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Theology going “public”

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This is PART THREE of excerpts from a commencement address I gave in March at a seminary. Click here for PART ONE and here for PART TWO.

Pubtheo.com-logo-webreadyTheology in the academic sense is necessarily public, in that as a scientific practice it engages the totally of our existence from the angle of faith, whether it concerns the inner practices or the external expressions of being a Christian in the world. Theology in the second sense is public, because our creedal confessions address not only the church but also the world. Theology in the first sense, considering the third and second senses of the world, cannot but be public.

Hence, my discomfiture with the current academic fashion to speak of a “public” theology, as if theology is by nature private, and that it must somehow step out of its comfortable confines to confront public issues of the day. I understand there is a certain heuristic to talking of a public theology when discussing how theology may speak on concerns that intersect with the public sphere, the common good, or public justice. But to begin with, the Christian narrative of Creation, Fall and Redemption is cosmic in character.

The very definition of the Gospel we derive from this narrative, in the words of Herman Bavinck who speaks of God the Father reclaiming creation that is His own through Jesus Christ, the true King, and with the Holy Spirit, to establish his Kingdom that will never end. The theological articulation of this grand narrative necessarily will have public, if, cosmic implications.

No, we do not want a public theology for the sheer sake of being relevant. In addressing the currents of the day, it must be a theology faithful to that grand narrative – yes, against all defeatist postmodern claims – beginning with the Book of Genesis and ending with the Book of Revelations; in other words, it must be founded on the Alpha and the Omega of our faith, Jesus the Christ, as revealed in Scriptures.

The best test of relevance for me is how well our academic theologizing serves the needs of the Church as it serves Christ in the world. More often than not, fashionable theologies do not do that; instead, they only serve to undermine the very purpose for which the Church exists – as a witness for Christ, as a bearer of the Gospel for the whole world. Relevance for relevance’s sake more often than not commits the Church to a pattern of life that destroys its witness and robs it of spiritual power – “having a form of Godliness but denying its power”( 2 Tim. 3:5, NIV) But certainly our theology, if it must follow the confession that Christ is Lord of all, has political implications.

Indeed, the weight of our Christian confession breaks through history and shapes its direction. Christ, the true Lord, is Risen as the True Sovereign and one day, every pretender to power, every ruler who has set himself up with the power to decide over life and death, every corrupt and immoral leader, will be exposed and judged by the One who comes to claim the world as His own, rightful, kingdom.

This all ties up with our confession, as the book of the Psalms says, that “[t]he earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1, NIV). In the language of the Nicene’s Creed, God is the “maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.” All authority in heaven and on earth, in the sheer diversity of the institutions and responsibilities established to exercise such authority, comes from Him and are now given to the resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19; Phil. 2:1-11).

We understand the call to justice to be normative; that is, justice is rooted in God’s creational design and the normative obligations that come with nurturing institutions, societal structures, personal and social relationships, for human flourishing. Following our biblical and confessional commitments, social and political institutions are never mere human constructions.

We recognize them to be our God-given responsibility, to be developed as offices exercised according to a particular God-ordained telos unique to each institution and relation. By this confessional commitment, we know that state and statecraft cannot be an all-embracing reality, absorbing to itself every other institution and relation. Yet, since the 19th century, the idea of the state has been dominated by political theories that elevated the state over every other institution and relation in society. This, to me, is contrary to the biblical witness.

If justice – and statecraft (the art and science of just governing) – is a biblically normative calling, neither can we abide by the idea of government that is instrumentalist or absolutist. The first tendency treats statecraft as no more than a pursuit of ends by whatever means necessary. The second transforms state and statecraft into no more than an exercise of naked, unbridled power.

But they are really related. The absolutist is almost always instrumentalist (that, is he will do everything to achieve his purposes, no matter what the cost, and without recognizing legal limits), because he can, with all the means and power at his disposal.

