Monday, October 30, 2006

It's been 3 days. I am still flyin' high!

I mean, it wasn't a dream, we WON the World Series!!

God bless us, every one.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

I cannot believe this day is here! I have never seen the Cardinals raise that world series trophy. We are so close, I can taste it!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On my ordination and bla, bla, bla.

I am getting ordained November 8th at 6 pm. I am buying a new shirt for the occasion. If you would like to be there, all are invited. If not, then I wish you would burn in an eternal gehenna.

Alright, back to thinking about my bible study tonight, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

This match up has been perfect for us!

I was telling Jonathon before the series started, that I thought we could beat Detroit because of the fact that they have so many fastball pitchers.

Joel Zumaya and his 103 MPH fastball? Albert can catch that.

People we have trouble with are people like Glavine and Rogers. People that throw, falling off the mound, with stuff that is just filthy. That gives us all kinds of trouble.

I never thought our pitching would be this good. I never thought we would be 2-1 either. We can win this bad boy at home, let's go fellas!

Friday, October 20, 2006

I know I'm a dork, but this seminar at Cornerstone was really interesting...

(This Is Not a Tame Seminar) by Mike Hertenstein

As I put the final touches on the 2006 Imaginarium schedule before handing it in to the Cornerstone Festival art department for layout in the official program, I found I was left with an extra seminar hour to fill. In fact, I'd been having trouble filling that hour for awhile. So at that last possible moment, I impulsively decided it would be simple to come up with an hour's worth of seminar myself. I scribbled down a title and a description that seemed reasonable and handed it in. Three months later I sat down to prepare the seminar and realized immediately that I would need multiple sessions for my topic. But I only had the one slot available. And I needed to cut that one short because of a near-simultaneous commitment elsewhere on the grounds. The upshot was that I had to speed through the seminar in order to finish on time, which has happened before. The seminar as presented was also considerably different than as advertised — which has also happened before. One thing always leads to another when it comes to the Imaginarium, and another, and... It's caused me no end of troubles. But it has also led me — and those of us following the trail — on some marvelous adventures…


This seminar was originally supposed to be on memory and mortality, the original title being "Memento Mori," which means "Remember you will die." It was inspired by our series of films and activities connected with our program on "the Days of the Dead." It was also inspired by our meditation on ruins, and the witness and wisdom of the saints — especially concerning the saints' repeated warning to us to number our days. Researching St. Francis, I was struck by the fact that so many of his portraits over time include a prominently-placed skull. In fact, on one of the few actual samples we have of Francis's writing, he signs his name and includes a little drawing of a skull. I'm told that St. Ignatius actually recommends employing a skull in his spiritual exercises. And St. Benedict's sobering charge is to "Keep death ever before you." In a short story by St. James (that is, James Joyce), "The Dead," the author describes a monastery where the monks sleep in their own coffins: a unavoidable daily memento mori. Other monasteries are famous as repositories of the bones of former residents, and entire churches have built of bones, with an effect very like the house of bones that is this year's Imaginarium décor. Usually such places feature a sign with the famous adage, "I was once like you. You will someday be like me."

Cheery stuff.


So then I decided to talk about carnival, which seemed an even better way for me to accomplish my goal for this seminar — which had to do with bringing together all of our Imaginarium 2006 program themes. I became interested in celebrations that affirmed life by transfiguring death, and also the chronic opposition to such affirmations. In certain cases, this opposition seemed to me to be at least partially motivated by a desire not to think about death — a deliberate resistance to memento mori, a persistent denial of death.

"Carnival" was a subtheme of our 1999 Imaginarium program, wherein we explored together the idea "the Grotesque." To put it in a rather inadequate nutshell, the Grotesque has to do with the suspension of everyday norms, and the senses of vertigo, danger and liberation that this suspension provokes. It calls into question our solid, familiar world and raises the disturbing possibility that what we call "normal" may, in fact, be a fabrication — and that the fullness of reality is beyond our ability to ever completely contain it.

"Does the gargoyle belong on the cathedral?" was the question we asked — and the answer we gave was "Yes: because if the gargoyle doesn't belong, then some of us are in big trouble!" After gargoyles, carnival is probably the most characteristic manifestation of the grotesque. In carnival, the ordinary is suspended, and the world turns upside-down: fools are king, and freaks are the norm. The participants in carnival wallow joyfully in chaos, contradiction and paradox. They embrace, in the words of one commentator, "the irreducible doubleness of life," the half-man, half-animal juxtaposition that is the human condition. Carnival is impolite and earthy: at the far end of the spectrum carnival can be crude and sexual in its celebration of the body, mocking and ironic in its acknowledgement of death. Carnival tends to be democratizing, with class distinctions obliterated and conventional hierarchies dissolved. Carnival is a tantalizing, liberating glimpse of wholeness, of oneness, of the mystery and ambiguity that our everyday order can never contain, of all the loose ends of life that we ordinarily deny and try to sweep under the rug.

Cornerstone Festival, obviously, in some sense, is carnival. Certainly at Cornerstone, our everyday reality is at least in part put on hold, status distinctions mean nothing, we live close together, close to nature. Most of the usual polite social fictions become temporarily useless. At Cornerstone we are faced with the fact that cleanliness is actually relative — and that what may be classified as "dirt" in anyone's particular symbol system is more likely anything that doesn't belong in their neat, familiar world. Cornerstone is other, and learning to make room in your personal symbol system for people who are other than you. And of course, it goes without saying that rock-n-roll is nothing if not carnival: the sex and violence may be sublimated a bit at Cornerstone, but the music still isn't precisely housebroken — hopefully. The good stuff remains somewhat outside the mainstream, a bit daring and even dangerous, just like we were always warned. Cornerstone haircuts and costumes are our versions of the carnival mask, a merry negation of the Official Story, the one imposed upon us by the everyday world: to defy that story is to make room for, maybe even get a glimpse of, a bigger story beyond — the one that we knew was always there anyway.

The Imaginarium program at Cornerstone Festival is most definitely carnival — even when the Grotesque isn't the official theme. Long before we became a house of bones, we were a house of rubber chickens. In fact, in the 1999 program, we (humbly) offered our revolutionary Theology of the Rubber Chicken, proof in its very silliness of the absurd incongruity of our juxtaposed human condition: our poor featherless friend reminds us of the embarrassing, vulnerable, ridiculousness of our own situation, being half-animal, half-god. The Whoopie Cushion — and the Porta-Potty — explode (excuse me) the great cultural lie and set our learning experiences at Cornerstone and the Imaginarium powerfully in unvarnished and unabashed human reality.

