Tuesday, December 16, 2008

simulacra-kklesia (part 5/cinco): todo es duende y spiritual

I don't know why I like reading Watchman Nee in Spanish.

Maybe because it's knowing the work was translated from Chinese into English and then into Spanish made the product either:

-a copy of a copy of a copy at least three generations removed from the original...thus having lost much in translation


-by some Spiritaneous serendipity saved from "lost in translation" or simulacra, and in a sense "even better than the real thing,"

I am not the scholar to judge, but intuitively, it feels like it reads the writer's heart.

So i picked up Pascal's Pensees in Spanish. At our gathering Sunday, it was there on the coffee table as the rabbi dude and I were talking. I opened the book to a random "pensee," (#648) and read:

"Dos errores: 1. Tomar todas cosas literalmente. 2.Tomar todas cosas spiritualmente."


"Two errors: 1. To take everything literally. 2. To take everything spiritually."

Of course, this was originally written in French, so we face a similar third gen factor.
But I bet the translation worked. Spanish is closer to French than my ruddy English, anyway.

Tweaking the language a bit, but hopefully meaning the same thing:

Either we believe

it's all spiritual

or we believe

everything is spiritual.

The second is life; the first death.

"It's all spiritual" is the old/new docetic/gnostic heresy. Can't go there, matter matters.
"God likes matter, " C.S. Lewis said, "he made it."

"Everything is spiritual" is good theology (See the Rob Bell videos by this title here. It's good TV, if not quite Zoo TV)and duels dualism.

I would venture that music is the primary means of
overcoming simulacratic (and socratic) nature of our times and church.
Only then will we hear and feel the need to pray God yanks us out of our commercialism and complacency.

But not just any music.

Musical metaphor that is:

  1. lament (see Well-Ended Stories That Don't End Well)

  2. honest
  3. spiritual

as opposed the the normative and formative repertoire of church as usual:

  1. happy-clappy (hear Bono speak to this is a delightful and devastating audio quote here:
    and then dare to pray Jesus' gut-wreneching prayer here: ""The Lord Be With You...Even When He’s Not")

  2. untruthful (see CCM makes you lie)
  3. religious (Our only real enemy, the one who came to "steal, kill and destroy" in the context of John 10:10 is not the devil...he is nowhere mentioned in that section, no matter what we preachers have told you...but the religious person/false teacher.)
All three need to be refused and defused. Maybe we can get started by reading (singing along to in full MacPhisto drag):
Back to the top:

Maybe the Spanish language/culture is the key anyway. A careful reading of this post on

might suggest that a Spanish mindset inherently "gets" that religion lies;
and that holy simulacra can lead us to the One who leads us into all truth.

The well known playful pun on the word 'papa':

--"pope" and/or "potato"--

may be telling that Sapir and Whorf were right.

One more helpful Spanish connection

At their worst, U2 comes off with bombastic pretension. At their best, they achieve what very few artists in any genre can: they create work with a sustained intensity that transforms the particular into the universal. U2 has that rare ability to communicate what the late Spanish writer, Frederico Garcia Lorca called 'duende'; that "mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains" (In Search of Duende, 1998, New Directions.)

"I have heard an old master guitarist say: 'Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet.' Which means it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action."
Searching for the duende in the music of U2 may seem like the ultimate form of sycophancy or pretension, but as Miles Davis once so elegantly riffed, so what? No other band from the past two decades has so consistently given listeners reason to believe in the transcendental power of rock 'n' roll. U2 has the primacy of duende's "creative action" to thank for it.
..Lorca believed duende recreated familiar forms:
"The duende's arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old
Planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm."

...Few other bands come close to these dizzy heights. "Sometimes" is pure duende.
Lorca also stated "with duende it is easier to love and understand, and one can be sure of being loved and understood." U2 acknowledges that "tonight", as in other moments, weakness may overcome strength, but that's OK- everyone has those moments. It's in this realization that "Sometimes" crosses from the particular to the universal, cutting deep into the heart's core to pull out an emotional response that has nothing to do with Bono's father, but everything to do with our shared vulnerability as fragile living beings.
Music of this caliber and class feels as primal as shelter and food. U2 is keeping duende alive in their sound. All we can do is listen. by David Kootnikoff ,

Twice the writer observed U2's movement from particular into universal, as characteristic of duende. You may remember that Wathrall noted this same progression (and its opposite) about the band and found it characteristic of post-simulacra elevation.
Maybe they're the same thing:

It's very tempting to understand U2's exemplary postmodern song (on which, in good postmodern fashion, I shall isolate and focus on here), "Even Better Than the Real Thing," as a celebration of the very postmodern condition Baudillard characterizes as the triumph of the simulacra.....but heard in this communal register, the erotic meaning of the lyric, "I'm gonna make you sing" has when...addressed to a particular lover becomes transformed, elevated into a celebration of communal singing as an ecstatic experience that transcends even the feeling of real love between individuals (This universalization of love-by which U2 seeks to transmute the entire audience into a belived--works, as Plato decribes in The Symposium by generalizing from the particular; it is thus striking that Bono sometimes performs the same gesture in reverse; by bringing a particular audience member on the stage to sing to her personally, as a particularization of the general audience he seeks to reach through her. With the very idea of an esctatic experience transcending personal love, we tread, I would suggest, into the territory of the holy.....Christianity itself was born out of such a fundamental attunement of universal love....without imposing borders. (91-93)

So more on that in parte siete of this series manana..

Oye, there may be uno, dos, tres, catorce parts to this after all.





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