If statecraft is biblically normative, we cannot abide by a leader who claims he alone has the discretion to say who is a friend and who is the enemy, what is law and what is not, when there is a state of emergency and when there is a normal state of political affairs, or worse, who is human and who is not. Thus, when we hear leaders say that in order to uphold the law, it becomes necessary to break it, we should immediately jump on our feet and raise a howl of protest.

The bloody drug war launched by President Duterte, which has already claimed thousands of lives since it was launched in July last year, should give much pause to Christians serious about their confessional and biblical commitments.

 

 

Image on this post taken from livedtheology.org.

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Written by Romel

June 14, 2018 at 3:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Theology among the disciplines in a Republic under Scripture

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This is PART TWO of excepts from a commencement speech I gave at a seminary last March. For Part 1, on The Three Senses of Theology, click here.

Now, let me go back to the question posed by our discussion of Thomas Aquinas: is theology indeed the Queen of the Sciences? If not, should we make it such? In the Western tradition, theology was a crucial part of the university, beginning with the ancient universities in Paris, in Salamanca or in Oxford, which were also started as crucial pillars of religious communities of what was then a united Christendom.

Over time, theology lost its pride of place in the onslaught of secularization. That in part also explains  the anomaly one finds today in many faculties of theology in Europe and North America full of theologians who don’t believe what they write about God: theology has become unmoored from its church foundations, losing its intimate connections with the daily life of the church in prayer, word, Eucharist, baptism, celebration.

For example, in the last 10 years or so, a movement in theological faculties has arisen, called Radical Orthodoxy (which I mentioned earlier), championed by the theologian John Milbank. Milbank critiques traditional accounts of secularization that posits it as an independent development from the wrap of Christian culture of the Middle Ages. In fact, he argues that shifts in theological thought, beginning with Duns Scotus and William of Occam, led as well to disciplinary shifts, leading to the birth of secularized social sciences. So Milbank and his followers wanted to recover theology as primus inter pares among the disciplines.

Indeed, Milbank’s revisionist account proffers radical implications on how we look, among other things, at theology and societal institutions and communities. On the first point, Radical Orthodoxy seeks to re-install theology as the Queen of the Sciences.

Indeed, Milbank argues that theology, inasmuch as it concerns itself with esse as such, with the ground of all being, and all in relation to such ground and source, it cannot be anything but be pre-eminent over all other disciplines. In fact, he goes as far as saying that ceding ground to other disciplines is idolatry, considering that such disciplines, in the first place, were born as a result of theology’s descent into hell. He says theology must now reassert its voice in giving an account of every sphere of creation so that theology is not side-lined by other disciplines but that other disciplines orient themselves in relation to itself as the “Queen of the Sciences for all the inhabitants of the altera civitas.”

So Milbank rejects all disciplinary boundaries and summons theology as the Queen sovereign of all disciplines, in this wise:

Theology has no proper finite territory of its own, and yet is able to speak of God, its specific concern, by way of all other subjects and sciences. So when one is speaking of “theology and economics” one is just directly concerned with the possibility of their being a mediated word of God, as when one is speaking of “theology and Church history” or “theology and the gospels.

As it were, he would have us with a theological economics, a theological political science, or a theological sociology. As a practical and logical outworking of theology as the only truthful account of reality, Radical Orthodoxy rejects the societal differentiation occasioned by modernity, such differentiation, being, in Milbank’s book, the result of a theological heterodoxy (here, let us bear in mind Milbank’s thesis that shifts in theology also led to the birth of heretical social scientific disciplines).

Indeed, subsequent works both by Milbank and his many disciples surface the centrality of the church as a community, as the new polis. I agree with the broader turns – especially his attack on claims to neutrality and objectivity of secularized special scientific disciplines – taken by Milbank’s Radical Orthodox project but reject his other argument – clearly implied in the book – that we should all now return the place of the Queen of the Sciences to theology, as it was in the time of Thomas Aquinas.

