Idle Thoughts on Christian Music

It was a cool October afternoon thirty years ago and we were doing hill workouts. My high school varsity athletic team drove to a nearby neighborhood to sprint up its hilly terrain. It was a loop, where you pump your arms and legs up a steep incline, then walk back down where jogging would be too much like riding your brakes. Several teammates and I formed a small group and our competitiveness drove us to top performance up the hills. I was in a state of runner’s high — a hyper-oxygenated brain awash in natural endorphin — reveling in the functional perfection of my weightless body. I thought: This is an incredible workout for the mind, the body nourishing the brain

But thoughts raced on. Is the brain the end-beneficiary of physical health? No… something whispered. The brain merely regulates everything so that the reproductive organs can do their job. My first encounter with doubt: the body’s purpose is to replicate itself, and the illusion of having a mind or a soul is a byproduct of fluids.

***

The next hill workout was several weeks later. It was late Sunday afternoon and I was alone, catching my breath on the grassy hill overlooking an empty vista of my school’s athletic fields. A teenager’s emotional state is volatile and his mind solipsistic, taking certain things with grave seriousness. As euphoric I was during the previous workout, the rush of oxygen was now fueling thoughts of doom. The air was cold, the western sky was on fire.

Miserable thoughts piled on: Is this the best it’s going to be? The heart pushed jets of bile through my overheated body. Would it be best to die now? What is my purpose?

This is vivid recollection, not poetic license: I looked down from the hilltop and the panorama of athletic fields glowed golden, like the Elysian fields.

***

Ideas that ran in conflicting directions took me, at turns over the course of my twenties, to materialism and then back to knowing of another plane. I’m becoming convinced that keeping your eyes open and thinking without fear, over the course of a long life, will lead you to the foot of the Cross.

What Is Out There?

I can’t convince you of any metaphysical reality because I don’t understand it myself. Rather, it’s a certainty to me that God is more real than the two hands I’m looking at right now. So I’ll just leave you with someone’s comment from a recent thread at Chateau Heartiste:

I always keep coming back to the martyrs of Christianity. From St. Stephen, to St. Paul, to St. Peter, to St. Ignatius of Antioch, to St. Maximilian Kolbe, to the Copts massacred just this last Palm Sunday, and all the known and unknown martyrs in between…

Either:

1. There is absolutely nothing after death. Just the big “Nothing.” Lights out for good. Eternal Oblivion. They’ll never know they were totally wrong. All of them are all the biggest fucking idiots in history, throwing away their lives […] St. Paul himself says as much in 1 Corinthians 15:14.

or…

2. There is something more to all this.

Good and evil. If they are real, than so is God. To get a sense of evil, imagine extremes of depravity, and not necessarily involving violence — just look around you. And to contemplate an expression of good, read John 15-13:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Laying down your life for your friends. This next comment is not my original insight but I agree with it: A.B. Breivik volunteered to spend the rest of his life in 23-hour/day solitary confinement to deliver his countrymen from evil.

High Art

It’s not just martyrdom that the Cross inspires. There is also our sublime output. Finally acknowledging the title of this post and starting with high art, there is Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring,” Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” and Henryk Górecki’s “Symphony No. 3.” There is also this Eastern Orthodox hymn from Serbia. Speaking of Coptic martyrs, listen to this Assyrian Palm Sunday prayer in Aramaic.

Popular Songs

Stepping away from high art, there are songs that regular people can sing. A famous example is the immortal “Stille Nacht.” It was written in 1818 by a young Austrian priest, with music composed by a schoolmaster from a nearby village.

“Pescador de hombres” was written in 1979 by a Spanish priest. Pope John Paul II famously said that “Pescador” (Polish version: “Barka,” transl. below) is his favorite song:

Lord, you have come to the lake shore
Looking for people who are ready to follow
To capture hearts with the truth of God’s word

REFRAIN:
O Lord, your eyes have looked upon me
Kindly smiling, you have spoken my name
Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me
By your side I will cast a new net

I don’t have many possessions
My treasure is my two ready hands
To work with you and my pure heart

Today we set out together
To capture hearts on the seas of human souls
With Your truth and the word of life

The calling of a priest is to be a holy man. Since the one true religion, by definition, applies to all of humankind (unless you go with an assumption that not all subsets of mankind have a soul), then such a man’s thinking will be catholic, lower-case. I imagine that such a priest would wish for everyone to aspire to godliness according to their nature, on their own land and among their own people, encountering others solely in friendship.

With that thought, what do you make of the scene a little after 3:45 in the Barka video linked above, showing an African man and his son crying at the Pope’s funeral?

***

The great bass-baritone Bernard Ładysz leads a choir in this arrangement of the traditional evening-song “All Of Our Daily Matters” (“Wszystkie nasze dzienne sprawy”). I like the spontaneous feel of the performance. It sounds like a what you would hear in a church with the parishioners singing.

