Solitude

Experiment: What if Barth’s Evangelical Theology was not written only for theologians?

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology
(Eerdmans, 1963), ch. 10, “Solitude.”

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Case 1.

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology“As a rule, the Christian artist will have to put up with pursuing his subject in a certain isolation, not only in the so-called ‘world,’ but also in the Church.”

“We might think, above all, of the especially pathetic figure of the Christian artist in his solitude — his solitary pathway and the uncanny isolation, which, due to the priestly halo which he is still thought to wear, continue to characterize him. He remains a stranger among all the men of his urban or rural community… scarcely anyone can offer him a helping hand in the labor demanded of him…”

“Such isolation is hard to bear because fundamentally it seems not to correspond to the essence of Christian art. Indeed, to assume a vocational post in some remote place from which the public is all but excluded seems strikingly to contradict the character of Christian art… The object of Christian art is the most radical change in the situation of all humanity…”

“However, all that a Christian artist may here and now know and undertake is art produced by a human. As such, it can be neither paradisiac (for we are no longer there), nor perfected (for we are not yet there), nor by any means divine (for we will never be gods). Christian art can be only art not as from God but as from a human artist, that is, by a human artist who is a pilgrim. Christian art comes from a laborer who, although still blinded, is already enlightened with sight through the grace of God, but who nevertheless does not yet view the glory of the coming universal revelation… A Christian artist will stick to the fact that his problem and task can only be the art of a pilgrim, not the other.”

“Often enough the Christian artist will experience visible proofs or justifications for his feeling that he stands alone in his calling. He alone seems involved in the wonderment, concern and commitment that make an artist a Christian. Even in the community of artists and, worst of all, among all too many of his fellow Christians, a Christian artist seems to stand and persevere alone… Inside and outside the walls of the Church, he will, in fact, often enough cast about in vain for companions who are also filled with wonder, who are also concerned and committed. Instead of finding support, he will often receive the painful impression that innumerable Christians and non-Christians apparently find it quite easy to withdraw more or less unscathed from the shock that makes one a Christian artist.”

“How, then, can he ever be sure of his own faith? Are not his faith, his existence as a Christian artist, and art, as such, called into question by this solitude—however much they are guaranteed by the Word of God and the testimony of the Holy Spirit?”

“The real cause, however, for the loneliness of the Christian artist is the special seeing that is invariably demanded of him. What leads him again and again into solitude is precisely the special character of a faith seeking understanding… How should very many ever be willing to make the turn of 180 degrees that is required, not just once, but every day anew? How should very many be able to question and reply, not from their own viewpoint, but from the perspective of the Word of Christ revealed… If the results of the Christian artist’s work are not to be trivialities, he dare not feel sorry about the pain and cost of enduring a continuous solitude.”

“Although Christian art is no enemy to humanity, at its core it is a critical, in fact a revolutionary affair, because, as long as it has not been shackled, it recognizes the new man in the new cosmos.”

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Case 2.

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology audio book“As a rule, the Christian historian of science will have to put up with pursuing his subject in a certain isolation, not only in the so-called ‘world,’ but also in the Church.”

“We might think, above all, of the especially pathetic figure of the Christian historian of science in his solitude — his solitary pathway and the uncanny isolation, which, due to the priestly halo which either the historian or the scientist is still thought to wear, continue to characterize him. He remains a stranger among all the men of his urban or rural community… scarcely anyone can offer him a helping hand in the labor demanded of him…”

“Such isolation is hard to bear because fundamentally it seems not to correspond to the essence of Christianity. Indeed, to assume a vocational post in some remote place from which the public is all but excluded seems strikingly to contradict the character of Christianity… The object of Christian history is the most radical change in the situation of all humanity…”

“However, all that a Christian historian of science may here and now know and undertake is history produced by a human. As such, it can be neither paradisiac (for we are no longer there), nor perfected (for we are not yet there), nor by any means divine (for we will never be gods). Christian history of science can be only a history as written not by God but by a human, that is, by a human historian of science who is a pilgrim. Christian history of science comes from a laborer who, although still blinded, is already enlightened with sight through the grace of God, but who nevertheless does not yet view the glory of the coming universal revelation… A Christian historian of science will stick to the fact that his problem and task can only be a history by a pilgrim, not the other.”

“Often enough the Christian historian of science will experience visible proofs or justifications for his feeling that he stands alone in his calling. He alone seems involved in the wonderment, concern and commitment that make a historian of science a Christian. Even in the community of historians, and in the community of scientists, and, worst of all, among all too many of his fellow Christians, the Christian historian of science seems to stand and persevere alone… Inside and outside the walls of the Church, he will, in fact, often enough cast about in vain for companions who are also filled with wonder, who are also concerned and committed. Instead of finding support, he will often receive the painful impression that innumerable Christians and non-Christians apparently find it quite easy to withdraw more or less unscathed from the shock that makes one a Christian historian of science.”

