a god kissing carrion

Yesterday, I got to see a live and almost entirely uncut performance of Hamlet (over three hours). Some favorite lines:

GHOST
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And ‘gins to pale his uneffectual fire:

***

HORATIO
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
HAMLET
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

***

HAMLET
Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be
one man picked out of ten thousand.
LORD POLONIUS
That’s very true, my lord.
HAMLET
For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a
god kissing carrion,–Have you a daughter?
LORD POLONIUS
I have, my lord.
HAMLET
Let her not walk i’ the sun: conception is a
blessing: but not as your daughter may conceive.
Friend, look to ‘t.

***

HAMLET
O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.

***

HAMLET
Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
So runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers– if
the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me–with two
Provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a
fellowship in a cry of players, sir?
HORATIO
Half a share.
HAMLET
A whole one, I.
For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
This realm dismantled was
Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
A very, very–pajock.
HORATIO
You might have rhymed.

***

HAMLET
And when you are desirous to be bless’d,
I’ll blessing beg of you. For this same lord,
[Pointing to POLONIUS]
I do repent: but heaven hath pleased it so,
To punish me with this and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So, again, good night.
I must be cruel, only to be kind:
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.

***

KING CLAUDIUS
Not that I think you did not love your father;
But that I know love is begun by time;
And that I see, in passages of proof,
Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
There lives within the very flame of love
A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it;
And nothing is at a like goodness still;
For goodness, growing to a plurisy,
Dies in his own too much: that we would do
We should do when we would; for this ‘would’ changes
And hath abatements and delays as many
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
And then this ‘should’ is like a spendthrift sigh,
That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o’ the ulcer:–
Hamlet comes back: what would you undertake,
To show yourself your father’s son in deed
More than in words?
LAERTES
To cut his throat i’ the church.

***

HAMLET
Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting,
That would not let me sleep: methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly,
And praised be rashness for it, let us know,
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well,
When our deep plots do pall: and that should teach us
There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will,–

***

HAMLET
Not a whit, we defy augury: there’s a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he
leaves, what is’t to leave betimes?

***

HORATIO
Never believe it:
I am more an antique Roman than a Dane:
Here’s yet some liquor left.
HAMLET
As thou’rt a man,
Give me the cup: let go; by heaven, I’ll have’t.
O good Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.

badly used and abused language

The apocalyptic pastor is a poet. St. John was the first major poet of the Christian church. He used words in new ways, making (poetes in Greek is maker) truth right before our eyes, fresh in our ears. The way a pastor uses the language is a critical element in the work. The Christian gospel is rooted in language: God spoke a creation into being; our Savior was the Word made flesh. The poet is the person who uses words not primarily to convey information but to make a relationship, shape beauty, form truth. This is St. John’s work; it is every pastor’s work.

…The language of our time is in terrible condition. It is used carelessly and cynically. Mostly it is a tool for propaganda, whether secular or religious. Every time badly used and abused language is carried by pastors into prayers and preaching and direction, the word of God is cheapened. We cannot use a bad means to a good end. Words making truth, not just conveying it: liturgy and story and song and prayer are the work of pastors who are poets.

…We learn patience in the very act of reading/listening to St. John’s Apocalypse. If St. John would have been impatient, he would have given us a slogan on a decal. The reason St. John insists on patience is that he is dealing with the vast mysteries of God and the intricacies of the messy human condition. This is going to take some time. Neither the mysteries nor the mess is simple. If we are going to learn a life of holiness in the mess of history, we are going to have to prepare for something intergenerational and think in centuries.

From Eugene H. Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor.

side-by-side splendors and terrors of heaven and hell

We think the church is already the kingdom of God and, if only better organized and motivated, can conquer the world. But nowhere in Scripture or history do we see a church synonymous with the kingdom of God. The church in many instances is more worldly than the world. When we equate the church and the kingdom and the identity turns out to be false, we feel “taken in.” Little wonder that anger and cynicism are epidemic behind the smiling veneer of American pastors. We need refresher courses in Barthian critiques of religion and Dantean analyses of sin….

Early church Christians believed that the resurrection of Jesus inaugurated a new age. They were in fact – but against appearances – living in God’s kingdom, a kingdom of truth and healing and grace. This was all actually present but hidden from unbelieving eyes and inaudible to unbelieving ears. Pastors are the persons in the church communities who repeat and insist on these kingdom realities against the world appearances, and who therefore must be apocalyptic. In its dictionary meaning, apocalypse is simply “revelation,” the uncovering of what was covered up so that we can see what is there. But the context in which the word arrives adds color to the black-and-white dictionary meaning, colors bright and dark – crimson urgency and purple crisis. Under the crisis of persecution and under the urgency of an imminent end, reality is revealed suddenly for what it is. We had supposed our lives were so utterly ordinary. Sin-habits dull our free faith into stodgy moralism and respectable boredom; then crisis rips the veneer of cliche off everyday routines and reveals the side-by-side splendors and terrors of heaven and hell. Apocalypse is arson – it secretly sets a fire in the imagination that boils the fat out of an obese culture-religion and renders a clear gospel love, a pure gospel hope, a purged gospel faith.

From Eugene H. Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor.

Christian subversion is nothing flashy

The subversive works quietly and hiddenly, patiently. He has committed himself to Christ’s victory over culture and is willing to do those small things. No subversive ever does anything big. He is always carrying secret messages, planting suspicion that there is something beyond what the culture says is final.

