'glory' is foreign, as is 'honour' thy mother and father.. We are so far-flung, so self-made. Let us learn to acknowledge those who made those who made us who we are. Our biological and spiritual grandparents. .. v17 A friend loves at all times. Love. Time. Friendship. Counting the cost of friending; measuring friendship in depth of love over length of time. We have to pay these our of our account. Praying for God to increase our account and/but stewarding the finite we have wisely. .. v22 A joyful heart is good medicine. Medicine taken. Medicine administered. We are workers for their joy, for our joy, medicinally.
Pr18-19 Thinking specifically about hopes for academia and how and why, but as seeps into every face to face, the way I use words to 18v2 appear clever, which is born always of insecurity, a forgetting that v10 God is my fort. Being-safe-in-God allows us to be safe to v13 listen and v15 be taught (19v20, 25, 27) which is a bit good, because this is the way of wisdom. 18v21 on words and consequences, in the GNB – 'You must accept the consequences of your words' which prompted thoughts on consequences and grace. Where damage or 'death' is wrought with words, there is a need for grace in forgiveness, but forgiveness does not automatically dissolve all the emotional consequences of words, just as there are physical consequences to actions which are to be walked with, some restorative work to participate in beyond eliciting an offendee's forgiveness, as part of God's plan to restore all things so there may be restorative work to participate in even if forgiveness has been actioned. Maybe, if mercy is not getting what we deserve, and grace is getting what we don't deserve, then forgiveness begins a mercy that is brought to a completion in grace-in-all-its-fullness, which restoratively remakes consequences. Grace is a having, where the having is of a relationship, and relationships are over time. So mercy can take a moment, but grace expands to fill a lifetime.
Pr18-19 As enacted prayer for wisdom and revelation (Eph1v17) this month I have been reading a chapter of Proverbs and of Revelation each day. And Providence had timed my return to this country in such a way that, today being the 19th, I am able to seamlessly transition from my isolated rhythm to yours, encouraged as I do so that I thus resist the temptation to 'rage against wise judgement' 18v1. But be warned my soul! As I join those who fill the air with texted homilies, lest I fall to the temptation of merely 'expressing my own heart' v2. Words are powerful v21, so may I have patience to understand before replying - with Scripture and all of life – that my words may not be 'tasty trifles' v8 found on inspection to be lies v17 leading to destruction v7, but rather gold fruit v20, a flowing stream v4. For better even the proverbial horror of poverty, than to lose integrity and lie 19v1,2. This bears repeating 19v5,9. So in all of my words, let this word be first 18v10, the name of the lord-JESUS! - who delivers me from the deaths deserved by false words.
Pr20-21 The gospel in Proverbs: v9 All have sinned .. v22 He. Will. Deliver. You. Interestingly both these verses are followed by the same warning against false scales v10, v23. Making out own scales is the epitome of the false gospel, we deceive ourselves, oh 'sin'-less generation we. .. Learning to sleep to the glory of God. 'Love' in v13 (similarly 21v17) is bad love, addictive, compulsive, mere craving (v26), an ungrateful dead-end that acknowledges no source and no reciprocation in no gift economy of no right worship. This Lent I should enjoy to abstain from those indulgences (wine oil bad sleep patterns) which detract from a right Christian hedonism which gives and gives v26. .. v29 What is our strength for in a technolopolised world? .. 21v9, v19 It takes two to quarrel. More interesting, which hadn't appeared to me previously is 'fretful'. Oh let us be unanxiously beloved. Beloved beloved beloved.
Pr22-23 for Lent. 23 First, this Lent may we be taken out of our v20 assumed & everyday gluttony, which leads astray, obscures the bigger picture and does damage to body and soul. A season to de-clutter, re-align, re-perspectivise, and v13 be disciplined. Praying for those known with food and alcohol addictions, Jesus, please set them free. Would we all v17 continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Affirmed in 22 that v11 Jesus desires friendship with even me, my prayer for Lent is for being-with-Jesus, my prayer to learn by heart is v17-19 a season of listening, learning and being-with, Jesus makes himself known to even me. Happy mystery.
Pr22-23 Only the second day of texting homilies and already I find myself having missed my deadline. And in this era of of superpowered online communications where anyone can make millions blogging from home, the good old excuse about the lion 22v13 is no longer effective. So I shall apologise, hope that such negligence does not forever tarnish the reputation of my 'good name' (as we say in India).
