Sep 30, 2002

Latin Blues
I think I'm afraid of language. I avoid studying Latin but it's not normal procrastination as much as it is fear and feeling overwhelmed. Once I finally get into the stuff and do my work I feel like I have a descent handle on the language and am "getting it."

Perhaps it is my bad experience with learning Greek. I haven't learned a language before, so maybe that's it. Maybe it's that language is so different doesn't come to me like the other material does.

Either way, I'm working to get over the intimidation and grap the language by the hair.
Reactionary Living
Speaking of the Spicer circle and the poet Spicer, my uncle Ron Silliman envisions "a later Spicer in the sort of reactionary alcoholic stupor that befuddled Kerouac before his death just a few years hence."

I'd always considered Kerouac's drinking to be more comparable to suicide--a form of not coping with the world. While drinking as a reactionary also has the aspect of "dropping out," it is a form of political protest.

Just an angle I'd never considered, I suppose. (Though now it looks rather obvious.)
Christians in Politics
The worst conspiricy nightmares of the Left look to be true, Christians are controling politics in many smoky back-rooms. (Are they smoky anymore?) This report says Christians have spread out over the political field, dug in and now have the grass-roots of the GOP pretty wrapped up, controling lots of little party offices.

What can be done with that involvment has been seen, a little, and remains to be seen.

Sep 28, 2002

Wild Things
Matt Colvin has taken on quite the Seussian project of exploring the weird depiction of creatures in the Renaissance.

They're monsterous, really.

Sep 26, 2002

When NYC had a Paper
The woman on the cover shot of Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard's quintesential New Wave film about gangsters, is wearing a yellow shirt with the newspaper masthead of the New York Herald Tribune. I was planning on watching the film anyway, but that would have been enough.

The Herald Tribune was, of course, the paper that spawned the experimental work of Tom Wolfe and others in New Journalism and the like under the editorship of Jim Bellow. I was reminded of talking about that great paper and the work started there with Henry Allen, long-time journalist and columnist for the Wash. Post, at the D.C. Poynter conference and his passionate declarations that we should simply write stories that people wanted to read. When I brought up that great paper I called it the Tribune Herald, so when he autographed his book to me he left the words:

"Work hard, get to heaven and remember it's the Herald Tribune."
Citified Agrarianism
What happens if we look at the Agrarians as reacting, really, not to cities but to suburbs? Perhaps it's incorrect and does us no service to think of the idea that way, but such a locution of the problem--described as isolation and over-protection from life as life--is something I hold. I'm not an Agrarian, though when I was young I lived in a very Wendel Berry influenced community and I certainly still feel the attraction.

I experience, I guess, the attraction to the rural world and repulsion at the styrophoam packaged suburbs. What I do not share at all is the rejection of and the repulsion at cities. Reading Dave Hegeman's breif mention of the Bible's celebration of both cities and farms and passing reference to previous work on city-gardens as a form of Agraianism perked my interest.
"You know," he said, "we are having a really great time!"

I think maybe he though we weren't supposed to be.

And we were, both because of and despite the circumstances.

Sep 25, 2002

Silliman, the Strauss version:
"Jackson Pollock! Jazz! Chess! Hesse! Heidegger! Writing for the student paper! Conversations! Late nights! In the sun on the grass!"

(According to an e-mail exchange...)

Sep 24, 2002

Irreligious Washington
The Northwest doesn't seem to be doing well, according to polls about religion in the states. Washington is ranked as the second least churched state after Oregon. National Review has a piece comparing Washington to the leading cities and saying Washington is religious but I think my disappointment still stands.
New Blog
A friend of mine has started a blog of his own at He's still working on design but I expect good material from man.

