Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Laziness? Yup

A couple days ago I posted a link to a discussion of Candlemas by the popular BBC writer Brian Sibley that included links to various versions of the Nunc Dimittus, and today the Canadian David Warren brings up the various musical versions of Nisi Dominus:

Nisi Dominus

“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
My favourite musical setting for this is Monteverdi’s from his Marian Vespers of 1610

I'll have to listen to it later (I'm on the upstairs business computer that doesn't have speakers or space to download stuff).

But Warren goes on to notice the voluptousness of the Baroque, which seems a bit excessive to our workaholic and in many ways puritanical society:

But it is the Monteverdi that threw open the gate, for me, on this Psalm which has long been misread in our Northern climes. We take it, as we take everything, for a kind of hell-fire warning: “Except the Lord build the house,” … the sulphur will rain down. But no, it does not rain down, it is in us. For we have taken everything with a grain of sulphur.
Read the rest of this intensely, unambiguously pro-life Psalm. It is Baroque, Rubenesque. And it is addressed, as the Douay translation makes clearer than the old KJV,  to those who “eat their bread in sorrow.” Which would mean, us, for it describes us perfectly: our scowl in response to material wealth, our resentment of gifts, our childish cupidity & childless lascivity...
This is joyous stuff. And yes, it is meant to affront the narrow, in their pokey little houses, in their mean cities, in which there is no room for God to reside. “Unless the Lord keep the city”; unless we throw open our gates before the Risen Lord — we will live in the kind of environments in which we now live, in a world that is entirely man-made, & therefore very nasty.
As a (half assed) catholic, I see in a lot of the progressive dicta of the elites in the US the faces of Cromwell's puritans, who dislike the little excess of the hoi polloi. Horrors: 12 ounce sodas and big macs! Cheap art work, clothing and junk at Walmart!

No, you have to eat food that is good for you (one is reminded of Ori's lament in the Hobbit: I don't like green food!), exercize whether or not you enjoy it, and of course, work 20 hours a day. No wasting time, which of course means no leisure.

 We Catholics do have such types, but it says a lot about the church that the worst one, Savanarola, who burned the books and artistic treasures of Florence, was himself burned at the stake for overdoing it.(I'm being sarcastic of course).

But God is not allowed in their pc world, and although they condemn the church's sexual teaching of marriage as joyful union of husband and wife where the joy leads to wanting to share it with their children, they tend to substitute a loveless promiscuity in it's place. And instead of fasting in Lent (which in the past meant feasting at Mardi Gras and outside of lent) now becomes fasting all the time to be slim and beautiful.

The Idle HistorianBlog has a similar take:

.... The question of work, and our attitudes towards it, are historically based. The words listed above, from Nisi Dominus [Psalm 127], reflect the pre-Protestant Reformation view of how work and the Divine Will intersected. In this formulation, it was actually vain and intolerably arrogant to imagine that by long hours of toil one could somehow change one's lot or destiny. .. In the Catholic formulation there was work to be done, yes -- but strictly as one was allotted given one's station in life, and no more than was necessary for the individual and community. To attempt to amass wealth was not only discouraged by usury laws and hierarchical constraints, but also by the belief that over-striving was sinful. 
The Protestant Reformation changed all this, and one does not need to be an historian to be familiar with the ideas in Max Weber's famous book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, and to be aware of how entrenched Puritan ideas (most particularly in North America) have combined with the prime value placed on characteristics such as industriousness, thrift, sobriety, and frugality.
Yes, we see this in the Philippines, where the Protestants (and Confucian Chinese) push a work ethic, but aren't big at fiestas or letting employees take time off (hence we have a constant turn over of staff, who prefer a less lax work schedule).

Yet the excesses of the Manila elites can only make me shake my head in sorrow.

Velban's classic essay about the theory of the Leisure class explores the need of excess consumption to show off.

Well, better having the elites get involved in parties than starting revolutions to tell poor folks how to live.

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