Pr24-25 25v2 Our illusive allusive God is so as an invitation to engage. God is concealed the disengaged, but known through honey 24v13, rather like God calls us to dance Mt11v17(/Pina) as a mode of knowing Jesus rightly. The call to know God and to get wisdom is a call to engage his metaphors. 24v14 Honey was made for its metaphor, like salt and mustard seeds and sheeply sheep, like kisses 24v26 and ornament 25v12. God is concelaed in these rather as a baby is concealed in one's football bump – ours is a pregnant reality and we are Rom8v22 midwives (to mix my metaphors for metaphors). Being-by-metaphors is also as much a call to self-control and patience in our self-revealing, 25v6 not claiming your rights, 25v7 not proclaiming all you have seen, 25v27 not promoting your glory. Tricky. There is a time to speak Acts4v20 and a time to be silent Mt8v4. But we can give wordless love at all times in between.
Pr26 v12 Foolishness is thinking that you're wise, thinking I'm wise, so humble yourself. v4 Wisdom doesn't engage with foolishness on its own terms, wisdom rejects the premise that foolishness is founded on, wisdom elevates the conversation, wisdom lifts the train from off the tracks. Wondering what this really looks like – how do we overturn foolish premises with other than words? What is our silence like? There is a time to speak and a time tobe silent, for 27v14 speaking even good things too loudly or out of season can be unprofitable...but how then are we silent? Silence isn't nothing, its disengagement can contain an engagement...how can our silence embody different terms, how can it shift a dialogue rather than constituting a withdrawal? Hoenst questions, in prayer for prayerful silences and yesterday's wordless love.
Pr27 On friendship, and v17-19 food friendship metaphors: sharpening, cultivating and mirroring – descriptions of how God relates to us in befriending us, and what community done well looks like, sharpening, cultivating and mirroring, that we might know ourselves better, that we might be transformed from our roots through our veins to bear fruit and to flourish, that we might be put to good work, with all the ergon of a well-sharpened knife. Let us be.
Pr26-27 In a world filled with untameable tongues (Ja3v8) guilty of all manner of sins of speech (lazy excuses 26v13-16, meddling v17, lies – the hilarious v18-19 being possibly my favourite proverb, gossip v20-28, boasting 27v1-2, nagging 27v15) it is tempting to stay silent. For if you think you are wise enough to avoid such pitfalls, then already you have fallen 26v12. But biblical love is unambiguously a love that confronts 27v5-6 Lev19v17:'Don't hate your brother in your heart – rebuke him to his face.' We have been learning on outreach the importance of this for team unity. But what about Mt7v1? When do you confront 26v4 and when do you not 26v5? O God, give us discernment!
Pr28-29 Particularly challenging, these verses, with acute immediacy. .. 29v18 KJV translated as without vision the people perish, here it is rendered without 'prophetic vision' the people 'cast off restraint'. This is my house, or threatens to be. Please pray as we seek a way forward, as we seek the next right step, that it would not be a heavy-handed visioning, nor a Myers-Briggs conflict of planners vs non-planners. For prophetic vision we need prophets, for those prophets we have only ourselves. Open our ears, please God, guide us. .. 28v2 Also seems bizarrely pertinent, 'many rulers' may refer to increasing bureaucracy (ESVSB). Please God, guard us. .. 28v1 'Flees is a mysterious verse, I want to make it apply to Shame et al's city running. We run from ourselves, we run from any Other, we dull the light (29v13) of our tube eyes as flight pre-empting pursuit, ashamed before we are even caught. Rather be bold, stand firm, be seen, as she in 8v2, unblurred by running. This flight relates to 29v25's 'Fear of man'. But what is a snare? Status Anxiety and mere Affluenza are not the same menacing metaphor as 'snare'. What lures your to this snare and how does it kill you? How do we consider people-pleasing profitable, and in what ways is it eventually or even suddenly ruinous? .. 28v11 What is rich? Mk10v25 What is rich? Who calls it? A name given, or one I call myself? And on what scale? Is this identity or state of mind a vague matter of personal conscience? Is it enough to be invisibly rich in your stewardship of wealth? you can live minimally in a plurality of ways, how do we own rightly? How do we rest in right un-'rich'-ness? .. Then 29v1 and 28v9 are super hard, for this is us in our hypocrisy and this is those de-churched whom we love, such are our prayers, such is their brokenness. Please, God, not beyond healing.
Pr30 On this life mysterious and amazing. In tutorials this week I was told the idea that there is a God is ridiculous, whilst it was conceded that the idea that there is anything at all is ridiculous too. How ridiculous, that there are chemicals and sunshine and trees, and that I exist as this stream of consciousness, that I have access to your consciousness through dialogue, and that the ways and telos of animals can be read from their furry gestures and modes of organisation v18-19, 24-30. Oh this psalm evokes joy and pain and wonder aand seeking at v4 the physical universe, like watching planet earth and at v18 death, bearing children and falling in love. Oh, God. God I find in all these things, present in absence, discolesed in my yearning, God who is always out of full reach but so very immediate and surrounding. My v1 helplessness leads my back to God, I am God's I will kneel here.
