Art & Civilisation

When I was madly studying for my CLEP test the Deputy Headmistress/Zookeeper/Head Librarian handed me two books she thought would help me study. One of them was simply titled “Civilisation” and had a photograph of a statue relating to Charlemagne on the cover. When I began reading it, however, I discovered that it is an art history text. This was rather a bummer for my studying purposes, but it is really (as far as I can tell) an excellent book. Because I’m one of those Copy Many Quotes People, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite passages with readers here.

The first sentence that made me think that this book wasn’t going to be your run of the mill text was: “…I may add that the men of the Dark ages took a less patronising view of birds than do the makers of Christmas cards.” Such a practical attitude towards art warmed my heart. Yes, I like sappy paintings (PreRaphaelites, for example) but art should also be something strong and forceful. If it is only sentimental then it is not really art (which is one reason why Elsie Dinsmore books are not good literature, but that’s another tale for another time).

Later on we get an excellent definition of what really differentiates a civilisation from, well, a non-civilisation:
Civilisation means something more than energy and will and creative power…How can I define it? Well, very shortly, a sense of permanence.”
A page later, Kenneth Clark goes farther in this definition, “Civilised man, or so it seems to me, must feel that he belongs somewhere in space and time; that he consciously looks forward and looks back. And for this purpose it is a great convience to be able to read and write.”

What should we conclude, then? That Christians should be civilised (yes, I know I win the “Duh! Award” of the week). We *are* to be looking both behind us and before us (although mainly before us) and this sense of belonging gives us the anchorage to truly produce real art. Not sentimental art, real art.

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A Chance to Help a Child

Joey is a little boy with an incredible story. Some day we hope he’ll be telling ti to everybody. We don’t know Joey, but Joey’s grandmother goes to church with a relative of the Common Room family. Our source told us the following:

Little Joey pulled a big screen TV down on top of him. It crushed his skull. It was feared he would bleed to death before the ambulance could get to the house. But they made it and he was rushed to a critical care hospital in Las Vegas. There, neurosurgeons had to remove a portion of his skull and his brain, both of which were shipped to a lab in Los Angeles for storage and preservation in hopes that once the bleeding and swelling stopped within Joey’s brain that they could be re-attached.

His grandfather died of cancer the day after the accident. The day after the funeral, the grandmother flew out to be with her grandson. Doctors told the family to begin looking for a permanent nursing home, for they said Joey would be a vegetable the rest of his life. Joey’s family hoped otherwise, and they knew people all over the country were praying.

Joey is now home. The information on the website is helpful (and a place to find out how you can be helpful!) but is dated. According to our source, Joey

“has taken a few steps on his own! While at home, he pulled himself up by the couch, stood up, and walked about 3-4 steps unassisted. The doctors keep using the word “amazing” to describe his progress to date.”

Our source also says that

“Any email or card of encouragement you can send to Joey’s family would be greatly appreciated. Initially the out-pouring of prayer and concern was strong, but has tapered off of late. Sharon and Chuck [Joey’s parents] both draw strength from each email and card they receive.”

There’s more to this remarkable story which I am not yet at liberty to share, but please go to the link below and sign the guestbook for them, keep Joey in your prayers, and consider donating to the trustfund.

Here is a link to the Joey Infantino Trust fund.

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It’s about Freedom, 2

The Tulip Girl posted in the comments below:

For what is currently going on in Ukraine, I recommend Dan’s recent post, A Better Kind of Normal.

The Deputy Headmistress is thrilled that Tulip Girl actually looked at something on our blog, and tickled, well, orange, with her excellent reminder. You see, the Headmistress actually found Tulip Girl’s blog from a reference on Orange Ukraine, and forgetting to mention the go-to blog on Ukraine’s march to freedom was a seriously senior moment.

So, rather late, but still worth reading, here’s the link to A Better Kind of Normal.

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Excerpts, State Dept. Report on North Korea

Note: Our previous post on North Korea is here.

The entire State Department Report is here. What follows are some excerpts. These can be rather hard to read. There are a few more gruesome specifics I didn’t mention at all, because this will be difficult enough for some of our scholars to read as it is.