Some may wonder, then — and most reasonably so — just what the heck Francis of Assisi is doing in such a vulgar place, namely on the program of the Imaginarium. Well, for one thing, it is true that the feast days of the saints were always occasion for carnival. But the connection goes much deeper then that. Saint Francis called himself "the Jester of God" — the Holy Fool. There was a mad, topsy-turvyness to Francis. His insistance that Perfect Joy might be found in the midst of trial and suffering. His unreasonable love for all creatures of our God and King. His rags. His lepers. (And if it helps, think of Cornerstone as one big leper for Francis to embrace!) His merry troubadours singing the praises of Lady Poverty. The antics of Franciscan preachers whose foolishness was often calculated to draw a crowd. No wonder Francis's vision has been described as a "carnivalized" Christianity.

Yet surely that description is redundant. Surely Christianity itself is carnival — or perhaps some of us have just forgotten. For you can't get much more paradoxical and earthy and upsetting than the Gospel. Consider the upsidedowness of the picture of the Creator of the Universe being born in a stable, the grotesque juxtaposition of a God-Man who dies to give life, who gives to receive. Stand on your head and watch the first become last, the meek inherit the earth, the rich sent away empty, while the wise man is confounded. Shake your comfortably proper head as the secrets of the Kingdom are given to children and fools. Consider this: the root word of carnival, carne means "flesh." And the center of Christianity involves the eternal Word becoming flesh — the very fleshiness, and bodiliness of the Christian assertion that has always been a scandal to the world.

And sometimes even to the church. Did I say "sometimes?" I meant often. Actually, constantly.

From the moment Jesus ascended into Heaven until this very morning, the church has been haunted by the heresy of Gnosticism, a hatred of the body and preference for abstract ideals that seems so spiritual, so reasonable — and also happens to a complete betrayal of the most fundamental precept of our faith: the bodily, fleshly, sensual, cultural, Incarnation of God Himself.


But the juxtaposition, the roller-coaster ride of the Christian vision, doesn't stop there. Just when you think you're getting a fix on things, double-vision sets in again. For in yet another mad Christian juxtaposition, Carnival ends — with Lent. That is to say, the excesses and indulgences of Medieval Carnival were always followed on the liturgical calendar by a forty-day period of fasting, prayer and penance that preceded Easter. Now, it is true that maybe everyone needed those forty days to repent for all the sins committed during carnival! But I suspect there's a deeper principle at work here, that both "Carnival" and "Lent" stand for larger opposing principles. Medieval painter Peter Bruegel's work "The Battle Between Carnival and Lent" suggests an ongoing, never-resolved struggle in human nature, and possibly the Christian faith itself. For even though Francis of Assisi embraced Creation with open arms, like so many of the saints he also relentlessly, even shockingly, turned his back on his flesh. The most whiplash-inducing of Christian paradoxes may be that it is a faith which includes both Carnival and Lent, feasting and fasting, Easter and Good Friday, Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. The tug-of-war between Carnival and Lent is certainly an endless quarrel of church history. There are outrageous excesses at both extremes, with notable and notorious victories and defeats by either side — a continual pulling one way in the direction of carne and in the other toward an austere denial of the flesh.

The Puritans, for example, banned Christmas and Easter outright — like so many black-hatted Grinches. Endless waves of Reformers and Prohibitionists started by abolishing the feast days of the saints and moved on to smashing stained glass, ripping down paintings, covering over frescoes, breaking statues, burning musical instruments, and banning the theater, along with novels, card-playing, folk-dances, folk-tales, folk-songs, comic books, movies, and rock-n-roll. And if you think you detected a pattern in there it may be because there is one. The first Puritan, it has been said, was Plato, who banned poets from his ordered Republic for fear they might stir up the lower classes. Of course, reforming impulses in all ages have unquestionably found plenty of worthy targets. But such impulses almost always manage to become tangled with motivations very questionable: among these one can find class interest, a bourgeois desire to maintain order, a fear of change, a fear of difference, a hatred of anything out of place in some personal symbol-system — of "dirt", which anthropologist Mary Douglas notes tends to remind people of their most profound fear, of the precariousness of their place in the universe: of death. Memento Mori becomes a bit more strained when all the efforts of "polite society" are aimed at avoiding just that.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that people of all classes are easily stirred up, and prone to all sorts of wicked excess. But since this includes an excess of legalism, along with an excess of judgment and excessive desire to control their environment, then it seems to me that arriving at some objective balance between Carnival and Lent becomes a very tricky problem indeed.

So tricky, in fact, that when the seminar threatened to bog down at this point, the narrator was suddenly inspired to skip ahead and talk about what he really wanted to talk about all along…DIONYSUS

Our subject today is Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.

Bacchus to the Romans, Dionysus has his own typically complex and even convoluted history. For our purposes, we'll simply note in passing that he was well known for being persecuted by those who refused to recognize his deity. And those who refused to recognize his divinity paid a terrible price for it. The most famous telling of that part of the story is Euripides' play, The Bacchae. In that version, King Pentheus of Thebes becomes outraged by the Dionysian rites taking place in his vicinity and determines to outlaw them — which is, as we know, pretty much the plot of another classic work, the 1984 movie Footloose. In that film, an conservative and uptight minister banishes dancing and rock-n-roll from his small town. A hip newcomer from the city arrives and convinces the local kids to hold their own dance outside the town, and everything ends happily: even the uptight minister loosens up a bit and essentially gives his blessing. Fade to black, to a catchy, eminently danceable, tune.

Of course, if the filmmakers had stuck closer to the plot of The Bacchae, things would have gone a little differently. During the climactic dance set-piece, the minister (played by John Lithgow) would have snuck up and observed the dance. (Note: in the play, King Pentheus disguises himself as one of Bacchus's female followers but the picture of John Lithgow in a wig and dress isn't working for me so we'll lose that part.) The minister thus creeps through the woods to discover the local high school kids caught up and whirling in an intoxicated, violent, frenzied mosh-pit — many half-clothed and all lost in an orgiastic ecstasy. At this point, the true identity of the hip newcomer (played by Kevin Bacon) would be revealed: he is the god Dionysus himself. Soon afterward, the dancers notice the uptight minister spying on them. Without skipping a beat, they turn their frenzied dance in his direction, catching him up in the mosh-pit and ripping him limb from bloody limb. Suddenly, they all snap out of their trance. The minister's daughter (again, an editorial change; in the original, it's his mother) is now horrified to discover she is carrying in her hands her father's bleeding, disembodied head. She screams. We fade to black, to a catchy, eminently danceable tune. The moral of the story (to some) might be that the uptight minister had been absolutely correct in his concerns, and so ends up becoming a martyr to the cause of virtue. To the Greeks, the moral remains what it has always been: Don't insult the god by refusing him his due: those who refuse to acknowledge Dionysus will pay a terrible price for their impiety.

