Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cio che era pagano ora è l'emblema della cristianità

One man's rummage is another man's jewel. What seems flighty to some may be weighty and thoughtful to others. Brainy is in the eye of the beholder.

These are the tenets of a uniquely American understanding of culture. It is a democratic, pluralistic, utopian view. It is also extremely destructive. 

Or so is the opinion of Vengalu Ophir, dean of the French Institute of Higher Learning in Paris' affluent 6th arrondissement.

Portrait of Professor Vengalu Ophir, conté crayon on vellum, Currado Malaspina, 2010
 Ophir, now well into his eighties, has been for many years, a mentor to my good friend Currado Malaspina. He is universally esteemed as an uncompromising scholar whose principled approach to learning has served as a beacon to an entire generation of artists and academics.

His book on Marsilio Ficino Les âmes rationnelles repentir (Éditions Tacheur, 1979) remains to this day the most comprehensive and authoritative biography of the great early Renaissance humanist.

Ophir is known for his virulent disdain for almost everything American. From speed dating to fast food, reality television, paper cups, Halloween, the Huffington Post, baseball, Costco, frozen vegetables, the eminent professor finds it all extremely dégoutant. 

However there is one venerable exception.

Forty years ago, Currado Malaspina managed to persuade the notoriously inflexible pedant to accompany him to a concert by a famous American rock band. In addition to it being loud, the performance was incorrigibly vulger, yet the music was unexpectedly complex. 

And so to this day, The Mothers of Invention remain the anomalous aberration, the grudging exception for France's most petulant aesthete.

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