Sep 23, 2002

It's a war, so what're you gonna do about it? So ask assorted Dougs in the recent issue of Credenda Agenda.
The Argument that Would Have Worked for Me
About halfway through the argument I realize I would have the same argument with myself, were I to meet myself a couple of years ago.
An Evolving Blog and its Evolving Motto
My new poster of a mural by Jackson Pollock is on the wall by my desk, the jazz is playing on the CD player, I just played two games of speed chess and now I have to tackle my Latin sentences for the morning. A reporter of mine is working on a hot story of about 20 students busted for under-age drinking by the state police is brewing.

This is the life of student philosopher-journalist. Perhaps it's time for a new motto on the tombstone of this old blog.

Sep 22, 2002

A Selection of Interesting Passages from Steppenwolf:
These horrors [the horrors of the Middle Ages] were really nonexistent. A man of the Middle Ages would detest the whole mode of our present day life as something far more than horrible, far more than barbarous. Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. A man of the Classical Age who had to live in medieval times would suffocate miserable just as a savage does in the midst of our civilization. Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence. Naturally, every one does not feel this equally strongly. A nature such as Nietzsche’s had to suffer our present ills more than a generation in advance. What he had to go through alone and misunderstood, thousands suffer today.

... your quiet, flabby and slightly stupefied half-and-half god of contentment.

A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life.

I like to step across the threshold of my room where all this suddenly stops; where, instead, cigar ash and wine bottles lie among the heaped-up books and there is nothing but disorder and neglect; and where everything—books, manuscripts, thoughts—is marked and saturated with the plight of lonely men, with the problem of existence and with the yearnings after a new orientation for an age that has lost its bearing.

And who over the ruins of his life pursued its fleeting, fluttering significance, while he suffered its seeming meaninglessness and lived its seeming madness, and who hoped in secret at the last turn of the labyrinth of Chaos for revelation and God’s presence.

All interpretation, all psychology, all attempts to make things comprehensible, require the medium of theories, mythologies and lies.

Mozart laughed.
“Yes, that is always the way. Such contrasts, seen form a little distance, always tend to show their increasing similarity. Thick orchestration was in any case neither Wagner’s nor Brams’ personal failing. It was the fault of their time.”
“What? And have they got to pay for it so dearly?” I cried in protest.
“Naturally. The law must take its course. Until they have paid the debt of their time it cannot be known whether anything personal to themselves is left over to stand to their credit.”

When you listen to the radio you are witness of the everlasting war between idea and appearance, between time and eternity, between human and divine. Exactly, my dear sir, as the radio for ten minutes together projects the lovely music without regard into the most impossible places, into respectable drawing rooms and attics and into the midst of chattering, guzzling, yawning and sleeping listeners, and exactly as it strips this music of its sensuous beauty, spoils and scratches and beslimes it and yet cannot altogether destroy its spirit, just so does life, the so-called reality, deal with the sublime picture-play of the world and make a hurley-burley of it.
Loving My Life
I argued theology with three other intelligent people for three or four hours. I went home at 3 a.m. and went to sleep thinking about the fact that all four of us knew Latin and wondered what that signified, sociologically.

I slept for a full eight hours and then went and bought a sub from the local deli. I ate my sandwhich of meat and cheese with a friend at the table by the cracked street and talked about plans and friends.

I sat on the lawn in the late summer/pre-fall of the midwest, smoking a pipe, reading a German philosopher and a German novelist. We played chess, there on the grass in the sun.

I laughed and thought and smiled, enjoying the relaxed intelligencia of my college life.

In the morning I will partake of Holy Communion and of Sacramental Christianity, letting the litugy wash over me and feel myself join the historic and universial church, unlimited by time or geopraphy.

And it was good.
That Good
I've just read Herman Hesse's Steppenwolfe and think it is such a good book that I'm mad I didn't read it before.

Update: A more review like post on this book is coming Sunday afternoon.

Sep 19, 2002

The Insufficieny of Evangelicalism and the Return of Sacramental Christianity
I was playing with an interesting thesis at breakfast this morining. I would like to support this with some substantial research and writing, when I have some time.

