WHEN PEOPLE ASK ME IF I’M READY FOR THE START OF SCHOOL
The Way of Bliss
“It only makes sense, then—though, of course, it is quite wonderful as well—that consciousness should be made open to being by an implausible desire for the absolute, and that being should disclose itself to consciousness through the power of the absolute to inspire and (ideally) satiate that desire. The ecstatic structure of finite consciousness—this inextinguishable yearning for truth that weds the mind to the being of all things—is simply a manifestation of the metaphysical structure of all reality. God is the one act of being, consciousness, and bliss in whom everything lives and moves and has its being; and so the only way to know the truth of things is, necessarily, the way of bliss.”
[David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, 249]
Alvar Aalto, Three Exterior Views of the “Helsinki House of Culture”, (1958)
The House of Culture in Helsinki is Aalto in his ‘red brick period’. He achieves the free-form curves of the concert hall walls using wedge-shaped bricks, arranged variously with their shorter edge facing inside or outside the wall. The impact of the solid brick walls must be seen in the context of what had gone before. In Finland, the National-Romantics had used wood and granite to show closeness to Finnish nature, while the modern movement (as elsewhere) used more abstract white plaster surfaces (which did not wear well particularly in the Finnish climate). Aalto’s red brick was therefore a bigger statement than it now seems: a man-made material that keeps its individuality and local personality.
It Need Not Be At All
“The world need not be thus. It need not be at all. …
The American philosopher Richard Taylor once illustrated this mystery, famously and fetchingly, with the image of a man out for a stroll in the forest unaccountably coming upon a very large translucent sphere. Naturally, he would immediately be taken aback by the sheer strangeness of the thing, and would wonder how it should happen to be there. More to the point, he would certainly never be able to believe that it just happened to be there without any cause, or without any possibility of further explanation; the very idea would be absurd. But, adds Taylor, what that man has not noticed is that he might ask the same question equally well about any other thing in the woods too, a rock or a tree no less than this outlandish sphere, and fails to do so only because it rarely occurs to us to interrogate the ontological pedigrees of the things to which we are accustomed. What would provoke our curiosity about the sphere would be that it was so obviously out of place; but, as far as existence is concerned, everything is in a sense out of place. As Taylor goes on to say, the question would be no less intelligible or pertinent if we were to imagine the sphere either as expanded to the size of the universe or as contracted to the size of a grain of sand, either as existing from everlasting to everlasting or as existing for only a few seconds. It is the sheer ‘thereness’ of the thing, devoid of any transparent rationale for the fact, that prompts our desire to understand it in terms not simply of its nature, but of its very existence. …
Physical reality cannot account for its own existence for the simple reason that nature—the physical—is that which by definition already exists; existence, even taken as a simple brute fact to which no metaphysical theory is attached, lies logically beyond the system of causes that nature comprises; it is, quite literally, ‘hyperphysical,’ or, shifting into Latin, super naturam. This means not only that at some point nature requires or admits of a supernatural explanation (which it does), but also that at no point is anything purely, self-sufficiently natural in the first place. This is a logical and ontological claim, but a phenomenological, epistemological, and experiential one as well. We have, in fact, no direct access to nature as such; we can approach nature only across the interval of the supernatural. Only through our immediate encounter with the being of a thing are we permitted our wholly mediated experience of that thing as a natural object; we are able to ask _what_ it is only in first knowing _that_ it is; and so in knowing nature we have always already gone beyond its intrinsic limits. No one lives in a ‘naturalistic’ reality, and the very notion of nature as a perfectly self-enclosed continuum is a figment of the imagination. It is the supernatural of which we have direct certainty, and only in consequence of that can the reality of nature be assumed, not as an absolutely incontrovertible fact but simply as far and away the likeliest supposition.”
[David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, pp. 90–91, 95–96]
[Bonhoeffer] embodies—and refuses to neutralize—the contradictions that have haunted and halved Christianity for well over a century. The same man who once declared that the church was the only possible answer to human loneliness also suspected that we were entering a stage in which “Christianity will only live in a few people who have nothing to say.” The same man who once called marriage “God’s holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time” was almost certainly in love with another man—right up to his dying day.
This is where Charles Marsh’s book becomes truly beautiful and heartbreaking. Though by all accounts Bonhoeffer projected great strength and cheer even in the direst conditions, “fears of oblivion were a different matter,” Mr. Marsh writes; “the worst times were those when the past felt lost forever. ‘I want my life,’ he had whispered [in a poem] in the dark in the summer of 1944. ‘I demand my own life back. My past. You!’”
It takes a moment to realize just how poignant and surprising this longing is. Fear, when you are close to death, can be as much about memory as mortality. The fear is that all the life that has meant so much to you, the life that seemed threaded with gleams of God, in fact meant nothing, is unrecoverable and already part of the oblivion you feel yourself slipping into. Faith, when you are close to death, is a matter of receiving the grace of God’s presence, of yielding to an abiding instinct for that atomic and interstellar unity that even the least perception, in even the worst circumstances, can imply. “Lord, that I am a moment of your turnings,” as the contemporary poet Julia Randall wrote.
This Fourfold ‘For Us’
“Everything depends on the fact that the Lord who became a servant, the Son of God who went into the far country, and came to us, was and did all this for us; that He fulfilled, and fulfilled in this way, the divine judgment laid upon Him. There is no avoiding this strait gate. There is no other way but this narrow way. If the nail of this fourfold ‘for us’ does not hold, everything else will be left hanging in the void as an anthropological or psychological or sociological myth, and sooner or later it will break and fall to the ground. If it is to be meaningful and true, and with it all those doctrines of man’s plight and redemption, of his death and life, of his perdition and salvation, which seem to be so sure in themselves, then it must first be demythologized in the light of this ‘for us.’ For that reason this is the place for a full-stop.”
[Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1, 273]
This insanely gorgeous home has an amazing story behind it.
Fonthill was the home of the American archeologist and tile maker Henry Chapman Mercer, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Built between 1908 and 1912, it is an early example of poured-in-place concrete and features 44 rooms, over 200 windows, 18 fireplaces and 10 bathrooms. The interior was originally painted in pastel colors, but age and sunlight have all but eradicated any hint of the former hues. It contains much built-in furniture and is embellished with decorative tiles that Mercer made at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement. It is filled with an extensive collection of ceramics embedded in the concrete of the house, as well as other artifacts from his world travels, including cuneiform tablets discovered in Mesopotamia dating back to over 2300 BCE. The home also contains around 1,000 prints from Mercer’s extensive collection, as well as over six thousand books, almost all of which were annotated by Mercer himself.
More images (by Karl Graf)
About this —
@ayjay If someone believes Catholicism is a false Gospel, don’t they have a duty to say so?— PEG (@pegobry)April 17, 2014
— which answered a comment of mine on Tim Challies’s claim that Pope Francis is a “false teacher”, I would say, no, they have a duty not to say so…