Dionysian worship took place in the mountains and woods as described by Euripides. The god's female followers were called maenads — "mad women" — who whipped themselves into frenzy of lunatic dancing which climaxed with a figurative or perhaps even literal ripping apart of the god in form of animals. We recall the frenzied ritual sacrifice of the ox at the climax of Apocalypse Now (crosscut with the execution of Colonel Kurtz, the American officer who disappeared into the jungle and 'went native'.) The sacrifice of choice for Dionysian worship was a goat. In fact, Dionysus was generally conceived of as a goat, or half-goat, and his followers included satyrs — those half-man, half-goat creatures of pagan mythology. Certainly we can see that popular perception of Satan and Satan worship over the ages owes much to the myth and religion of Dionysus.

Indeed, Dionysus was associated with the Dark Side: the surging, uncontrollable forces that lurk below the surface of society and individuals. He was obviously associated with Nature: with all those wild tendencies of which restraining or taming has been the fundamental order of business for establishing a modicum of civilization. Understandably, Dionysus has been denounced over the years by various kinds of prohibitionists, reformers and civic leaders. Even amid High Paganism, the Roman Senate tried to ban all but a very restricted brand of Dionysian worship — though they found it very hard to stamp out. Thus, on the other hand, we see Dionysus has been stubbornly championed by other pagans, along with all manner of wine-bibbers, drunks and Romantics.

Most notoriously, Dionysus is remembered as perhaps the singlemost key figure in the warped private mythology of German philosopher and self-declared "anti-Christ," Fredrich Nietzsche.


Nietzche set up a famous and influential opposition. On one side, representing the dark, uncontrollable, earthy forces — Dionysus. On the opposite side, another classical deity, Apollo: god of light, rationality, control and order. Greek tragedy, posited Nietzsche, found a perfect balance between these two opposing tendencies. Indeed, "tragedy" means "goat-song" and arose from Dionysian worship — the maenads became the Chorus. According to Nietzsche, the balance of Dionysian formlessness within Apollonian form was the secret of that profoundly innovative civilization we know of as "the Golden Age of Greece." But something happened to cause that civilization to decline and die. Nietzsche insisted that the Golden Age was destroyed when the Greeks lost their balance — when Apollo got the better of Dionysus. Cold rationality killed the wild, intuitive forces that were the secret source of Classical genius.

Now, Nietzsche's arcane complex of ideas about Dionysus are part of an ever-more-twisted personal program, which became, ultimately, for him, a war between his Dionysian philosophy and Christianity — between, as phrased it during his final breakdown, "Dionysus" and "the Crucified".

Let's try to set Nietzsche aside for a moment if we can (as if his radioactive questions can ever really be safely stored somewhere). The fact is that many another thinker besides the Teutonic anti-Christ have found conceptualizing in his opposing terms to be quite fruitful — and clearly these symbols are most apt for considering human tendencies undeniably in conflict: rationality, clarity and order are ever clashing in various guises with non-rationality, ambiguity, and disorder. Call it what you like. In his book, The Pilgrim's Regress, C. S. Lewis bisects his allegorical landscape into a chilly, rational "North" and a warm, emotional "South." This opposition, under one label or another, has been described as the central tension of Western philosophy. So many, many debates not only philosophy, but also in theology and art seem to be at some level battles in this one never-ending war. Typically, partisans dig in, baptizing their position, then demonize and assail the opposite front line. The conflict makes for boilerplate drama, be it Footloose or The Dead Poet's Society among other populist versions. How it all plays out depends on who is telling the story: that is to say, people tend to spin the Apollo-Dionysus opposition according to their own prejudices and taste. "Freedom" vs "Oppression." "Order" vs "Anarchy." "Nature" vs "Culture." "The Noble Savage" vs "the Lord of the Flies." "The Indestructible Life Force" versus "the God of Mob Violence".

Let's face it. Even Footloose stacks the deck. The makers of that film play footloose indeed with their treatment of our opposition, sketching the good and bad guys of their story as broad as cartoons, according to their own agenda. If anyone of contrary inclinations wanted to, they could easily make a film about a high school dance where everything happened just exactly as the minister feared — drunken brawls, rapes, violence, accidents, whatever — not in some light-hearted-and-hilarious teen-hijinks movie but in a story of catastrophic choices and consequences. It happens.

The point is that everybody seems to have their own take on what a conflict between Apollo and Dionysus really means or implies, and rigs the fight accordingly. They draw upon whatever elements and sources make their point and exclude according to their prejudice or inclination. I certainly won't assert my take is the objective one, and can only hope any detractors will aspire to a similar humility. I also understand that along with reason, experience comes into play here. Those pulled from Dionysian self-destruction may cling to Apollo for dear life. Those raised under strict Apollonian rule may do precisely the opposite. As the father of a teenage daughter, I can well imagine myself going all Apollo on some Dionysian situation reaching out its claws to her. Yet as someone still shaking off the effects of a rather Apollonian religious culture, I'm so grateful to think she'll be carrying less of that baggage and will hopefully be less tempted to compensate by way of an opposite extreme.

The notion of "extreme" suggests that perhaps what we're looking for here is some kind of balance. Back in the Seventies, that bighair band from the Great White North — RUSH — made a concept album devoted to resolving the conflict between Apollo and Dionysus. On Hemispheres, the story is told of a romantic, disillusioned by the endless war of the gods, who steers his starship into a Black Hole. There he encounter Cygnus — "the god of balance." Thus ends the ancient conflict between Apollo and Dionysus with Cynus is added to make classical trinity, bringing peace at last to the universe. (Fade to black, to a catchy, and classically-influenced but lyrically-inscrutable, helium-induced scream.)

Deus ex machina: "the god in the machine." When Euripides wanted to bring his play to a sensational close, he had an actor playing Dionysus lowered to the stage on a crane. The phrase has come since to be associated with those embarrassing and mighty convenient last-minute rescues of a plot in jeopardy — a sort of "bad faith" on the part of the dramatist. It's highly appropriate that The Bacchae ends with a literal deus ex machina, because nearly every later variation of the story seems to end with a figurative one: some sudden miracle of "balance." The vision is compelling, and inspirational, but its not much practical use. For where we locate the "balance" always depends on where we plot the extremes — and people will always disagree about these. Was King Pentheus an uptight Fundamentalist wanting to outlaw fun? Or was he Eliot Ness, come to clean up the town? Is Dionysus another Mary Poppins, magically opening a world of wonder? Or is he the Pied Piper of Hamlin, leading all the innocent children astray?

Stay tuned for another overtime round in the eternal knock-down-drag-out Prize-fight of the Gods — where Christ, says Nietzsche (the anti-Christ), fights on the side of Apollo, and against Dionysus.