My thesis is that Francis Schaffer's (and others) attention to evangelicalism's failure to answer, or in most cases even solidly address, the questions of philosophy resulted not only in the rebirth in Christian activism and the decline of dispensationalism but also the growing trend towards old--premodernism--Sacramental Christianity such as Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, American Anglicanism and the older forms of Lutherianism.

I want to argue the project of Schaeffer was necessarily connected to this rise and that Franky Schaeffer, Francis' son, was partially correct when he drew a linear link between his father's work and his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy.

This progress and necessary link might parallel what happened to T.S. Elliot.

We shall see...
The History of the Cross
It was an instrument of barbarism that softened the hearts of the barbarians.

Sep 17, 2002

The Experiential Nature of Understanding and Refernetial Totality
What is a word isolated from its language? It is a foreign thing without meaning, with no reason for its sound or spelling or meaning. It can only be comprehended in relation to other words. The word must be experienced if it is to be used. One must form the sentence in one’s mouth, hear the usage and the relationship of the word to the words around it.

Without experiencing the referential system, the word is odd and meaningless and useless.

The philosophical term for this is "Referential Totality." The system (be it language, chess, tastes) is self-contained. The things within the system only exist in relation to the system. A rook does not exist without chess, it can only be understood within the experience of the game.

Another example of the same referential totality we all deal with is taste. How do you describe a pickle or an olive to someone who's never had one? The "slightly woody flavor" or "metallic finish" of wine cannot be known without the experience of tasting wine. These things, taste, cannot be conveyed without an experience and an inter-referential framework.

Isolation—attempting to remove the thing from its experiential context and "observe" it apart from experience—results in meaninglessness despite the fact this is the method by which we have understood ourselves to understand the world we live in.

It is the work of some modern art (I forget the artist's name but recall the snow shovel bought at a hardware store and sold as art. Warhol’s Brillo Boxes or Campbell’s Soup Cans sort of work here, but not quite.) to take some object of the common world we live in and isolate it, removing it from experience and from context—rendering it without meaning.

But to actually know a hammer is not to say "Lo, a hammer," but to feel the weight as you pound a nail.

To know a word or a taste or a hammer or a chair is not be able to describe that thing as an isolated object but to experience it.

To know a chair is not to describe a seat but to sit in one. When one sits down—not thinking in some sort of empirical deduction (or, worse still, of Platonic chairs) about chairs and seats but just sitting because the thing exists as a chair—then one "knows" what a chair is in the world.

With the experiential relationship (within that referential totality) the object has meaning.

For Heidegger this is described as being "present-to-hand" instead of "ready-to-hand."

Heidegger says that we, like the chess piece or the word, have our being in the referential totality of the world. We cannot be understood separate from the world. We are, he says, “Worlded.” That is, our existence is relational to the world, to experience.

Update:For more Heidegger (the question of nothing) see my paper on the papers page.

Sep 16, 2002

The Wizard, the Myth and the Faith
Gerry Wisz talks of the role of the Wizard in Western literature in an interesting Razor Mouth piece. It is a little too scattered and unfocused to be as good as it could have been but raised some interesting points about the role of myth and Christianity and the relationship between myth and history.

I’d like to explore those at some point.
The more educated I become, the less concern I have for politics.
The Weird End of Vocabulary
A cool word I didn’t know yesterday with an unfortunately narrow meaning that I don’t think I can use:

The running over of a sentence from one verse or couplet into another so that closely related words fall in different lines.
Like it is Sagging
Feeling overworked and underappreciated.

Money, classes and work on the paper are chewing me up and I’m physically and emotionally exhausted.

My suite-mates said they could see it in the wasted weariness on my face and hear it in my slurring sentences.

I can feel it on this blog. Like it is sagging. The poetry is hiding from me.

But work continues and I continue and adjust to make things better.

Sep 15, 2002

"A Christian bridge builder doesn't build Christian bridges...he builds good bridges."
Texas Hold 'Um
“Do you want to play poker,” he asked me. “It seemed your style.”