My principal concern here is the second point. While Radical Orthodoxy may have somewhat gone out of fashion in the academe, it is still useful to use its propositions as counter-point to what I believe should be the proper place of theology in the third sense (that is, academic theology) among the disciplines. In fact, in the Reformed tradition, it is a commonplace to speak of God’s word addressing every sphere of creaturely life. As the great Dutch theologian, journalist and statesman Abraham Kuyper had said: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of creation over which Christ does not cry, ‘Mine’!”

But as the political philosopher Jonathan Chaplin asks, who has authority to interpret the word of God for, say, society and politics? His response:

The first answer of the Reformed tradition is, rightly, the whole people of God, not primarily academic theologians. Yet among the people of God are of course, academic theologians, as well as Christian scholars in all other disciplines, all of whom are equally subject to biblical revelation. Where the Reformed tradition may differ with Radical Orthodoxy is in denying that this subordination is authoritatively mediated to disciplines like social theory by a royal discipline called theology.

Christian sociologists will need to draw on the expertise of theologians for their understanding of the Christian narrative in general and specific biblical themes such as creation, anthropology, sin, history, community, eschatology and so on. But a theologian will also need to draw on the work of Christian sociologists for their Christian understanding of social processes, structures, and norms.

Thus, Chaplin explains, “for the Reformed tradition, the sciences are a republic, not a monarchy” but a “republic under Scripture.”

Chaplin here follows Dooyeweerd’s view that theology is but one special theoretical discipline among many. He understands that for Dooyeweerd, each of these disciplines must be shaped and directed by a biblically formed Christian philosophy. In his summation and integrative essay to the volume in which Chaplin’s essay appears, Jim Olthuis, who edited it along with Smith, says:

Other problems emerge…when theology is enthroned as queen of the sciences. The impression is created that any and every kind of Christian attempt at theorizing is ipso facto theology. Indeed, Milbank claims that any and all efforts by Christians to provide countertheory belong to theology and are, in fact, ecclesiology. I cannot help but wonder about what appears to be a hegemonic move. Is theology the only science that can legitimately be called Christian? Is there no room, in addition to theology, or Christian theories of economics, political science, history, physics, biology, sociology, linguistics, aesthetics, psychology, and so on, each with its own field of study?…one is left wondering if there are any parameters distinguishing the various sciences from a Christian perspective. Would a Christian university simply have no hegemonic faculty, with all the other disciplines as branches or subsidiaries of theology?

Thus, what we must not do is to subsume all Christian knowledge under the term “theology.”

…….

The image found in this post is taken from here.

Written by Romel

May 31, 2018 at 2:05 am

Remembering Milosz on Marx’s 200th

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rescued from my defunct blog ( 9/1/2004):

czesaw-miosz-prezentacja-1-638One Eastern European poet whose work I fancy a lot has just died. In his memory, I am posting an obituary which appeared in the New York Times. Milosz is also a great essayist and in my small library I have a copy of his most recent book, an anthology of his essays, where the running theme is that of the recovery of faith at a time when the great ideologies of his youth have all died :

 

 

Czeslaw Milosz, Poet and Nobelist Who Wrote of Modern Cruelties, Dies    

August 15, 2004 By RAYMOND H. ANDERSON

Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish émigré writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, in part for a powerful pre-mortem dissection of Communism, in part for tragic, ironic poetry that set a standard for the world, died Saturday at his home in Krakow, his assistant, Agnieszka Kosinska, told The Associated Press. He was 93

An artist of extraordinary intellectual energy, Mr. Milosz was also an essayist, literary translator and scholar of the first rank.

Many of his fellow poets were in awe of his skills. When another Nobel poet and exile from totalitarianism, the Russian Joseph Brodsky, presented Mr. Milosz with the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1978, he said, ”I have no hesitation whatsoever in stating that Czeslaw Milosz in one of the greatest poets of our time, perhaps the greatest.”

Mr. Milosz was often described as a poet of memory and a poet of witness.

Terrence Des Pres, writing in The Nation, said of him: ”In exile from a world which no longer exists, a witness to the Nazi devastation of Poland and the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe, Milosz deals in his poetry with the central issues of our time: the impact of history upon moral being, the search for ways to survive spiritual ruin in a ruined world.”