Pr31 Prayers for our homes, especially as you meet to plan this evening, a benediction over your home, my home and homes known to us ... homes that v12 do good and not harm, v13-24 are productive, constructive & creative, v14-15 where all are well fed and food is well managed, where organisation is done in an optimal way. May your home be v16 invested in, and sustainably so, may ownership be felt such that it is v17 a place of hard work, but joyfully so. Would those who dwell with us v18know the value of things, God we pray, that our lives would be invested in valuable things, begetting and inspiring and revealing that which is precious is our home. Make our homes v20 extravagantly generous, open, merciful and just. Make our homes v21 unanxious, safe in God, v25 strong, rightly prophetically towards-the-future and places of wisdom. Make our homes v27-28 places of being-together, places of care as harbours. And, v30 make our homes God-honouring, centred around Jesus.
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
- This is a completely unbloggable piece of writing, if you would prefer it as a pdf do email me and I can offer it in a more intuitive format.
- The sketchbook cuttings with which I break up this gargantuan column of text are unrelated to adjacent bits of writing.
- I coin phrases, frequently without justification or explanation. This is the most frequent criticism I recieve, along with long sentences, failed syllogisms and generally erratic clauses.. So to try to preempt that coining complaints: Religiose and religione are pejorative to describe the attitude and faith of the self-righteous, 'religion' would also cover the damage done that I wish to convey, but it comes with too much baggage. Nuditism, differs from nudism as scientism differs from science, it is explicitly a belief in the saving power of the thing. Aedicule is not my coinage, but a real word applied to architecture by Summerson to speak of the phenomenon of the miniature. Angelological, also a real word, describing the study of angels.]
Being Ornamental: On the motive forces of an ornamental world view and why we disornament
Prompted by the enduring criminalisation of ornament, this essay would like to explore ornament's presuppositions in the hope of arriving at such an alternative as might render ornament possible, meaningful and delightful. It intends to speak of the noumenal/phenomenal dualism, which ultimately precludes ornament, as a dualism begetting and begotten by a solipsistic, disembodied and religiose mode of being towards reality: a mode emerging subtly in the work of Ruskin, to a clarity in Semper and triumphalistically in Loos. Analogically, in this dualism, ornament is the optimistic veil of clothing over the naked body of a meaningless reality. Because these three writers employ clothing metaphors, we will speak a little regarding clothes and disrobement's implications for ornament. Finally, drawing on Summerson and Heidegger from this semester's reading, the essay hopes to offer for ornament an antidotal mode of being which is intersubjective, embodied and hedonistic, seen in the play of a dolls house as a ready-to-hand aedicule.
Concerning the Truth problem of ornament, if the answer to Pilate's question “What is truth?”(John 18:38 ESV) is “to say of what is that it is”(Aristotle (Metaphysics 1011b25)), we are left then to ask, what is? And to what 'is' should architecture be true? The problem we make for ourselves is illustrated in the castigation of Ruskin's 'supposed honesty' (Davies, p85) on the basis that Gothic's carved leaves are 'not real leaves'.(Davies, p85) This highlights something of the problem in the modern conception of that 'real' regarding which we are obliged to be honest. For the 'reality' which the modernist defends is here assaulted by no mere foliated dishonesty but an affront to the foundational truth upon which he bases his hope: 'truth to materials' is all when the material is the only ground for truth following the divinisation of a unified system of natural causes. I would contrast this with the real of an allusive universe, wherein reality is found to be a 'this' which is really about 'that'. In such an existence it would be entirely legitimate, and indeed true, to ornament in speaking of what is: that is, the parabolic God, who is there. I am speaking simplistically, but I hope I can draw us out first to the changed 'real' which has occluded our ornamenting, and second drawing us on whither our stone leaves.
I intend to write as academically as I can find the footnotes for, but equally personally, there is something in ornament's person-ality which forgives and requires an appeal to discover, in architecture, those elements which are, in Alexander's terms “alive in themselves...connected to us...personal” (Alexander, p308). Further, by way of apology, arguing through allegory especially in an area so potentially fraught, subjective and emotive as nudity and shame is a risk, but one which seemed a gauntlet run consistent to meet Loos' polemic with polemic by.
If a battle(Taylor, p108) for ornament was being fought at the turn of the twentieth century, the war, I believe, had already been lost. The landscape of available vocabulary and the evidence of any validating demonstration that might have been brought to ornament's defence had already been eroded.
Francis Schaeffer has fashioned some conceptual constructions to make sense of the shift which I will borrow and I will presume on his argumentation somewhat. It interests me less the case he makes for Modernism's origins in the Enlightenment's origins in the Renaissance, which is made by many, but rather the mechanism for its evolution. Schaeffer observes the birth of autonomous man through the expression of a reality read in the dichotomy Nature-and-Grace, where the Grace of heavenly things is the 'Upper Storey' and Nature is those bodily, earthly things in the 'Lower Storey'.(Schaeffer, p16 ) This is a familiar neo-Platonic dualism, but rendered helpfully in a language that is less static than a body/spirit duality. His storeys allow for a progression of concepts to pass into and out of the sacred over time.
