Monday, July 4, 2016

The paradox of building layout and institutional collapse

Parkinson's Law is a popular British book from the 1950s. This excerpt is from pp. 84–87:
It is now known that a perfection of planned layout is achieved only by institutions on the point of collapse. This apparently paradoxical conclusion is based upon a wealth of archaeological and historical research, with the more esoteric details of which we need not concern ourselves. In general principle, however, the method pursued has been to select and date the buildings which appear to have been perfectly designed for their purpose. A study and comparison of these has tended to prove that perfection of planning is a symptom of decay. During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters. The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death.
Thus, to the casual tourist, awestruck in front of St Peter's, Rome, the Basilica and the Vatican must seem the ideal setting for the Papal Monarchy at the very height of its prestige and power. Here, he reflects, must Innocent III have thundered his anathema. Here must Gregory VII have laid down the law. But a glance at the guide-book will convince the traveller that the really powerful Popes reigned long before the present dome was raised, and reigned not infrequently somewhere else. More than that, the late Popes lost half their authority while the work was still in progress. Julius II, whose decision it was to build, and Leo X, who approved Raphael's design, were dead long before the buildings assumed their present shape. Bramante's palace was still building until 1565, the great church not consecrated until 1626, nor the piazza colonnades finished until 1667. The great days of the Papacy were over before the perfect setting was even planned. There were almost forgotten by the date of its completion.
That this sequence of events is in no way exceptional can be proved with ease. Just such a sequence can be found in the history of the League of Nations. Great hopes centred on the League from its inception in 1920 until about 1930. By 1933, at the latest, the experiment was seen to have failed. Its physical embodiment, however, the Palace of the Nations, was not opened until 1937. It was a structure no doubt justly admired. Deep thought had gone into the design of secretariat and council chambers, committee rooms and cafeteria. Everything was there which ingenuity could devise—except, indeed, the League itself. By the year when it Palace was formally opened the League had practically ceased to exist.
It might be urged that the Palace of Versailles is an instance of something quite opposite; the architectural embodiment of Louis XIV's monarchy at its height. But here again the facts refuse to fit the theory. For granted that Versailles may typify the triumphant spirit of that age, it was mostly completed very late in the reign, and some of it indeed during the reign that followed. The building of Versailles mainly took placed between 1669 and 1685. The king did not move there until 1682, and even then the work was still in progress. The famous royal bedroom was not occupied until 1701, nor the chapel finished until nine years later. Considered as a seat of government, rather than a royal residence, Versailles dates in part from as late as 1756. On the other hand, Louis XIV's real triumphs were mostly before 1679, the apex of his career being reached in 1682 itself and his power declining from about 1685. According to one historian, Louis, in coming to Versailles, 'was already sealing the doom of his line and race'. Another says of Versailles that 'The whole thing . . . was completed just when the decline of Louis' power had begun.' A third tacitly supports this theory by describing the period 1685–1713 as 'The years of Decline'. In other words, the visitor who thinks Versailles the place from which Turenne rode forth to victory is essentially mistaken. It would be historically more correct to picture the embarrassment, in that setting, of those who came with the new of defeat at Blenheim. In a palace resplendent with emblems of victory they can hardly have known which way to look.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Tempest notes