In 1951, he was in Paris, on duty there as a Polish cultural attaché following elite assignments in the United States at the consulate in New York and the embassy in Washington. An urbane man fluent in Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, English and French, Mr. Milosz had established close associations with leading left-wing intellectuals in Paris.
These diplomatic contacts were important to the Warsaw authorities, but Mr. Milosz, a skeptic about Marxist rule, was tipped off that he faced arrest and trial in the Stalinist purges then under way if he returned to Poland. So he denounced the Moscow-dominated system that was tightening its grip on his homeland and took political asylum in France.

Formulating a New ‘New Faith’

In his youth, Mr. Milosz had been drawn to some of the idealized aspects of Marxism but he rejected dictatorship. In large measure, he defected, he explained later, because of damage he saw inflicted on spiritual values and intellect by Communist dogma, which he scorned as the ”New Faith.” For Mr. Milosz, faith was something else, as he made clear in a 1985 poem under that title:

Faith is in you whenever you look

At a dewdrop or a floating leaf

And know that they are because they have to be.

Even if you close your eyes and dream up things

The world will remain as it has always been

And the leaf will be carried by the waters of the river.

Mr. Milosz detested Socialist Realism, the Soviet-contrived literary doctrine that distorted truth into propaganda to promote the political and ideological goals of the Communist Party.

Two years after defecting, Czeslaw Milosz, (pronounced CHESS-wahf MEE-wosh) published ”The Captive Mind,” a searing analysis of Stalinist tactics and their numbing effect on intellectuals. ”The Captive Mind” was translated and published in many countries, becoming itself a historical document.

In it, Mr. Milosz wrote:

”The philosophy of history emanating from Moscow is not just an abstract theory; it is a material force that uses guns, tanks, planes and all the machines of war and oppression. All the crushing might of an armed state is hurled against any man who refuses to accept the New Faith.

”At the same time, Stalinism attacks him from within, saying his opposition is caused by his ‘class consciousness,’ just as psychoanalysts accuse their foes of wanting to preserve their complexes.”

”Still,” he added, prophetically, ”it is not hard to imagine the day when millions of obedient followers of the New Faith may suddenly turn against it.”

”The Captive Mind” was among a powerful group of books in the early 1950’s that condemned Communist ideology and foreshadowed the downfall of Communist power. A similar book was ”The New Class” by Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav dissident, which deplored self-aggrandizement and moral rot in the Communist leadership.

After his defection, Mr. Milosz explained in a speech: ”I have rejected the New Faith because the practice of the lie is one of its principal commandments, and Socialist Realism is nothing more than a different name for a lie.”

In the same year ”The Captive Mind” appeared, Mr. Milosz also published ”The Seizure of Power,” a fictionalized scrutiny of the relationship between Communism and intellectuals.

By 1960, Mr. Milosz had tired of his life amid leftist intellectual squabbling in France. Years later he would speak with acerbity of those in Western Europe who continued to regard the Soviet Union as the hope of the future, particularly those ”French intellectuals who considered that only a man who was insane could abandon his position of a writer in a people’s democracy in order to choose the capitalistic, decadent West.” He accepted a professorship in the Slavic Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

He became an American citizen and lived in the Berkeley hills in a modest house with a stunning view of San Francisco Bay. He celebrated that vista in his poetry (”Views From San Francisco Bay” in 1972), but he also spoke of the alien remoteness of the California landscape.

Mr. Milosz, with his bushy eyebrows, herringbone tweed jacket, wry humor and brilliant lectures was soon a popular figure on campus, especially in his seminars and lectures on Dostoyevsky. He continued to write verse, translated literary masterpieces into Polish and compiled a large volume, ”History of Polish Literature,” published in 1969.

The hardships and dangers in Mr. Milosz’s life, first under Nazi military terror and then under Communist oppression, followed by long years as an émigré in the West, clearly marked his writing.