The act of divorcing these two, Nature and Grace, is an act of authorship, of writing reality as if from outside, usurping the happy authorial relationship Grace had had with Nature which sustained their meaningful integration. Further, the autonomy to elect what exactly to put in these storeys is inherently unstable, with Cartesian doubt and logical positivism among the few tools in autonomy's epistemological toolbox (Tinker & Tinker, p202). Accordingly the Lower Storey degenerates, mechanistically, to an utter determinism. Taylor speaks of an 'intensification, almost exacerbation,' (Taylor, p3) of entrenching mechanisms of Modernism's critical competences and logic. Concurrently, the Upper Storey of ideals and meaning-making mutates to 'Freedom' following the death of God. Even then it struggles against a rising tide of united machinery which is absorbing everything once considered sacred. The unity desired downstairs is exclusive by definition and totalising in its ambition: the particulars of mechanics insatiably consume the fleeting Grace above them.
This does not happen all at once, there is a generational and geographical migration of this dualism and its effects, but, more importantly for this study, there is a migration across disciplines working its way outwards to the slower moving disciplines, in a manner alluded to by Evans, who proposes that “it is not unlikely that harmonic theory passed into architecture as an evacuee rather than as a coloniser.”(Evans, p265) Harmonic theory had pretended authority to define beauty in music by inalienable laws, ratios and mystique, and this indivisibly singular assurance was the composer's confidence. When harmony was exposed as both more complex and less mysterious, we observe the migration of whole-number legitimating mechanisms: we see failed ideals in a flight from a rationality which is ironing out the superstitious glitches of music's upper storey into architecture's, for a time.
Schaeffer identifies the 19th century realisation of the vanity of the project to unify knowledge in this manner:(Schaeffer, p46) this Lower Storey with all of its might of mechanised industry and scientism had not arrived at an ideal, but rather a unified and total pessimism. The chasm to the upper storey had only grown. It now manifested a 'Line of Despair'. The answer here, in both Christian and Secular Existentialism, is a 'Leap of Faith', whereby one resigns one's rationality in order to retain rationalism. A non-rational upper storey is manufactured, untouchably aloof from the demands of the machine below. We do so irrationally, and without thought to consequence because “man as man is dead.”(Schaeffer, p47) Into this non-rational Upper Storey we can store all the faith and fragile fineries that were under threat, for a time.
In using 'upper storey', 'leap of faith' and 'line of despair', I am deferring to this construction, which, for the tidy topology of its diagrammatic reduction of philosophical evolution, appeals for an application in the question of ornament, stowed, safely as it is, in the Upper Storey. Ornament flees hence because, within modernity, it will not fit our systems of knowing. It is dead weight in the machine for living in that we have constructed, and so we must move it to the upper storey to fill the vacuum up there.
The makeshift and unstable resolution to the dichotomy of nature and grace has far-reaching effects. Of chief interest to us is the notion that the instability of this dichotomy precipitates various defence and coping mechanisms which manifest themselves in the detail and debate of ornament. Firstly, in order to legitimise the dichotomy, art and/or ornament within the upper storey becomes sacred in and of itself, so to spiritualise the dispirited man. Secondly, in order to defend itself from the lower storey, art/ornament becomes spectacle, so by sensation to affect the desensitised man. And thirdly, in order to appease both warring factions, ornament is wilfully compromised through an explanatory language of clothing.
Ornament as Sacred: this is Art for Art's sake in the domain of ornament. It is a faith in pure ideal against that age of mechanical reproduction going on full steam downstairs. As Benjamin observes: “art reacted with the doctrine of l'art pour l'art, that is, with a theology of art...'pure' art, which ... denied any social function of art.”(Benjamin, p218) Ornament, in this way, becomes the object of our hope, a mysterious cultic trinket rendered in a sentimental style, which we hope, inexplicably, will save us, and will give, to our building, meaning.
Ornament as Spectacle: an imposed illusion on an epic scale, a decadent and dictatorial substitute for a former ornament. Rather as war, in Benjamin's terms, “supplies artistic gratification of sense perception,” (Benjamin, p235) so ornament is mere affect: a complicity in a Babel project, writ large and defended frankly. Spectacular ornament is the estimation of sensation above any slow, subtle speaking of love, which is surprisingly defended by Moussavi who notes that “ornamental mass movements in a stadium “bestow form to a given matter,' these buildings produce affects that seem to grow directly from matter itself. ... overcom[ing] the need to 'communicate' through a common language.”(Moussavi, p7) Ornament, for her,“is the figure that emerges from the material substrate, the expression of embedded forces”(Moussavi, p8) The use of a passive 'emerge' is indicative of a faith in impersonal, or apparently impersonal, forces, and the ambition to overcome 'communication' is reminiscent of exactly the destruction of language(Debord, Thesis 192) which Debord damns in his Society of Spectacle.
