Beauty


These here passages scuttled from the fern-green lovely “Lolita” are chosen almost at dart throw. Any Lolitian sentence reproduced by a million typing monkeys would be just as miraculous as the next.

“Actually, she was at least in her late twenties (I never established her exact age for even her passport lied) and had mislaid her virginity under circumstances that changed with her reminiscent moods. I, on my part, was as naive as only a pervert can be.” p. 27

“I now wondered if Valechka–by now shedding torrents of tears tinged with the mess of her rainbow make-up,–started to fill anyhow a trunk, and two suitcases, and a bursting carton, and visions of putting on my mountain boots and taking a running kick at her rump were of course impossible to put into execution with the cursed colonel hovering around all the time.” p. 31

“I discovered there was an endless source of robust enjoyment in trifling with psychiatrists: cunningly leading them on; never letting them see that you know all the tricks of the trade; inventing for them elaborate dreams, pure classics in style (which make them, the dream-extortionists, dream and wake up shrieking)…” p. 36

“Sometimes I attempt to kill in my dreams. But do you know what happens? For instance I hold a gun. For instance I aim at a bland, quietly interesting enemy. Oh, I press the trigger all right, but one bullet after another feebly drops on the floor from the sheepish muzzle. In those dreams, my only thought is to conceal the fiasco from my foe, who is slowly growing annoyed….I pointed Chum at his slippered foot and crushed the trigger. It clicked. He looked at his foot, at the pistol, again at his foot. I made another awful effort, and, with a ridiculously feeble and juvenile sound, it went off.” p. 49, 299

“…all along our route countless motor courts proclaimed their vacancy in neon lights, ready to accommodate salesmen, escaped convicts, impotents, family groups, as well as the most corrupt and vigorous couples. Ah, gentle drivers gliding through summer’s black nights, what frolics, what twists of lust, you might see from your impeccable highways if Kumfy Kabins were suddenly drained of their pigments and became as transparent as boxes of glass!” p. 119

“Imagine me; I shall not exist if you do not imagine me; try to discern the doe in me, trembling in the forest of my own iniquity; let’s even smile a little.” p. 131

“The underworld was a world apart: there, heroic newspapermen were tortured, telephone bills ran into billions, and, in a robust atmosphere of incompetent marksmanship, villians were chased through sewers and storehouses by pathologically fearless cops (I was to give them less exercise). Finally there was the mahogany landscape, the florid-faced, blue-eyed roughriders, the prim pretty schoolteacher arriving in Roaring Gulch, the rearing horse, the spectacular stampede, the pistol thrust through the shivered windowpane, the stupendous fist fight, the crashing mountain of dusty old-fashioned furniture, the table used as a weapon, the timely somersault, the pinned hand still groping for the dropped bowie knife, the grunt, the sweet crash of fist against chin, the kick in the belly, the flying tackle; and immediately after a plethora of pain that would have hospitalized a Hercules (I should know by now), nothing to show but the rather becoming bruise on the bronzed cheek of the warmed-up hero embracing his gorgeous frontier bride.” p. 172-3

“…even at our very best moments, when we…silently stared, with other motorists and their children, at some smashed, blood-bespattered car with a young woman’s shoe in the ditch (Lo, as we drove on: “That was the exact type of moccasin I was trying to describe to that jerk in the store”)…” p. 176

“I believe the poor fierce-eyed child had figured out that with a mere fifty dollars in her purse she might somehow reach Broadway or Hollywood–or the foul kitchen of a diner (Help Wanted) in a dismal ex-prairie state, with the wind blowing, and the stars blinking, and the cars, and the bars, and the barmen, and everything soiled, torn, dead.” p. 187

“a last minute kiss was to enforce the play’s profound message, namely, that mirage and reality merge in love.” p. 203

“She hardly glanced at the famous, oddly shaped, splendidly flushed rock which jutted above the mountains and had been the take-off for nirvana on the part of a temperamental show girl.” p. 241

“A change of environment is the traditional fallacy upon which doomed loves, and lungs rely.” p. 241

“We rolled all over the floor, in each other’s arms, like two huge helpless children. He was naked and goatish under his robe, and I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us.” p. 301

All quotations are from:
Nabokov, Vladimir, The Annotated Lolita Alfred Appel Jr. editor. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1955)

Menelaus rasped his tongue along the iron bars of the cell.
“Open this door!”
“No.” said the go-go dancer inside.

