I grew up in a rural American Protestant culture. In many ways there was a level of piety that was beneficial … But the culture had its limitations. Drinking alcohol was strongly discouraged though widespread in an almost criminal atmosphere reminiscent of the days of prohibition. Everybody smoked tobacco, even if we were told it was wrong. Dancing was not common – some held it to be sinful. I never learned to dance. Musical experience was limited. There was the choir at Church (boring and bad). I took piano lessons and was quite unusual for doing this (girls took piano, not boys). Later I was introduced to band instruments, though I don’t recall any adults in my childhood who played musical instruments.
It may sound frivolous to some, but I think it is profoundly disturbing that there have been forms of modern culture that do not sing and dance. I have never read of a single example of a folk culture (pre-modern by definition) in which singing and dancing were absent. Their absence is a sure sign that an ideology foreign and essentially hostile to basic human instincts has settled in.
The rise of “Rock-n-Roll” in the 1950’s ran counter to this rural ideology. Inveighing against the evils of the “devil’s music” was quite common. There was, of course, a great deal of racism and fear in this reaction. But it was, in many ways, simply the rejection of a false ideology. People will eventually sing and dance. It is essential to human life.
I think about these things as I make the journey through Great Lent. For the same culture that did not sing and dance did not make the sign of the Cross. It rarely bent its knees (it was quite common to sit while singing hymns in Church). It did not fast. It produced almost no art or beauty. Utility was its hallmark. The life of Great Lent comes from Classical Christian culture. That culture remembers and preserves what it is to be truly and fully human, created in the image of God. Lent is a journey that, rightly practiced, slowly restores our true humanity. A good Lent should sing and dance.
If thought, as I believe, forms itself in the mind by means of words, then, in the first fraction of a second, when the thought is sparked, the words that instantaneously cluster around it, like barnacles, are not clearly distinguishable to the mind’s eye: They constitute the thought only in potential, a shape underwater, present but not fully detailed. When a thought emerges in the language of the speaker (and each language produces particular thoughts that can be only imperfectly translated), the mind selects the most adequate words in that specific language, to allow the thought to become intelligible, as if the words were metal shavings gathering around the magnet of thought.
(Alberto Manguel, Thoughts that Can’t Be Spoken) From the title, I was expecting something on political correctness. I got something better than that.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
I think it was William F. Buckley, and I think it went something like this: “The problem with most progressives is that they can’t tell you in what millieu they would be conservative.”
A view of marriage that every major politician in the country professed to hold a decade ago (and President Obama insincerely professed 6 years ago) is now the vilest of bigotries. Not even someone as circumspect as Ross Douthat can defend one’s right to continue holding it without bringing out the deep thinkers in opposition. They draw talking points from their hackneyed playbooks, but cannot so much as hint at any principled boundary, some definition of “marriage” so capacious that they’d risk being called “bigots” by fighting against further expansion.
It took me a while to write it, but I’m erasing it and sparing you anyway. Suffice that Linda Greenhouse‘s use of scare quotes and phrases like “short shrift” didn’t fool me, I saw right through them, and if you’re paying attention, you can, too.
I predict that if the Supreme Court takes the Elane Photography case, it will “make short shrift” of the New Mexico Supreme Court’s reasoning, thus tacitly repudiating Greenhouse’s insouciance about the case.
* * * * *
“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)