cultural criticism | photography | place & space

From the vaults of memory...a time forlorn

do not turn your heads above
fruitless tries
immerse yourself whence you came
therein lies
the depths of an ocean's love

Haiku of Courage

sitting in the group
choir preaching to choir
what a circle-jerk

It's a Poet's Poet's World

I was...

...but would have rather been

ee cummings

An experimental gram- matical poet, ee cummings was surprisingly boring as an actual person. He wrote on topics of sex and war, and pioneered a new almost concretist style of avant-garde poetry which makes very little sense to the uninitiated.
Lord Byron

Quite the Ladies' man, Byron wrote during the early 19th century. He was born with a deformity, and much of his life was spent with a sense of urgency, trying to suck up as much life as he could to make up for his own insecurities. He was a bisexual and died very young of fever.

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

My Soul is Dark

My soul is dark - Oh! quickly string
  The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
  Its melting murmurs o'er mine ear.
If in this heart a hope be dear,
  That sound shall charm it forth again:
If in these eyes there lurk a tear,
  'Twill flow, and cease to burn my brain.

But bid the strain be wild and deep,
  Nor let thy notes of joy be first:
I tell thee, minstrel, I must weep,
  Or else this heavy heart will burst;
For it hath been by sorrow nursed,
  And ached in sleepless silence, long;
And now 'tis doomed to know the worst,
  And break at once - or yield to song.

I had to dust off my high school humanities textbook. ee was a mighty fine poet. At least anyone lived in a pretty how town is brilliant. Poor anyone and noone. At least they found each other and have herein been immortalized.

Now Byron…fabulous silk turbans and jackets. What an ambi-dandy, and that sense of urgency, trying to suck up as much life as he could…some things we feel in our marrow. My Soul is Dark. Yes, indeed my soul is restless until it rests in Thee o Lord.

Which famous poet are you?

Passionate About the Passion

Why did you send me this? It’s too thought provoking for me to ignore, and I have enough "homework" to do with two impending book clubs, compiling music for dad, arranging music with Cyn & Chels, modifying photos so that I can make cards, other essay correspondence, whine, whine, whine. Now I am compelled to write an essay in response this article, or maybe I just like to argue anyway - the academic’s curse.

This article gave me a perspective on this film that I haven’t come across until now. The two perspectives that I have been exposed to are Catholic and secular. I obviously follow Catholic news sources on television and the Internet, and this film has been all the buzz in those venues and among those I know for well over a year. All of the Catholic review sources (and there have been many as there have been many pre-screenings) constantly comment on the themes of art, devotion, and mystery as being central to the film - themes that are very familiar to me. Indeed Mel Gibson is Catholic, so this should make sense, and being a tribal lot, the hand wringing in defense of this project and the sniffing of Mr. Gibson’s ass to judge his fidelity began early on.

Now, the greater portion of hand wringing (and the other perspective I spoke of) has come from secular detractors - the amorphous group that is largely comprised of the self-important, so-called progressive talking-heads who if they haven’t killed God in their own minds already, have recreated Him in their own banal image and relegated Him to a sphere so private as to barely exist at all. Their three main concerns to date have been anti-Semitism, film violence, and the historical factuality of the events portrayed.

While speaking about power to the people out of one side of their face, the progressive cognoscenti (including the ADL) then speak out of the other side as to how the masses are unable to think without proper guidance by the elite, and so the masses, that bunch of knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers (that’s you and me folks) cannot be trusted to watch this film. It will spur us on to violent acts of anti-Semitism. Tosh! Indeed, France (the country with the highest incidence of anti-Semitic crime in the EU) has banned the film. The problem with France (well one of them) is their denial of facts when the facts don’t conform to their preferred ideology. An EU study found that the overwhelming majority of anti-Semitic crime (racism) in the EU is committed by Muslims, but the study was "thrown out", because those who read the study felt that it would be racist to accuse Muslims of racism. You know, I just have a hard time seeing French Muslims getting all whipped up over a Jesus flick if they weren’t before. Even in our own country, the most anti-Semitic among us are leftist anti-Zionists - not exactly the prime demographic for this film.

This brings me to violence, the violence portrayed in the film that is. This is really a personal matter and people’s sensibilities are different and so I will not fault them, but for myself and many of those in my generation, after a steady diet of Jason of Friday the 13th, Quentin Tarantino, and the (if it bleeds, it leads) TV news all of our lives, what else could possibly compare? One such reviewer betrayed her own hypocrisy when she was shocked by the graphicness of the flogging when bits of flesh were torn and flung away. From what I know from my studies of the Bronze and Iron Age Europe, that’s the way it was folks. The Romans were masters of brutality and sadism. That glistening brains from a snuff-job hanging in Jackson’s geri curls in a Tarantino film barely raises an eyebrow for Jami Bernard is the bigger issue for me, but the point of the matter is that all sin ultimately does violence, and this is what it looks like. Someone said that, film reviewers are "like most of us when confronted with our sinfulness, it's easier to blame the messenger than the confront the message itself." This is the message of the cross and it is a stumbling block for many. The cross was a scandal to the Jews and a folly to the gentiles. Why should God almighty subject Himself to that? The wood of the cross, oh come let us worship.

