Tag: Tradition

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In my continuing effort to track cultural weirdness, I had another eye opening exposure I thought I’d drop it in here: The growing use of the term “birthing person.” I didn’t quite get what it was for, and found a counseling practice that explained it. They are willing to use “mother” if that is what […]

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Where We Do Not Wish to Go

 

“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were young you used to fasten your own belt and you would go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will put a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:18, New Catholic Bible)

I attended a Catholic Mass this past week to watch a cousin graduate from 8th grade and move up to high school. While I haven’t been a Catholic for 40 years, it’s still pleasant to listen occasionally to the familiar old service. The Church made changes to the liturgical responses a decade or so ago, and I find it a little jarring to hear something slightly different from the words I memorized in my youth; if not for that, I’d still be able to recite the responses correctly, even after all these years.

‘Tis the Season: Free the Cake!

 

It’s the time of year again when many Americans find themselves isolated, out of step, and even mocked and persecuted. I am one of them. This year I am stepping out of the shadows to plead for tolerance for this beleaguered minority. So here goes: My name is Suspira* and I like fruitcake.

I know. Listen to voices in the media—comedians, chatty newscasters, and even advertisers—and you’ll come away with the idea that no one likes fruitcake. In fact, no one even tries to eat them, instead making them ammunition in fruitcake tosses and other seasonal activities for fruitcake-haters. Then there’s the joke that there really is only one fruitcake that has been passed around for centuries.

Fruitcakes (that’s plural!) have been around for a millennium, at least. The ancestor of today’s fruitcake was concocted by the Romans, and the fruitcake habit was spread along with the Roman legions throughout Europe. Each nation produced its own variety, from German stollen to Italian panforte to England’s dense versions featuring marzipan and royal icing.

How Sweet the Sound

 

What would Black Gospel Music sound like if it blended with Eastern Orthodox liturgical tradition? Though liturgical traditions have a reputation for their timelessness, or at least for not changing, the Eastern Orthodox liturgy of singing and chanting antiphonally has changed over the past 2,000 years, particularly when Orthodoxy has met with other cultures whose own musical talents and understandings are different.

Though the broad outlines of a Russian or Greek liturgy are substantially identical, with the same prayers, the same order of service, the same structure, they do not exactly sound the same, even setting aside the language differences.  Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Shawn Wallace, Director of Jazz Studies at Ohio State University, and an Orthodox Christian himself, presented a project long in his heart.  How Sweet the Sound was a concert that presented an Orthodox vespers service as blended with, and sung in the style of Black Gospel music.

Words are inadequate to properly describe the concert.  It was beautiful, joyful, and above all worshipful, weaving traditional Gospel and other Protestant hymns in and through the prayers, psalm reading, and hymns of vespers – a service sung and chanted to mark the ending of one day, and herald the beginning of the next.  Holy Holy Holy wove in and out of Psalm 104, Wade in the Water carried, like waves Lord I have Cried, and Amazing Grace brought Psalm 117 to a beautiful crescendo.

Why Do Those Wanting to Transform an Institution Almost Always Claim the Institution…

 

. . .and the people who want to preserve what the institution has stood for must leave and create a new institution to preserve the values of the old institution?

The United Methodist Church, which I recently joined in the hopes of avoiding just such a fracturing, has before it a proposal to split over whether to adhere to traditional church teaching. Although the triggering issue is listed as human sexuality, sexuality is merely the surface issue for a much deeper conflict over many aspects of traditional church doctrine, the authority of scripture, the value of traditions, and questions of how God has related to His people throughout history. But this is not the thread in which to discuss the specifics of the Methodist controversy. For better details on the Methodist proposal, go to the thread entitled, “This Week in the UMC” by @jimchase.

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Holidays were always a fun time as a kid. The ones that we marked, at least. On Thanksgiving, we went around and said what we were grateful for. On Succos (Feast of Tabernacles), my father and brother built our own little temporary hut and I helped string the cranberries to hang from the branches above […]

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Crystals the Color of Sweat and Blood

 

I was a minor rock hound — a rock pup, if you will — in my youth. Nothing serious, a small collection, only a few spectacular finds of my own, the rest either dull or store-bought. I liked crystals. But not as “wellness” aids. The folklore surrounding minerals, including their medicinal use, is part of their history. Still, I found myself mildly disappointed by the degree to which even geology shops treated the folklore as true.

Apparently, “wellness” claims for rocks have only gotten worse — er, I mean, more popular — since I was a young rock hound. Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, has gifted the world with Goop, like crystal-enhanced water bottles! Yoni eggs! (Warning: these eggs NSFW.) Rose quartz, with its soft pink hue, is particularly popular for “wellness.” Fair-trade certification, which is supposed to guarantee humane treatment of workers, is also popular in wellness products. But — and it’s a big but — most “wellness” crystals are far from fair trade. That pretty rose quartz is the color of sweat and blood.

