The wisdom of silence

Adam de Ville has a particularly good post on Eastern Christian Books on Terry Eagleton’s book on sacrifice. This is an especially rich post covering a range of topics… but I will only quote a brief excerpt which echoed with this post inspired by a phrase of George Steiner’s from “The Portage to San Cristobal of A H”:

In addition to his work on Marx, Eagleton has also read Freud (and Lacan, inter alia) very perceptively, which most people today seem incapable of doing. This allows him to say–without, alas, developing it to the extent I wished–that the silence of the Father faced with His Son on the Cross “may be compared to the silence of the psychoanalyst who refuses the role of Big Other or transcendental guarantor” (41). (One thing it took me a long time on the couch to realize was that such silence was not neglect or lack of interest on the part of the remarkable woman who was my analyst. It was, rather, the very condition of freedom, and a very necessary reminder that the responsibility for the authorship of our lives must not mindlessly be handed over to others, tempting though that often is for many of us–cf. both Fromm and Winnicott on this point–as well as Adam Phillips.)

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The lost world of Enno Aare

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/aoifenichorcorain/playlist/74KqlNzk7NMTChonWbOC75

Continuing from my profiles of the work of Amity Cadet and Ana Olgica , I thought I would focus on another artist, once legendary, now only known by a fraction of their life’s work.
Unlike Amity Cadet, there exist some non-Spotify online traces of Aare’s existence, an interview in which he refutes the absurd and insulting thesis that he does not exist, that he is some kind of “fake artist.” Aare articulates a purist approach to a musical career in the age of streaming playlists:

So the excess trappings of the music industry are social media, websites, CDs, records, and live performances? You take a hard line on this.

EA: I see some of these guys at the farmer’s market selling CDs out of their cars, and I’m like, pfff, this guy is a sellout, a complete fraud. I knew this one guy in college who made a tape and spent, I don’t know, an hour designing a cover for it? With a band photograph and a logo? And he listed his email address on the back? Like, ooh, I’m so important I think people should email me. Man, I just shake my head. What a waste of energy.

CP: And so the only appropriate venue for music is a Spotify playlist?

EA: Basically. Yeah, when you get down to it. Put me on a playlist, and that’s all I need. That’s music in its purest form. I never even considered putting my music online anywhere, but these Spotify curators are just relentless in their pursuit of creating the best playlists. I was so stupid I didn’t even know you could “curate” music – I thought that was like an art thing. But when they told me my four songs could exist in a free-floating, context-less, non-corporeal environment for the benefit of people falling asleep with their earbuds in, I couldn’t say no. I told them, “This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is my moment. Sign me up.”

Unlike Amity Cadet, however, Enno Aare is represeneted on Spotify by not one, but four works. On YouTube we find three:

In my previous posts I showed how Amity Cadet and Ana Olgica were both profound, emblematic artists, whose presence on playlists entitled “Classical Chillout” and such may mask their visionary artistrry. A hint to the importance of Eeno Aare comes in the interview linked to above – the phrase “for the benefit of people falling asleep with their earbuds in.” For Eeno Aare was a psychonaut, a surfer of the extreme waves of human consciousness, whose surfboard was a piano, and whose Jaws was that most secret, most  private act, sleep. 

Enno Aare, born in Estonia in 1960, emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel with his parents in 1975 . They were in Israel only a few months before relocated to Rochester, New York. There Aare’s parents took up roles in The University of Rochester’s Medical School; his mother as a clinical lecturer in anaesthetics, his father as an associate professor in physiology. The Aares both had an academic interest in sleep. They associated themselves with the radical sleep researcher Pietro Corriola. Corriola is one of those figures ignored by the internet , who were highly influential in their day.

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Corriola, born in Ravenna, was based in the Northeast Ohio Medical University   Here he devoted himself to whole-hearted opposition to the work of William C Dement and his creation, The American Sleep Disorders Association. Corriola was implacably opposed to Dement’s focus on REM and classifying sleep stages with electroencephalography.  Corriola was not opposed to the physical investigation of sleep per se. Indeed, he proudly identified himself as one of the “Moruzzi school of physiology”. , having trained under the Italian neurophysiologist who connected sleep and wakefulness to the reticular activating system

 

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Despite this, for Corriola,sleep was to be considered metaphysiocally as much as physiologically. Sleep was not to be considered some kind of pathological deviation from normality, but an arena in which the mind floated free of the tyranny of wakefulness. Corriola was horrified by the reductionist approach to dreams and dreaming. For him, the prevalence of sleep disorders was a mass revolt against the medicalisation of sleep.

