Friday, March 10, 2006

Life of overdue review

Yes folks, I really do still exist, and there's more to my life than mere pictures without labels (sorry Mike, I'll get captions up soon on those). I apologize for the long absence, but school has been busy. For anyone wondering what my class schedule is like, I'm taking four grad courses: Texts of Augustine, Texts of Alasdair MacIntyre, Epistemology, and Philosophy of the Human Person.

For a while, I was also sitting in on two undergrad philosophy courses: Texts of Dietrich von Hildebrand, and Franciscan Traditions. Lately though, my workload has come to the point where I'm only able to go to the Franciscan Traditions history of philosophy class. In fact, it was so hectic earlier this week that I had to pull my first "all-nighter" in years. It was hard, yet in a strange way, I loved the challenge and the work.

Schoolwise, I feel like I'm learning so much, but this also means that I'm changing in some ways, which brings me to the point for mentioning a new type of upcoming posts on the blog: my personal "retractationes" (Latin for "retractions"). To be honest, I'm stealing the idea from Augustine. Toward the end of his life, he reviewed all that he'd ever written (which was an unbelievable amount) and wrote The Retractions, renouncing all of the past things he'd said that he then felt were unfair and/or untrue. Now, I realize it's not the end of my life, and I have no plans on actually going through all that's been said on this blog (or the countless other things I remember saying). Nonetheless, I really think it'd be good to clarify some of my current thoughts, particularly where they go against what I may have held previously (and which people may still believe me to hold). I'm also doing it this way, because I find it humbling (and helpful for my own personal growth) to reflect back upon my past.

Despite all the "intellectual" stimulation, it hasn't totally consumed my time. About a month a go I saw Oscar Wilde's famous play The Importance of Being Earnest with some friends at the O'Reilly Theatre in Pittsburgh.

The play was hilariously entertaining, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys comedy. While I'm on the topic of entertainment, I've also seen a number of movies lately. A week ago, I had the chance to attend a British cultural event where various English foods were served, and a couple of students shared their experience studying abroad in England. I especially enjoyed hearing a new good friend of mine share about his Oxford experience. Seeing the pictures, hearing the stories, and examining the map of Oxford really added to my perspectives on so many things: my friend, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, medieval life, and even Harry Potter! When all the talk was done, we finished by watching the British film The Remains of the Day (1993), a very interesting commentary on various aspects of life in relation to work (in this case, being a butler), and to a lesser extent other issues surrounding the WWII time period.

I also recently saw the extremely gripping Hotel Rwanda (2004), a movie everyone should see, especially in light the continuing problems in Africa that the Western "civilized" nations continue to largely ignore. But keeping with the topic of cinema, by far the best movie I've seen of late is the French film Les Choristes (2004), titled "The Chorus" in English.

The French movie critics in general despised this film, describing it as too "happy" (and thus "American"?), yet the French people themselves love it, not to mention the rest of the world. The story is a good one, but it is the music that truly makes the movie magical. I very likely will be eventually buying the soundtrack for this one, and I highly recommend that everyone see the film itself (it's now available on DVD in the U.S.).

Now that I've mentioned music, some of the most listened to songs lately by me include three tracks from Mark Knopfler's album The Ragpicker's Dream (which I've only recently listened closely, despite owning it for years): "The Ragpicker's Dream," "Daddy's Gone to Knoxville," and "Old Pigweed." I hadn't listened to Knopfler in a while, but these have been quite refreshing, and so I just might also have to finally pick up his Shangri-La album. I've also realized one of the reasons I enjoy Knopfler so much: his eclectic interest in a variety of music styles, coinciding with his interest in different cultures and histories, and a desire to enter into those traditions through his music.

Aside from also listening to classical music and jazz pretty regularly these days, I've also been getting into a new genre: cajun! Unfortunately, I can't remember names of any of the cajun artists right now. But I can mention one non-cajun artist that's really impressed me: Ry Cooder (specifically, his album Boomer's Story). His instrumental blues/bluegrass stuff is very good, but he's supposedly pretty eclectic in his style as well, like Knopfler!

Music then, leads me into one last topic of entertainment: parties. Last week I celebrated Mardi Gras with some folks straight from Louisiana (they're the ones who introduced me to Cajun music) and it was a great time. I had jambalaya for the first time, along with a couple of Hurricanes. Then, just last night, the university student association threw an early St. Patrick's Day celebration, with an excellent Irish Band (though they never played "Star of the County Down") and good Irish beer (at a reduced price!). All in all, people seem to know how to have a good time out here, and I especially like when they make a cultural experience out of it.

Lastly, on a more spiritual (and more personal) level, I'm coming to deeply love the Franciscan spirit within the Christian tradition. St. Francis of Assisi continues to amaze me more and more. (For a great introduction to the saint, Chesterton's book is one of the best.) I think Francis is by far one of the greatest exemplars of all of the saints in regards to his life of charity and passion in everything that he did. May we all, whatever our beliefs, do likewise in our own day to day lives. Peace.

[And if you want to see pictures (taken by someone else, not me) from my trip in January to D.C. for the March for Life, click here.]


At 3/27/2006 01:14:00 PM, Blogger The Village Idiot said...

if you liked "Hotel Rwanda" you'd probably like "Sometimes in April" -same topic, but without all that flashiness and glamour of a Hollywood film. We had a speaker in class who had spent 6 years in Rwanda and he said "sometimes in April" was more accurate or fair in its presentation.


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