But doesn't it seem worth asking whether or not he got that part right? CHRIST & DIONYSUS

Is Christianity more of an Apollonian, or a Dionysian, religion?

Despite the difficulty in nailing down objectively what the symbols "Dionysus" and "Apollo" stand for, it seems reasonable to assume that many Christians throughout history have instinctively agreed with Nietzsche that the conflict is between Dionysus and "the Crucified". That view would seemingly leave Christ on the side of Apollo, if only by default. Of course, when it comes to stacking the deck, you won't find an easier game in which to do just that. After all, Dionysus is the goat — the one with the horns and hooves. Apollo, it is well known, is the god of light. Perhaps somewhat less well known is the warning in Scripture that Satan himself may come disguised as an angel of light. Still, these would seem Christian virtues: Order, Clarity, Restraint, Enlightenment — especially when contrasted with Disorder, Ambiguity, Sensuality, and Darkness. Apollo is the god of Truth with a capital "T", unchanging universals, heavenly ideals. Dionysus is the god of subjectivity, particularity, the flesh, and the earth. Apollo is control and domination. Dionysus is surrender and self-abandonment. Apollo stands for immortality. Dionysus is the god who dies and is resurrected, whose blood his followers drink, and thus become one with him. I begin to tip my hand. Perhaps you think I'm stacking the deck, but it does seem to me a very interesting pattern shows through here...

Indeed, Dionysus clearly finds himself reflected in the Christian revelation in ways that Apollo cannot. In pagan days, Dionysian worship was one of the Mystery Religions. These often had such striking similarities to later Christian belief and practice that, depending on your perspective, they're inevitably seen as a) the real sources of Christianity; b) diabolical imitations; or c) precursors to the true faith (and I guess "d" would be "really, incredibly amazing coincidences"). Pagan myths, according to G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis, were dreams sent by God to prepare humankind for the reality. Lewis puts it this way: "unfocussed gleams of divine truth falling upon the imagination." In this view, the story of Dionysus is just one of many similar tales of "dying and resurrected gods" found scattered throughout primitive religion and so, some say, pagan intimations of Christ. Dionysus was a goat, to be sure, but a literal scapegoat, with all the usual Christological inflections of that notion. He was torn apart and eaten by his followers — and drank. He wasn't only the god of wine, he was wine and drinking him was the sacrament: his worship consisted in taking the god into yourself bodily and being possessed by the god. The goal of Dionysian worship was breaking down barriers to create unity — between god and man, humanity and nature, and among human beings: "oneness," by any other name, utter self-abandonment, the transcendence of the self to share in a blessed unity.

It should come as no surprise to most people by this point to learn that Dionysus was among the pagan symbols expropriated as a type of Christ by Renaissance and other Christian writers throughout the ages — including Erasmus, Rabelais and that thinker whose skirts I am so wont to hide behind (I'm thinking of those quintessential English academic gowns here), C. S. Lewis.


Which brings us — unexpectedly, and that may indeed be the best way to get here — to Narnia. Narnia, oh Narnia: you blessed land of somewhat troubling geopolitics! You who are forever being taken over by wicked outsiders and yearning for the Western Europeans to come to your aid! (Be that as it may.) In the first book of C. S. Lewis's series, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the land of Narnia is frozen into a perpetual Winter with no Christmas. In the next book, Prince Caspian, the foreign invaders are the Telmarines, who have driven out the Old Narnians and assumed power. It's interesting to consider what exactly Lewis was trying to get out of his system here. Both of these invaders supress the life of Narnia — the Talking Animals, the spirits in the rivers and trees. They drive the fauns and satyrs (both half-man, half-beasts) into hiding. The Telmarines, in fact, are insistant in their denial that such creatures ever even existed, that it was all just an ugly rumor.

The nightmare Lewis was apparently frequently troubled by also seemed to have troubled the peace of his friend and colleague, J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien's vision of the Great Tribulation of Middle Earth has the dark forces of Mordor making war against Nature in all its flowering beauty, to be cut down and brought under control by something that looks very like the scientific or Enlightenment mindset. The Victorian Romantics were particularly conscious of dark Mordor-like forces sweeping over their world. That Victorian Bacchante, Algernon Charles Swinburne, lamented a "world grown grey," when all the old gods had been washed out to sea. Swinburne blamed it on the "pale Galilean," which seems to agree with Nietzsche in placing Christ on the side of Apollo against Dionysus. But given certain other obvious suspects in a world then ruled by English imperialism, industrialism and positivism, that vision of Romantic melancholy seems more than a wee bit myopic.

Lewis, for his part, all across his writings and in many different ways, clearly places the blame for that greying of the world, the Narnian Winter, on the cult of Scientism: whose virtues are objectivity, universality, predictability, clarity, order, control, and absolute domination. Hmmm…

It's interesting, at this juncture, to consider that, at the absolute high water mark of Modernity, when it came time to name the most singular manifestation of the triumph of the Enlightenment, the name chosen was — "Project Apollo." Now, I love Project Apollo. I was there. Few things in my lifetime have given me more joy, hope, thrill, and wonder. But there's also no question that, along with all those wonderful things, the phrase conjures for me images of buttoned-down NASA nerds, slide rules, and clean rooms. Believe me, there would be no Talking Animals allowed in Mission Control.

Meanwhile, before moving on, the question begs to be asked: what might some "Project Dionysus" look like? Oh, yeah: it would look pretty much the rest of the 1960s. As with the larger unresolved conflict between the gods, the debate over that decade's Dionysian rebellion against a predominately Apollonian culture remains with us. In this connection, it's fascinating to lay side by side a pair of films that each make of that debate their ideological subtext: The Dead Poets' Society restages the culture wars of the Sixties from a distinctively partisan perspective, favoring Dionysus or the Romantic point of view. A few years later, the film The Emperor's Club offered an almost scene-for-scene rebuttal of Dead Poets, from an Apollonian or Classicist perspective. (Neither film was especially poetic but critics generally found The Emperor's Club so thuddingly prosaic as to make Dead Poets seem lyrically inspiring indeed.)

But where were we? Narnia. Right. Let's go back, shall we? In Book One, Lucy travels through the magical Wardrobe and meets Mr. Tumnus, a faun — half-man, half-animal. Over tea, Mr. Tumnus recalls wistfully what Narnia was like before the onset of the endless Winter. In the recent Walt Disney film version of the novel, the faun makes general passing reference to some vague music and dancing before the freeze. But perceptive fans of the Narnia stories will notice a curious omission here. For in C. S. Lewis's novel, Mr. Tumnus makes particular reference to a particular embodiment of the Good Old Days, before the White Witch covered Narnia with ice and snow…
… when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them, and sometimes Bacchus himself, and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end. (The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe)
For most readers, that reference will pass overhead as so much pixie dust. The context may evoke a certain vague nostalgia for some, but chances are they'll just keep reading. Those who do understand the reference, though — who know that Bacchus is Dionysus, and that Silenus is his drunken satyr sidekick — maybe be forgiven for spitting up their hot chocolate. What a jarring note for an innocent fairy tale — a children's book for goodness sakes! — especially one written by a respected Oxford professor and Christian apologist. A trained Classicist reading this innocent fairy tale to her children may at this point wonder what sort of pervert this Professor Lewis is.