If the sacred and the spectacular are the modes of ornament after the upper storey leap, how is this reconciled to the lower storey? By what unifying picture can one explain the need of these things? Through what allegory can we make this known? I would argue that the metaphor of clothing employed by Ruskin, Semper and Loos, displays the depth and breadth of widespread acceptance of this radically dualised world emerging at their moment in history. Clothes serve as a picture of the freely chosen personal which adorns a given body; they are the demountable image of a thing. Clothing as a metaphor is not self-evidently legitimate and it carries with it assumptions of a dis-integrated world.
For the notion of Ruskin as no mere revivalist in his concept of the value of Gothic I am indebted to Hardman who establishes two categories in Ruskin's architectural vision, that of 'Primary' and 'Secondary' architecture, where, "Secondary architecture … is imported and propagandistic … superimposed by imperial requirements … pseudo-transcendentalist rather than truly mythical or realist… it is a merely imaginary aesthesis … that exists in vacuo … its hypothesised population, undifferentiated or stereotyped..."(Hardman, p192) and, "Primary architecture … is rooted in landscape and vernacular traditions. It exists in perpetuity … it is reconciled to the accidents of its own material, not offering to ‘defy’ the fallen nature of the world and its inhabitants."(Hardman, p193) The Primary is the architecture Ruskin would like to believe in, one which romantically, and against his deeper assumptions, he seeks to promote.
Chatterjee expounds the contradiction in Ruskin, first by establishing the manner in which Ruskin conceives a building as a person, “endowed with spirit”(Swenarton via Chatterjee, p3) and “expressing personality”(Swenarton, via Chatterjee, p10), where ornament is its “bodily expression of thought”(Ruskin via Chatterjee p3), and crucially that can “die”(Ruskin via Chatterjee, p3) and it is “impossible ... to raise that dead.”(Ruskin via Chatterjee, p3) In this little handful of slightly strained and contextless quotations we can derive, firstly, Ruskin's abandonment of a resurrection faith, which is a resignation to Schaeffer's death of man, but much more importantly, we see the sentiment that buildings 'live' and, Chatterjee expands, that their life consists in those externalities of ornament and façade and so dies architecture in the decay and disruption of surface rather than by any structural failure: “The whole finish of the work was in the half inch that is gone.”(Ruskin via Chatterjee, p4) The prominence of façade in a Ruskinian view of architecture, or at the very least, among the Ruskinianisms that he, even unwittingly, inspired, is corroborated by the much attested power of his illustrations to inspire, which far outweighed the substance of his social argument in the minds of much of his readership.
However, it is in Ruskin's friendship and intellectual exchange with Carlyle's Transcendentalism, that we find, perhaps, the firmest grounds to speak both of Ruskin's shifting spiritual convictions and of the theoretical framework which explicitly informed his theory of ornament. Hardman summarises the Ruskin's shift thus:“urgently seeking a viable alternative to ... medieval Christian humanism, ... in Dante's response to Aristotle ... he knew this would be inadequate for the harsher world of Darwinism and aggressive imperialism”(Hardman, p191) Darwinism was, for Ruskin, an imperialism laying siege to, and scaling the walls of, his upper storey.