The club was fulla hubbub and had a hot-tub in back where backrubs were given by Oddjob lookalikes. There was hobnobbing and gladhanding but not enough hobhanding. “This place is bunk.” grumbled Menelaus.
“We gotta get outta this place. If its the last thing we ever do cuz guys there’s a better life for me and you.” mumbled Argo. 
Ulysses stomped his foot. “I’m putting my foot down! This club was voted the only place in Atlantis City to get the ‘Food and Environment Warning’.”
“Firstly, that wasn’t an award it was a citation from the Health Code Inspectors and secondly the bacterial meningitis in the hot-tub has evolved legs and an endoskeleton!” Argo shrieked. 

As they pushed their way towards the door, a sinewy hand lit upon Uly’s shoulder and a chill touched his bones and he felt power drain from him. “Who dost touch me?” 
“Come,” he heard whispered across his eyebrow, curving along his cro-magnon skull and rattling his ear cartilege. 
Uly grabbed unto Menelaus’ coccyx who grabbed Telemachus’ perineum who grabbed Argo’s sacrum.
They made a trainwreck of a centipede, winding through the throng of thong wearing twenty-somethings who surreptitiously smoked something or another and wore perfume that smelled of Now And Laters. 

Through an alley way door and skipping through a round-about then down a drainpipe, they battled a giant spider’s Dead Lights and arose triumphantly after befriending four mutant ninja turtles and two Italians in overalls.
They stood on Atlantis City’s Boardwalk. The air smelled of cat, fish, catfish, and pirate’s crabs. 
Pale light from the whore houses glumly lit the Mysterious Stranger. Under her cloak her face was sheen, wane, a dagger of strange. 
 
“Look yonder” She pointed “and see the Great White Throne of Judgment.”
Past the merrygoround and a Hall of Mirrors it shone lilywhite and comely.
“There shall meet the most beautiful.”
“Yahoo! The beauty contest! We’ve finally arrived!” Ulysses yipped as he scratched at his scraggles he called a beard. 
“Yesssss. Your journey was arduous was it not? No? Oui?” The Stranger frowned her hisses.
“There was an anteater in Arkansas I’d rather not talk about.” Argo offered. “It kissed me on the mouth and then licked the inside of my stomach.” 
“We even went to Topeka!” Tele prompted.
“Topekaaaaaa….” from under Her Strange Hood. “What a punk ass town. Buncha weak ass clowns.”
“Uh…yeh.” 

The Stranger handed them backstage passes to the Beauty Pageant and in a BAMF! disappeared.
“Call me!” Menelaus weakly whimpered.

Tickets handed, wrists banded, hands sweaty, eyes leery, cheeks cheery the fantastic four were backstage at the Multiverse’s hottest spot since Lindsay Lohan’s canker sores. 

Said Menelaus:
Me likes the looks of the pretty ones the lovely bones
the shapes of things–of bone, of fleshy boon, they makest me swoon
Ah, fie! I spy with my little eye everyone here oh my oh my!
My lusts are lively and I’m lookin’ for a lady to be wively
ohhh I’m ready to settle dowwwn.
I like the looks of a country marm
with twigs in her hair and a sleepy charm
the looks of illiteracy found in the Bible belt
like big hamhocks and never svelt
a dullard’s nice duller’s better
someone who’ll stay home and knit a sweater
 

But until that day comes and along with it the duldrums
I’ll happily swing and do the nightscene thing
for that’s where the action is
Yes there’ll come a day I’ll jump in the fray
of a yawnin’ bond ’til On Golden Pond
but ’til then I’ll stay…where the action is

