Wednesday, April 05, 2006



"Having a real hero means devoting yourself, subordinating yourself, and that's asking a bit too much of people these days. Devotion isn't trauma, but it does seem a bit severe, a bit medieval. Cult wackos come to mind. Devoted followers are anachronistic in a world made for devoted fans."

-- Thomas de Zengotita, Harper's (December 2004)


"One sermon in support of slavery--one clerical petition in favor of capital punishment--I believe, does more extensive damage to the souls of men, than the writings of a Volney or a Paine, a Voltaire or a Rousseau. For, in spite of the unreasonableness of it, people will judge of the Bible and of religion by the practices of those who profess to be guided by them; and thus it becomes as much the business of those who sincerely desire that mankind should come to experience the blessings of real Christianity, to expose those glaring inconsistencies in its professors, as to contend against the errors of its opponents."

-- British abolitionist Elizabeth Pease (1844)


"The mood of the Blues is almost always despondency, but when they are sung people laugh."

-- Langston Hughes

"Music makes you hungry for more of it. It never really gives you the whole number. It slaps and it embraces, it slaps and it embraces."

-- Toni Morrison


"National partiality is, of course, what the concept of cosmopolitanism is usually assumed to oppose, and yet the connection between the two is more complicated than this. Nationalism itself has much in common with its putative antithesis, cosmopolitanism: for nationalism, too, exhorts quite a loftily abstract level of allegiance--a vast, encompassing project that extends far beyond ourselves and our families."

-- Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethics of Identity, p. 239


"At best, our understanding of any historical moment is significantly wrong, and this should come as no surprise, since we have little grasp of any present moment. The present is elusive for the same reasons as is the past. There are no true boundaries around it, no limit to the number of factors at work in it."

-- Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam, pp. 4-5


"American Christians can blame secularists for many things but surely not for the trivialization of faith in the modern world: Christians in North America have surpassed all competitors in that booming business. Our patriotism has become a cult of self-worship consecrated by court prophets robed in pinstriped suits. Forgetting the difference between discipleship and patriotism, the God most Americans trust is a simulacrum of the holy and transcendent God, a reification of the American way of life."

-- Charles Marsh, The Beloved Community, p. 7


"The task of the critic is to prevent a shrinking of possible views of the world, to resist any tendency to fix the limits of what can be thought. And so any healthy peace movement will be vigorously productive of songs and stories ..."

-- Rowan Williams

Collective Improvisation:

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