In their letters, Carlyle speaks of casting off his former faith as “Hebrew old clothes” and within this frame Ruskin speaks of his faith as “fluttering in weak rags,”(Ruskin, Works 36 p115) under the torment of those “Geologists' ... dreadful hammers”. Surveying their correspondence, Cate, sees at last a Ruskin emerging, “closer to the Carlylean mould and farther removed from the faith of his fathers"(Cate, p14) Furthermore, that in Ruskin, "the gulf between his rational and his emotional approaches to the world widened, rather than narrowed, in the course of his life.."(Cate, p58)
Carlyle's intriguing book Sartor Resartus, is suggested by Chatterjee to have been formative in Ruskin's adoption of a clothing frame of ornament. We see in this book a theory, an ontology, considered through clothes. Carlyle claims:“Clothes have made Men of us” (Carlyle, Sartor Resartus) where otherwise we would merely be, “To the eye of vulgar Logic ... a Soul, a Spirit, and divine Apparition.”(Carlyle) and cements the dichotomy thus: “his Body and the Cloth are the site and materials whereon and whereby his beautified edifice, of a Person, is to be built.”(Carlyle) And so then, within this construction, “The first purpose of Clothes, as our Professor imagines, was not warmth or decency, but ornament.”(Carlyle)
Within this framework, Ruskin's understanding of ornament as the location of both the soul and the person of a building in the manner of clothing, is made clear. In attempting this mystical division Ruskin uses categories of labelling which fit snugly into Schaeffer's storeys, he goes so far as to label “higher” the elements of ornamentation over against the technical and construction “lower” elements which it masked.(Chatterjee, p5)
Using this method, he argues that architecture begins with the hearth,“Throughout all phases of society the hearth formed that sacred focus around which the whole took order and shape. ... It is the first and most important, the moral element of architecture.”(Semper, p102) This hearth is not simply a form of fire at the geometric centre of a construction, but rather the sacred non-negotiable which defines a culture: “[architecture should] also make the form and character of its creations dependent on the ideas embodied in them...”(Semper, p102) it argues that craft follows concept, and that the way we world-build is derived from the unifying world-view that we have. But here ends any examination into that relationship, indeed, in speaking of Ruskin's hopes (Mallgrave, p188-9) for such authenticity, Semper protests:“How unfair it is to reproach our architects for lack of invention, when there is nowhere a new concept of universal historical importance being pursued with force and vigour. First provide some new ideas; then we architects shall find architectural expression for them. Until then, we have to be content with the old.”(Semper, p284)
What follows in Semper's writing on architecture is a substantial emphasis on 'dressing the body's nakedness'(Semper, p254), its analogies and applications. Explicitly praising the Greek thus: “Among these old traditional, formal elements of Hellenic art, none is so profoundly important as the principle of dressing and incrustation. It dominated all of pre-Hellenic art and by no means diminished or languished in the Greek style, but survived highly spiritualised, serving beauty and form alone, more in a structural-symbolic than in a structural-technical sense.”(Semper, p248) This spiritualisation of the ornamental process aims thus: “the material disappears behind the radiant polychrome dressing and becomes pure form.”(Mallgrave, p39)
The interaction a young Loos made with Semper in his 1898 article The Principle of Dressing(Loos via Risselada, p122), where by referencing Semper's argument for the derivation and legitimation of ornament from ancient wall-hangings, Loos reveals his roots and true affections. It becomes clear that where he fails in practice to embody the polemic of Ornament and Crime, it is where he has not fully realised the opposition of the faith he has in an evolution of culture towards the mechanically hygienically determined and the hope and memory he still holds that architecture should yet be delightedly evocative. From his practice it could be argued that the interiorising of ornament in work of Loos' practice reflects the privatisation of faith which is embarrassed at its irrational affection for ornament. The embarrassment stems from a flaw in Loos dichotomy: that is too absolute to attain. This is shown in the contrast he makes between two contemporary attitudes towards ornament.
Firstly: “The aristocrat...knows that the hours in which they work are their holy hours. The revolutionary would go to them and say 'It is all nonsense.' Just as he would pull down the little old woman from the wayside crucifix and tell her: 'There is no God.' The atheist among the aristocrats, on the other hand, raises his hat when he passes a church.” which is an excellent preaching against hypocrisy even if it assumes no 'holy time' and only power play. However, he does not escape religione as this critique leaves a religiose gap to fill.
Secondly, to fill the void left by the revolutionary, Loos establishes his own notion of the Upper story, assuming that this dualism is the mode by which primitive people engaged ornament, and that we in our current condition merely exchange in the content of the non-rational upper storey, Loos substitutes Art for art's sake as the opiate joy“I tolerate ornaments on my own body, when they constitute the joy of my fellow men. Then they are my joy too... for they all have no other way of attaining the high points of their existence. We have art, which has taken the place of ornament.”(Loos, p24)
To the extent that this dualism is pursued it observably leads to a nudistic mode of being and building, that is, by shame, to the morally, emotionally, or politically motivated abandonment of ornament and clothes. And this is no mere strip tease, but a moral crusade driven by the religiose zeal that lies at the heart of modernism: the division of the personhood of a person from the parts of their being is a reductive exercise of power, observable across imperial political powers responsible for the absurdity and depravity of much 20th Century social architecture.
Emphatically what I am arguing for is not new clothes but a change of metaphor. However, I will indulge the sentiment as far as it helps explain the whither of our stone leaves. Clothing in this case is that expression of freedom and personhood which has been put into the upper storey for safekeeping from the rationalistic determinism of our body beneath.
Each of these nuditisms aggressively attempts to celebrate a crucially atrophied notion of what it means to be human. Each shaming, with a frequently racist contempt, the supposed unevolved primitivism of the dressed and embodied. This because the total person is fragmented and accordingly the parts war against one another, body against clothes, function against delight. This idealistic iconoclasm is an over-realised, future-focused construction latent still, I would venture, in the joyless minimalism of heaven-is-elsewhere warehouse churches.