Sang Argo:
I’m keen on findin’ a mate fulla spleen
someone who’ll hold me and tell me its fine
I’d go for a fella smooth and sweet like Nutella
who’s church goin’, and tall and genuine
There no tellin’ where you’ll find your next heartache
I’ve had one or two in each United State
I fell for bellhop who hopped a train to elude me
I rang the bell of a boxer who squarely wouldn’t denude me
I wish I were a bloodhound to track down an escapee
or sniff out a gent who hails from Kissimmee
O a husband! It seems I’ll never get my paws on thee
Muttered Telemachus
I’m happy with my hand man
I don’t understand man

Why the trouble’s gone through
when your hand is given you

But until a ring graces my finger
In sleazy bars and dark alleys I’ll linger
There’s time before the vows are said
And there’ll be time to be celibate when I’m dead

Lamented Ulysses
O Penelope! Your name repeats in my conkles and valves
The memories of your smiles and laugter are my only salves
O what mistakes have I accrued that my birth is now rued
From a sad and broken heart this wisdom I now impart:

A marriage in title only means one should never be lonely
Yes I’ll soothe my pains and drown my shames
in further exploits yet with lovely damsels you can bet
‘cuz I earned my wife’s ire I’ll fight fire with fire
and burn my loins to ashes
with ladies in painted sashes
For flesh I’ll send until death the end–
More ladies says I, more ladies!

The Contest’s Judge checked the mirror one last time as she listened to the MC’s voice over the dressing room intercom. The mirror said: “this is what the sum of your body and clothes look like to you in the reverse image of what you would appear like to others” she smacked her lips and winked. Since her first occasion of judging the Atlantis City Beauty Contest, she felt like she was being paid for doing the opposite of what she was doing. It was she that was being judged. She knew that beauty evades proper naming and being applauded thus the best poets and prophets spoke in strange and confusing lines full of awe and evoking silence. No, it was she that was judged standing in the presence of beauty is a horrible thing at times, requiring change, humility, daring, self reflection. She had been aged dearly by the process, which is saying something since she was immortal.

The first 12,000 contestants were admirable. The next 144,000 were also full of grace and stirringly, hauntingly beautiful. She was shaking. Backstage the Flirtatious Four were just leaving in disgust.
“These people are disgusting!” Ulysses howled. “They look like grocery clerks and (sigh) mill workers!”
Menelaus shook his head “Truly, this is the worst looking group since ComicCon!”
They huffed towards the exit and just as they were squeezing through the door they didn’t hear a huge silence spread through the Hall. Somewhere a pin dropped followed by one elderly man’s giant adam’s apple clicking.
“What’s this all about?” Argo turned tail and sniffed back towards their spot in the wings.
“Well, maybe they’re so ugly it’ll be worth it just for laughs. Let’s go take a look.” said Uly seconding Argo’s motion.

She was plain as a scrap piece of paper, a face to be lost in crowds and assured to get her name forgotten. She stood before the Great White Throne in a dress not dissimilar from Judy Garland’s in that movie where she stood before a Great Green Throne. The Judge’s head was in her hands and the tiara was already descending from thin wires commanded from some theatre tech high in the clouds. The sea of onlookers were all a’tremble like a Methodism revival. Even Ulysses was beginning to slump as though an ice pick of ‘something great’ was shivvin’ into his gutsy-guts.

“I’m gonna ask her to marry me.” Menelaus whispered.
The Teen of the Quad cleared his throat. “Why does everybody got their nuts all wound up about her? I mean, she looks like somebody’s sister.” 
After years of hardship and loss, Telemachus would learn that beauty and ‘sexual appeal’ or ‘good looks’ were not always hand in hand and he would come to desire beauty–but that was many years away. He was in the maelstrom of testosterone and in a solipsism of masturbatory lust. 

