Friday, April 20, 2007

Fas et nefas ambulant

pene passu pari;
prodigus non redimit
vitium avari;
virtus temperantia
quadam singulari
debet medium
ad utrumque vitium
caute contemplari.


I just heard the most amazing concert- the Berkeley Chamber Chorus' performance of the Carmina Burana (not the Carl Orff version; rather, an attempted recreation of the medieval neumes). This codex of miscellaneous poems and songs, written by student monks in a melange of ecclesiastical Latin and Old German, ranges over the whole sphere of the 13th-century cosmos without denying the reality of either the sacred or the profane. (There's something genuinely Catholic in that.)

I was truly impressed with how the Chamber Chorus prepared and staged it, respecting the dramatic range of the text: here a proto-Cavalier carpe diem song (sung with a wink), there the woe of Mary at the Crucifixion (a heart-stopping lament, surrounded with reverence), there a melodrama of the Fall (the text was in places as thin as the typical opera libretto, so the overwrought staging was fitting- in a particularly fine touch, God raised two fingers of his right hand in the Pantocrator pose each time He spoke).

But best of all was the music- there's something still unearthly about chant, something more immediate and more moving than all the artificial orchestration of classical music, and the Chamber Chorus was flowing and expressive with it. I confess, as always, that I don't know much about music, but I was just floored by this concert.

You, dear Reader, have one more chance to catch this performance if you live in the Bay Area. They'll sing at St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco, Sunday at 7, for free. (Also, the University Chorus will be doing the Carl Orff version for free tomorrow at 3 PM on campus, in Hertz Hall.) If you can go, I say you should.

Otherwise, as Cato said, Ambula cum bonis!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm OK,

just in case you were wondering. I haven't had too much time for self-absorbed angst this week, and I won't have time for it this weekend.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Quare tristis es anima mea, et quare conturbas me?

I've hesitated to write about my struggles this Lent, partially because I haven't managed my time or sleep very well this week, and partially because I fear that I don't have anything interesting to say about them. I've found, yet again, that I don't have any knowledge of my own, that I'm only good for reacting to other people's ideas and (over)analyzing them. Sorry if you expected anything better from me.

In short, I've been battling a sort of free-floating despair on matters mathematical, personal and theological. More than once I've contemplated apostasy, the total divorce from God. I'd submit a couple of the intellectual excuses I've had for doubt, but I can't deny that this is more about hope than about reason. There are simply times when I lose hope of seeing God- and I worry that this sort of despair is not a cross I'm done carrying.

When I talked to my mother recently about my doubts and despair, she told me something amazing and beautiful. I can't do it justice here, but she said that carrying and giving birth to me was one of the most spiritual times of her life- that she would exclaim, "How could there not be a God?" when faced with the wonder of it all.

It refreshes me to know that she (and others) have these kind of connections to reality, but I've never seemed to be wired for them. I drift, unmoored by any sort of visceral knowledge, in a sea of ideas that connect only to each other. Those of you who've talked with me for any length of time on serious matters have usually heard me raise repugnant ideas with no self-consciousness whatsoever. That's because for me, there are no repugnant ideas- only ideas that offend others. (I've retreated from some conversations, not because I was offended by this or that, but because I'd have felt embarrassed to make my principled objection.)

I've gained more respect for those who, out of allegiance to what they cannot deny as true, hold to contradictions- for example, those who can neither deny that the Church is the Church, nor affirm some particular of Her doctrine. I used to feel that such people were ridiculous, but no more. I'm the weird one, the one who perceives the sinews of arguments but not the thing described.

I'm aware that this post doesn't make any sense. Do you see what I mean, that I have nothing intelligent to write about this? I can't make heads or tails of my troubles, and I can't stop thinking about them. I'll end up a saint or a lunatic, and I worry I won't be a saint.

Spera in Deo...

Monday, April 09, 2007

I've doubled my money!

Um, give me a few days to catch up on blogs and such...

P.S. Yes you are!

P.P.S. (in a more serious vein) A sweetly disheartening little story, if a bit melodramatic- a great violinist dresses as a street musician to see who will stop and listen in a train station. Via (yes, of course) DC.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Christus surrexit hodie!

Welcome back to Orthonormal Basis. It's been a long Lent, hasn't it?

I'd hoped to have some wisdom or inspiration to share with you at this point, but that hope was dashed once again by my frailty of mind and will. Later, when I have some time to myself, I might have a few stories to share of my visit to New York and Boston, or comments on books I've been reading, or an explication of my continuing interior troubles- but for now, I shall leave it be.