Notes (by John Tydeman) for Shakespeare's The Tempest:
When I was writing the synopsis of The Tempest for these notes it was enforcedly borne in upon me that the play, unlike all of Shakespeare's other dramatic works, doesn't really have a plot. It tells a story, it has events, it even has plots within it—Antonio and Sebastian plot to kill King Alonso and steal a brother's crown; Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano plot to kill Prospero, establish Stephano as King of the island, with Miranda as his consort and the jester and the bully-monster as viceroys. Magic overcomes motive and has mastery over character.
It is magic which defines events, from the raising of the storm in the first act to the reconciliations of the last act and the promised marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda and the restoration of his Dukedom to Prospero. He tells us in narrative, after the dramatic and naturalistic-seeming shipwreck, the story of all that has happened in the past which really is the main action and the dramatic plot. From the moment we meet Prospero with Miranda in Act 1 Scene 2 he is in control of the present and we know that he can forsee the future after he has broken his staff (wand), buried his books and abandoned the practice of magic. Because of Prospero's control over events and people there is no real danger, no dramatic conflict, just a progression of controlled happenings leading to a preordained conclusion.
Rarely for Elizabethan/Jacobean drama The Tempest observes the three classical Unities of Time (the events of the play occur within a limit of three to four hours); Place (the island); and Action (things happen continuously). One has some sympathy with the French critic who observed that "Shakespeare finally succeeded in preserving the Unity of Time only by eliminating action altogether".
The Tempest, which is the last play Shakespeare wrote as sole author (Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen were collaborations with John Fletcher), differs from the rest of his dramatic work. To anyone familiar with the canon it just 'feels' different. It has a different texture and symmetry. It aspires to the discipline of music and it is no accident that it has inspired numerous musicians—Beethoven, Purcell, Berlioz, Tippett and Tchaikovsky. At the time of his death Mozart was contemplating making it into an opera.
It has about it the qualities of a pome, a 'sea-poem' some have called it. It has inspired numerous other works of art—W.H. Auden's The Sea and the Mirror, Milton's Comus, Shelley's Ariel to Miranda, Browning's Calban upon Setebos, Marina Warner's novel Indigo. It has inspired films by David Jarman and Peter Greenaway—even the science-fiction film Forbidden Planet. Dryden and Davenant rewrote the original play, introducing new characters and a changed ending, and called their work The Enchanted Isle. It was in this form the The Tempest was played for over 150 years into the 19th century—and even afterwards many liberties were taken with the text.
That text was first published in the Folio edition of 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death, and appeared as the first play in the volume. There were no problematic Quarto editions or pirate editions and we can be assured that the play comes down to us much as Shakespeare intended. Whether he actually meant the play to be taken as a kind of personal statement, as a sort of farewell to the theatre by the greatest poet-dramatist of the age (and of all time—but he wasn't to know that!) is a moot point. Such was taken to be the case by sentimentalists for several centuries and there may well have been some such stirring in the creative subconscious of a successful man of the theatre who has made his money and wishes to retire to the country from the hurly-burly of London. I like to think so and can easily read such an intention into the script.
One fact is certain—the play is about a magus, a practitioner of magic, who says farewell to his Art. Shakespeare was certainly such a one.
The play is unlike any other of Shakespeare's insofar as the story is concerned. It is a tale entirely of his own devising. All his other plays were adaptations of other people's work, by they histories, romances, comedies or tragedies. He was to the theatre of his day was Andrew Davis is to television of today—a dramatiser. But The Tempest is special. It is original.
Of course there are references to the works of others—Ovid's Metamorphosis in the 1567 Arthur Golding translation (which he dipped into for many of his works), Virgil's Aeneid and John Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays. Most interestingly and uniquely, the trigger for the play was an actual incident that occurred in 1609, accounts of which were published in 1610. A ship, the Sea-Venturer, under Sir William Gates, one of a small flotilla taking would-be colonists to the brave New World, was wrecked in the Bermudas and all aboard were considered lost. Then, months later, passengers and crew miraculously (it seemed) turned up on the coast of Virginia unscathed. This dates the writing of the play as being 1610/1611, for it was performed at court before James I on 1st November 1611 and later as part of the celebrations for the marriage of his daughter Princess Elizabeth in 1613.
The fact that it was always performed indoors affected the nature of the play's form and structure. The masque, with much music and elaborate scenery, was the Jacobean fashion and The Tempest conformed to this fashion, which was more restrictive than the boundless space offered by the Elizabethan theatre in playhouses such as The Globe or The Rose.
This was also a period of much new colonisation, particularly in the Americas, and a considerable amount of debate on the subject was available in print. There is no doubt that someone such as Shakespeare was aware of the discussions and made reference to them in this play. Some have even suggested that the name 'Caliban' is an anagram of 'cannibal'.
Whilst The Tempest may be short on plot, in theme it follows the preoccupations of Shakespeare's last romance plays—Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale. Vengeance turns to forgiveness, servitude to freedom, peace and reconciliation are all. The message is very much in line with Christian philosophy and teaching and all are given their freedom, even Prospero who frees himself.
But what of the actor trapped within his role? In the medium of sound alone he and the writer have fired the listener's imagination, created visions within 'the kingdom of the mind', and the actors too, those spirits, need setting free. That is the request made by Shakespeare in the Epilogue when the 'insubstantial pageant' has faded. Your indulgent approbation as audience creates its own form of liberation and whilst we may not be able to actually hear your response—we hope we will, somehow, sense it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Tempest synopsis

