Quotations, skill, imagination, and language

So yesterday, I finally succumbed to the void that is Facebook. Curiosity and peer pressure got the best of me. In joining, one of the things you are compelled to do is create a list of ‘favorites’ so that all your fellow facebooker’s can get a glimpse of how cool (or nerdy) you are. It’s altogether a little high schoolish…

The favorite quotes field took me awhile to fill out. There are lots of quotes I love, but I don’t go around using them too often. So I did some research and found several, and now I want to bring up a couple of them here.

God does not occur in logistic calculations. Perhaps the difficulty we find today in speaking about God arises precisely from the very fact that our language is tending more and more to become pure calculation, that it is becoming more and more a mere means of passing on technical information, less and less a means for our common being to make contact in the logos, a process in which intuitively or deliberately contact is also made with the ground of all things. – Pope Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity


Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art. – Tom Stoppard

Of the latter, I’m pretty sure there’s a large, studious book out there somewhere with a thesis to the basic point that skill is no longer valued in contemporary art. But I think this is only part of the problem. I have felt for some time that humanity is losing the ability to use and interpret the language of symbols, and this gets to the heart of the Pope’s point in the first quotation. It certainly has to do with the move towards a more calculated, scientific view point, but I wonder if that’s not all of it. I can’t really put my finger on it; I think it is visible in the Evangelical impulse to interpret the Bible literally and only literally, in the use of minimalist language, and perhaps is also impacted by our instant visual forms. We are used to Hollywood films – where life is perfectly represented in moving images without much need for interpretation by the movie goer.

I need to work these thoughts out a bit more, but until then, I’ll leave you with this final quotation, which did not make it on my facebook profile.

Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed. Their highest merit is suggestiveness. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

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One Comment on “Quotations, skill, imagination, and language”

  1. Penny Says:

    Did you see the post on our becoming Google-stupid? The author contended that our brains are being rewired to process information differently like the internet. And in the process, we are losing our ability to concentrate because of the way the internet delivers information. It was eerie to read the article because I had been experiencing what the author was describing about himself and other friens.

    ince I have been using Firefox with its multiple tabs have caught myself having an attention-deficit type way of surfing. In trying to read a dense text the other day, I found myself becoming fidgety after two or three pages. I used to be able to immerse myself in a book from cover to cover in one sitting.

    Then there’s the texting with all the shortcuts.

    Then, tangentially at first glance perhaps, but I think it’s all part of the whole…Bishop Trautman doesn’t like the word “ineffable” because we ordinary pewsitters don’t know the word. Prayer should be familiar and comfortable, says he. So we must pick words that we understand. Good heavens! Who understands, really, truly understands the Mystery of the Mass? We have had 20 years of wretched English translation and did that do anything to Mass attendance? to our sense of the Sacred?

    As Fr. Z said, do our prayers have to be so lame: “God, you are big. Help us be big like you.”

    The first time I heard the word “ineffable” I remember running to a dictionary. I kept repeating the word over and over. It was so beautiful and when I read the definition, I thought, “Ah, it is a fitting word.”

    So we Catholics are too dumb to have “ineffable” in our liturgical language, but the Orthodox and Anglicans have it. They don’t go interviewing people, “Say, do you know what ‘ineffable’ means?”

    Sorry for the rant. I’m in a curmudgeonly mood today.

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