falling, vacating, playing piano, chatting, Don Juan, Faust


I managed to fall on the ice yesterday and bruise my arm and leg. As an old person, I’m glad I didn’t break anything. I had planned to coast through putting off Holy Week task until today. I succeeded.

I was helped by playing Schumann on the piano. Also my friend Rhonda Edgington who stopped by for a chat before getting on a plane for a funeral in California. That was fun and unexpected.

I have had a weird jones for Schumann lately. I have been playing over and over through his “Kreisleriana,” albeit way under tempo. I first got interested in  him when I quit my Roman Catholic church job and filled up my days with practicing. Now I realize that I am attracted to him and Mendelssohn in a similar way: they are both classical romanticists whose keyboard music I find fun to play.

I continue getting up and reading to relax. I have added John Donne to my morning poetry for some reason. Yesterday I was poking around and downloaded and purchased some Goethe. The reason is a book by Charles Van Doren I have been dipping into.

In A History of Knowledge: The Pivotal Events, People, and Achievements of World History, Charles Van Doren draws on two legends and works of art based on them to make a point. The legends are Don Juan and Faust. The works are Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Goethe’s Faust.

Van Doren reinterprets the two stories as Western Civilization’s turn away from Christianity. Moreover he sees them as part of an attack on intolerance of different religions and espousals of pursuit of knowledge. He sees Mozart’s music as integral to this. He calls the opera a “brilliant and savage attack upon religious intolerance.”  Don Juan is a “tragedy of a man whose only religion is knowledge.”

This might seem far fetched if one only considers the popular notion of Don Juan as a womanizer. But Van Doren thinks that La Ponte (the librettist) and Mozart are up to something else as well. Don Juan is a curious man who is seeking to know women. He does this through seducing them, though Van Doren sees them as willing accomplices and thereby vindicating Don Juan’s total responsibility. So Don Juan is a “seeker” in the modern parlance. He lacks sentimentality. He continues his search for knowledge in Hell.


Interesting take on the story.

Faust he sees as a harbinger of a new world coming. His pact with the devil is the modern bargain.


Western civilization trades the bargain it made with God and religion for one with the devil of modernity, of truth seeking.

I also serendipitously ran across the devil in The Brothers Karamazov which I am systematically plodding through.

After the murder of the elder Karamazov, the father of the three brothers, Ivan goes a bit mad. He is the ostensible author of “The Grand Iquisitor” section of the book. There is also an entire chapter where he has a passionate discussion with the devil.

I often think of the fact that Trappist novices to be are asked (or used to be asked) to read Karamazov as part of their “discerning” process. Dostoevsky definitely has some ideas about religion and life. And sin as well. I’m enjoying the translation I am reading.


The Inscrutable Brilliance of Anne Carson – NYTimes.com

This looks like a writer I am going to have to find out more about.


Scottish Bagpipers Urge Cleaning to Prevent Infection – NYTimes.com

Important to clean your instrument regularly. Very important.


White or Pink Beans With Beet Greens and Parmesan — Recipes for Health – NYTimes.com

A recipe that looks like one I might try.


The Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans

A historical archaeological to graves of slaves to reveal more  about our country’s history.


The Hermit Sings (Dennis Aubrey) | Via Lucis Photography

I love this site. This post is about a priest these two met in their travels to photograph and learn about church architecture.


Shop the World’s Most Creative Businesses & Free Online Store Builder on Storenvy

I’m thinking of buying Susha Chia’s China Comics: Observations of Daily Life in  China. So far I can only find it on this site. I hope it’s legit. Please let me know if you know anything about it.



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