A synopsis of Shakespeare's The Tempest, from Naxos AudioBooks, written by John Tydeman:
Act 1, Scene 1: Thunder. Lightning. A tempest at sea drives a ship carrying Alonso, King of Naples, Ferdinand, his son, and Antonio, Duke of Milan, plus sundry courtiers travelling from Tunis after the marriage of the King's daughter, onto rocks and is wrecked with the loss, it is assumed, of all aboard.
Act 1, Scene 2: On a nearby island, Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, watch the storm which he confesses to having caused by magic with the help of his servant spirit, Ariel, whom he has released from imprisonment by Sycorax, the former ruler of the island, and mother of Caliban, a misshapen monster who is also in his service. Prospero abates the tempest and tells his daughter their past history, how his brother ousted him with the aid of the King of Naples and how he and his baby daughter were put to sea in a small boat, loaded with his magic books placed there by a kindly courtier, Gonzalo, and how they arrived on the island and 'colonised' it. Ariel is despatched, invisible, to find Ferdinand, the King's son; Caliban is called and set to work; and Miranda is put to sleep. When she awakes she sees Ferdinand, whom Ariel has led to her by song, and they instantly fall n love. Prospero (who has planned all this) responds sternly and puts Ferdinand to hard labour.
Act 2, Scene 1: Elsewhere on the island the good Gonzalo tries to cheer up King Alonso who is grieving for Ferdinand's supposed death. Ariel puts the two of them to sleep during which Antonio persuades the King's brother, Sebastian, to kill Alonso and grab the crown. At the point of murder Ariel awakens the King and Gonzalo, who becomes suspicious upon seeing drawn swords, and the four men go off in search of survivors of the wreck.
Act 2, Scene 2: Two survivors are Trinculo, a jester, and Stephano, a butler, who is drunk on salvaged wine. Caliban, seeing Trinculo, thinks him to be a spirit sent to haunt him and hides under a gaberdine cloak. Trinculo, frightened by a storm, hides under the same cloak. Stephan, inebriated, sees what he takes to be a monster of the island. He gives Caliban a drink and he agrees to serve the two men if they give him more drink and he'll then be free of Prospero's masterdom.
Act 3, Scene 1: Ferdinand appears carrying heavy logs and Miranda expresses her pity and love for him. Overheard by an unseen and approving Prospero, they vow to marry.
Act 3, Scene 2: Encouraged by an invisible Ariel, Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban quarrel in a comic fashion and they agree to murder Prospero and set Stephano up as King of the island with Miranda as his consort and Caliban and Trinculo as viceroys. Ariel, still unseen, leads them off to a catch sung to pipe and tabor.
Act 3, Scene 3: Alonso and the hungry courtiers behold a banquet laid out for them by spirits. They are about to eat when Ariel, as a harpy, makes the banquet disappear and confronts them with their crimes and sins. Full of guilt and remorse and believing the death of his son to be a judgement upon him, Alonso goes to find Ferdinand's corpse and to die beside him. Gonzalo follows him, with the half-crazed Sebastian and Antonio, to prevent self-harm.
Act 4, Scene 1: Prospero confesses that Ferdinand's servitude was to test his mettle and consents to his marriage with his daughter. In celebration of the engagement Prospero's spirits perform a masque, but during a dance of nymphs and rustic reapers Prospero remembers Caliban's plot against him and abruptly ends the magical proceedings. Ariel temps the three drunken would-be assassins on with glittering frippery hanging on a line. Then he and Prospero chase them away with spirits disguised as hunting hounds. Prospero muses that all his enemies are now at his mercy.
Act 5, Scene 1: Arrayed in his magic robes, Prospero hears of the afflictions Ariel has wrought on his enemies and shows some compassion for them and, since they are penitent, he will not seek vengeance on them. In a trance Alonso and the others are led in by Ariel. Prospero promises to renounce his magic powers and disrobes as a magus to reveal himself to the surprised King and courtiers as the rightful Duke of Milan and offers forgiveness and reconciliation. Ferdinand is restored to his father and Miranda introduced to him. Caliban admits his foolishness in being deceived by the drunken Stephano and Trinculo. The Master and Boatswain appear to declare that the ship is miraculously intact, and Ariel will be freed once he has provided a wind which will enable the sailing-ship to catch up with the rest of Alonso's fleet. All leave for Italy and en route Prospero will tell the whole story. Caliban is left alone on the island.
In an Epilogue Prospero, as an actor, asks for the indulgence and the liberating applause of the audience.
See here for notes.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Famous supralapsarians and infralapsarians