”In both an outward and inward sense he is an exile writer, a stranger for whom physical exile is really a reflection of a metaphysical — or even religious — spiritual exile applying to humanity in general,” the Nobel Committee observed in 1980. ”The world that Milosz depicts in his poetry, prose and essays is the world in which man lives after having been driven out of Paradise.”

A Multilingual Boyhood

Czeslaw Milosz was born June 30, 1911, to a Polish-speaking family in Szetejnie, Lithuania, which together with Poland, Latvia and Estonia was part of the Russian empire at the time. The complex, multiethnic Baltic region was inhabited by communities of Poles, Lithuanians, Jews, Russians and others, all speaking their separate languages and living their own cultures.

His family was not rich but it was distinguished and intellectual. He was only 3 when World War I broke out, and his father, a civil engineer, served in the czar’s army, while his family was kept on the run from advancing German armies.

From his childhood on, Mr. Milosz had a rich inner life, reading widely. He also had a challenging array of talents, interests and skills. As a schoolboy, he was fascinated by the scientific world of animals.

But in the end, he enrolled in law school at the University of Vilnius, graduating at the age of 23. He worked several years in radio, and sometimes remarked in interviews that he felt guilty for having abandoned science.

Mr. Milosz traced the distinctive imagery of his poetry to his boyhood experiences in the rural countryside of Lithuania; his childhood is evoked in an autobiographical novel published in the United States as ”The Issa Valley” (1981) and in ”Native Realm,” an autobiography. In one of his essays he wrote: ”If I were asked to say where my poetry comes from I would say that its roots are in my childhood in Christmas carols, in the liturgy of Marian and vesper offices, and in the Bible.”

The author Eva Hoffman, a native of Poland, said of him: ”He has never been a provincial artist. His writing may bear the marks of his particular Lithuanian-Polish past, but the material of his own life is filtered through a fully cultivated intelligence and probed to those depths at which individual experience becomes universal.”

He attended high school in the city of Vilnius, which by then had been transferred from Lithuania to Poland, and later restored to Lithuania, and published his first poem at the age of 15, He studied Latin for seven years in school, and in his Nobel acceptance speech credited that underlying linguistic discipline and classroom translations of poems with helping him to develop his mastery. He also learned Hebrew and Greek well enough to later translate the Bible into Polish.

Poetic Vision Born of War

At the age of 22, while attending law school, Mr. Milosz published his first experimental verse, ”Poem on Time Frozen.” Favorable reaction helped him win a state scholarship to study literature in Paris after he was awarded a law degree in 1934. A relative there, Oscar Milosz, who worked in the Lithuanian legation and wrote poetry in French, helped broaden his world outlook and shape his poetic style.

He returned to Vilnius after the publication of a second book of poems called ”Three Winters” but was fired from his job at a local Polish radio station for being too liberal. Mr. Milosz was working in Warsaw for Polish Radio when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939.

During the Nazi occupation, he worked in the Warsaw University Library, wrote for the anti-Nazi underground, heard the screams and gunfire in 1943 as Germans killed or captured the remaining Jews in the walled Ghetto and witnessed the razing of nearly all Warsaw after the uprising in 1944.

One of his most moving poems, ”A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto” (1943), described the assault on the Jews:

Bees build around red liver,

Ants around black bone.

It has begun: the tearing, the trampling on silks,

It has begun: the breaking of glass, wood, copper, nickel,

silver, foam

Of gypsum, iron sheets, violin strings, trumpets, leaves, balls,

crystals,

Poof! Phosphorescent fire from yellow walls

Engulfs animal and human hair.

Bees build around the honeycomb of lungs,

Ants build around white bone.

Torn is paper, rubber, linen, leather, flax,

Fiber, fabrics, cellulose, snakeskin, wire.

The roof and the wall collapse in flame and heat seizes the

foundations.

Now there is only the earth, sandy, trodden down,

With one leafless tree.

Slowly, boring a tunnel, a guardian mole makes his way,

With a small red lamp fastened to his forehead.

