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Month: July 2009

The Moral Order

The Moral Order

Is there a moral order in the universe? If so, does it come from a god, or some other force? If there is a moral order, is it something we should try to align ourselves with?

I think about that a lot, when I walk outside, look at the stars, hike, swim in the sea, walk along the strand. I also think about that whenever I read about comparative religion, and wonder how people could deduce a moral order from ancient scripture, and sometimes I wish I could as well. That it would be good to have that kind of faith, even though the scriptures themselves, at least to me, are anything but moral.

They contain moments of wisdom, beauty, and poetry, but are offset by too much brutality ordered from above. I need a different kind of moral order than that, one that extends beyond the limitations of any one religion, encompasses all of them, all things, all beings, … Click to continue . . .

Strings in the Dark

Strings in the Dark

Sometimes, we get another chance to make things right. Not often. But every now and then. It was fitting that a movie about a sort of eternal return on a daily scale would get such a chance to begin anew. Dark City, a wonderful hybrid of Sci-Fi, Film Noir, and Existential drama, got just that second chance last year, when its director, Alex Proyas, made his special cut for DVD. It’s now a much better film. Tighter, more thought-provoking, more of a piece. Gone is the unnecessary narration to start the movie. Unnecessary because people can figure things out on their own, and delaying certain information and exposition builds suspense and deepens the experience of the movie. Scenes have been extended. We have more chance now to revel in the cityscape, its shadows and neon, its Edward Hopper-like images, its strange mix of several stylized decades, residing primarily in the 1940s.

We also get to listen to Jennifer Connelly … Click to continue . . .

Poetic Street Walker Blues

Poetic Street Walker Blues

Princesas. 2005. Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa
Princesas. 2005. Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa

We all want. We all need. We share those wants and needs and they go on, endlessly. Loneliness, like a phone call in a small, public phone booth. The child, thousands of miles away. The mother, in another world, making a living as best she can, sending money home, hoping to bring the child there or go back. Madrid is nothing like the Caribbean. Nothing like the Dominican Republic.

Class and race, immigrants and turf. But mostly turf. New girls on the block, immigrants, the street, the Calle, selling for less, hustling just a little bit harder. Making life tougher for the established girls, the ones from Madrid. But there are beautiful moments and sublime times. Dancing, laughing, showing off the Eternal Feminine for cars and more cars. For the Street. The poetry of that. The exquisite gestures looking into cars. The slow sadness of hard lives facing other hard lives. The … Click to continue . . .

Death of a Wizard

Death of a Wizard

The world seems to have gotten used to Harry Potter. There is less fanfare, less hype this time around. Or is it that things are much too serious these days to whip ourselves into a frenzy about movies? Perhaps the death of the king of pop drained some extra reserves of enthusiasm, and made people more self-conscious about their likes and dislikes. Perhaps enthusiasm for entertainers and entertainment has hit a momentary bump in the road.

Or, it may just have been the time of day. I saw the film this afternoon.

The theater was nearly full. It was a very good crowd, especially for mid-afternoon. Lots of kids, their parents, and throughout most of the film, excellent responses, laughs, startled reactions to a well-made film. But something was missing. People left the theater silently, almost with a somber air. You could feel it.

The director, David Yates, seemed to know the crowds would be somber this time around. The … Click to continue . . .

Hemingway’s Moveable Book

Hemingway’s Moveable Book

A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast

An interesting NPR radio article about a new revision of Hemingway’s classic take on Paris in the 1920s . . . Fits well with my ongoing study

of sacred texts. Not that I consider his book sacred. It just makes me think yet again about how survivors and “winners” may rewrite what is left to them to rewrite, with no one there to defend it. History is shaped by the winners and the survivors, often to suit their own agenda, ambitions, sense of mission, honor, etc. Sacred texts the world over have been revised over the centuries to suit new political and economic realities, new power centers, new leaders and their vanities. For that reason, and for many others, it’s always struck me as a mistake to view any work as inerrant. Too many editors, kings and queens, emperors and popes, widows and various descendants may well get between the reader and the original.

Maureen … Click to continue . . .

The Ground of Change

The Ground of Change

William Blake's Elohim Creating Adam. 1795
William Blake’s Elohim Creating Adam. 1795

Wright’s book is picking up steam. He writes with compression, gets to the point quickly, after marshaling his facts and evidence. And the story he tells is enthralling. Polytheism, to monolatry to monotheism. Some of it I already knew. But much of it is new to me, based upon recent excavations and readings of better, more accurate translations of existing scripture. Wright’s gift is to put it all together in a very accessible, organized manner.

There is much evidence to suggest that Yahweh evolved from at least two Canaanite gods before him, El and Baal. There is also much evidence to suggest that political and economic changes on the ground led to his merger with these gods and then to supplanting them outright. And the Hebrew bible itself provides some clues, but very close reading is necessary to uncover them:

Consider this innocent-sounding verse from the thirty-second chapter of Deuteronomy as rendered in the

Click to continue . . .
The Sting of the Sun

The Sting of the Sun

Evolution of God, by Robert Wright
Evolution of God, by Robert Wright

About 100 pages into a fascinating new book, detailing the rise and fall of gods, goddesses, the religious impulse and its repercussions. The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright, is a general history, starting from the earliest hunter-gatherer societies, moving into chiefdoms after the discovery of agriculture, onto city-states in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and through the advent of Levantine monolatry and monotheism. I’ve reach the foot of Mount Monolatry and fierce storms are taking shape.

Wright reminds us how much religion permeated every culture, from the dawn of human time to the present. All things were tied to the gods, especially early on in our evolution. The fate of your hunts, your harvests, your health, your personal fortunes and the fortunes of your tribe, chiefdom and city-state were inextricably linked to them. He shows how important facts on the ground — political, economic, general welfare — were when it came to the ascendancy … Click to continue . . .

Because the Sun . . .

Because the Sun . . .

Abbey Road, by the Beatles. 1969
Abbey Road, by the Beatles. 1969

I always had the feeling that the Beatles were otherworldly. That they were initially just trying to fit in to some idea they had of earthlings, especially screaming girl earthlings, when they made those girls crazy back in the early 60s. Just trying to fit in, when they sang I want to hold your hand eight days a week. When they sang help me on a hard day’s night. They were putting us on when they sang can’t buy me love so I’ll cry instead.

They were putting us humans on.

As time went by, the Beatles grew tired of their masks, their human masks, and little by little, they decided to go full out alien. It probably started with Revolver, picked up steam with Sgt Peppers, veered into new territory with The White Album, and culminated with Abbey Road. By that time they had become the first of their … Click to continue . . .