Lazy Sunday XLVIII: Culture

A paradox of blogging is that the more I write, the more difficult (at least some weeks) it is to think up a good theme for Lazy Sunday.  Part of the problem is that the earliest editions often featured very broad categories; thus, the proliferation of “Part II” posts throughout.

Of course, that’s probably a problem for me, the writer.  You’re just looking to scan through a list of hyperlinks while enjoying your pre-church coffee (or—given my tardiness posting of late—your post-church nap).  Such is the nature of the relationship between creator and consumer—thirty minutes put into crafting a blog post equates to about thirty seconds of skimming.  But it’s worth it to have your eyeballs (eww…) for those thirty seconds!

On that note, I’m dedicating this week’s Lazy Sunday to matters of culture.  In compiling this short list of recent pieces, I came to realize that I way overuse the “culture” tag on my blog posts.  In my defense, I do so because I see most issues as cultural (or, even more deeply, theological and philosophical), rather than merely political or economical, in nature.  The major political battles we’re fighting in the West today are, at heart, about culture.

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The Creation of Culture

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The impeachment trial rolls on, and continues to be so boring, even the senators involved were falling asleep.  I have a classic Boomer colleague with whom I share a classroom, and he has been following the impeachment with rapt attention, periodically bursting into fulminations that “both sides have already made up their minds!  They’re not even listening to each other.”

He’s a sweet man, so I bite my tongue.  The reason no one is listening is because the whole thing is patently a sham.  The process isn’t being taken seriously because it’s been cheapened:  it’s merely a lurid attempt—the latest in a long series—to undo the results of the 2016 election.

That deep division is so predictable at this point that it’s not even interesting anymore, even if it remains important.  But rather than dwell on the fundamental division between two diametrically opposed philosophies (and, in many ways, theologies), I want to devote today’s SubscribeStar Saturday post to something more positive.

I’ve been pondering lately the ways in which culture gets created.  So much of our current political battles are really, at heart, spiritual.  They are also cultural.  In essence, some people are allowed to have culture; others—straight white Christian men, for example—are not.  Never mind that straight (and a few gay) white Christian men gave us the greatest works of classical music, notions of liberty and self-government, and all sorts of other wonderful cultural products.

That’s not to say that other people can’t create culture.  Not at all.  Simply saying that Aristotle was a great thinker doesn’t diminish, say, the accomplishments of George Washington Carver.  But if we’re allowed to celebrate Carver as a black scientist, why can’t we celebrate, say, Mozart as an example of the greatness of Western Civilization?  Indeed, the greatness of Western Civilization is that its principles may have started in Europe, but are, in fact, universal:  George Washington Carver was able to conduct his peanut experiments awash in the intellectual ferment of Western culture.

But I digress.  A good friend of mine has written an excellent collection of poetry, A Year of Thursday Nights.  The poet, Jeremy Miles, collected the poems as he wrote and performed them at a local coffee shop’s open mic night nearly every Thursday night for a year.  The work is a powerful example of how culture—and a culture—gets created.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: O Holy Night

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The unofficial theme of the blog this week has been Christmas music.  What better way to cap off the week than with a post about the best Christmas song ever written, Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night“?

Like its cousin “Silent Night,” the story of “O Holy Night” involves a village’s church organ.  In 1843, the church organ of the French village of Roquemaure had recently been renovated, so the parish priest asked a local wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau, to write a poem to commemorate the occasion.  That poem, “Cantique de Noël,” would be set to music a short time later by composer and music critic Adolphe Adam—and Christmas history would be made.

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