This imposed division of body from individuality is not the idealism of the former, Nacktkultur, rather, is the fallout from that. The consequences of that past idea, visited on the third and fourth generations. If the former was proactive, this is the reactive inheritance of learnt soullessness, which trades in shame as compensation. Visible, architecturally, I would argue, in second generation, disornamented, monolithic, social housing, in which the shame of the depersonalised is imposed, with a policed joyfulness, on their children: who no longer have any right to shame.
Thirdly, and briefly, in this little naked triptych, I will invoke Wink's non-violent reading of the Sermon on the Mount: “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”(Matthew 5:40 ESV) Wink, writing in Engaging the Powers, contextualises this action as one of naked resistance:“Only the poorest of the poor would have nothing but a garment to give as collateral for a loan”(Wink, p169) And in this action. “The creditor is revealed to be not a legitimate moneylender but a party to the reduction of an entire social class to landlessness, destitution and abasement.”(Wink, p179)
If Loos' is proactive idealism and Tereza's mother's is reactive brokeness, then this is a subversive use of disrobement, which still uses confrontational shaming (because in Judaism the shame was the beholder's rather than the naked's(Wink, p179)), which still employs a division of body and person, but in this case it is a critique of the dualism. It states that by taking away my ornament the empire is doing violence to the integrity of my whole person. The aim of such a protest, in Wink's excellent words, is to “depotentiate” the Powers that Be “by deft lampooning... burlesquing its pretensions to justice”(Wink, p179)
Architecturally and immediately we could look at OccupyLondon, rendered in an architecture of bare essentials and set against systemic injustice, they are actively engaging the present, and vulnerably. Vulnerability is the key, I believe, because Loos similarly hopes to critique, by sardonic lampooning, the aristocratic powers who have so debased building by the unjust employment of a subjugated workforce towards a Secondary architecture, but Loos critiques unvulnerably, he was not stripped naked, he bore no cross.
“mere toys” (Ruskin, Seven Lamps p46)
“We have outgrown ornament” (Loos, p20)
Loos states the ambition most clearly, speaking frankly about cultural evolution, impeded by what he calls “stragglers”(Loos, p21). Even conceding that Loos is employing hyperbolic polemic, nevertheless, this is hugely problematic, the cost he proposes to stake for progress will be the child sacrifice of eugenics. If we make 'progress' absolute, if we make it a moral measure, we will appreciate neither the sacred value of the straggler nor the sustaining importance of child's play.
I will conclude this essay with a consideration of vulnerability, of play, of what it means to come to an ornamental kingdom like a child, and the crucial ways this redresses our dualism. I will argue that play is functional, and unselfconsciously so, in the best and broadest definition of humanness. Play is a pointing toward and a delighting in the reason man is. It says of what is that it is and, what is more, is shows why it is.
To this end, Summerson introduces the device of the aedicule, which is, at the same time, a metaphor and a methodology. Establishing from the outset that the aedicule is a creative work which finds its origins in “infantile phantasy”(Jung, p83, via Summerson, p1) or, in his illustration, by play, as with a dolls house: “There is a kind of play common to nearly every child; It is symbolism – of a fundamental kind, expressed in terms of play. This kind of play has much to do with the aesthetics of architecture.” (Summerson, p1) What is more, this mode of being, so obvious in children, of fascination and intensified sensation constitute a love which, he hopes, “none of us ever entirely grows out of”(Summerson, p2) Play, in this aedicular framework is a place-making, it is an act of creative choosing, naming, valuing and making personal. It stands as a 'small house' against the 'big house' of top-down institutions and impositions on the personhood of people.
What makes this particularly relevant is the contrast he draws between an aedicular mode of architecture and the playless mis-readings of Gothic which he highlights in a critique of Viollet-Le-Duc who missed the point of Gothic qua Gothic by giving primacy to technical premises, and so inevitably arriving at “the 19th-century fallacy that architecture is a matter of structure plus adornment.” By contrast, the aedicular methodology is an integration, it is a playful rescaling, a fractal reproducing, which delights by extension and allegory, it sees man caught up in a cosmic excitement, “in the infinity of the great, but also in the infinity of the small ...a world of bewildering activity and infinity”(Worringer via Summerson, p26) The claim of the aedicule is that we do not live in a depthless universe, flattened to a human, rational scale, prescribed by theoreticians, disembodied and aloof. Rather, we live in a world re-enchanted, enlivened, one angelological that longs that we be caught up in worlds within worlds. These are the hopes that are at play in play, they are, a little bit, magic.