“How, then, can he ever be sure of his own faith? Are not his faith, his existence as a Christian historian of science, and history and science, as such, called into question by this solitude—however much they are guaranteed by the Word of God and the testimony of the Holy Spirit?”

“The real cause, however, for the loneliness of the Christian historian of science is the special seeing that is invariably demanded of him. What leads him again and again into solitude is precisely the special character of a faith seeking understanding… How should very many ever be willing to make the turn of 180 degrees that is required, not just once, but every day anew? How should very many be able to question and reply, not from their own viewpoint, but from the perspective of the Word of Christ revealed… If the results of the Christian historian of science’s work are not to be trivialities, he dare not feel sorry about the pain and cost of enduring a continuous solitude.”

“Although Christian history of science is no enemy to humanity, at its core it is a critical, in fact a revolutionary affair, because, as long as it has not been shackled, it recognizes the new man in the new cosmos.”

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Case 3.

Karl Barth, The Making of Evangelical TheologyInsert vocation as indicated above, substituting for “theologian” (original text).

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Crazy ones

Adorable:

The story: Arden, 5 years old.
The background: Apple’s core passion.

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Coloring party, with sneak peak at the new Sky at Night gallery

Saturday morning, Aug 20, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Details at the Galileo’s World meetup group.

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First thoughts on Inside Out

G1We saw Inside Out last night and loved it (as with everything from Pixar, including the adorable Lava short).

Inside Out provides a fresh vocabulary of concrete images for explaining who we are and how we feel.* Here are some first thoughts on why Inside Out offers so many great ways for kids and parents — or just about anyone (it’s not just a kids’ movie) — to more effectively talk about how they feel:

  • Even Joy cries.
  • Joy and Sadness work together and cannot be separated.
  • Fear is introduced in a positive light as Caution, and brings alertness, waking us up when necessary.
  • All emotions are necessary, not only Joy, Sadness and Fear, but also Anger and Disgust.
  • Emotional immaturity is when only one emotion has too much control (even Joy).
  • Joy goes astray when she tries to “fix” things.
  • Healing comes through Sadness.
  • Emotional maturity (a larger console) results when all the emotions work together.
  • To avoid feeling angry or sad or afraid is not the goal. Rather, the worst condition is when the emotions shut down (no power to the console).
  • Despite our differences, we’re all alike in this: Everyone has the same emotions.
  • The reality is inside, not how we appear on the surface.
    • Sometimes deep inside, forgotten altogether by our conscious minds.
  • Everyone is complex, more complex than they appear.

As Augustine wrote in the Confessions:

“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

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* I wrote something similar here about the fantasies of George MacDonald and Paul Young.

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Collaborative communities

My thanks to Rob Reynolds and the NextThought team for his series on “The Power of Connections.” Here’s an excerpt from an interview with me on open access and “collaborative communities.” For more, see Rob’s Power of Connections blog.

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds – Open Access from NextThought on Vimeo.

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds discuss open access to learning materials

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Tower of Pisa on Fox morning news

The Tower of Pisa project of the OU College of Engineering was featured last Friday, July 24, for the Fox News 25 morning show, broadcast live from the lobby of Bizzell Memorial Library. Four brief reports featured footage of the Tower under construction, as well as interviews with various College of Engineering students and faculty (including Chris Ramseyer and Theresa Marks); Chelsea Julian (Galileo’s World Project Manager); and myself.

Watch the four reports on the Fox25 website.

For updates on the Galileo’s World exhibition at OU, follow oulynx.org.

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Song of Falling Leaves

by Susanna Joy Magruder

Listen to the song of falling leaves.
Observe with a hastening breath. for
Before the hour of their demise
Their faces shine with a burning sun;
Many jewels across the tumbling wind.
From a sulfur glazed fire,
To the fur of a brown-backed mouse.
Watch the hair of the trees, spiraling down,
To land in a pond with shining grace,
With hardly a ripple from where they touched,
To expose this meeting of untold life

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Watch not ESPN

Football connects across generations.

When they were young, my daughters and I used to enjoy gathering together precisely at 8 pm on Monday nights in time to belt out “Are you ready for some football?” together with Hank Williams, Jr. Then, as we watched together on the couch, I would try to point out the basic aspects of the game and, over the years, they developed an intelligent sense of what was going on.

We have also enjoyed the mega-spectacle of Sooners home games in Norman, filled with energy and excitement. Just as memorably, Dad used to take me to Bulldog games growing up. Each of my daughters have also enjoyed Bulldog games with him in the same small college stadium. Hannah performed the national anthem in sign language before homecoming one year. Mmmm, nothing is quite as nice as hot chocolate and hot dogs to cut the chill, as the band plays and the Bulldogs move the football down the field.

Remarkably, so far as I can remember, my father and I have never missed watching football games together on New Years Day. Last year’s Sugar Bowl was so compelling that we had standing room only in Mother and Dad’s living room as the family gathered together. Even those of us who had seats were seldom using them, but rather yelling and shouting as the Sooners pulled out an upset for the ages over the super heavily favored Alabama squad. Indeed, I later watched the game over again, downloaded in HD from iTunes, at least 2 additional times during the past year.