Then there is that matter of the historical factualness of the film. At least the chattering classes concede that Jesus was an historical fact - this is coming a long way, but most of the criticisms to this point have really amounted to not much more than dreadfully all-important nit picking - like Jesus’ hair would have been shorter, Pilate would have spoken Greek, the crowds wouldn’t have been that large. In my best Fr. Groeschel voice, all I can say is, "You were there?" Also, this isn’t even the point. Gibson doesn’t claim to have made an historical documentary, but rather a devotional piece of art that does not contradict the Gospel accounts. Since as a people we no longer tend to paint masterpieces on ceilings or to carve the sublime out of marble, we use film as our medium. This is how this film should be encountered.

So finally, I can get to Wayment’s article. His primary query seems to be regarding the historical accuracy of this film. All in all his research into the political machinations of Roman-Province relations squares with my own studies on the matter. It was always a symbiotic dance between imperialists, local client kings/priests, and everyone concerned’s patrons. There was really a lot of subtlety to the game of rulership, but when the smack needed to come down, come down it did - hard. The thing is that Wayment is so concerned with the events and the political reasons for the events prior to where the film begins, that I cannot help but believe that he profoundly misunderstands it.

This film in no way attempts to investigate or offer an explanation for who was responsible for the death of Jesus, and so Wayment’s presentation of Judeo-Roman politics offers an interesting historical footnote, but it is ultimately moot. This fact is craftily woven into the way this art was staged. It is Mel Gibson’s hand that is filmed holding the spike driven into Jesus’ hand. Why? Because Gibson is responsible for His death. I am responsible. You are responsible. Wayment is responsible, and so I think that the raison d’être for his thesis melts away. There is no special onus upon the Jews - actual or implied.

He then makes the bold assertion that, "In The Passion, the idea is presented that the Atonement was efficacious because of the sheer brutality of Jesus’ punishments." Now what I think he should have said instead is that he personally interprets the film that way, but where is the evidence? The level of brutality exists, but it has nothing to do with efficaciousness; this is a non sequitur without any additional knowledge. One could just as easily come away with the impression that the sacrifice was efficacious because the victim was the Son of God. I’ve seen three interviews given by Mel Gibson, and not once does he state or imply that he believes that the level of brutality and sacrificial efficaciousness are related, nor is there any Catholic theology that teaches this. I do know that Gibson personally believes that the passion simply was not only that violent, but more so. Again, the film that Wayment is describing I believe comes from his own uninformed interpretation, not from the script or from the big screen.

I said earlier that this film is a devotional art form, but what is it more specifically? It is a passion play - a theatrical art form that to the best of my knowledge began to develop about 1000 years ago - hence the name of the film. Passion plays were limited to portraying the events of Good Friday, and it appears that Wayment is unaware of this and therefore the nature of this film. He has done a great deal of research into what he thinks this film should be, but it seems that he has done no research into the spirituality of the artist and what it is that he has created. Wayment ends up spilling an inordinate amount of ink complaining that the film The Passion is only about the passion and in the end betrays a certain spiritual poverty. Of course the passion play or the similar Stations of the Cross or Sorrowful Mysteries aren’t the only devotions or art forms in millennia of unbroken tradition. There are art forms, devotions, and meditations for every aspect of redemption, for every mystery, for every discipline, and for every personal spirituality. Each have their due season and each have their particular adherents.

Now what other centrally important themes are absent from Wayment’s redaction? For one thing, this film is very Eucharistic. Why were the flashback scenes of the Last Supper brought to bear on the crucifixion scenes? Because they are one in the same thing. This is the Passover of the Lord, the sacred meal, the sacrifice of the Lamb. This is the Mass itself - not mere symbols. Mary says, "Why is this night different from all others?" Because that night is the Keystone that holds all of history together, just as the crucifixion is Key to understanding the Passover in its fullness. This is what the film is about, and Wayment completely missed it. The film is full of images that speak to those mysteries that are beyond the Temple Veil and those mysteries that came to Earth.

On second thought, Wayment’s criticisms aren’t any different from the other perspectives that I have encountered as a matter of content. He is primarily concerned with historical reasons that are outside of the scope of the film’s subject; he is concerned with disproportionately applying guilt to Jews; and he is concerned with violence to the point that he imagines whole new theology. Where he differs from others is in matter of form - he is more reasoned and doesn’t fall into the Chicken Little Syndrome that is so common with other reviewers. Incidentally, since the film has opened, the newest issue to crop up is about the fact that it appears it is on its way to becoming a huge box office success. Oops, Hollywood fumbled on this one big-time, and now the charge being leveled at Gibson & Co. is that they are pimping Jesus. How they wail and gnash.