Yet the story continues on from Mr. Tumnus's cottage to the happy ending. The White Witch is defeated. Christmas returns to Narnia. The endless Winter comes to an end, the frozen fauns and satyrs thaw and run free once again. But we're still not treated to quite the picture of the Golden Age that the wistful faun had painted — that will have to wait for the next book in the series.

In Prince Caspian, a young boy, whose parents are dead, is sent to live with relatives, who he doesn't like. They are very practical, no-nonsense types who debunk all the old myths of lost glory and keep from him the secret of his true identity. Then a mysterious Mentor Figure spirits him away and reveals to the lad a world bigger and more full of marvels than he'd ever known, and most astonishing of all, his own special destiny to face and defeat evil and restore that lost glory.

No, wait. That's the plot of the Harry Potter series. Er, no. That's Star Wars. Or Dune…

In any case, the hero of a thousand faces is, in Prince Caspian, the title character. He is the true prince of Narnia, who escapes his wicked aunt and uncle to discover the surviving Old Narnians in the woods and lead them in a war aimed at reconquering their country. Armies assemble. The Western Europeans arrive on time for battle — Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy. But Lewis's much-criticized sexism is in play here, for while the boys get to go into battle against the Telmarines, the girls are left behind in the forest with Aslan.

And the strangest interlude ensues.

Even though we're on the eve of the battle for Narnia, the real climactic moment, the one to which the whole book has been leading, now takes place: the great lion roars, with a supernatural power that echoes across the land and awakens all of Old Narnia from its sad slumber. The effect in the immediate vicinity is quickly seen as whole forests of trees, moving like Tolkien's majestic "ents", which gather from all sides, and come together in a spirited tree-dance around Aslan. They are soon joined by diverse other creatures:
One was a youth, dressed only in a fawn-skin, with vine-leaves wreathed in his curly hair. His face would have been almost too pretty for a boy's, if it had not looked so extremely wild. You felt, as Edmund said when he saw him a few days later, "There's a chap who might do anything — absolutely anything." He seemed to have a great many names — Bromios, Bassareus, and the Ram, were three of them. There were a lot of girls with him, as wild as he. There was even, unexpectedly, someone on a donkey. And everybody was laughing: and everybody was shouting out, "Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi." (Prince Caspian)
Some future annotated Narnia series may include the note that "Euoi" is the famed "shriek of ecstasy" and invocation used in only one place in all of pagandom: among the cult of Dionysus, or Bacchus, or Euon, Bromoios, etc.

The Roman poet, Horace, rhapsodizes —
On a remote crag I saw Bacchus —
Believe me, you who come hereafter —
Teaching his songs to the listening Nymphs
and goat-footed Satyrs with their pointed ears.
Euoi! My mind trembles with fear still fresh...
Another Roman poet, Ovid:
Wherever Bacchus goes, the cries of women
Hail him, and young men's joyful shouts, and drum
And timbrels sound, and cymbals slash, and flutes
Pipe shrill.
Perhaps our annotated Narnia set will include photos of classical statuary or urns to show how Bacchus is depicted in pagan mythology just as described by Lewis — though some images may include details of Bacchanalian, er, excitement that may make the book off-limits for the kiddies.

Meanwhile, here's the part of the Bacchanal that I'd like to see illustrated — from Euripides:
You could have seen a single woman with bare hands
Tear a fat calf, still bellowing with fright,
In two, while others clawed the heifers to pieces...
Scraps smeared with blood hung from the fir-trees.
Whoever this god may be,
Sire, welcome him to Thebes!
(It's gets even bloodier in Ovid — very Stephen King.)

Now, I must confess. There is a part of me that would like to see Susan and Lucy tear apart animals and eat their flesh raw. But I'm not proud of that, so I'll channel the reaction of my imaginary classics professor and exclaim "Pardon my Ancient Greek, but what the HADES is Professor Lewis up to here?" He's brought dear, sweet Lucy and Susan — not to mention any children reading or listening to the story — into the midst of a wild party in the woods that is unmistakably, astonishingly, a Dionysian revel! Lucy and Susan among the maenads, for heaven's sake! And there's Silenus drunkenly braying for "Refreshments!", repeatedly falling off his donkey and having to be put back up on (go read it for yourself!) All this amidst a menagerie of strange pagan creatures shrieking and hollering and playing their pagan flutes and drums and dancing their pagan dances. Vines sprouting and putting forth leaves and grapes to be plucked and eaten as they all caper through the forest in a literal bacchanalia.

So this is Lewis's Ideal Republic, his picture of Narnia resurrected and restored, his return to a mythological "Golden Age". This, in some allegorical sense, is obviously Professor Lewis's view of "the way things ought to be" — and set forth in a beloved children's story that has been almost universally embraced while apparently without being universally understood: for what the so-called Christian creator of Narnia seems to be telling us is that life as it was meant to be is... Dionysian.

With C.S. Lewis's answer to the question of whether Christianity is more Dionysian or Apollonian apparently answered decisively in favor of Bacchus, the question that comes to my mind right after "What exactly does he mean by that?" is "Where exactly does that leave Apollo?"

And there might be one more question, less important in the cosmic scheme of things, but still intriguing to consider: "What's Disney going to do with all this in their next Narnia film?"


C. S. Lewis's word picture of the Narnian Bacchanal which causes Nature to spontaneously spring to life on all sides in Prince Caspian reminds me of similar imagery in the Walt Disney-distributed Japanese animé film, Princess Mononoke. In that 1998 Studio Ghibli feature, the forest buds and blossoms in fast-motion wherever walks the majestic "Spirit of the Forest." The two films will perhaps make for a marvelous double-feature: Princess Mononoke and Prince Caspian. Then again, all that might depend upon whether or not Disney and partner Walden Media can, in the Narnian sequel, overcome their odd shyness about our friend Bacchus. Since production on Prince Caspian has been postponed and the release date pushed to 2008, we'll just have to wait and see. And while we wait, there are some questions to ponder and ironies to savor. For on the one hand, we have poor Bacchus and Silenus being chased out of Narnia by Ice Queens and Telmarines — and Disney, too, apparently, who excluded them from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. But on the other hand, the climax of the next book in the series turns out to depend upon unleashing these very party animals in a genuine Dionysian jollification. In print, the pagan sensuality may pass over readers' heads; in visual depiction, however, it may require a certain fig-leafing in deference to the target audience's sensibilities.

