Red Egg Review

While this blog has been dead for a period of time due to the birth of my daughter Elisabeth and school – I have managed to get on board with a new project. The Red Egg Review. Here is our introductory essay:

Here it is: another anglophone Orthodox publication – on the Internet, no less! You may think you know what you’re in for here. Orthodoxy as Austrian economics, continuing Anglicanism, or the Lost Cause. Beard-measuring contests. Beauty as kitsch. You might think that – but you’d be wrong.

What you’ll find, we hope, is something else: a living faith, secure enough in its traditions to be constantly engaged with the world around it. The Orthodox tradition, as we see it, is deep and rich, and by its nature resists our attempts to impose programs, whether aesthetic or ideological. This resistance doesn’t free us from the demands of understanding and obedience, but does require that we remain humble as we attempt to understand both our faith and our world. In the face of a world beyond our ability to ever comprehend, we can never claim completion.

If we can’t programmatize, then, if we can’t ever hope to entirely comprehend, what can we do to be nourished by the Church? How should we approach its theological heritage, its liturgical life, and its long history of human experience? Too often, in the face of their bewildering richness, we flee. Instead of the difficult work of understanding, we take refuge in nostalgic visions. Often, though, these visions turn out to be fantasies alien to the experience of the Church.

The Red Egg Review stands against anything that reduces the Orthodox Church to a belligerent in cultural battles. We oppose the use of the Church as a cultural or liturgical nature preserve. The Church has no glorious past to recover, no more innocent or holy time to which we might return, because the Church is, as Fr. Georges Florovsky once said, ‘the continual manifestation of the beginning and the end.’ The Church, like the Magdalene’s red egg, will inevitably destabilize the established social, political, economic, and intellectual systems of the moment through its eschatological presence and witness.

If the Orthodox Christian faith – still in its infancy in America – is to mature into adulthood, we as Orthodox Christians need to be attentive to what our faith requires us to be as citizens and as neighbors. We should look forward, as well as backward; outward, as well as inward. We should engage the world around us fully, listening patiently to what it has to tell us: to late-night television, to dance music, to those who disagree with us. We are a hospital, and hospitals do not fight wars.

It is our hope that The Red Egg Review will move forward the discussion about the relationship between the Church and the world. We seek to stimulate conversation in universities, seminaries, parishes, homes, and workplaces. We will discuss the art, ideas, and challenges of everyday American culture, the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, and modern Orthodox voices. Our perspective is and will continue to be rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, and in the tradition of His Church. Like our Fathers and Mothers, we remain open to the insights and experiences of other Christian traditions and of all human beings.

We invite you to join us, to read, to write, and to converse.

Neal Watson
Samuel Noble
Daniel Greeson
A.S. Parsons

Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, 2013

You can find my particular contribution in the form of a book review of Aristotle Papanikolaou’s recent book, The Mystical as Political.

Please read and join in!

Book Reviewing, Baby & Life, ‘Silly’ Pursuits, Revisiting Blog Goals

It has been a bit of time since my last post, so I feel in some way obligated to fill readers in on my absence.

BOOK REVIEWING

I wrote a brief review of C.D.C. Reeve’s Action, Contemplation, and Happiness for Englewood Review of Books. I highly suggest this book to those who are serious students of Aristotle, otherwise you may get way too bogged down in Aristotelian minutiae.

Today I received in the mail a copy of Jeffrey Bishop’s The Anticipatory Corpse. I hope to be reviewing this in the near future, again for Englewood Review. I am excited to begin book reviewing with some regularity and will hopefully be expanding into more areas, i.e. poetry.

BABY & LIFE

The past few weeks have been an occasion of preparation and increased work load. I have begun a part time job helping the Vanderbilt Divinity Library process a gift from a soon to be retiring professor. This has been helpful financially, and perhaps even career wise as I try to get SOME kind of library experience while I pursue this MTS degree.

Preparation has been increasing for some time as my wife and I are expecting any day now. We do not know the gender, but we have some names picked out for either gender. I am looking forward to being a father and opening up this world to this child. Anyone who has already assumed the mantle of fatherhood, please direct any stories or advice my way. The Greeson party is about to start.

In other recent news, my wife and I had a splendid visit with the ever gregarious Aaron Taylor and his wife and sister. Besides Aaron’s genial nature, he has also been on a rampage in the blogosphere. I have found the most recent post on Maritain and Dionysius on poetic knowledge to be quite applicable to my recent forays.

‘Silly’ Pursuits

I have a condition of severe dissipation when it comes to disciplined and focused reading. I have almost finished Dante’s Inferno, as provided by Anthony Esolen. I can honestly say this will be the first real time I have read the entire work from first canto to last. I gave up in high school, despite my love for it, and I only got into the upper teens canto wise a few years ago. I am enjoying Dante immensely this time around and was lucky enough to stumble upon Esolen’s translations of the rest of the Commedia.