He touches buried bodies, counts them, pushes on,

He distinguishes human ashes by their luminous vapor,

The ashes of each man by a different part of the spectrum.

Bees build around a red trace.

Ants build around the place left by my body.

I am afraid, so afraid of the guardian mole.

He has swollen eyelids, like a Patriarch

Who has sat much in the light of candles

Reading the great book of the species.

What will I tell him, I, a Jew of the New Testament,

Waiting two thousand years for the second coming of Jesus?

My broken body will deliver me to his sight

And he will count me among the helpers of death:

The uncircumcised.

After the war, a collection of poems called ”Rescue,” which showed the influence of T.S. Eliot, established him among Poland’s pre-eminent writers. Although he was not a member of the Communist Party he was accepted into the diplomatic corps in 1946 and began the journey that ended with his defection in 1951 in Paris.

Mr. Milosz chose throughout his life to compose his poetry in the complex but rich Polish language, even after he mastered French and English. Poetry can be true, he said, only if created in one’s mother tongue.

As his work won increasing attention and respect, Mr. Milosz developed close ties to many leading world intellectuals, writers, and political and religious leaders, especially to Pope John Paul II, his countryman and leader of his faith.

When he consulted on his plan to break with Communism, it was with no less a figure than Albert Einstein, who advised him during a talk at Princeton University that he should go home to Poland, not defect to the West to join the sad fate of exiles.

‘A Poet Remembers’

Mr. Milosz also knew Lech Walesa, the electrician who led the anti-Communist Solidarity movement and went on to become president of Poland. Lines from a verse by Mr. Milosz were put on a memorial in Gdansk to honor Mr. Walesa’s fellow shipyard workers who were shot by the police in the early 1970’s:

”You who harmed a simple man, do not feel secure: for a poet remembers.”

When Communism was smashed in Poland, Mr. Milosz returned to what he called ”the country of my first immigration.” Arriving in Warsaw after an absence of three decades, he received a hero’s welcome. Mr. Milosz was regarded as one of the world’s literary immortals. When he chose, he walked and talked with the great men of his time, but he remained humble.

He also had a remarkable memory and could readily recall the names of his early teachers, companions and friends, and he remembered in vivid detail the first books he read, his adventures and mishaps. He demonstrated that acute memory in his 1968 book ”Native Realm, A Search for Self-Definition,” a compelling and mildly ironic account of his life, work and thoughts in the illuminating context of Baltic and family history.

Mr. Milosz enjoyed pleasures of the body as well as of the mind, as he acknowledged in his 1985 poem, ”A Confession,” translated by himself and Robert Hass:

My Lord, I loved strawberry jam

And the dark sweetness of a woman’s body.

Also, well-chilled vodka, herring in olive oil,

Scents, of cinnamon, of cloves.

So what kind of prophet am I? Why should the spirit

Have visited such a man? Many others

Were justly called, and trustworthy.

Who would have trusted me? For they saw

How I empty glasses, throw myself on food,

And glance greedily at the waitress’s neck.

Flawed and aware of it. Desiring greatness,

Able to recognize greatness wherever it is,

And yet not quite, only in part, clairvoyant,

I know what was left for smaller men like me:

A feast of brief hopes, a rally of the proud.

A tournament of hunchbacks, literature.

At times, Mr. Milosz fell into melancholy, but he firmly fended off any would-be therapists. His early poetry was in what was called the ”Catastrophist” school of the 1930’s, which foresaw the annihilation of the principal values of modern culture and a devastating war. His wartime ordeals tended in ways to bear out the forebodings.

Mr. Milosz was a man of quiet manner but strong opinions and he expressed them, sometimes to the distress of his admirers. For example, in a PEN congress talk he reminded his fellow writers, ”Innumerable millions of human beings were killed in this century in the name of utopia — either progressive or reactionary, and always there were writers who provided convincing justifications for massacre.”

Reacting to the atrocities in the struggle between Christians and Muslims in Bosnia in the 1990’s, Mr. Milosz blamed intellectuals more than politicians and generals.