The Aares enthusiastically took up this cause. In a series of pamphlets, papers, monographs, letters to journals and book chapters they argued for a metaphysical science of sleep which would move beyond a merely neuroscientific paradigm. Corriola, following years of intellectual isolation in the USA (although his ideas had a warmer reception in Europe) was delighted with this sudden upsurge in interest. AS the 1980s dawned, and Corriola’s career entered its twilight, it seemed his legacy was secure. On a April 23rd 1980, this changed.

That day’s edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle revealed that the Aare parents were not in fact doctors of either medicine or physiology. It was implied that their credentials were Soviet forgeries, and the possibility of KGB infiltration was left hanging unspoken

This was officially discounted, although questions were also asked about the rapidity of the Aare’s move from Israel to the USA. In any case, their careers at Rochester were over. Suddenly, 21 year old Enno, freshly graduated Eastman School of Music, was the provider for his parents. He played piano in hotel bars, in wine bars, in cocktail bars, in piano bars, in leather bars, in singles bars, in racetrack bars. He played piano in what non-bar venues he could find work in. He did some work as a session musician. He played on jingles and on children’s TV shows. He played weddings, funerals, Bar Mitzvahs and any other ceremony in which a pianist could conceivably be required.

The 1980s wore on. Enno Aare played piano every day of every week, with no break. He began to despise the world of music, the so called “industry” but also the so called “art.” He began to despise the egotism, the narcissism, the celebration of the self. He recalled his parents’ lofty, idealistic work on sleep – the entry into a purer world, one without the stifling, corroding influence of the ego.

He despised the studio, despised the production of physical recorded music. He dreamt of a way his music could be untethered from the apparatus of the logistics of the industry he despised. He also began working with his parents on ways of using music to ease the passage into the blissful world of sleep. His parents were now spending 20 to 23 hours asleep a day, waking only for some nutrition, hydration, and relief of bodily functions. In a few snatched moments he would show them his music, written in a notation of the family’s own devising, for their approval.

When, years later, the MP3 file ruptured the link between a piece of music and a definite, physical object, Aare took note. This was not quite his dream, as there still was a physical infrastructure required for the file, to be “downloaded” and “shared”, words which captured the inherent physical nature of the file. But it was a start.

It could not be said that Spotify is the complete realisation of Aare’s dream of a pure music untethered by any physical reality, lulling the listener into the world of sleep. For one thing, a physical instrument is still required, and physical apparatus still required to stream the song. It was, however, a significant advance. And, sadly, the day Spotify was launched in Sweden – 23rd April 2006, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle story which changed their lives for ever – Eeno Aare’s parents died in their sleep.

from “Small, Silent, Still” – Fr Paul D Scalia

Full piece here. An interesting interview with Fr Scalia – son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – here

 We require that God be as we want Him: big, loud, efficient. Big and obvious, so that we can see Him and not have to walk by faith. Loud, so that we can hear Him and not be taxed by silence.  Efficient, lest we have to endure any waiting.  Our worship and culture follow suit.  Indeed, few things are more obvious than our culture’s addiction to spectacles, noise, and instant gratification.

In contrast, our Lord gives us two parables about the Kingdom of God: the seed sown in the ground and the mustard seed. (Mk 4:26-34)  These hit us where we live.  They require us to detach from the big, loud, and efficient and to accustom ourselves to the hidden, silent, and slow.

The Kingdom has, first, a silent and hidden growth.  It is like that seed scattered on the land that sprouts and grows of its own accord, and the sower knows not how.  The growth is unheard and unseen, beyond our reach and control.  It requires faith that He is indeed at work and trust that, in Romano Guardini’s words, “The silent forces are the strong forces.”

This Kingdom grows at its own pace, not the sower’s.  It calls for patience.  We cannot command it or set its schedule.  Indeed, our schedule must yield to its pace.  Further, the Kingdom is small – like that smallest of seeds that when sown, “springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”  We prefer something more certain, something big and clearly powerful.  But here we must trust in the fruitfulness of what appears entirely insufficient.

