Archive for July, 2015

JRR Tolkien on sermons >

Saturday, July 25th, 2015
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But as for sermons! They are bad, aren’t they! Most of them from any point of view. The answer to the mystery is prob. not simple; but part of it is that ‘rhetoric’ (of which preaching is a dept.) is an art, which requires (a) some native talent and (b) learning and practice. The instrument used is v. much more complex than a piano, yet most performers are in the position of a man who sits down to a piano and expects to move his audience without any knowledge of the notes at all.
The art can be learned (granted some modicum of aptitude) and can then be effective, in a way, when wholly unconnected with sincerity, sanctity etc. But preaching is complicated by the fact that we expect in it not only a performance, but truth and sincerity, and also at least no word, tone, or note that suggests the possession of vices (such as hypocrisy, vanity) or defects (such as folly, ignorance) in the preacher. Good sermons require some art, some virtue, some knowledge. Real sermons require some special grace which does not transcend art but arrives at it by instinct or ‘inspiration’; indeed the Holy Spirit seems sometimes to speak through a human mouth providing art, virtue and insight he does not himself possess: but the occasions are rare. In other times I don’t think an educated person is required to suppress the critical faculty, but it should be kept in order by a constant endeavor to apply the truth (if any), even in cliche form, to oneself exclusively! A difficult exercise. ….

on being an artist >

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
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when I take a look at the etymology of the word “artist” I get something like this:
artist (n.)
1580s, “one who cultivates one of the fine arts,” from Middle French artiste (14c.), from Italian artista, from Medieval Latin artista, from Latin ars (see art (n.)).

Originally used especially of the arts presided over by the Muses (history, poetry, comedy, tragedy, music, dancing, astronomy), but also used 17c. for “one skilled in any art or craft” (including professors, surgeons, craftsmen, cooks). Now especially of “one who practices the arts of design or visual arts” (a sense first attested 1747).

Part of what got me thinking about this was a quote by John Lennon “I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.” The context for this quote was he was kind of knocking his own guitar playing (compared to someone like B.B. King), and kind of saying his strength is in getting his instrument to speak, or songwriting. I found it intriguing, as John obviously was not too keen on his guitar playing “chops” but he said in no uncertain terms : “I’m really very embarrassed about my guitar playing, in one way, because it’s very poor, I can never move, but I can make a guitar speak. I think there’s a guy called Richie Valens, no, Richie Havens, does he play very strange guitar? He’s a black guy that was on a concert and sang “Strawberry Fields” or something. He plays like one chord all the time. He plays a pretty funky guitar. But he doesn’t seem to be able to play in the real terms at all. I’m like that.” (more…)

a very good sermon on the Obergefell decision

Saturday, July 18th, 2015
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inspirational and true!

regarding music > on being an amateur

Saturday, July 11th, 2015
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I am not so very great at writing music and songs – but it brings me such pleasure I can’t imagine life without it. In a lot of ways I am an amateur. “What” someone might say – “an amateur”…?… you have work on Mtv, VH1, National Geographic etc – you’ve been broadcast on top 40 radio… you’ve recorded in some of the best studios in the world, worked with major labels, toured the world, played in front of tens of thousands, clubbed, made a living, published on and on and on…. how can you be an amateur? I would answer (and I have said this before) I don’t really know what I am doing. Sure in a basic sense I understand how to play instruments well enough to make a song. Sure at some level industry professionals and peers have rewarded me with money and recognition for my work…but still… there is so much I don’t know. Charlie Chaplin once said (more…)