I have also been spending time with more modern poetry. I have been enjoying the incredibly hilarious essays of Randall Jarrell, a fellow Nashvillian, the work of John Hollander and even the philosophical poetics of Maritain. Beyond these I have been enjoying the poetry of Derek Walcott, Geoffrey Hill, and R.S. Thomas. My general idea is to read through Thomas and Hill’s corpus in order to maybe write my MTS thesis on something involving theology, theodicy, and modern poetry. In that vein I have also been reading Hill’s essays (which seem to mirror Cavell in style?) and some folks’ works on R.S. Thomas.

REVISITING BLOG GOALS

As you may already have seen from visiting the blog, I have done a bit of “summer cleaning”. I will be blogging in a bit about the header change.

I am going to go ahead and incorporate into this blog my meanderings into poetry and literature. I just can’t keep them separated. So this blog will deviate from its original goal. Now, I will more fully explore what is actually coming across my desk and not blip in and out of existence on this blog as I read specifically “theological” works.

Melancholia: My Library in Transit, Or Wherein I Mourn My Access to My Extended Mind

Knowing that Walter Benjamin’s essay “Unpacking My Library” has spawned many a essay and reflection, I come to this state of melancholia well aware of the literary precedent and sit in great anticipation for the freeing of my bound progeny. I have been withdrawn from the “mild boredom of order” since early February, when my wife and I decided to quickly pack things up in order to get the hell outta Dodge. Our home had been broken into for the second time, so the restlessness of the unknown and the feelings of utter violation had driven my wife, and by extension myself, into action.

The packing took only a few hours. As I look back it was a bit unwise of me to pack up almost my entire collection. I feel the pain of the withdrawal from my wayward midnight wonderings. I am someone who reads, sometimes unsuccessfully to completion, at least a half a dozen books or so at the same time. I have always felt the ability to make simultaneous connections between various works essential to my education. Perhaps this is why I feel the ultimate pull towards being a generalist instead of a specialist.

My reading fancies might lead me to reviewing some of Lonergan or poking through an assortment of modern philosophy or medieval art. But typically I am lead to the category of “MISC.” – which includes the alluring genre of the essay. Cheap collections of essays from minds of the near distant past and even further seem to be a favorite go to. I see a genetic link between the books I take to the bathroom and the books I pick up in my midnight wonderings. It must be the desire to be entertained. Long arduous reads, when I am taking short vacations (my wife may argue about my privy time, which I like to retort with resorting to W.H. Auden’s poem “The Geography of the House”) or trying to put off the resignation that comes when finally climbing into bed, are not adequate. The essay is the perfect format for the WC vacation or late night excitement. I have my favorite authors for this purpose: Herbert McCabe, OP, Montaigne, Paul Evdokimov, Adam Zagajewski, Geoffrey Hill, Alberto Manguel, something on a particular artist that is a favorite of mine (e.g. Stanley Spencer or El Greco), and (surprisingly for his typical longwindness) Hans urs Von Balthasar. This is of course not a real catalogue, but more of my ideal go to list. I probably typically grab whatever shorter book is closer at hand, or that is currently affixed by my fancy (I tend to go in cycles of interests, as those closest to me know (probably to their chagrin)).

I am ashamed to say that I used to spend an inordinate amount of time with books from the library that would be considered introductory. Drawn from a typical stack that would be perched in various precarious positions from the local university. I averaged around 150 or so when I was in school at Indiana Univ. and a bit less when I had access to Western Kentucky’s. In some ways I have felt this kind of voyeuristic and exploratory probing (prefaces, introductions, choice chapters or essays) has given me a great overview of a lot of subjects that otherwise I would not have deigned to spend significant amounts of time. Subjects such as: liberation theology, Karl Rahner, Reformed theology, poetics, Catholic moral theology, poststructuralism, and most definitely phenomenology in all its amorphous forms.

I digress…

I did keep a box or two out for the purpose of keeping my sanity on the horizon. At the time, honestly, theology and I were on break. The short of it: wrestling with whether or not pursuing theology academically has haunted me for at least the past 7 years. I have learned sustained breaks from serious reading in theology has maintained my sanity. Instead, I packed for my perusal in the interval, a ton of german lit., philosophy, and poetry. Montaigne, Böll, Bernhard, Plato, Sebald, Nietzsche, Heidegger, various biographies, and some contemporary anglo literature were to keep me company.

Of course, the pendulum swings, and now I am on track to begin graduate study of theology in the fall bringing back my desire to browse and work through some texts that are now hiding away in a storage unit in Kentucky. Perhaps some incredibly decent souls would care to donate a few texts for my edification? I am attempting to break into reviewing books in order to swell my progeny (more on that hopefully to come).

Has my collecting (which is usually progresses at a good clip) abated due to lack of shelves? Nope. “To a book collector, you see, the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves” – Benjamin. Despite that drive, my budget limits my collecting, and thus my melancholia survives unabated yet sedated by my weekly sojourns in the Divinity library. I feel as if I am not alone in this state when disconnected from my extended mind?