Monday 28 February 2011

Fainting with damn praise

I received three compliments in the past couple of days, each one nicer than the one before:

Compliment #1. Mike Bird pointed me to a review of The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies in the latest issue of Catholic Biblical Quarterly. The reviewer, Kim Paffenroth, liked my chapter on Barth, and described it as "the collection's most thought-provoking essay", since it tries to "resolve the dichotomy between the two readings of pistis Christou by collapsing the anthropological and christological into one action".

Compliment #2. Then Kim told me that Jane Williams mentioned F&T in a Church Times piece. In contrast to all the "completely mad" resources on the internet, "there are blogs where you can join in theological conversations and ask questions: try Faith & Theology, run by Ben Myers, or Chrisendom, run by a colleague of mine, Chris Tilling." (Speaking of Chris Tilling's blog, check out his satirical committee review of Mark Seifrid's book review of Douglas Campbell.)

Compliment #3. And then, best of all, I got an email yesterday from someone who has just started a creative writing course at university. On her first day in class, the first short story they had to analyse was one I wrote here a few weeks ago: The Dream and the Drawing. I glowed with happiness for at least three hours after I heard that! And my six-year-old daughter felt prodigiously famous and important when I told her that a story written about her had been studied at university.


roger flyer said...

Let me add a compliment:

You sir, are a man of intelligence, grace, humanity, love and wisdom.

Crow a bit.

Ben Myers said...

Four compliments now, Roger! Stop it, stop it, I'm becoming unbearably vain and supercilious!

Anonymous said...

I hear you write particularly well with a fountain pen. Bravo!

Paul Tyson said...

Yes... how about a compliment in the Australian idiom? Such as, 'dear Ben, you're full of shit' (translation - you are a wonderful bloke that I admire a lot).

Ben Myers said...

Paul: Aw piss off mate, ya bloody bastard. (Translation: Thank you, my friend, I'm very fond of you.)

Paul Tyson said...

Flatterer! (you sweety!)

Paul Tyson said...

The Australian idiom must be hard for non-Australians to follow. On a building site last year, for example, I discovered that words like 'arsehole' are often terms of affection, but can equally be terms of mild abuse, or terms of strong opprobrium, and - more subtle again - sometimes even the very tone and inflection of delivery does not tell you which meaning is implied. There were - as far as I could tell - no words of direct praise used on a building site. Equally, any liking of any-one (or anything) was typically expressed in highly violent sexualised language. For the most common word used on a building site ('fuck' being possibly more used than ‘the’, 'and' or 'a' put together) is a word of sexual violence signifying an entirely objectifying and instrumental relation to the object of desire, and the ruination of that object by that instrumental relation. Even so, I saw very real affection, an often sub-linguistic subtlety of emotional communication, and remarkable good humour, patience and charity. I am of two minds about this idiom. On the one hand, it signals a genuine relational and spiritual poverty, possibly even an underlying ‘criminal’ consciousness of guilt harking back to our convict roots. This alone counts for something of a cultural inability to celebrate other or one’s own real achievements, and for the unremittingly defamatory humour and idiom of common expression. And it seems that it is with deference to this idiom that Ben titles this post “damned” praise. And Rodger, from a cultural idiom much more at home with the celebration of good achievement, encourages Ben to crow a bit, without shame. And yet… there is also something wonderful expressed through this poverty. For Ben’s real achievements, and his ease and right delight with those achievements, as expressed in this post, is also bracketed by a real humility which happily ‘takes the piss’ out of his victories (“damned” praise). This expresses the higher Christian truth that all we have and do is from the Lord, and that in the eyes of God, the achievement of stars and the failures of the scum of the earth tells us nothing – in itself – about the value of those who achieve success or failure.

KPaffenroth said...

ha - I was googling to find the page numbers for the review when I stumbled on this! So glad to have made your day better back in March. Drop me a note anytime about work. or zombies. Or Heavy Metal music.

KPaffenroth said...

ha - I was googling to find the page numbers for the review when I stumbled on this! So glad to have made your day better back in March. Drop me a note anytime about work. or zombies. Or Heavy Metal music.

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