…Our task is that we develop a self-identity as Christians and do these things not incidentally to our lives, but centrally. By encouraging one another, by praying together, by studying Scripture together, we develop a sense that these things are in fact the very center of our lives. And we recognize they are not the center of the world’s life, however much cultural talk there is about Christianity. If we can develop a sense that sacrificial love, justice, and hope are at the core of our identities – they go to our jobs with us each day, to our families each night – then we are in fact subversive. You have to understand that Christian subversion is nothing flashy. Subversives don’t win battles. All they do is prepare the ground and change the mood just a little bit toward belief and hope, so that when Christ appears, there are people waiting for him.

…We’re working the depth, the heart of things. The gospel images are images of growth that comes from underneath. A seed, for example, is subsoil and subversive.

Eugene H. Peterson from an interview with Rodney Clapp published in a forward to Peterson’s book, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction.

responsibility to one’s neighbor

Zimmermann and Klassen compare Heidegger, Gadamer and Levinas:

Hans Georg Gadamer … emphasizes the point that ideas for our interpretation of the world do not simply pop into our heads from nowhere but are passed on to us through tradition.

…We must begin not with greater totalities such as Heidegger’s Being or Gadamer’s tradition but with our concrete social relation to other human beings. Philosophy does not come first in our reflections but the ethical relation to our fellow human being, and such a beginning is not Greek but Hebraic. It is in the Bible, argues Levinas, that we find the true ethical grounds for humanism: responsibility to one’s neighbor. It is this ethical demand of the other human being that limits one’s self-centered impulse for control over nature and others.

From The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education by Jens Zimmermann and Norman Klassen.

knowledge that one does not know

Even Aristotle’s views on proof and argument—which, in fact, make dialectic a subordinate element in knowledge—accord the same priority to the question, as has been demonstrated by Ernst Kapp’s brilliant work on the origin of Aristotle’s syllogistic. The priority of the question in knowledge shows how fundamentally the idea of method is limited for knowledge, which has been the starting point for our argument as a whole. There is no such thing as a method of learning to ask questions, of learning to see what is questionable. On the contrary, the example of Socrates teaches that the important thing is the knowledge that one does not know. Hence the Socratic dialectic—which leads, through its art of confusing the interlocutor, to this knowledge—creates the conditions for the questions. All questioning and desire to know presuppose a knowledge that one does not know; so much so, indeed, that a particular lack of knowledge leads to a particular question.

Plato shows in an unforgettable way where the difficulty lies in knowing what one does not know. It is the power of opinion against which it is so hard to obtain an admission of ignorance. It is opinion that suppresses questions. Opinion has a curious tendency to propagate itself. It would always like to be the general opinion, just as the word that the Greeks have for opinion, doxa, also means the decision made by the majority in the council assembly. How, then, can ignorance be admitted and questions arise?

From the chapter “Analysis of Historically Effected Consciousness” from Truth and Method (2nd edition) by Hans Georg Gadamer, translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. Thanks to a friend who recently brought Gadamer to my attention again.

not an object set before us for scientific examination

It is difficult to evaluate the judgments of a past historical period, because we are not “at home” in it to assess its possibilities realistically. But is it any easier to evaluate the judgments of our own? Is it given to us to know our own society more clearly than a past one? Our society is not an object set before us for scientific examination. It is a historical, shifting and changing context, constantly emerging out of a past society and constantly developing into a future one. It is of infinite complexity, and we who assess it are part of it, and assess it from a partial point of view. We may sometimes suspect that there is no more misleading view of a society than the one it takes of itself, a blend of hopeful and despairing self-images, sectional perceptions, and so on.

The Ways of Judgment (Bampton Lectures) by Oliver O’Donovan, page 22.

it will always trouble the waters

But before one of them spoke Morano flung to them from far off a little piece of his wisdom: for cast a truth into an occasion and it will always trouble the waters, usually stirring up contraditions, but always bringing something to the surface.

From “The Fifth Chronicle: How He Rode in the Twilight and Saw Serafina” in Don Rodriguez by Lord Dunsany.

fans of peacock plumage

In one way Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before; in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before. In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners. All humility that had meant pessimism, that had meant man taking a vague or mean view of his whole destiny—all that was to go. We were to hear no more the wail of Ecclesiastes that humanity had no pre-eminence over the brute, or the awful cry of Homer that man was only the saddest of all the beasts of the field. Man was a statue of God walking about the garden. Man had pre-eminence over all the brutes; man was only sad because he was not a beast, but a broken god. The Greek had spoken of men creeping on the earth, as if clinging to it. Now Man was to tread on the earth as if to subdue it. Christianity thus held a thought of the dignity of man that could only be expressed in crowns rayed like the sun and fans of peacock plumage. Yet at the same time it could hold a thought about the abject smallness of man that could only be expressed in fasting and fantastic submission, in the grey ashes of St. Dominic and the white snows of St. Bernard. When one came to think of one’s self, there was vista and void enough for any amount of bleak abnegation and bitter truth.

From chapter VI “The Paradoxes of Christianity” in Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.

to sympathize with it

One of the most important—and much neglected—ingredients of Christian discipleship is the cultivation of a listening ear. Bad listeners do not make good disciples.
…We listen to the Word with humble reverence, anxious to understand it, and resolved to believe and obey what we come to understand. We listen to the world with critical alertness, anxious to understand it too, and resolved not necessarily to believe and obey it, but to sympathize with it and to seek grace to discover how the gospel relates to it.

Quoted by Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby in The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness (2007) from the Contemporary Christian: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World by John Stott (1992).