 

Learning How To See Again, Josef Pieper

Learning How To See Again, Josef Pieper

LEARNING HOW TO SEE AGAIN
By Josef Pieper (translated by Lothar Krauk)

from Only The Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation 

 

Man’s ability to see is in decline. Those who nowadays concern

themselves with culture and education will experience this fact again and
again. We do not mean here, of course, the physiological
sensitivity of the human eye. We mean
the spiritual capacity to perceive the visible reality
as it truly is.
To be sure, no human being has ever really seen
everything that lies visibly in front of his eyes.
The world, including its tangible side, is unfathomable.
Who. would ever have perfectly perceived
the countless shapes and shades of just one

wave swelling and ebbing in the ocean! And yet,
there are degrees of perception. Going below a
certain bottom line quite obviously will endanger
the integrity of man as a spiritual being. It seems
that nowadays we have arrived at this bottom
line.
I am writing this on my return from Canada,
aboard a ship sailing from New York to Rotterdam.
Most of the other passengers have spent
quite some time in the United States, many for
one reason only: to visit and see the New World
with their own eyes. With their own eyes: in this lies
the difficulty.

During the various conversations on deck and
at the dinner table I am always amazed at hearing
almost without exception rather generalized statements
and pronouncements that are plainly the
common fare of travel guides. It turns out that
hardly anybody has noticed those frequent small
signs in the streets of New York that indicate
public fallout shelters. And visiting New York
University, who would have noticed those stonehewn
chess tables in front of it, placed in Washington
Square by a caring city administration for
the Italian chess enthusiasts of that area?!
Or again, at table I had mentioned those magnificent
fluorescent sea creatures whirled up to the
surface by the hundreds in our ship’s bow wake.
The next day it was casually mentioned that “last
night there was nothing to be seen”. Indeed, for
nobody had the patience to let the eyes adapt to
the darkness. To repeat, then: man’s ability to see
is in decline.
Searching for the reasons, we could point to
various things: modern man’s restlessness and
stress, quite sufficiently denounced by now, or his
total absorption and enslavement by practical
goals and purposes. Yet one reason must not be
overlooked either: the average person of our time
loses the ability to see because there is too much to
see!

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There does exist something like “visual noise”,
which just like the acoustical counterpart, makes
clear perception impossible. One might perhaps
presume that TV watchers, tabloid readers, and
movie goers exercise and sharpen their eyes. But
the opposite is true. The ancient sages knew exactly
why they called the “concupiscence of the
eyes” a “destroyer”. The restoration of man’s inner
eyes can hardly be expected in this day and
age-unless, first of all, one were willing and determined
simply to exclude from one’s realm of
life all those inane and contrived but titillating illusions
incessantly generated by the entertainment
industry.

You may argue, perhaps: true, our capacity to
see has diminished, but such loss is merely the
price all higher cultures have to pay. We have lost,
no doubt, the American Indian’s keen sense of
smell, but we also no longer need it since we have
binoculars, compass, and radar. Let me repeat: in
this obviously continuing process there exists a
limit below which human nature itself is threatened,
and the very integrity of human existence is
directly endangered. Therefore, such ultimate
danger can no longer be averted with technology
alone. At stake here is this: How can man be saved
from becoming a totally passive consumer of
mass-produced goods and a subservient follower
beholden to every slogan the managers may proclaim?
The question really is: How can man preserve
and safeguard the foundation of his spiritual
dimension and an uncorrupted relationship to reality?

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The capacity to perceive the visible world
“with our own eyes” is indeed an essential constituent
of human nature. We are talking here about
man’s essential inner richness-or, should the
threat prevail, man’s most abject inner poverty.
And why so? To see things is the first step toward
that primordial and basic mental grasping of reality,
which constitutes the essence of man as a spiritual
being.
I am well aware that there are realities we can
come to know through “hearing” alone. All the
same, it remains a fact that only through seeing,
indeed through seeing with our own eyes, is our
inner autonomy established. Those no longer able
to see reality with their own eyes are equally unable
to hear correctly. It is specifically the man
thus impoverished who inevitably falls prey to the
demagogical spells of any powers that be. “Inevitably”,
because such a person is utterly deprived
even of the potential to keep a critical distance
(and here we recognize the direct political relevance
of our topic).