”These people who had liberated themselves from Marxist doctrine very quickly became nationalists,” he said in 1996. ”And we see what happens now in Yugoslavia. In my opinion, intellectuals are responsible for the horrors in Bosnia, for they initiated the new nationalist tendencies there.”

Mr. Milosz was married twice. His first wife, Janina Dluska, shared his ordeals in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation and went into exile with him. She died in 1986. They had two sons, Anthony and John Peter, who survive him. In 1992, Mr. Milosz married Carol Thigpen, a historian. Ms. Thigpen died in 2003, The Associated Press said.

After Mr. Milosz was awarded the Nobel, many of his books were translated into English and published in the United States. Ecco Press gathered a half-century of his work in ”The Collected Poems 1931-1987.” In it is a 1986 poem called ”And Yet the Books,” which contained these lines:

I imagine the earth when I am no more:

Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,

Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.

Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,

Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.

Spiritual Voice in a Ruined World

These selections are from ”Czeslaw Milosz: The Collected Poems, 1931-1987,” The Ecco Press, New York. 1988.

ENCOUNTER

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.

A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.

One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,

Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going

The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.

I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder. Vilnius, 1936

Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Lillian Vallee

A SONG ON THE END OF THE WORLD

On the day the world ends

A bee circles a clover,

A fisherman mends a glimmering net.

Happy porpoises jump in the sea,

By the rainspout young sparrows are playing,

And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends

Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,

A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,

Vegetable peddlers shout in the street

And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,

The voice of a violin lasts in the air

And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder

Are disappointed.

And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps

Do not believe it is happening now.

As long as the sun and moon are above,

As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,

As long as rosy infants are born

No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, would be a prophet

Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,

Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:

There will be no other end of the world,

There will be no other end of the world. Warsaw, 1944

Translated by Anthony Milosz

A SKULL

Before Mary Magdalene, albescent in the dusk,

A skull. The candle flickers. Which of her lovers

Is this dried-up bone, she does not try to guess.

She remains like that, for an age or two

In meditation, while sand in the hourglass

Has fallen asleep — because once she saw,

And felt on her shoulder the touch of His hand,

Then, at daybreak, when she exclaimed: ”Rabboni!”

I gather dreams of the skull for I am it,

Impetuous, enamored, suffering in the gardens

Under a dark window, uncertain whether it’s mine

And for no one else, the secret of her pleasure.

Raptures, solemn oaths. She does not quite remember.

And only that moment persists, unrevoked,

When she was almost on the other side.

Berkeley, 1985, Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass

 

 

 

Written by Romel

May 4, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Gensan

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Rescued from my defunct blog (12/13/2004):

I was in high school when my city of birth became known to the outside world as “Boomtown Gen San.” The mayor, an academic before she entered politics, (and the first and only woman to head the city named after Paulino Santos, a former governor of Lanao  and former chief of the constabulary in the days of the American commonwealth government ), combined a vision for the future and deft public relations to usher the city into an unparalleled economic boom. Rosalita Nuñez placed General Santos City  on the map, thanks in no small part as well to an outpouring of economic aid to the Philippines  following the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, what with the city identified as one of the emergent corridors of progress in Mindanao.

Aid money built what may well be Mindanao’s best – and still under used – airport, and expanded the city’s Makar wharf. The era would be known as the golden years that produced multi-millionaires out of small businessmen who struck it rich with the expansion of the Tuna export business.

Indeed, it  was a quick transformation from what then was a hot bed of the communist insurgency – Bula district for many years was the “laboratory” of the New People’s (NPA) Army Sparrow unit– to a boomtown riding high on the optimism that a bright future was now, oh so suddenly, within reach. On March 18, 1988, by grand cosmic design, the city fell under the direct path of a much-awaited solar eclipse that drew attention from around the world to the emergent economic center in Mindanao  The rooftop of the newly-built City Hall became a beehive of scientific activity, as well as tourist revelry.