Regarding the supralapsarianism vs. infralapsarianism debate, see these notes from Derek Thomas's chapter "The Westminster Consensus on the Decree: The Infra/Supra Lapsarian Debate" in The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century (3:267-69, emphasis added):
Others [besides Theodore Beza (1519–1605), William Perkins (1558–1602), William Twisse (1578?–1646), and A.W. Pink (1886–1952)] in the supralapsarian category would include Francis Gomarus (1563–1641), William Ames (1576–1633), Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661), Thomas Goodwin (1600–1680), John Gill (1697–1771), Alexander Comrie (1707–1774), Augustus Toplady (1740–1778), Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920), Herman Hoeksema (1886–1965), and (for different reasons) Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987) and Gordon Clark (1902–1985). Some have argued a strong case for including John Calvin (1509–1564) in this category—and others have equally been insistent on Calvin's infralapsarianism" (n3).
In a note on Calvin's Institutes (2.12.5), John McNeill writes, "This passage briefly shows Calvin as favoring the supralapsarian as opposed to the infralapsarian view of the decrees of God" (1:469n5). Here's another list of supralapsarians.
Others [besides Francis Turretin (1623–1687), John Owen (1616–1683), Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), and John Murray (1898–1975)] in the infralapsarian category would include Thomas Watson (1620–1686), Matthew Henry (1662–1714), Thomas Boston (1676–1732), George Whitefield (1714–1770), Charles Hodge (1797–1878), J. H. Thornwell (1812–1862), R. L. Dabney (1820–1898), W. G. T. Shedd (1829–1894), C. H. Spurgeon (1834–1892), William Cunningham (1805–1861), B. B. Warfield (1851–1921), J. Gresham Machen (1881–1936), Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1898–1981), Loraine Boettner (1901–1990) and J. I. Packer (1926–)" (n5).

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The heresy of forming students

From James K.A. Smith's You Are What You Love (pp. 158-59, emphasis added):
I became a better teacher as soon as I was willing to be a heretic.
Now, before you get worried, let me explain. Something is a heresy only in relation to some orthodoxy. And as a teacher, particularly in higher education, I had been inculcated into an orthodoxy about teaching: under no circumstances should I impose on the autonomy and independence of my students (whose primary goal in life was to become prodigious consumers).
This may seem strange to you, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to my students, but I didn't really know how to teach until it gradually dawned on me that students are children. I had basically imagined, early on in my teaching career, that the eighteen-year-olds in my Intro to Philosophy class were graduate-students-in-waiting and that my job was simply to "facilitate" their own theorizing. But as my own children grew and started to look more and more like the students in my classes, it finally hit me: the paradigm for teaching that I absorbed in graduate school was disastrous when it came to actually teaching young people. The notion of teaching that I had imbibed was actually allergic to formation, to the notion that I might have a sense of what students ought to be. So the "heresy" I began to entertain was a historic notion of the faculty in loco parentis ("in place of parents"). I was a heretic precisely because I started to entertain the thought that good teaching might actually be paternalistic. In the environs of educational progressivism, this would be seen as just plain loco.
So I came to see that an education that was going to be more intentionally formative would have to push back on some common assumptions of "public" education. More importantly, I came to see that this way of educating for formation points to the higher calling of the teacher—nothing less than forming students as people of virtue. Since education is a formative project, aimed at the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, then the teacher is a steward of transcendence who needs not only to know the Good but also to teach from that conviction. The teacher of virtue will not apologize for seeking to apprentice students to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. . . .
[According to "orthodox" educational theory,] "freedom" requires the loss of a telos, since any stipulation of "the Good" impinges on the autonomy of the individual. In other words, such a model of education actually precludes virtue.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

You Are What You Love (promotional videos)

James K.A. Smith's You Are What You Love (2016) is a more accessible version of Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom. Here are the promotional/preview videos where Smith explains his purpose behind this book.