Sep 14, 2002

Serving the Knowledge of the Public
The latest Collegian recieved what may be the compliment for a newspaper to strive for when a fellow student told me he had to spend more time reading the paper this week then he had ever had to spend reading a paper before. There were too many stories, he said, that he had to read if he was going to remain educated about the commuinity around him.

Simon Rising Again
Looks like I may have been premature in my disappointment with Bill Simon in California. The verdict charging his business with fraud has been overturned.

I apologize to the man and hope that he wins the coming election.
Supermen with Soiled Collars
We were a newspaper tribe of assorted drunkards, poets, burglars, philosophers and boastful ragamuffins. We were supermen with soiled collars and holes in our pants, stone broke and sneering at our betters in limousines and
unmortgaged houses, cynical of all things on earth, including the tyrannical journal that underpaid and overworked us, and for which, after a round of cursing, we were ready to die.
-- Ben Hecht
Our Religious Future
Atlantic Monthly has a really fascinating article about the future of religion in the 21st century. I don’t know where the fellow is coming from but he talks about the growth of Islam and Christianity (especially below the equator) and the conflict between them.

The piece draws some really interesting historical parallels.

He discusses our Euro-American liberalism, how they have been telling Orthodox Christians they must become liberal and modern if they are to survive, or simply writing them off as scary. He has an interesting note on how conservative Christians were ignored from the Scopes trial to the Carter campaign. I’m not sure that is all the big liberal worlds fault though. Christians decided to drop out of the culture and the world went to hell without them.

It was in the late 70s that we decided to come back, decided the world and all that was in it was the Lords and now it looks like the future will be one where religion, once again, cannot be ignored or trivialized.

Sep 11, 2002

Working Late, Working Alone
Working late, the world slides away, falling off as I climb higher and higher into the night of newspaper revelries.

Students go away. The snack bar closes. The ones in love and the ones in study retire. Reporters don't come by. E-mails cease. Blogging stops. Security makes it last round. Insomniacs collapse.

The world passes and my red eyes alone see the world.

The florescent bulbs flickers, a flare of light spatters over my typing fingers. The cursor blinks and the music is turned up.

Sep 9, 2002

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Blogging be Done
Yeah... takes on the world's premillenialism and dispensationalism, certainly a worthy cause.

So in response to Heddle at blogs4God, WARNING:In case of kingdom coming, blogging will continue.
Not Remembering

I find I am forgetting
all the spoken     of
and the numbers          (i.e.
how to form them
also the numbers

On my uncle's new blog, a blog on contemporary poetry, the poet George Oppen's haunting words written in pencil on the wall as his alzheimer's was growing. Written on the wall among lines of poetry on scraps of paper tacked around his study.
Heidegger was Right. Now What?
I'm on the rollercoaster of agreeing with Heidegger and not knowing what the consequences will be. Oh the glories of upper level philosophy classes.
Loving the Beast
“Ah, I see,” she said, finding the literary comparison for the style I had forced upon her piece of high literature intended for the newspaper. “The sentences are short like Hemingway’s”

“Yes,” I said, tempting the literary minded young women away from the high art into the daily hackdom of newspapers destined for the bottom of the bird cage. “Hemingway said that ‘Newspaper work will not harm a young writer and could help him if he gets out in time.’”

Enough to draw her, I thought, attract her to the world of the newspaper. I will recruit just anyone but I really thought she was good. She had found a controversy and actually reported on it and she had good quotes and once the flowers were trimmed her sentences were good. She had never written for a paper and knew she knew nothing and had a respect for the craft.

“Ah,” I thought, “here we have someone with potential.”

Even if she never stays with it, the work will be good for her. It will work the fat off her style and teach her to see things and to report.

Of course I didn’t tell her what the others said about journalism. I didn’t tell her that Tom Wolfe said the newspaper was a cheap hotel on the way to the novel, that Hunter S. Thompson said journalism was a low trade and a habit worse than heroin.