The diagnosis is indispensable yet only a first
step. What, then, may be proposed; what can be
done?
We already mentioned simple abstention, a regimen
of fasting and abstinence, by which we
would try to keep the visual noise of daily inanities
at a distance. Such an approach seems to me
indeed an indispensable first step but, all the same,
no more than the removal, say, of a roadblock.
A better and more immediately effective remedy
is this: to be active oneself in artistic creation, producing
shapes and forms for the eye to see.
Nobody has to observe and study the visible
mystery of a human face more than the one who
sets out to sculpt it in a tangible medium. And this
holds true not only for a manually formed image.
The verbal “image” as well can thrive only when
it springs from a higher level of visual perception.
We sense the intensity of observation required
simply to say, “The girl’s eyes were gleaming like
wet currants” (Tolstoy).
Before you can express anything in tangible
form, you first need eyes to see. The mere attempt,
therefore, to create an artistic form compels
the artist to take a fresh look at the visible
reality; it requires authentic and personal observation.
Long before a creation is completed, the artO
ist has gained for himself another and more intimate
achievement: a deeper and more receptive
vision, a more intense awareness, a sharper and
more discerning understanding, a more patient
openness for all things quiet and inconspicuous,
an eye for things previously overlooked. In short:
the artist will be able to perceive with new eyes the
abundant wealth of all visible reality, and, thus
challenged, additionally acquires the inner capacity
to absorb into his mind such an exceedingly
rich harvest. The capacity to see increases.

“no longer did immediate this-worldly success have to be decisive”

From “God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love” by Gil Bailie:

The Resurrection delivers men from the fear of death,” writes John Meyendorff, “and, therefore, also from the necessity of struggling for existence.” Such a struggle for existence is spiritually deadening precisely inasmuch as it inevitably becomes a struggle against others for preeminence, material advantage, power, or survival. To the extent that it has been sacramentally instantiated in the life of the believer, the Resurrection of Christ provides the wherewithal required to live responsibly and nobly. Thus it is that the Resurrection has opened up history in a way never before known.

As Raymund Schwager observed: Through the resurrection of Christ . . . it became possible . . . to see conflicts, persecutions, and defeats in a different way. No longer did immediate this-worldly success have to be decisive. History as the history of victors was, at least in principle, overcome. . . . Truth and immediate this-worldly success were separated.

Though the responsibility for proclaiming the truth and struggling for its triumph in this world is in no way diminished, the Resurrection relieves those on whom the Easter Sun has shone of the desperate project of trying to achieve in history what can be fulfilled only eschatologically—a fool’s errand that has turned the late-modern period into a crematoria like no other in history.

Simon Jacobson on “honouring thy father and thy mother”

The commandment to “honour thy father and thy mother” is one that, one would like to hope, is usually relatively straightforward. Many of us (most of us?) can fairly easily point to evidence our parents are or were nurturing, supportive and loving … but one must always acknowledge those who cannot. Indeed, examples of not merely inadvertent but deliberate harm done by parents are not hard to come by in the headlines.

From the radio show of Rabbi Simon Jacobson:

When I was thinking about what to talk about this evening, a friend mentioned to me that he had a question that someone had asked him about how one honors parents who don’t seem to deserve honor. Then later in the day another friend asked me the same question, completely unrelated. So I guess that’s a sign that that’s the topic that should be addressed. I know it’s a very painful one, but at the same time a very relevant one to many people.

It made me think about the discussion we had last week with Mr. Dubner, about the issue of imperfect parents. Parents really do get a real bad rap, especially in our generation with everyone baring their souls in confessionals and the healing and recovery movement, but there’s a very good reason for it: parents definitely do shape their children.

At the same time, if you look into the Torah, for Jews particularly (yesterday was the Torah reading that included the Ten Commandments), the fifth of the Ten Commandments is “Honor Your Parents, i.e., honor your father and mother.” The Torah goes even further and promises that in the merit of doing that, you will have a long life. As a matter of fact, when the Ten Commandments are repeated a second time, in the final book (Deuteronomy), it even adds another element there: that you will not just have a long life, but you will also live in peace, and have a good life.

So tonight we’re going to address this issue of honoring parents. Every one of us has been a child, continues to be a child (hopefully our parents are alive), so it’s a very relevant topic and I welcome calls on all issues related to this topic (1-212-244-2050). I must say that many of us are very angry about this issue, so anger also relates to it because people have a lot of anger against their parents, against their childhood, the way they were hurt when they were still vulnerable and impressionable.