Thousands of tourists and scientists and media persons from all over flocked to Gen San. Then President Corazon Aquino was on the yacht Ang Pangulo when an eerie darkness enveloped the city – the “center line” of the eclipse – for three minutes and 22 seconds.

One American journalist who had earlier protested her “bad luck” of having been sent to the Philippines to cover the event was said to have remarked, “this is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.” It was for the life of me – then a second year high school student at the Notre Dame Dadiangas College High School Department in Lagao – an unforgettable experience.

In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, the earth stood still. A darkness cloaked everything in its cold mantle. Then the cocks crowed. And after what seemed like an eternity, the city of 250,000 residents broke into an applause for the Divine gift of wonder. I recall how as a freshman at the University of the in Diliman in 1990, I would, when asked about my roots, say with pride that “I am from Gen San,” and receive knowing nods from my interlocutors.

Last night, I was enjoying the annual Christmas concert of the Diliman Campus Bible Church choir at the Engineering Theater inside the UP Campus when I got word that a bomb had ripped through the city’s public market late in the afternoon, killing at least 15 people and wounding 60 others. As I sat there listening to the choir sing masterfully of that “Thrill of Hope” – the prophet Isaiah’s Prince of Peace – amid the turmoil of the present, I uttered a prayer for the loved ones I had left behind in the city of my birth that has become a different boomtown gripped by a deadly eclipse.

Written by Romel

May 4, 2018 at 6:52 am

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The True Politician according to Max Weber

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Interlacements

Here is H.H. Bruun, in his book Science, Values and Politics in Max Weber’s Methodology (1972) writing of how a true politician would conduct himself according to Weber:

…[T]he precondition which Weber establishes for action in conformity with the ethic of politics is the fundamental willingness to let oneself be guided in certain cases by the value axioms of other spheres than the political one. Only those who can have “Beruf zur Politik” who do not only have this “Beruf”, who in particular situations are able and willing to submit to other value systems.

This precondition again implies that the political ethic as defined by Weber does not only demand knowledge of the laws and regularities of the political sphere; in other words, the “true” politician must not only be aware of the teleological system
surrounding his political goal, but also of the axiological (value or ethical system) one.

But…

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Written by Romel

March 8, 2017 at 3:41 pm

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Republic’s Interregnum: Legal Lacunae in the State of Exception

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Interlacements

Going over Republic v. Sandiganbayan’s ponencia by J. Carpio in class last night, I was struck by the abnormal situation it had to cope with and the way in which the Court dealt with it. For one, we have to realize that the 1987 Charter is a constitution that expressly carves out a state of exception for a series of acts committed by the revolutionary government — through Jovito Salonga no less! –in the constitutional interregnum.

The interregnum was our Schmittian moment in a deeply paradoxical way: we ousted the martial law regime but resorted to some of its tactics to make sure the political gains already won will not be lost again. Indeed, in the 1987 Charter, we have a constitution that expressly sanctions unconstitutional acts committed in the space of the interregnum s when there was no operative constitution!

Section 26, Article XVIII,  states:

SECTION 26. The authority…

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Written by Romel

March 3, 2017 at 5:36 am

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Kazimierz Brandys Redux, No. 1

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Between a thinking believing and a believing thinking…

Interlacements

0327-06-brandys-kazimierz-1982I’ve taken recently to re-reading the journals of the late Polish dissident writer Kazimierz Brandys (A Warsaw Diary, 1978-1981). 

An entry from October 1978, p. 11-12:

The contemporary world does not belong to the Age of Reason; it is convulsed by a desire for faith. As a layman living outside the church, my epoch ages me. I feel an anachronism in it, sometimes alien, superfluous. Especially since I usually felt distaste for the type of person and the kind of life that express themselves through religion. I was a student when I halted in front of the steps of a rather old temple, asking myself, Should I turn back or enter? I entered. For me socialism was not a confession of dogmatic faith; I went in because it was battling against a barbaric church that was hostile to me — fascism. Socialism’s nineteenth-century past had earned my…

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Written by Romel

February 5, 2017 at 6:26 pm

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