Menelaus caught up with her in the parking lot. Under UFO landing lights and in yellow grids they spoke uneasily. Her tiara glimmering like a snowcone atop a head of raven’s feathers and nest. His hands rattled like the bbs in a trainyard’s grof session. She was kind and glowed at the non-punchlines of his non-jokes but didn’t give an inch when he played cute. After they parted, he ran back to the guys. “She said she appreciated the sentiment–but she can’t marry me right now and if I don’t back off, she’d pepper spray my ‘creepy ass’. But overall, I think it was a good first impression/marriage proposal….guys are you even listening?”
“I wanna marry that woman.” from Argo.
“Hey, waitaminute!”
“I’m gonna proclaim my undying love to her.” from Uly.
“Hey, jackass!”
“I’m hungry.” From Tele as he played Nintendo DS.

Menelaus looked back where she was waiting for her bus and the congregation of people around her on one knee.
“Getting down on one knee is a bit cliche isn’t it?”

Above them on the parking lot’s jumbotron big electric pixels announced: “Winner of Beauty Contest: Helen…..Next Week: Hannah Montana World Tour”

The current conversation about LGBTQ folk and marriage is often a hurtful one.
The language, parameters of discourse, and level of compassion that are commonly present leave many deep spiritual and emotional scars for everyone involved.

I am thankful that language, discourse, and compassion are increasing throughout many areas in our churches in America. This has only happened under great duress, with sustained Christian service, worship, prayer, and spiritual warfare. There have also been many instances of violence both spiritual and physical in opposition to the Spirit’s work. I am thankful for the brave and committed Christian clergy and believers from all walks of life who have helped make our current progress possible.

I believe that through this process, we can discern what I believe will be a large factor in what will make the Church stronger and more Christly in the ensuing decades. I’ll sketch out some ideas below.

Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, siblings, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This passage expresses to me how all Christians can be thankful for their LGBTQ fellow Christians. Through living their lives in worshipful reverence and not paying heed to the dominating heterosexism and socially created dualism of male/female, they set an honorable example for all to question the ‘doctrines’ of culture. Rather than submit to arbitrary and largely false cultural constraints of gender and sexual binaries, LGBTQ Christian folk can reveal to ‘anti-gay’ Christians that it is how we live our bodily existence, not the shape of or chemical makeup of our bodies that matters. Through a renewal of our mind, we all can begin to love and celebrate all people and never put constraints on how and who we love, desire, and commit ourselves to.

Christians of all walks can, through this area of discussion, question again what sin is. We must ask within the Church–if joy, love, vulnerability, sharing, sexual delight, and dignity are present between people is it sinful? We can look back to how previously Christians have railed against inter-racial marriage, inter-faith marriage, and inter-denominational marriage and used the Bible and language of sin and ask ourselves: were these people showing the love and life of Christ? Were they being led by the Spirit? This process of introspection will benefit the Body of Christ and lead to more Godly positions upon sin I believe.

Here is just two things I might add about marriage:
1) Jesus in Matt. 19:6 states that those who love and enjoy sex together should not be interfered with by others. “what God brings together–don’t let any ol’ judgmental hypocrite try to separate” He says in essence. I think that’s good advice. When love is in the picture only a fool would try to place themselves in opposition to it. Love is the greatest force humanity knows and it should be treated with reverence and awe.
2)  Hebrews 13:4 says marriage should be held in honor. All Christians can use the discussion about marriage to again address sexual oppression, violence and rape in marriage, domestic violence, family planning, familial child abuse and neglect among other dishonorable occurrences which are all too common. We can also reflect on Christian LGBTQ married folk who despite social criticism from some areas of culture have honored each other and marriage in their testimonies.

I am convinced that the full-inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ communities and individuals will become the norm within American church life. It may take time and it will definitely require the sustained work of Christians and allied people of faith and people of good conscience. So I am hopeful. But I am not only hopeful for LGBTQ folk. I am hopeful for the Christian Church at large–the Body of Christ, the Universal Church. I believe that through this transitional crises, opportunities for refocusing on Christ rather than Biblioatry, questioning again the nature of, source of, and effect of sin, and breaking down oppressive limitations of sex and gender will bear great fruit.

I want to close making some positive statements about my position using the resolution passed by the Baptist General Conference from their 1992 annual meeting titled “Beliefs about Homosexual Behavior and Ministering to Homosexual Persons” as a platform.