How unsettling to discover that Narnia is not a tame place, nor a tame story, nor Lewis a tame author! — and how much seems to come down to that little word "tame". Apart from deals with outside studios like Ghibli and Pixar, Disney has increasingly made its patented "touch" synonymous with domestication: the manufacture of carefully focus-grouped product designed to please a mass audience — with relentless maximizing of profits in merchandising and exploitation via theme-parks. The collision of Lewis's untameable lion and Disney's professional lion tamers restages the very battles for Narnia they're presuming to depict. What a showdown! Will Disney side with the suppressors and deniers of Narnia, who fear wildness and impose sterile control — who pretend that certain mythic creatures never existed? Or will they try to clean up the story to keep it safely within audience expectation? Will the studio risk becoming perceived as "Dionysian Pictures?" Or will they try to housebreak even Bacchus himself into a Happy Meal Prize?

Until recently, such questions would be addressed to longtime Disney boss, Michael Eisner, whose smothering reign at the company became in some minds reminiscent of that of the White Witch over Narnia. With Eisner gone, many hope for an end to winter and return of a Golden Age to Disney. In any case, Eisner's successors would do well to remember the fate of King Pentheus: those who refuse to recognize the divinity of Dionysus must pay their own terrible price for it.

Of course, there will also a terrible price to be paid if Disney strays too far from the expecations of those moviegoers they've identified as the core audience for this film. Hollywood has placed major bets on the so-called "Christian market". But like the Emperor Constantine, the Tinseltown moguls may discover that rallying all who take that name under the banner of a single orthodoxy is as problematic as getting involved in a land war in Asia. Certainly the larger portion (or should we say in this case "the lion's share") of the "Christian market" has always consisted of what used to be called "bourgeois religion": middle-class values baptized in the name of the local deity, religious language employed primarily to defend the status quo and demonize any threats to it. That sort of religion is built upon risk aversion: a faith that threatens one's safety, comfort or settled assumptions has never attracted much in the way of a mass audience. And a mega-corporation like Disney religiously believes in risk aversion, preferring to do nothing more than give the largest slice of the demographic pie just what it has been scientifically-determined that the people want.

It'll be interesting to see how they sand off the rough edges of this tale. Here's one: as Bacchus and his dancing friends party across the countryside, they invite others to join them. A young Telmarine girl, stuffed into the choking uniform of her school, accepts the revelers' invitation — and so they "helped her take off some of the unnecessary and uncomfortable clothes that she was wearing." Oh, my. Considering the considerable sexual overlay of the whole Dionysian myth, details like that will have to be handled very carefully. (I imagined I'm quoting a Disney production memo practically verbatim.) This story, however, is already out there in print, and will be seized upon by that portion of the demographic (a considerable portion of the "Christian market", BTW) who take delight in exposing the "pagan roots" of everything. My suspicion is that the maenads who whipped themselves into a lather to dismember Harry Potter will be on Prince Caspian like a black cat on a witches broom. They already are, though perhaps you haven't heard about it yet. You will.

In the meantime, Disney and Walden Media have themselves a tiger by the tail.

Or should I say... a lion.

Evangelicals would also seem to have a lion by the tail.

The appeal of C. S. Lewis to this large slice of "the Christian market" has much to do with the professor's astonishing ambidextrousness: the combination in Lewis of a scarily-brilliant Defender of the Faith with a writer of children's stories and fairy tales. That's something akin to a superhero who rids the galaxy of Evil, but also rescues kitties from trees. Or a multi-sport megastar who coaches Little League in the off-season. Or perhaps a mighty King of the Forest who lets the children stroke his mane and ride his back. Occasionally, I've wondered how many of those Lewis books Evangelicals are buying in such quantities each year are being read, or read carefully. Or whether his biggest fans are reading beyond the list of usual suspects to get a larger picture of a faith which often pointedly challenges Evangelical assumptions and culture. People love Screwtape and Narnia and Mere Christianity. But have they read Lewis's Experiment in Criticism, for one example, and seen how his literary and theological views in many ways actually coincide, and how a frequent target of his antipathy is a way of looking at the world which is supremely characteristic of Evangelicals' approach to both art and faith?

It will be interesting, if any eventual Disney-sponsored version of Prince Caspian does manage to generate controversy, to observe the ways the discussion develops among ordinary Evangelicals — as they consider Lewis's "fine print" (so to speak), specifically any implications of a more Dionysian sort of faith. To be honest, I'm not sure I understand all the implications. But it is a fascinating, and potentially paradigm-shifting, problem to consider.

For instance, given the age-old pairing of Dionysus with Apollo, and their endless tug-of-war, one question that comes immediately to mind after considering Lewis's vision of Narnia restored is this: Where's Apollo? From my perspective, it looks an awful lot like Lewis has identified Apollo — the god of order, clarity, and control — with the enemies of Narnia who must be defeated to set things right. That puts him on the side of Nietzche, who was also pledged to the downfall of Apollo. And then when you consider Lewis's self-proclaimed love of Norse mythology, and that both Nietzche's and Lewis's favorite composer was that notorious Dionysian, Richard Wagner, well, you gotta wonder to just what Ragnarok is all this über-pagan machismo is finally going to take us to...

...Until you remember the crucial difference between these two Dionysian visions — which I may have neglected to mention. Note this: Lewis doesn't oppose Dionysus to Christ, but rather he makes Bacchus the servant of the lion Aslan. In other words, Lewis doesn't loose Dionysus on Narnia unchaperoned, in all his wild, frankly-sexual, bodily-indulgent excess, but rather only in the company of Narnia's Christ-figure. My suspicion, however, is that it's even more important to keep in mind that Lewis equally refuses to exclude Bacchus from Narnia, nor does he seem all that inclined to tame him. We recall the young Edmund's comment that Bacchus seemed like a chap "who might do absolutely anything." And Susan nervously admits: "I wouldn't have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we'd met them without Aslan." Susan can sometimes be a tad prissy and uptight, but in this case, even brave Lucy agrees: "I should think not." The upshot: Bacchus is allowed only in the company of Aslan. That seems an arrangement both sensible and prudent.

