Reconsidering: Untamable Words

Mary Cassatt
Baby on Mother’s Arm, 1891
Oil on canvas

“Reconsidering” is a series of posts written in the spirit of the Magic: the Gathering Time Spiral block. If you don’t get the reference, that’s okay. Some of the special cards in Time Spiral were just reprints of old cards packaged with the new ones. Some of them were old cards with new twists (mainly color changes). And some were cards that represented where the game was going in the future, with fun references to the game’s past. Here I’ll resurrect my old posts and ideas from my previous blogs, my MAPH notebooks, and various other collections from my past. Some I’ll leave as they are, others I’ll breathe new life into, and yet others I’ll reconfigure as future engagements that still touch on the old notions. This practice is both an act of remembrance — engaging with my own intellectual past — and an act of growing — learning to learn from old mistakes, or rediscover old masterpieces.

From an original post on my old blog dated April 4th, 2017.

Words arise without any history. One does not need to be an anthropologist-linguist to chart this particular mystery. One simply needs to be a parent, or an older sibling, or an aunt or uncle. Watch a child fumble with sounds that have no meaning, and he will begin to communicate whole lines of thought that are wholly and utterly incoherent yet not pointless. Every tumble of the lip, every tremble of the tongue, every throated yell, every “bah” on the mouth is the fundamental elements from whence speech comes. And, at some juncture, to the parents’ delight, that “bah” becomes “Dah dah dah,” “Mah mah mah,” sometimes “Bah bah bah” or “Kah kah kah,” which soon transforms into “Dadda,” Mamma,” “Babba” (bottle), and “Kaakaa” (kitty-cat). Continue reading “Reconsidering: Untamable Words”

(Not) Defining Violence

James Ensor
Death of Jezebel, 1880
Charcoal on tan wove paper

In view of various types of bombs and military actions, of the ever-increasing militarization of the police forces, and even of the rapacious bloodthirsty-ness of certain Christians and Christian leaders, it strikes me as necessary to address the term “violence.”

The problem is, of course, that unlike Peter Leithart’s assertion in his work on the topic, there are no clear-cut descriptions in the Bible regarding the lines between Violence, that chaos of suffering that humans unleash upon humans, and what Leithart glosses as “godly retribution,” such as when the Lord brings a siege upon Jerusalem such that women are eating their children.

Continue reading “(Not) Defining Violence”

Introduction: The Poet in Babylon

Briton Rivière
Daniel’s Answer to the King, 1890
Oil on canvas

Not too long ago, I put together a blog dedicated to “Christian mythopoetics.” The work I had aimed to do was to write in the spirit of the Christian humanists of the mid-20th Century (Lewis, Tolkien, Williams, Barfield, Sayers, Underhill, even their forebears: Eliot, MacDonald, and Chesterton), engaging literature from the view of Christianity. I wrote about Cormac MacCarthy’s Blood Meridian and the problem of power, about Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and the terror of knowledge, and about Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and the crisis of the modern family. Continue reading “Introduction: The Poet in Babylon”