To Apprehend the Incomprehensible

📚 Robert MacFarlane:

“Above all, geology makes explicit challenges to our understanding of time. It giddies the sense of here-and-now. The imaginative experience of what the writer John McPhee memorably called ‘deep time’ — the sense of time whose units are not days, hours, minutes or seconds but millions of years or tens of millions of years — crushes the human instant; flattens it to a wafer. Contemplating the immensities of deep time, you face, in a way that is both exquisite and horrifying, the total collapse of your present, compacted to nothingness by the pressures of pasts and futures too extensive to envisage. And it is a physical as well as a cerebral horror, for to acknowledge that the hard rock of a mountain is vulnerable to the attrition of time is of necessity to reflect on the appalling transience of the human body.

Yet there is also something curiously exhilarating about the contemplation of deep time. True, you learn yourself to be a blip in the larger projects of the universe. But you are also rewarded with the realization that you do exist — as unlikely as it may seem, you do exist.”

See also: The vast reaches of the cosmos viewed through the James Webb Space Telescope. The Duino Elegies. This. And this, this, and this.

All things that till the soil of my imagination, allowing me to apprehend the incomprehensible. What does this for you?


Stylized quote: "[W]e have no shortage of theological language available, and the approach of rational and systematic theology has given us many helpful ideas and theories. I do not deny that they are useful, but here I am asking whether the poetic imagination can complement that knowledge, can offer us some apprehensions that begin just where comprehension has found its limit." Malcolm Guite, Lifting the Veil

Finished reading: Lifting the Veil by Malcolm Guite 📚

A delightful little book from an even more delightful poet/priest, Guite’s brief reading of Blake’s Jerusalem is worth the price of entry alone. A compelling case for the necessity of human imagination in apprehending the deepest realities that animate our world.

🎵 Yesssssssssssssssss! And playing in Glasgow Sept. 23rd. Who’s going with me!?!?!

Sunset over St Leonard’s Parish Church, 17/1/23

The Enduring Legacy of David Bowie

I hate that Bowie has been gone for 7 years, but I love being reminded of this incredible weekend in 1997 when I became a Bowie fan. I wrote this when I first heard of his passing:

In 1997, at the tender age of 17, I had the opportunity to attend this festival in the Belgian countryside just one month before I moved back to the U.S. At the time Radiohead (who had released OK Computer one month earlier) and the Smashing Pumpkins, still touring Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (which along with Gish & Siamese Dream before had etched it’s angst all over my teenage soul), were the big draw. To be honest, at the time I purchased tickets then begged my parents to let me go (in that order, if memory serves), David Bowie’s inclusion on the bill didn’t mean much to me at all. Like many 80’s kids, he was primarily “that dude from Labyrinth” for me at that stage.

Then he played.

Now, if you scan this poster, I’m sure you can imagine that this was a weekend that included some of the live music highlights of my life. But I remember vividly watching Bowie that first night and being blown away, realizing that his influence touched nearly every single act on that bill. From the dangerous cool of Suede and Placebo, to the theatricality of the Smashing Pumpkins; the glam-era brit-psych-rock leanings of Supergrass, to the “view of the world from outer-space” that permeated OK Computer; from the masks and the elaborate stage setup that Daft Punk played behind to white-boy soul and funk of Beck and Jamiroquai. Bowie touched it all and pulled it all together. I took notice, and have been a fan since that day in July of 1997. As I’ve come to know his catalogue well, the sense of the enormity of his influence has only grown. It is not an exaggeration to say that many, many of the most important records in my life would not exist if it were not for David Bowie (Achtung Baby, anyone…). And he remained artistically vital to the end. What a loss.

Thanks, David. My life and many, many others were incalculably enriched by yours. As many have already said, “Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.”

Just watched Aftersun. I am undone.

Inspired by Jason Dettbarn(@endonend) I’ve decided to add one song a day to this playlist for the next year. On occasion, I’ll write about the song I add as well. Listen along!

I love Greg Dulli’s voice, The Afghan Whigs are super under-appreciated and this unexpected cover song brings me a great deal of delight.

Wrapping up our annual holiday viewing tonight.

👋Hi y’all! I’m Ben. I’m a PhD student in art and theology, writing about Nick Cave and the power of pop music as a mode of “doing theology”. I’m pretty new to, but already value the ethos and community I see here. I look forward to connecting with more of you in 2023!

16 Years

She is more beautiful to me—in every way—today than she was on our wedding day, which, as you can see, is really saying something…

🎵Now listening: Christmas - Low on Music.

🎵Now Listening: A Charlie Brown Christmas (2022 Mix) - Vince Guaraldi Trio on Music.

🎵For your Christmas & New Year listening pleasure!

With my favourites for Christmas…

Happiest of Christmas wishes to all!

Angelo Badalamenti has died

His creative collaboration with David Lynch rendered some of the most truly sublime marriages of music and image in the history of cinema and television. I’ve spent countless hours being transported to places both wonderful and strange by his work.

On The Success of Art

Again, Sally Rooney:

This, to me, is the beauty—we might even say the magic—of the novel as a literary tradition: its ability to involve us emotionally in the relationships of its protagonists. This feeling is produced, of course, by meticulous technical construction, in the work of James Joyce just as much as that of Henry James or Jane Austen. But if we are to acknowledge that fiction has any effect on us other than what is strictly intellectual, then I think we have to admit that the feeling itself is important. Works of art don’t succeed or fail on their technical or logical merits: they succeed or fail according to how they work on their audience. Yes, the language of Ulysses is radically inventive; yes, its symbolic structure is dense with significance; yes, it destablilizes textual conventions; but it seems at least to me that it does these things so that we can meet all the more directly, the more vividly and beautifully, with Molly and Stephen and Leopold Bloom.

On the Blessed Inevitability of "Misreading"

Reader, attend to Sally Rooney:

Each reader, of course, encounters their own Ulysses: the one they create for themselves in the act of reading. Every reading of the novel yields a new text, one that has been pulled this way and that by the attention and inattention, the knowledge and ignorance, the likes and dislikes of the particular reader. And that reader is inevitably an entire person: a person with their own distinctive body, their own feelings, their own vocabulary, their own personal library of sensory memories and associations. These qualities are not unfortunate failures of objectivity: they are what make us capable of reading in the first place. Ulysses demands a reader who can respond as a human being, emotionally, intellectually, physically, erotically, even spiritually. And these demands are made on readers who are by necessity in no two cases the same. In our own particular bodies, reading with our eyes and our hands, with our own thoughts and feelings, we remake and reinterpret every text we encounter. Every interpretation has its weaknesses, its points of interest, its missing pieces. From this small limited partial perspective, embracing its smallness and limitations, I feel I need not worry so much about “misreading” Joyce. Every reading of Ulysses is a misreading, a faulty but revealing translation, a way of drawing the novel into new and perhaps unintended relationships. All that matters to me is finding a way to read the book that is interesting: that opens out instead of closing down.

This is, of course, why it can be such an illuminating experience to re-read a text you loved (or hated) at an earlier period in your life after some years have passed; it will inevitably offer up different things to the person you are than it did to the person you were. Each “misreading” helps us see a little more of the text and a little more of ourselves through the text.

This photo of Nick Cave awkwardly hugging Warren Ellis while holding a copy of Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss is so many of my favorite things in one place.

Dusk keeps coming earlier in St. Andrews. 26 days to the winter solstice.