On the other hand, it does seem rather odd — from a Christian perspective, or at least from an Evangelical perspective — to exclude Apollo from a vision of ideal humanity. How can you exclude Apollo — the god of boundaries — as opposed to Dionysus, the destroyer of boundaries? Isn't Christianity first of all about order, clarity, law and absolutes? Isn't that generally what we mean when we talk about morality, goodness and truth? Pilate's question ("What is 'truth'?") is generally taken as a dodge, or an opening to relativity and anarchy. So perhaps a better way of putting the question might be "What do we mean by 'truth'?" And, in fact, an Apollonian brand of truth, especially in the light of its frequent association with the scientific enterprise, would seem to suggest an impersonal absolute that can be manipulated by those who know the formula. This view of truth becomes problematic for Christians as we consider the assertion of Christ that "I am the Truth." Or it should become problematic. Yet the fact that Lewis has to insist — repeatedly — that Aslan, his Christ-figure, is not tame indicates some people — stubbornly — think otherwise.

Evangelical religion, it should come perhaps as no surprise, has been as a historical phenomenon almost precisely coterminous with the Modern era, the age of Enlightenment, of Rationalism, of Apollo. With the nearly universally-proclaimed end of Modernity, the onset of the "post-Enlightenment period," its no wonder that so many Evangelicals think its the end of the world. "There is a Lilliputian quality to Evangelical faith," writes Fred Clark on this subject,
It seems to imagine God lying on the beach of our little kingdom, bound up with the cords of our propositions about him. That which is transcendent — truth, beauty, goodness — is too large for our categories and propositions. Too large for our idea of God. The idea that God might be bigger than we think — bigger than we can know or imagine or — can be terrifying. What if God should arise from the beach, shrugging off our tiny chains? Then we would no longer be in control. What I'm calling "Evangelical anxiety" is all about this fear of losing control. The nagging sense, lurking just below the surface, that we are not in control after all, no matter how much we insist we are. One result of this anxiety is a reflexive need to reassert that control, to interpret the world and respond to it in a way that reinforces the illusion that such control is possible.
Of course, it's not just Evangelicals who have exhibited a chronic tendency toward trying to maintain control, or the illusion of control: to tame or else exclude and deny elements that don't fit their ordering system, even at tremendous personal and societal cost. From a certain perspective, that behavior might be classed as "the American Way" — if it isn't a general human characteristic (that, nevertheless, seems especially pronounced in Americans, Evangelical or otherwise.)

Indeed, an argument might even be made that Lewis himself finds yet another means taming untamed reality. After all, his version of the story does not degenerate into the bloodthirsty orgy of violence of the original. So perhaps the place to begin criticism of "domestication" is with any Christian vision that turns the dark side of our human nature and condition into anything other than the tragic and absurd reality it actually is. Perhaps instead of submitting to Aslan, Bacchus remains the real god who is not tame; Lewis's hypocrisy would be that he founded his happy ending upon a wishful domestication of Dionysus. Perhaps Narnia really is a Happy Meal Prize.

That would certainly be the conclusion of most Apollonian science. And it was certainly the conclusion that laid the blanket of ice over the Western world which Lewis aimed to melt with his Dionysian Narnia. And certainly there are plenty who, like the Telmarines, would deny every old myth that presumed to resolve the tension that is being half-human, half-animal in such neat fashion. Faith in such a vision, as Lewis well knew, is like the faith of children in Narnia, and is liable to seem plausible only to those who have had some equally miraculous glimpse of it — perhaps even by means of Lewis's stories. Such faith would see in Lewis's myth, not a betrayal of the blood and indulgence and ecstasy of Dionysus, but fulfillment of it in the life and person of Jesus Christ.

At least, that's the way Peter Leithart reads the story:
The Dionysus of the Greeks offered only wine of death. Mad with the wine of Dionysus, the women of Thebes tore king Pentheus limb from limb, and Pentheus' mother blindly bore her son's head back to the city in triumph.. The wine of Dionysus leaves a trail of destruction, insanity, murder, cannibalism, warfare and rape… But Jesus, the true God of the vine, offers the wine of blessing and abundance, a thank-offering to God. The wine offered by Jesus cheers God and man, marks the renewal of covenant, and is shared by lovers. It is the wine of the new creation, drunk by the new Adam, Noah, after the flood cleansed the world. It is the wine of victory that Melchizedek brought to Abraham after his battle. It is "the wine of agape and the feast of fellowship," the wine of mutual joy. It is the wine, as Solomon said, that makes life merry.
Of course, there is a certain fine print on this joyful invitation to life: the relinquishing of control. Christ never promises his followers the sort of safety or certainty most hope for. Indeed, he promises quite the opposite. Most of us who think we've read the fine print keep discovering more all the time: so much of the ambiguity, uncertainty, discomfort, danger and lonliness we signed on to be "saved" from turns out to be precisely what we are called to. Indeed, I'm just as fearful and desireous of control and avoiding risk as the next Telmarine. And Apollonian analyses like this one can be one more attempted means to domesticate a reality that will just not be house-broken.

Life itself is a tiger by the tail. Our very natural fear is that releasing our grip is a bad idea, so we clamp down harder — on what we know, or what think we know, on what we have or own or command. But the lesson of C. S. Lewis's Dionysian Narnia, especially for those of us who have not only life but the King of Beasts by the tail, is that the most prudent course is actually... to let go. STUNG TO MADNESS BY DIONYSUS

So where does that leave us? "Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." The embrace of a Dionysian Christianity over an Apollonian one is in many ways no different than the acceptance of the Gospel of Grace over the legalistic imitations the Apostle Paul was always having to refute and shake off — except that, as is the way of law, the available legalisms threatening to encrust that pure Gospel have multiplied over the centuries. The paradox of law and grace will continue to confound those who seek a clear sign or formula instead of submitting to the contradiction that is the Cross of Christ. True enough, we still have to figure out, practically speaking, what the submission of Bacchus to Aslan might look like in our own day and contexts. (And all our good wishes go out to the Walt Disney Corporation for success with that project as well.) But my interest here has been primarily to guide us to that picture and leave us contemplating it: to orient our vision and attitude toward our faith rather than offer any practical advice on measuring form to freedom. Of course, that means I'm shrinking once again from the task of resolving the battle of Carnival and Lent. So maybe I was hasty in rejecting RUSH's quest for a "god of balance" after all! Then again, all the endless dualisms seem to be at the root of the problem, not the solution. That's why Lewis's undoing of the dualism of Apollo and Dionysus seems so promising to me. Indeed, "balance" can never resolve the conflict between Apollo and Dionysus because balance is itself a Dionysian solution: an Apollonion could never tolerate a both/and proposition, the unrelieved tension of unanswered questions. Apollo will not be crucified, as has been said, on the horns of dilemma. Dionysus, on the other hand, is the always dying, always resurrected god, the always double creature, half-and-half, like another Centaur, the eternally juxtaposed God-man.