Poor folk paid pennies to mine, in cramped, dangerous conditions, rocks that richer folk will sell for hundreds of dollars doesn’t shock me. Terrible as these mining jobs are, people choose these jobs over the other available alternatives. But then, I’m usually of the attitude that there’s no reason why bad conditions couldn’t get worse, and that’s not an attitude I’d expect the “wellness” crowd, which believes in “wellness,” after all, to share. Even someone resigned, or callously indifferent, to human suffering might balk at the environmental damage wreaked by humanity’s current appetite for crystalline “wellness.” I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created: I didn’t find it appealing to molest tons of extra earth for one small pebble, not even for a wedding ring — especially when a better-quality version of the same crystal can be easily made in the lab. Natural and environmentally-friendly aren’t always the same thing.

Cloudburst — only a paper cloud?

 

“Tell me, burnt earth: Is there no water? Is there only dust? Is there only the blood of bare-footed footsteps on the thorns?” “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

Eric Whitacre is a conductor and composer with matinee-idol good looks, personal magnetism, a slick marketing strategy, and arguably common sense, too: he recommends young composers not waste time acquiring training in academic theory beyond what they need to write music that sounds good. Whitacre is beloved in the choral world, but also, sometimes, disdained — for being overrated (he is, although overrated can still be good), for being gimmicky (also true, though his gimmicks often land), and for writing music “suffused with a sense of easy spiritual uplift… Everything [is] maximally radiant and beautiful, and beautifully sung. And that [is] the problem.”

If that’s the problem, it’s a problem many composers would like to have. Or at least it’s a problem many performing musicians wish the composers whose music they have to perform had. Our disdainer continues, “Whitacre is so sincere I suspect he would glow in the dark.”

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The United States Open is the ultimate conservative golf tournament.  Let it sink in for a second.  I know what you are thinking.  What about The Masters?  I am not saying it is not great, if not the greatest golf tournament in the world.  I am saying The U.S. Open is the golf tournament a […]

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Sohrab Ahmari’s latest piece in First Things cause quite a stir and rightfully so. I am a big fan of Ahmari and First Things- though both have disappointed in this episode. I appreciate David French, but he is far from my favorite conservative. David’s cultural tastes are different than mine. He likes the NBA, blockbuster […]

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How Political Correctness Infects Religious Organizations

 

When I was in Israel just over a year ago, I had one of my most uncomfortable moments related to Judaism. I visited Beit Hatfutsot, the Diaspora Museum, on the Tel Aviv University campus. In one room, they featured small replicas from synagogues all over the world; it was a beautiful display. They also had films of international congregations conducting services from many different cities and towns. One of the films stopped me in my tracks: a group of Jewish women were being led in prayer by a small group of women—wrapped in tallitot and kipot—prayer shawls and skullcaps. As I recall, they were filming a service in the Midwest. Granted, I haven’t been in a Conservative or Reform synagogue in a very long time, but it was still a shock. I stepped away from the film and collected my bearings.

It’s not like I haven’t been exposed to the idea of women wearing tallitot previously. In fact, I had joined a Jewish group in Los Angeles that had a weekly discussion of the Torah. I also attended a silent retreat with them. At the end of the retreat, the women in the group called us all up (Aliyah) and we surrounded ourselves with prayer shawls. It was a unique and moving experience, and I decided to purchase my own prayer shawl.

The first morning I was going to say the prayers at home, I pulled out my new tallit and prayed. I was uneasy and uncomfortable the whole time. I put the tallit back in its bag and never took it out again.

Chaconne à Son Goût – Christmas Treats and Traditions

 

Plenty of today’s “Christmas carols” are unabashedly secular songs. So were many of the original Christmas carols, it’s just that their words were adapted to be overtly religious to celebrate Christian festivals. What we now call our sacred carols are typically festive, seasonal, and dancelike. Easter carols exist, but the most well-known sacred carols are for Christmas. The Christmas concert season often features other early music, too. Music that sounds “Christmassy” in part because our sacred carols are also largely early music.

The chaconne or passacaglia is one of these early-music tropes. There isn’t a fixed distinction between chaconne and passacaglia, or between these and other ground-bass forms (this is “ground” as in “foundational,” not as in we’re making sausage of the deep-voiced menfolk). But all describe a short bassline or chord progression repeated over and over … and over … again. The refrain of the carol “What Child Is This” (whose tune is also known as “Greensleeves,” and may or may not have originally been about a woman whose dress is green because she rolls around in the hay rather often), for example, uses a repeated romanesca progression. “What Child Is This” has a wistful, haunting character, and there’s no shortage of chaconnes in a minor key expressing lamentation (often with a bassline explicitly called a lament bass), but the chaconne seems to have descended from an impertinent, even “sexy” dance in 3/4 time.

