Saturday, 5 May 2012

Not on my wavelength

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It is a strange phenomenon, which may have little or no significance, but I often find that there are authors who I feel I ought to like, but who I just don't get or else who 'rub me up the wrong way' and create irritation and hostility.

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An example is John Henry (Cardinal) Newman.

I have read quite a lot by and about Newman - most recently a full biography; and despite recommendations form authors whom I admire, and the fact that he is the patron Saint of the new Anglican Ordinariate, I continue to dislike him personally in such a way that this prevents me getting any good from his writings.

The dislike is not strong, more like a low-grade annoyance, but it blocks the necessary receptivity.

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I suspect this is exactly what it seems, one of those instances when - as in everyday life - you can't seem to get along with somebody; there is a persistent awkwardness.

For me, this crops up all over the place - things I want to like but can't.

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So as to be somewhat even-handed between Western and Eastern Catholicism, I could mention the artistic style of icons as another thing to which I cannot warm.

As an idea, I like icons; I like the general effect in a church or home (indeed, I like it very much) especially when combined with mosaics - but as individual things, from an aesthetic perspective (whether Greek or Russian or any other I have seen), I don't appreciate icons, find them a negative experience.+

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It applies to places. Italy for example. Despite everything wonderful that was or is in Italy and came from Italy, and despite all that everyone says, I just don't warm to the idea of Italy - something about Italy annoys me and always has.

(I once set foot there, for about 4 hours on a day trip from Austria, and found its effect on me just as negative as I feared.)

Rome as an idea or ideal does not attract (whereas the idea of Byzantine Constantinople, despite the icons, is almost literally intoxicating).

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There doesn't seem to be anything one can do about such aversions; we just have to work-around them - as we work-around our irrational aversions among people with whom we must, nonetheless, get along.

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+ Note - I think this may be related to the un-Englishness of icons. If England had remained Orthodox, then perhaps there would be an English style of icon-writing - maybe something like the illustrations of Pauline Baynes (based on the Luttrell Psalter)