“There continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and arbitrary detention, including of many persons held as political prisoners. Prison conditions were harsh and life-threatening, and torture reportedly was common…”

” …In April, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) called for the appointment of Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn to examine the human rights conditions in the country, but he was not allowed to visit the country to carry out his mandate…”

” …In the past, prisoners have been sentenced to death for such ill defined “crimes” as “ideological divergence,” “opposing socialism,” and “counterrevolutionary crimes.” In some cases, notably at the height of the famine in the 1990s, executions reportedly were carried out at public meetings attended by workers, students, school children, and before assembled inmates at places of detention. Border guards reportedly had orders to shoot to kill potential defectors… “

…members of underground churches have been killed because of their religious beliefs and suspected contacts with overseas evangelical groups operating across the Chinese border (see Section 2.c.)…

…the Government has been involved in the kidnapping abroad of South Koreans, Japanese, and other foreign nationals…

…According to a report by the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (USCHRNK), torture “is routine and severe…”

…Over the years, there have been reports from defectors alleging the testing on human subjects of a variety of chemical and biological agents…

…Past reports have described political offenses as including sitting on newspapers bearing Kim Il Sung’s picture, mentioning Kim Il Sung’s limited formal education, or defacing photographs of the Kims…

…Kim Jong Il has stated that ideological education must take precedence over academic education in the nation’s schools, and he also called for the intensification of mandatory ideological study and discussion sessions for adult workers. ..

…The cult of personality of Kim Jong Il and his father and the official “juche” ideology remained important ideological underpinnings of the regime, approaching the level of a state religion. Refusal on religious or other grounds to accept the leader as the supreme authority exemplifying the State and society’s needs is regarded as opposition to the national interest and may result in severe punishment…

“…In testimony given in the early 1990s, witnesses said that prisoners held on the basis of their religious beliefs generally were treated worse, sometimes much worse, than other inmates. One such witness, a former prison guard, testified that those believing in God were regarded as insane, since authorities taught “all religions are opiates…”

This guard told a story of a woman severely beaten because she was overheard praying for a child who was being beaten in the prison.

Now you might read the LA Times article that sparked all this interest in Korea. It’s called N. Korea, Without the Rancor

Questions to consider as you read:

Is this anonymous source really just a business man from N. Korea, or is he something more?

Why might there never have been a positive article about N. Korea? Is the above article postive or negative?

Was it fair of Condaleeza Rice to call N. Korea an ‘outpost of tryanny?’

Do you think that N. Korea’s government is primarily a cultural difference?

Tell me what you think about this:

He also said that U.S. criticism of North Korea’s record on human rights was unfair and hypocritical. In its annual human rights report on Monday, the State Department characterized North Korea’s behavior as “extremely poor.” It said 150,000 to 200,000 people were being held in detention camps for political reasons and that there continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings.

“Is there any country where there is a 100% guarantee of human rights? Certainly not the United States,” the businessman said. “There is a question of what is a political prisoner. Maybe these people are not political prisoners but social agitators.”

Or this:

Electricity is a real problem. We have only six hours a day,” said the North Korean, who lives in an apartment in a choice neighborhood of Pyongyang, the capital. “When you are watching a movie on TV, there might be a nice love scene and then suddenly the power is out. People blame the Americans. They blame Bush.”

Read this:

The most important point the North Korean said he wanted to convey in the conversation was that his nation was a place just like any other.

“There is love. There is hate. There is fighting. There is charity…. People marry. They divorce. They make children,” he said.

“People are just trying to live a normal life.”

And explain what you think is a N. Korean’s biggest hindrance in this ‘attempt to live a normal life.’

This anonymous North Korean lives in Pyongyang. Here is something you should know about this city (from the above Human Rights Report):

The Government strictly controlled permission to reside in, or even to enter, Pyongyang, where food supplies, housing, health, and general living conditions were much better than in the rest of the country.

What does this tell you about this anonymous ‘businessman?

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Whatsits and His Love of Order

I took the two young hooligans for a walk today. It was a glorious walk. Migratory birds, a very happy Lab dog (now also a very wet and muddy Lab dog, hence half his joy) and a book to read. We have just begun reading “The Door in the Wall,” a book I remember with fondest regard, without actually remembering much of the story (a monk, a sick boy and medieval England is about as far as I remember). That must be rectified.

At any rate, Whosits & Whatsits chastised me for being such a slow walker on the way back. At one point we were lined up with Whosits in front, Whatsits in the middle and Yours Truly at the back. Whatsits declared that Whosits was Fast Poke, I was Slow Poke and he (can you guess) was Medium Poke.

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