So what exactly are our obligations to our parents and what is this whole concept of honoring them anyway—particularly in a situation where on one end of the spectrum you don’t really feel that they deserve it, and on the other end there was even severe abuse; parents who have hurt their children in very profound ways. Issues that children have with parents who continue to haunt them, the scars that we pick up on different levels of abuse, whether it’s overt or subtle. How do we address that and what exactly is this fifth of the Ten Commandments of honoring parents?

I especially would like to hear from people who are very angry with their parents and also of course people who are very loving toward their parents. It will be interesting to hear from you the different dynamics in our relationship with our parents.

Last week I asked Mr. Dubner the following question, which we all have to ask ourselves: On the one hand, you look to your parents as your source of nurturing, a source of comfort, which even unhealthy parents definitely provide somewhat (I’m not talking about extreme cases of course) and at the same time, how do you separate the two feelings of love and hurt? The same parents who love you, have, on the other hand also hurt you?

For a child, even for an adult, it’s very confusing, and it becomes a very snowball type of combination of the good and the bad. As adults, we have the intelligence, the discretion to be able to distinguish.

But as children, that distinction isn’t that obvious and that’s a big quandary, because if you got from your parents healthy nurturing, and on the other hand they may have given you certain values that you really can’t embrace, or values that you see real faults in (you know, “the lies my father told me”), it’s the first time you realize that your parents aren’t perfect.

This is a serious issue. I’d like to begin by giving some perspective here, namely, the anatomy of what exactly the commandment “honor your parent” means.

Now, the real question that’s asked in Jewish thought, in Jewish philosophy, is a more fundamental one. Judaism does not believe in any intermediaries. In other words, we have a direct relationship with G-d. There are no partnerships, no intermediaries, no hired guns; each of us prays to G-d. G-d gave us a soul and empowered us with the ability to overcome our challenges in life. We have a mission. As I very often say on this show (Toward a Meaningful Life), “meaningful life” implies a direct mission that we have, a meaning and purpose in our lives. And that is a direct relationship with G-d.

So the question is asked, “Where is there any room for honoring anyone besides G-d?” It’s true, parents may have provided for us. Of course, if they were healthy they gave us nurturing. Many parents are selfless in their love and in their dedication to their children. But honoring your parents seems in some way to imply that parents have some type of partnership with G-d…but we should be honoring G-d alone who gives us life.

The Talmud does say that there are three partners in the birth of a child: the mother, father and G-d. The parents provide, so to speak, the stuff of which the body is made. G-d provides the soul. That’s why you can have a relationship between a man and a woman, a potential father and mother, husband and wife, and it doesn’t bear a child. So G-d is the third partner — the Creator of life.

So seemingly, birth should be honoring G-d, not the parents. We don’t recognize any form of “partnership” with G-d in creation. And one of the fascinating answers to this is that when we honor our parents, even healthy parents, we’re not honoring our parents, we’re honoring G-d who gave us life through our parents.

So, in essence, it’s really a recognition of G-d. For instance, there is a distinct law in Judaism that if parents tell a child to do something that transgresses G-d’s law, meaning the ethical laws of how we behave with each or other or any type of Divine law, any law that G-d dictates, the child does not have to comply with that request of the parents, even though there’s a commandment to honor your parents. But the commandment to honor your parents does not supercede the commandment of G-d because you honor your parents not because they have power or because they think they’re important, or because they provided for us, you honor them because G-d gave life to us through them.

And that’s a major distinction. That’s why if one has to choose between following a parent’s request and following G-d’s law, we defer to G-d. Honoring your parents is not an end in itself: there’s a meaning there, a significance, a spirit behind it — it is a means to honor G-d.

Now the interesting distinction that I’d like to make as well is that the commandment says, “honor your parents”; it doesn’t say “love your parents.” The Torah doesn’t tell us to love our parents. That means the commandment doesn’t include that. Honor can include that, but that’s an optional thing. There is a commandment to love G-d. There is a commandment to love your fellow. Why isn’t there a commandment to love our parents? Because they don’t always deserve our love. But if we dishonor the life that G-d gave us through our parents, then it’s not that we’re dishonoring our parents, we’re dishonoring ourselves, we’re dishonoring our own personal life.