1) I believe that the Bible belongs to no one and its interpretation is free to all. We all have seen to many divisions, wars, schisms, and violences perpetrated with validation found within its pages by those claiming ‘true interpretation’. Any use of the Bible to demean, belittle, diminish, exclude, insult, or in any detract from the full joy of another is antithetical to a saintly life.
2) I believe that love and compassion are utmost valued dispositions of God. I believe all bodies no matter their identity: Intersex, Trans, GenderQueer, Bois, male, female, none of the above…are equally beautiful and holy. I believe that all sexualities, desires, attractions, sexual relationships where dignity, safety, and autonomy are present are to be celebrated. Those individuals who desire to undergo the ritual of marriage or its equivalents should in no way be hindered-this includes arrangements of plural marriage, open marriage, and marriages of ‘convenience’.
3) I believe that all people are loved and cherished by the Divine and are permeated with and dwell fully in the life of God. I believe that all people have the right to claim the identity of Christian and express their Christianity in any way that remains compassionate, loving, forgiving, vulnerable, and respectful. I believe that diversities of Christian doctrine, dogma, and life do not intimidate God and Christians can learn from all faiths, denominations, and secularists to become more saintly.
4) I believe that sin is ever present in an imperfect world comprised of imperfect people. I believe that sin and its effects can be lessened through vulnerability, humility, compassion, service, self-sacrifice, renunciations of greed and materialism, love, respect, responsibility, reverence for the environment and living beings. I believe that through close relationships of mutual trust and vulnerability, sin will diminish.
5) I believe that all people and living beings deserve full dignity, care, concern, respect, and reverence. I believe that it is hypocritical and doubleminded to affirm this and state that a person’s sexual life or erotic being is ‘less than’.
6) I believe that all Christian churches and institutions should celebrate and honor all people. I believe that all gender/sex identities should be allowed to serve the Church as clergy–with saintliness and service being requisite, not designations of body or attraction. I believe that no one should be refused ordinances, services, rituals, or positions of leadership because of designations of body or attraction.

Yours in hope, love, and peace–
Ryan McGivern

Link to the Baptist Affirmation cited above and used as a platform:
http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/80_Homosexuality/1499_Beliefs_about_Homosexual_Behavior_and_Ministering_to_Homosexual_Persons/ 

I read an article by the esteemed George Will today about humanity’s relationship to the environment. I shouldn’t have. It was like drinking warm, weak grape Kool-Aid to quench a thirst. George Will is just one representative of the madness involved with most “debate” about the environment–there are plenty more out there who are adding fuel to the ignorance fire–but its a shame that someone who has the platform he does would be so obscurant.

I put quotations around “debate” because a true debate is often based on argument, evidence, and clear perameters. If people really were having debate about humanity’s relationship to the Earth, or more specifically America’s relationship to other cultures, nations, and individuals, we would be getting somewhere. I believe that the great majority of people are good hearted and caring. I also believe that many can understand more of logic, reason, and sense than they are given credit for. We can and should discuss the human-aggravated climate crisis in terms of clear evidence and reason as much as possible.

However, I do understand that science (and personal experience) have shown that folks determine their worldview and actions by much more than ‘reason’. Folks do construct their lives, attitudes, and actions by processes of the messy human factors of emotion, religious sentiments, intuition, fuzzy logic, fear, etc. I do believe that climate and the environment would be well served by appeals to humanity’s better nature of compassion, religious aspiration, and common decency. Where I see that those who are antagonistic towards climate crisis warnings–let’s call them Sarumans for now–failing in science and logic, I see them also fail in terms of compassion and religious/spiritual excellence.

Not to be wholly negative about the Sarumans. They are skeptical. I like skepticism. They are cautious. I like caution. They are burned out by previous “Cry Wolf” situations. There are many times and places where a “hold on and waitaminute” approach is valuable, but I believe in terms of the current environmental consciousness change, they are practicisng a dangerous game of “Let’s wait and see if the Titanic really is sinking before we get in the lifeboats.”