The human condition itself defies the Apollonian demand for absolute order and purity: sooner or later Apollo chooses one side or the other, leaving something less than human. To be Dionysian is to rest in the quantum realities of a faith that insists, for example, that death is the way to life. "Quantum" refers to the subatomic world. The discovery that the quantum world did not obey the laws of Newtonian mechanics threw physics into a tizzy it still hasn't recovered from. Nothing was supposed to be above the laws of science, or any system with pretentions to science. Like the Telmarines, the systemetizers are phobic about wildness. Yet Christian Truth is Quantum Truth: a glimpse of the wholly untameable, a Truth that is neither law nor ideal nor concept but Person, who — while having a definate character — is subject to no law higher than Himself. A glimpse of that Truth is always personally threatening to those less truth-seeking than control-seeking — which probably includes all of us at one time or another. If we're paying attention, Truth won't just leave us petting its pretty fur, but — to use Kierkegaard's phrase — in "fear and trembling."

Peter Leithart again:
The wine of the true Dionysus is not safe. It is the wrath-wine of the holy God, the transcendent God, the God who escapes our every effort to control or corral Him. The wine of Jesus is the wine foaming and strong in His cup, wine that he pours out to make his enemies stagger and fall. The wine of Jesus too sends people mad, for some who come to this table are sick, and some are fallen asleep. This wine is not safe; but it is the cup of blessing. Why wine? Because the Lord of the table requires it, and He is the true god of the vine.
And for those who cannot bring themselves to take the strong and heady wine of blessing, Leithart concludes, "there is grape juice for minors in the center of each [communion] tray."

And so, from Memento Mori, through Carnival and Lent, and Dionysus and Apollo, we reach the end of this rambling, untamed seminar without finding any deus ex machina to save us from our unresolved tensions: only a rather unsettling Dionysian ambiguity. If the view from here provokes a certain sense of vertigo, of looking down at your feet to find them on a tightrope with no net beneath, well, that's just what carnival is supposed to do. And, if nothing else, the persistence of our efforts to build our own nets, even if they come to tangle and choke us, reminds us that carnival will always be necessary. Human beings will always need regular time outs to admit that their order is not absolute, not final, at best a compromise — full of situational practicalities prejudices and idiosyncracies and errors and makeshift under the best of circumstances. And maybe if you know that your net's not going to hold you anyway, that may help you to pay a closer attention to watching your steps.

I do wish we had more time to walk a little further out on this particular tight-rope, however; there remain a multitude of fascinating subtopics for further consideration.

It would, for example, be most enlightening — or should I say intoxicating — to survey the landscape of the Gospel and Christian history for clues to locating a more Dionysian faith. In so many places you can actually feel some ancient, even primal energy straining against whatever cultural container barely holds it back, ready to explode into something sensual, even (dare we say it?) sexual. The Passion of the Christ. The ecstasy of St. Teresa. The throbbing beat of that ancient prayer, the Anima Christi: "Blood of Christ, inebriate me." John Donne's poem, "Batter my heart, three-person'd God… Except you enthrall me, [I] shall never be free. Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me." You can almost hear the hypnotic rhythms of drums, the seductive melodies of the flutes, the sighs of the maenads, lost in their mad, whirling, self-forgetting dance...

And we could certainly talk more about C. S. Lewis in this connection, who throughout his writing divides human knowledge and ways of looking at the world into a division that coincides very well with the Apollonian-Dionysian opposition. Like Lewis the popular theologian, Lewis the literature teacher makes it clear that learning to engage with art requires wrestling away from Apollonian control a way of seeing that is closer to (he doesn't put it quite this nakedly) sex — as in "knowledge in the Biblical sense" — than in the abstract, practical, utilitarian, even scientific sense that some people approach art. Perhaps the very real relation between Dionysian seeing and Biblical knowledge is why RUSH pairs Apollo with Reason and Dionysus with Love, and also why N. T. Wright can call for Christian approach to knowing that makes knowledge not a subset of power but of love. (Some further investigations are obviously needed here. Stay tuned.)

Another direction we could have gone if we'd have had a few more seminar sessions is in further consideration of the deep psychological and spiritual wisdom of the ancient moral of the Dionysian myths: that we pay a terrible price for refusing to acknowledge ambiguity, mystery and finitude. The fact that tragedy invariably concerns a hero who, due to events out of his control, suffers and dies seems highly significant to me — especially given the human, especially the American tendency to deny tragedy and death. The question of whether a Christian view, the Divine Comedy — which includes both crucifixion and resurrection — can ever be truly tragic, is deep waters and we may not be strong enough swimmers yet to wander into that end of the pool.

But it does bring us bring us back to where we began, which is probably as close to a conclusion as we can get on this topic, some further consideration of the charms of "Sister Bodily Death," as St. Francis called her — "from whose embrace no mortal can escape." As I look over all those portraits of Francis with a skull, I've wondered if the secret to his detachment from the world and attachment to God, his sense of connection to the mystical heart of the universe, his carnivalesque, Rabelaisian, Dionysian leper-embracing oneness with all creatures, was rooted in his close, loving relationship with Sister Death. Perhaps Death is the leper we are called to embrace, our first partner in any Dionysian dance of self-forgetfulness. Perhaps Memento Mori is one thing we cannot forget if we are truly to forget ourselves. Perhaps remembering death is a prerequisite to truly living.

This year's theme for the Imaginarium has been "Days of the Dead". Today is the last day of the festival, tonight is the last dance in the Imaginarium. I hope to see you all there. Eu-oi-oi-oi!!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


3 outs left...

Is it just me, or does Wainwright look a bit like Jason Searby?

Crap, base hit.

Oh no, the kid is way too excited.

Another base hit.

I am going to be sick.


Stike two.

Pick off attempt at first. Man, yaddy's got a gun.

Foul ball.

Please hit the ball on the ground...


2 outs to go.

Double play ball, please?

Nasty breaking pitch.


I just realized that I am running commentary on this thing, and I may have to change my title from "unbelievable."

Fly ball!

2 outs!

Breathe. Breathe.

Man, I hate loduca...

Ball one.

Strike one.

3 - 1, crap, he walked him.

Oh no. Beltran is a cardinal killer.



Dear 8 lb, 6 oz baby Jesus!



Monday, October 16, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sitting here watching Glavine strike out Albert Pujols...

I still believe though!

Do you all know that SoeYun is blogging again? Read about her hilarious battle with the toilet, here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

This age will die not as a result of some evil, but from a lack of passion.

-- Soren Kierkegaard

Best. Music. Video. Ever.

Music Video Codes by VideoCure

And how about them Cardinals?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Do I dare believe?

I mean, we looked GOOD yesterday. Surely, we can't win the NL, can we?

Monday, October 02, 2006

T.O., you see this book by A.W. Tozer?

Ya, it's called "The Pursuit of God," not "The Pursuit of Killing Yourself"!