All of our daily matters
Accept mercifully, righteous God
And when we fall asleep
May our dreams praise You

Your eyes turned
Day and night in our direction
Where the frailty of man
Your rescue awaits

Turn away the nightly perils
Protect us from all harm
Have us always in Your care
Guardian and Judge of man

And when we ascend to Heaven
We will sing to You together
God in Trinity unfathomed
Holy, forever and ever Holy

From 966 A.D. onward, men have sang hymns in that language in preparation for putting foreign invaders to the sword.

Christian Rock?

In the live performance below, the eye is on the ghoulish guitarist until the vocalist lets out the pathos in a lung-defying howl.

He looks tormented, maybe possessed. This isn’t a comment about the band members. I don’t know Thom Yorke. Yet even if that dramatic performance is all-artifice, the fact that it expresses the inner state of listeners points to their hunger for something.

Did we just watch an artistic interpretation of a station toward the foot of the Cross?

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Marriage Advice to a Millennial

A commenter at 28 Sherman writes:

I’m in my late 20s and know the millennial dating scene well. In my experience, most of my friends who got married wound up marrying their girlfriends from college. If you were not able to do that, I’ve rarely seen any of my other friends and myself get married.

However millennial marriages mean almost nothing and a lot of my friends who got married wound up divorcing after about five years. The Tinder lifestyle is too strong of a pull in all of these marriages. These were the couples that everyone assumed would make it but after a couple of years, the wives wound up wondering “what if” and either started cheating or filed for divorce. I don’t know the statistics of infidelity but I would not be surprised if women are more likely to cheat in a marriage then men are, especially if they are under 40. Their wedding vows mean little or nothing to them.

The thing with modern dating is that due to the narcissism with this generation, a lot of women (and some men, to be fair) are always wondering if they could do better. This is a generation where most girls honestly believe they can be reality TV stars. If you’re a regular guy, you’re only as good until she can find someone better and when she does, it’s over for you. I’m in management and work out so I do fine but I have friends in their 30s and 40s who are in senior management/VP roles and they get their pick of the litter. Every one of my divorced friends who are over 40 has a regular rotation of twentysomething girls; any girl over 25 to them is no good.

I am a GenX’er but married to an early-Millennial generation woman. I know nothing about the current dating scene, so I am relying on others’ testimonials, such as the commenter above. This is not a comprehensive Game post; that you can find in Chateau Heartiste archives, starting with the 16 Commandments of Poon. Rather, this post is a very specific piece of advice for a young man who found a girl who can make a decent wife and mother and he wants to beat the centrifugal forces that the above commenter described.

Here is my advice: believeyour belief has to be realand go hard. Every girl is born to be led and if not you, she will follow Tinder. You make it clear that:

1. You two are a counterculture with specific beliefs. When your country is great again, you two are part of the ruling class.

2. Iron rules will not be broken you her, or by you. Hint: what those rules are, is entirely up to you; if it’s “no smartphones with Tinder,” it’s no smartphones with Tinder.

***

Let me give you two examples of what I am talking about, one fictional and one real-life.

The first example comes from Arthur Koestler’s little-known novel “The Age of Longing” (1950), in which the female protagonist, a young American expat in post-war France, reflects on three men: a virile lothario she had a fling with in her early youth, her upper class ex-husband, and her current lover, who happens to be a short and physically unattractive Soviet spy who fervently believes in Communism. She recalls the lothario making valiant efforts at satisfying her and failing, her ex-husband “making love like a bird,” as she put it, and her Soviet lover delivering what she had longed for. Through her character, Koestler meditated on the subject of faith and how men who lack it lack a vitality that captivates a woman, while a man who has conviction will be her whole world in spite of any defects he may have.

The second example is a couple I know. He is normal man otherwise, though introverted and somewhat shybut with a childhood accident-borne disfigurement. His wife is average-looking but she does have a pleasant face and the kind of social butterfly personality that is great for inter-family networking. Superficially, I had thought that he had scored out of his league, until I witnessed a large dinner party scene. He is a devout Roman Catholic, this needs to be mentioned. Somebody cracked a Jesus joke and he looked at the jokester, unmindful of the bonhomie that ruled the mood, and told him that he needs to shut his mouth and not blaspheme in front of children. His eyes looked like he is ready to kill. The jokester stammered an apology. Then, I understood.

***

From my experience, I will confirm that the rules to which you hold your family do work. As one small example in my house, we don’t eat after 5:00 PM for Lent (that applies to just us adults) and even if we forget to eat something as the deadline passes, there are no exceptions when hunger hits at 6:30.

A woman follows a man with adamantine principles. Girls on Tinder crave that too.