But we are not watching football tonight. Despite our love of football, we are not day-in day-out sports fans, and therefore we are shut out of watching the first ever College Football Playoff Championship game this year. It is broadcast only on cable, while we receive our TV with a digital antenna in the attic that pulls down local stations and PBS in HD onto our iMac using eyeTV.

To invest in the hundreds of cable channels would not make financial sense for us, as we watch TV mainly for local weather and special live broadcast events. We select movies and television shows via Netflix (generally), iTunes (when HD offers added value), and youTube (it’s easy to spend an entire evening enjoying the Piano Guys or Studio C).

Tonight is the end of an era, the era of casual family football. The cable-only broadcast of tonight’s game is harmful for the future of the sport. From now on, families who are not sports junkies will no longer enjoy together in their own homes the end-of-season football games.

How long can football afford to sell its soul to cable providers? Cable providers will not unbundle channels like ESPN, and ESPN will not unbundle high-draw events such as tonight’s game. We would gladly purchase it through ESPN online or on our iPads, but it is unavailable from the ESPN website, even as pay-per-view. Nor does the Watch ESPN app provide an answer for us; through it, the game is available only to those who already subscribe to a cable provider. If we were sports junkies, we could subscribe to cable and receive all of the ESPN and other sports channels to our hearts content. But we only want to watch occasional or special games, as a family, not to have sports dominate our lives, nor to clutter our evenings with cable channels that we will never use.

With the playoff comes a schedule extended well into the new year. If the championship game were still broadcast over the holidays, we would gather at my parents’ home, for they have cable. But this is January 12, and they are more than 500 miles away.

But never mind. The girls are up to something in the other room. They won’t miss the game. They won’t remember the first college football playoff year. They will not find college football filled with vivid memories of the underdog Ducks and Buckeyes, who were never supposed to make it this far. For my family, tonight’s cable-only broadcast means good-bye, college football excitement. I think they’ve found a puzzle to work on; wonder if it might be a picture of a Wyoming landscape we might visit later this year…

Watch Not ESPN

Football once connected families across generations. Due to cable bundling of the most important college game of the year, now it does so no longer.

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Peace 1914-2014

McCutcheon TrenchesIn Advent we are stirred to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation in light of hope, peace, joy and love. This year, as we mark the centenary of the first world war, let us take hope by reflecting upon the elusive but inspiring peace experienced among many soldiers along the front lines on Christmas Day, 1914.

“My name is Francis Tollivar, in Liverpool I dwell…” So sings John McCutcheon in “Christmas in the Trenches,” his classic folk song about the Christmas truce of World War I . The song was released on McCutcheon’s Winter Solstice CD, one of our all-time top-ten Christmas albums featuring McCutcheon’s enduring songwriting and masterful hammered dulcimer arrangements. A few years ago, it inspired a storybook illustrated by Henri Sorensen.

This year, the story of the Christmas truce has even inspired a chocolate company:

Remarkably, this high-production quality video was released as a Christmas ad. The blue-wrapped chocolate bar featured in the film is being offered for sale this season at Sainsbury’s stores in England, with 100% of proceeds going to the Royal British Legion, to benefit armed forces families, past and present. Far from trivializing the nature of war, the video expresses the longing for peace in every human heart, the validation of which we celebrate in Advent. If I lived in England, I would be buying a lot of these, but unfortunately they’re not available online, so I’ll follow their example and wrap my own chocolate bars.

Sainsbury’s produced another video to accompany the Christmas ad, “The story behind our Christmas ad,” explaining the historical background of the Christmas truce:

A third video, “The making of our Christmas ad,” explains the care and detail that went into the production:

In this centenary year, a number of books have appeared which reflect on the significance of the war for shaping 20th century culture and intellectual life and, particularly, its implications for Christian belief. Profoundly impacted by the horror of the war, many writers (e.g., Karl Barth, Tolkien and Lewis) grappled their way to an escape from despair, imaginatively creating a vision of hope and peace that nourishes readers for the rest of the century, and for generations to come.

The story of the Christmas truce foreshadows the undaunted resiliency of Advent hope and peace, even after a century filled with wars and rumors of war.

Related links:

Brown 1914Weintraub SilentNight Joyeux Noel

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Update: Robin pointed out to me that the Royal Shakespeare Company is putting on a new play for families this Christmas season, The Christmas Truce. Here’s the trailer and synopsis:


Update #2: Prince William unveils a memorial to the WW1 truce, designed by ten-year-old Spencer Turner:

William ww1truce

Let’s slightly amend what Prince William said: “”Football [AND CHOCOLATE!] had the power to bring people together and break down barriers. It is vital that 100 years on we keep the Christmas truce story alive.”

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Here’s a reflection from Joseph Tkach on the Christmas truce and the advent of the Prince of Peace:

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Wolves in Yellowstone

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