July 11th, 2004

New

Theological Notebook/Personal: Tolkien; Recording; Research; McGlinn, Michael Moore

Friday ended up being fairly quiet by comparison. I spent some time in the Archives, reading an unfinished novel by Tolkien and marveling, in imagination, about what a writer--what stories!--we might have had, if only the Author of the Century were any better about the discipline of writing. Lewis, I recall, frequently complained about Tolkien's incessant, nit-picky editing.... But after a good talk with Kevin Fleming--who was glorying in the night view from his new neighbourhood in Jackson Hole, Wyoming--that quiet allowed me to spend an extended period of time working on recording guitars for another forthcoming demo of a song called "The Right Dreams." As this was originally being recorded at 180 beats per minute, and since I don't have the finest sense of rhythm in the world by a long shot, I was having some problems. After dialing back my tempo to a mere 166 bpm, I managed to get several guitar tracks down. Then I finished out the night by working out the basics of the drum kit track, which seemed relaxing by comparison.

Saturday saw me actually really get back into the swing of academic life and reading for the first time since the surgery. I spent the afternoon getting some sources for the two papers that I'm going to propose for the Epiphanies of Beauty: The Arts in a Post-Christian Culture conference at Notre Dame in November. After dashing off a moderately excited note about it to aristotle2002, I sat by the fountain brainstorming for an hour in the late afternoon sun about the idea of "Art as Prolegomenon to Theology in a Post-Christian Culture: Problems and Potentials." When brainstorming became a braindrizzle, I began to pace, as walking usually helps me think. I also looked at, touched and admired the Joan of Arc chapel, which was also useful for this kind of thinking. (In the midst of Milwaukee, it's a touchstone of deep time to have the oldest church in America--a medieval chapel shipped stone by stone from France, on our campus. It lets me sneak around the corner away from modernity when I most need it.) All of this went pretty smoothly, with a fun break talking with a friend about the intricacies of a Muslim-Lutheran love affair.

Later in the night, I had a three-hour conversation with Mike McGlinn down in Nashville about a lot of this stuff, comparing notes and me explicitly trying to tap that great musician's brain for his own take on the subject, thus giving me another half-page of notes to think over. Please by all means, if you have some ideas on my proposed topic, I'd be fascinated to hear what you have to say. My other topic, on Salvador Dali's The Sacrament of the Last Supper is coming along nicely, but that one is much more easy and sure than this other speculative and theoretical idea of mine. Anyway, talking with McGlinn wiped me out and I didn't have much in me left for the music, other than tweaking those same guitars a bit.

I've been doing more research today, and am re-reading John Paul II's amazing 1999 Letter to Artists, followed by Mass, some food, and then, somewhat reluctantly, going with my cousin Ben to see Fahrenheit 9/11. Although I've already decided against Bush because of the rampant dishonesty and corruption in his administration, I'm very reluctant to allow such uneven propagandists like Michael Moore access to my mind with the power of images (even though I agreed with the basic intent of Bowling for Columbine that a little more gun control in the U.S. could hardly hurt, I was completely offended by the crude one-sidedness of his presentation, and the equal-banal self-promotion of it), even though I've already read several of the news magazines' various critiques about where he distorts the record. But I like my cousin a lot, and he's keen on seeing it, and I'm enjoying the deepening of our friendship, so here we go....