Maybe that’s because I’m addicted.

Maybe that’s because I believe in the art of the paper.

Maybe that’s because I love journalism—knowing the worst, knowing it’s true and loving the whole thing anyway.
Playing with Grendel
A professor here, teaching Beowulf, tells his class that his son—8-years-old I think—was given a plastic dinosaur for his birthday and preceded to name him Grendel.

“It’s so great,” said the student relating the story to me. “I hope I have really nerdy kids.”

Sep 8, 2002

I Wish I'd Thought of That
I've just discovered Chasing Hats and like it. Or perhaps it made me want to run a web magazine and write short fiction.

Of course I can't--there's way too much on my plate already--but I can enjoy someone elses work.

My compliments gentlemen.
The Poet Warrior talks about the reticense of Christian's considering and taking on art. As a Christian who has visited seven art museums in the last year, and a blogger still intending to write on the relationship between Christians and art, I completly agree.

Sep 7, 2002

Living with Dead Ideas
"Ghosts. When I heard Regine and Oswald in there, it was just like seeing ghosts. But then I’m inclined to think that we are all ghosts, Pastor Manders, every one of us. It’s not just what we inherit from our mothers and fathers that haunts us. It’s all kinds of old defunct beliefs, and things like that. It’s not that they actually live on in us; they are simply lodged there, and we cannot get rid of them. I’ve only to pick up a newspaper and I seem to see ghosts gliding between the lines. Over the whole country there must be ghosts, as numerous as the sands of the sea. And here we are, all of us, abysmally afraid of the light."
--Mrs. Alving in Act Two of Henrik Ibsen's play, Ghosts.
Adrenaline gives the greatest rush. There is no excitement like that of deadlines.

So that's where I've been the last few days.

Blogging will now resume...

Sep 3, 2002

They Were Probably all Blogging
If you were wondering about the incessant talking of this (now) three blog family, my 12-year-old brother points to a historical moment of silence.

UPDATE: Listening to my sister you would think that if a Silliman has writer’s block it’s because he’s talking too much.

Sep 1, 2002

The Role of Tradition
Radioblog has some interesting comments on the role of tradition in the church, citing the patristics.

I believe, following the Anglican tradition, the church fathers and the church tradition should be used hermeneutically. They should be given the default tradition. But if the tradition contradicts itself--and it does, in places, then scripture must be appealed to as the primary authority. Likewise if the canon and the tradition disagree then the canon must be given preference.

This is my disagreement with Catholics and Orthodox--some readers who read my musings on the crucifix may have wondered--I believe the scripture is the primary authority for the Christian with tradition taking a secondary and hermeneutic role.

UPDATE: Gregg Uttinger continues his excellent series on the historic creeds over at Chalcedon with a piece on the Athanasian Creed.
The Inquisition of the Wannabe Grammarian
He called a truce after being grilled for every questionable sentence, being required to break down his statement, diagram the sentence, and defend his use of a specific word.

For three days we grilled him, catching him in errors more than 60 percent of the time and making it hard for all the time. Finally, he called a truce and we settled on the virtue of communicating, not attention to the rules, and declared a limit upon grammar inquisitions.

He should have known better than to set himself up as the paragon of grammar, the lone knight defender of the purity of the language and its rules. Especially at college.
Talking Abnormal Conversations
"Don't you have any normal conversations?" He was annoyed.

"What's a normal conversation? I don't think I've ever had one," I said.

"Like something that has nothing to do with philosophy," he said. "Like about a sports team."

"No," I said. "I never have conversations like that. I never talk about sports."
The Glory of Being 5
My 5-year-old brother Stephen seems to be quite the entrepreneur. Of course, being 5, he's planning to open up a mud store.

Maybe I wouldn't actually patronize the establishment but hey, it sure makes me want to be 5 again.