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Day 1111: Twenty-Two Apples & A Dog

February 19, 2014

Attempt #1

If Anthony Restivo were a free man, I am sure that he would be going to see Night Catches Us at the Newcomb Hall Theater at 7:00 PM (only showtime listed) today (Sun. 2/20), because it promises to be the finest film ever made about former Black Panthers in Philadelphia in 1976, and would only cost him three dollars and ninety minutes. But he remains a prisoner of his art, an agoraphobe on principle. He has not seen a movie in at least two weeks. Nor read a book, because that is also prohibited by the strange terms that he has set for himself. He has stared boredom, and a great many of the citizens of Charlottesville, straight in the face and he has not flinched.

Attempt #2

Anthony Restivo is a 23 year-old semi-employed former baker’s apprentice, dangerous to crockpots but generally kind to other creatures, who needs a place to live. The Bridge seems perfect : spacious, well-lit, utilities provided, rent free, bohemian ambience. The catch: he has to fool his landlord, crusty old art prig Greg Kelly, into thinking he is a performance artist! Hijinks ensue. 

Attempt #3

People are asking, “Is ‘Far off and all aflame’ really a phrase from the Aeneid?” Vexed Latinists enter the debate.

Attempt #4

Apples. In his book, Saving God, philosopher Mark Johnston offers an intriguing interpretion of the Fall: Eve’s great sin was that she thought she could gain wisdom by eating fruit. That she could just pluck it off a tree. That the knowledge of good and evil, essentially of how to live life, could be gained as easily as that. Off the tree. Off the shelf. Neatly packaged and shiny; so easy, just bite. She is tempted, as we all are all tempted, by the promise of ultimate knowledge as our own secure possession. So we accept some conventional system, a set of values, of rules, a particular pinhole perspective on reality. But that apple is always poisoned. It is fatally compromised. It is the sort of thing that leads us to self-righteously crucify the innocent and prevents us from finding our salvation in a radical abandonment to God.

Anthony Restivo entered The Bridge with twenty-two apples.

–from “Restivo Watch Day 15: False Starts” (2/19/11)

You might notice a discrepancy: I have dated the email the 19th while it seems to date itself the 20th. Indeed it was actually sent at 5:30 AM on the 20th. But it was for the 19th, if you see what I mean. Those of us to have the courage to face what the arbitrary conventions of the timekeepers deem to be the passing of one day into the other while fully conscious, unshaded by sleep’s oblivion, are confronted with this sort of issue all the time. You just have to make due and deal with it. Some of the emails were sent before midnight, some were sent after, in any case I have dated them with the day the author’s wakefulness began.

I walked past the Bridge this evening and noticed it packed full of people listening to some old fellow talk. I had no idea what that was about, I don’t really pay much attention to the place anymore. After Anthony got out it was almost all downhill for the Bridge, it never managed a follow-up to equal the pushing against the real. Still, there are some worthy things there. I took a look at their website, to see what was going on, and –what do you know!– that was Bill Ayers talking there, the terrorist who our President famously used to pal around with. People seemed interested in what he was saying, but I do not know what that was.

If it hadn’t been so long since I had last read it I might take this opportunity to further discuss Saving God: Religion after Idolatry. Among other things, it gave me for the first time a way to understand salvation in a meaningful and resonant sense, which has come in handy given my need for it.  As it is I cannot do the book justice. But I can quote in full the summing up he gives as his postscript, for those who don’t mind spoilers along their spiritual path:

Better to end in the middle of things than create a false impression of completeness, or the aspiration to completeness.

Our exploration of the ban on idolatry has led us to an idea of the Most High as the one whose transcendence is just the other side of his immanence in this world. This world, properly seen, is the outpouring and self-disclosure that is the Highest One. This outpouring and self-disclosure, this kenosis or self-emptying of Being that envelops everything, is the site of the sacred. So we are “already on holy ground.” A saved human being is just a finite manifestation of the kenosis, filled with an awareness of itself as such, an awareness made manifest in that human being’s turn toward reality and the real needs of others.

For one who is saved, the glory that is negates the necessity of the glory to come. There need be no next world. There need be no heavenly antechamber where the decisive events of spiritual history occur. These ideas may just be leftovers from the superstitious and idolatrous attempts to placate spiritual powers and principalities.

There is, however, another world–it is this world properly received.


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