Video 1: A spirituality for culture-makers


Video 2: Loving what Jesus loves


Video 3: You might not love what you think


Video 4: The heart of worship


Video 5: The heart of consumerism


Video 6: The formative power of repetition


Video 7: Rhythms and routines in our homes


Video 8: Ritual in youth ministry


Video 9: Worship, work, and vocation


Video 10: Connection to earlier books

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Christ's athlete

Augustine, in The City of God (14.9), on the Apostle Paul (emphasis added):
Those of us who have come into the Church of Christ from the Gentile world should remind ourselves above all of that "teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth" [1 Tim. 2:7]. He was a man of outstanding virtue and courage who boasted of his own weaknesses [2 Cor. 12:5; 12:9], who toiled more than all his fellow-apostles [1 Cor. 15:10], and in many epistles instructed the peoples of God, not only those who were seen by him at the time, but also those who were foreseen as yet to be. He was Christ's athlete, taught by Christ, anointed by him, crucified with him [Gal. 2:20]; he gloried in Christ, and in the theatre of this world, for which he was made a spectacle in the sight of angels as well as men [1 Cor. 4:9], he fought a great fight and kept the rules [2 Tim. 2:5] and pressed on ahead for the prize of the calling to the realms above [Phil. 3:14]. The citizens of God's City are happy to gaze at this hero with the eyes of faith. They see him rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep [Rom. 12:15], troubled by fighting outside and fears within [2 Cor. 7:5], desiring to depart and be with Christ [Phil. 1:23]. They see him longing to see the Romans so that he may enjoy a harvest among them also, as among other nations [Rom. 1:11ff.], being jealous for the Corinthians, and in that jealousy fearing that their minds may be seduced from the purity which is in Christ [2 Cor. 11:2ff.]. They watch him feeling deep grief and ceaseless pain in his heart for the Israelites [Rom. 9:2], because, in ignorance of the righteousness that God bestows, and wishing to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness [Rom. 10:3]. They watch him as he makes known not only his pain but his mourning for certain persons who had sinned before and had shown no repentance for their impurity and their acts of fornication [2 Cor. 12:21].

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Watership Down, Season 3

See Season 1 here and Season 2 here.

Episode 1: The Last Battle



Episode 2: A New World



Episode 3: The Wanderer



Episode 4: The Nestling



Episode 5: The Secret of Redstone



Episode 6: My Fair Gull



Episode 7: The Dark Deal



Episode 8: Darkhaven



Episode 9: The Eyes of Silverweed



Episode 10: The Spy



Episode 11: The Betrayal



Episode 12: The Beginning of the End



Episode 13: The Magic

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Watership Down, Season 2

See Season 1 here and Season 3 here.

Episode 1: Prisoner of Efrafa



Episode 2: The Roundabout



Episode 3: The Market



Episode 4: The Great Water



Episode 5: The Stand



Episode 6: The Orchard



Episode 7: The Great Game



Episode 8: Winter on Watership Down, Part 1



Episode 9: Winter on Watership Down, Part 2



Episode 10: The Mysterious Visitors



Episode 11: The Invasion



Episode 12: Bigwig's Way



Episode 13: The Homecoming

Monday, May 16, 2016

Watership Down, Season 1

Watership Down, the TV series, appeared from 1999 to 2001. As the seasons progressed, it diverged more and more from the original novel by Richard Adams. You can watch the 1978 version, which is more faithful to the original, here. See Season 2 here and Season 3 here.

Episode 1: The Promised Land



Episode 2: Home on the Down



Episode 3: The Easy Life



Episode 4: Strawberry Fayre



Episode 5: The Shadow of Efrafa



Episode 6: The Raid



Episode 7: The Challenge to Efrafa



Episode 8: Escape from Efrafa



Episode 9: The Vision



Episode 10: A Tale of a Mouse



Episode 11: Lost



Episode 12: Friend and Enemy



Episode 13: Kidnapped