The Old Wooden Shoeshine Box

 

Back in 2005, I was searching for a shoeshine box for my husband. I know that it’s a nutty gift, but I found all his shoe polish, old rags, and brush in a nasty, zip lock bag. He would get it out and polish and buff his shoes on occasion. He was taught to take care of his shoes, his car, his clothes, all his belongings.

I had fond memories of this wooden shoe box that belonged to my dad. My dad’s wooden shoe box contained all the supplies needed to make your leather shoes look like new, and a footrest to buff, on top of the box. I loved that box – it was a part of my dad’s life, like his army dog tags in his cedar box on the dresser from the 1940s, where he was deployed to Japan and served as military police, and his hand-tied fishing hooks that I still have from his fly-fishing days.

My husband reminisced about a similar shoeshine box that his dad bought him from a drugstore when he was ten. His dad showed him how to care for his shoes and it contained buffers, polishing rags, a brush and several colors of polishing paste. I was determined to find a similar box as a birthday gift.

Novelty and the Pursuit of Happiness

 

Back in 2003, when my daughter was still in kindergarten, we took a week-long vacation to a little place called White Lake, NC. It’s a place where my wife had vacationed often as a child, and I’d been there once or twice, but as a family we hadn’t gotten into the habit of taking summer vacations. This was a new thing, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it: a week away from the comforts of home?

But I needn’t have worried. It didn’t take me long to relax and begin to enjoy the change of scenery. I spent my days taking naps, reading, going for long walks, and having a blast playing in the water with my daughter. We played miniature golf at the nearby Putt-Putt. In the evenings we drove to nearby Elizabethtown for dinner at some of the restaurants there. On our last evening, I walked to the end of the pier and looked out over the quiet lake, thinking back over the week we’d just had. It was a bittersweet moment: tears came to my eyes as I thought about how much fun we’d had and about the impending return to the normal routine.

I’d enjoyed that week so much that the following year I was eager to do it again. And so we did. We went back to White Lake and stayed in the same cabin; I filled my days with the same activities, and we made a point of revisiting our favorite Elizabethtown restaurants. As that second White Lake vacation came to an end, I walked to the end of the pier in a conscious attempt at recreating that emotional moment from a year before. Once again I felt that mix of happiness and sadness. I remember asking myself: why do I get to feel this way only once per year?

This Chaos Without Tradition

 

New “traditions” are entrenching themselves in America. Spontaneous one-man Civil Rights movements and the desecration of historical monuments have become authoritative expressions of the character and legacy of our society. Of course, these are not real “traditions.” They are the product of the fiery passion of democracy, the ardor of Jacobin fiends who have redefined what it means to be American. This is the chaos of a country without Tradition.

Tradition is a gift–an inheritance handed down over generations and not particular to any one person, family, or nation. It includes the mores of ancestors, and their heroes and holidays (as we had in this week’s Columbus Day) that express shared historical foundations. Tradition addresses the little things, like the proper attire at an evening party, even as it maintains great institutions, like the family, marriage, and religion. Though it cannot be explained by pure reason and logic, Tradition is in harmony with Nature, allowing us to better understand man’s origins and the world around us.

Today, however, Tradition is deemed senseless superstition — an arbitrary and expendable personal preference to be rejected at every turn. One cause of this has been Americans’ shared overreaction to the tumult of the Civil Rights Era. Generations formed in the ’60s and ’70s were riveted by the great courageous heroes of this movement and, of course, the natural justice of its cause. But after relentless revisions of history, future generations have failed to learn many other aspects of our culture’s past that are worthy of reverence — historical virtues without which the Civil Rights Movement would not have been possible. Thus, when we welcome immigrants now, we seem so ashamed of our past that we prefer that they bring their own identity, heroes, language, and mores with them rather than share ours as their common inheritance.

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Today is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, or Michaelmas for short.  Now largely forgotten, it once marked the beginning of autumn in Merry Old England: As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days; in England, it is one of the “quarter days”. Preview […]

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A Christian Renewal? What the Brexit Means for Traditionalists

 
king alfred

King Alfred

On the morning of June 24, the world awoke to a changed Europe. With the so-called ‘Brexit’ referendum, the UK voted to leave the European Union, and as such, the EU lost one of its most important member nations. Almost immediately, there were calls from France, Italy, and the Netherlands to hold similar referenda, jeopardizing the entire EU experiment.

Five Miraculous Old Things

 

C. S. Lewis famously defined one of the dilemmas of the modern world: it’s hard to get people to care about old things. It’s one of the great problems we face as conservatives. How do we teach ourselves and our children the value of things that weren’t created last week?

But as we look backward with open eyes and open hearts, it’s really quite simple to appreciate “old things” and to begin to understand that we really do stand on the shoulders of giants.

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Yesterday morning I was up at 4:30 am to continue my bumbling labor of wrapping a final few Christmas gifts. Cutting and recutting paper, taping/retaping, I listened to old, unheard podcasts from the show Journey Home, an Eternal Word Television Network production. Show host Marcus Grodi provides a forum for people to share stories of […]

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