What then is Play? Play is the excellent both-and of engaging specificity:“a pleasure in the relationship between [child] and the setting”(Summerson, p2); and totality: “[play] should awaken...the great thought of the inner constant living unity of all things and phenomena in nature”(Jacobus, p17); through the fantastical“the heightened consciousness [arising from the] all-involving spell of make-believe”(Huizinga via Jacobus p8 ) or “constructed analogy”(Summerson, p1); and mundane: 'playing is doing...[playing] is a basic form of living.”(Winnicott, via Jacobus, p9)
Very essentially, play is a free act freely engaged, echoed throughout the literature:“a definition of pure play: the activity is free, undertaken voluntarily...” (Huizinga, via Jacobus, p8) “I would understand play as that activity which is freely and spontaneously entered into..” (Johnston, p34) Freedom is the prerequisite for childish abandon is the prerequisite for the ornament that Alexander praises in Kairouan tiling which display: “a spirit of childish abandon...created whenever a person is truly free, and doing only whatever is essential, whereas the artificial, excessively formal, careful, calculated quality in a thing always comes about when the person is not sufficiently abandoned, and not free.”(Alexander, p212) This is a freedom-for, by contrast, Loos' is a freedom-from,“we have fought our way through to freedom from ornament”(Loos, p20) which is, at best, a second best freedom, a mere breaking of a bounded set is a liberation unto agoraphobia, a sailing adrift on Crossan's lighthouseless sea.(Crossan, p44)
A freedom-for, by contrast, is centred on and submitted to a play-Thing that is material and ready-to-hand. In this way play is embodied, it rewards presence and it carries the tacit know-how of craft. A happy point illuminated by Heidegger and Polanyi both playing with hammers. Heidegger for whom the hammer is used without theorising to such an extent that in fact by theorising we would more likely make a mistake. And Polanyi points us to knowledge of and delight in materials, tools and processes accessible only through that bond with the thing, developed in a dual awareness and desire "When we use a hammer...I have a subsidiary awareness of the feeling in the palm of my hand which is merged into my focal awareness of my driving in the nail."(Polanyi, p55 via Jha, p57) So must play be, and cannot be so if we are theorising ornament at any distance from the craftsman's bench.
Barthes extends this, combining an argument for play's embodiment with a politically motivated notion of freedom, to speak of a specific virtue of wood in play's materiality contrasting with the “embourgeoisement” of Barbie and her plastic which “destroys all the pleasure, the sweetness, the humanity of touch..”(Barthes, via Warner, p15) instead rather, “...when the child handles [wood] and knocks it, it neither vibrates nor grates... it is a familiar and poetic substance, which does not sever the child from close contact with the tree”
It is by the desire inherent Polanyi's tool-guiding that I would carry us to the hedonism of ornament which I believe to be antidotal to the religiose mis-constructions of ornament. Ornament, has been filed in our upper storey, the constructed panic room, in which the non-rational arts are safe from the aggressive hegemony of determinism below. From this vantage art and ornament-as-art luxuriate in their redundance which is their privilege as sacred objet in the cult of Art for Art's sake. This, by all accounts, is a corruption of ornament, and in Freud's discussing toys and totems, it has been said that “there can be no doubt that art did not begin as art for art's sake.”(Freud, via Jacobus, p20 ) And in Rookmaaker's defence of the creative gift“it also does not follow that art is to be for art's sake. Just as a tree, being more than the totality of its functions, nevertheless has functions,” (Rookmaaker, p112) In elevating ornament to religione it is divorced from the very currency of hedonism on which basis it would function, and that basis is an intersubjective gift exchange of love by needs and desires met and affections reciprocated.
This exchange is a meeting of subjects and the end of solipsism, thereby establishing ornament as both a means and an end for relationship, relationship with the other and the ordinary. The ornamental relationship is perhaps more legible in the practice of play. In play, I believe, we meet Rookmaaker's tree in the manner Buber celebrates, to quote part of his beautiful encounter with a tree:“It can, however, also come about, if I have both will and grace, that in considering the tree I become bound up in relation to it. The tree is now no longer It. I have been seized by the power of exclusiveness....Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and type, law and number, indivisibly united in this event.”(Buber, p14) Playing is meeting thus and “the player is called into play by a potential co-player or play object, and while at play, treats other players and/or "playthings" as personal, creating with them a community that can be characterized by "I-Thou" rather than "I-It" relationships.”(Johnston, p34) “[Play] weaves the fabric of subjectivity, fastening the ties between self and other,”(Warner, p9) In this way play is a shameless relating with the real, here returning to Scheler's notion of shame that originates in dichotomising body and spirit: “the essential characteristic of shame [is] conflict between man's spiritual powers and his servitude to his body. [Scheler] speaks of a bridge or passage between these two orders of being that is essential for man in order for him to be human.”(Lynd, p262 Note:22d) What we can offer is less a bridge than a causeway of play.
To conclude and return to the beginning, we play for Truth. To interrogate Winnicott's transitional object theory of play, in which, through play, the child that we were and are transfers from subjective omnipotence into an objective reality: What is that objective reality and when do we cease transitioning? I would propose, always, to read our happy stone leaves as such, as eternal transitional objects serving a constant transitioning unto the biggest dimensions of a depthless objective reality of perpetual wonder.
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