Before I proceed to looking at some of George Will and others’ lines of thought I should do some quick ‘clean up’ on the statement I made about the Sarumans failing in religious/spiritual excellence. My reading of Genesis upholds a strong caretaker ethic towards all creation. Eden was not a bountiful All You Can Eat buffet where it was free for the asking. Adam and Eve were charged with being servants, caretakers, and stewards of the garden. There was responsibility involved. They were gardeners, not hungry stoners with the munchies who had nothing better to do than eat and chat with snakes. Adam and Eve were caretakers for each other also. Cain couldn’t believe that there was a responsibility for his brother “Am I my kindred’s caretaker?!” Our relationship, treatment, and attitude towards the Earth, including all the creatures (human to amoeba) is of spiritual import.

So what’s the spiritual counter to the caretaking ethic? What is there to say? Is it admirable to use as much as you can? Is it ethical to ignore the future we are creating for our young? Is it saintly to turn a blind eye to the world’s poor having to live in toxic landscapes that will be washed away by rising seas? I will be bombastic (even more than usual) and say that I feel that if one is not fighting for the smallest carbon footprint possible (which is conceivable to be none) and fighting for a minimal consumption program (four gallons of water a day for example) and fighting for America to be the world’s leader in sustainable, clean, and renewable practices….they are operating under a system which could only be described as satanic. There I said it and I welcome discussion about this.

Anywho: Here’s my response to some of the rhetoric you can hear about climate:

Al Gore and other rich climate advocates fly jets around and have big mansions–True. We need our leaders to be as non-hypocritical as possible. It would be great to see each person to speak out for Greener practices actually practice what they preach. But their hypocrisy does not discount what they are saying. Yes, we can telecommute and so should they. So let’s get behind that idea. Let us all propose that when possible we not travel to geographic sites to get stuff done. I think that there are plenty of easy ways to accomlish this: local church cell groups can meet closer to congregants’ homes rather than them travelling to the giant church surrounded by a grove of SUVs is just one example.

Government is trying to micromanage our lives! (The lightbulb argument)–‘Big Scary Government’ has been micromanaging our lives in terms of safeguarding our food and Viagra and requiring carmakers to pass safety tests. The government also protects our children by forcing paints and construction to be nontoxic, and protects us through creation of bridges and dams (and when they fail in that regard we only have to look to Minneapolis’ bridge collapse and New Orleans’ deluge to see the effect). What we can buy (weapons-grade anthrax), what we can watch (child pornography), what we can say (death threats) are under the supervision of ruling leaders. They owe us the best care and have the responsibility to be the best informed about the effects of our nations’ actions. In terms of the environment, they have the responsibility to assure that each and every young person one hundred years from now have the same privileges that some enjoy today: clean water, open natural spaces, the ability to trust that their air and environment is not harmful, etc.

We Can’t Make The Changes That Barack Obama Or Climate Crisis Scientists Ask For–Whatever happened to ‘America is the greatest nation and can achieve any goal it sets?’ America can and I believe will be the world leader in creating a just environmental ethic and practice. We just need a little more of the public to speak to their representatives and our representatives to cut the ties to Old Money Model lobbies (i.e. Coal, Oil, Big Agraculture, etc).
Who is benefitting from the current lifestyle and use of environment? Let me give you a clue: it is not the overwhelming number of poorer and poorer Americans. Nor is it the unemployed. Nor is it the world’s poor. A commitment to curtailing consumption, minimizing greenhouse gases, and incentivizing new Green technologies is not only possible, it is necessary and just the beginning. We also need to begin the discussion about ideal population levels, egalitarianism, global worker’s rights, and moral economies.

Global Warming Is A Hoax!–Who’s talking about “global warming”? Denialists. Why? Because its a hoax. Those who are in ‘the know’ talk about climate change, climate crisis, sustainable and just industries, etc. We know that the increase of carbon and greenhouse gases like methane will result in warming trends overall but the specific and local expressions of human aggravated climate change will be a bit of a grab bag. That’s why when I hear people say: “Where I’m from we call it weather!” I die inside.

Nature Is Always Warming and Cooling Naturally!–Yes. And your body is always naturally headed towards death so does that make smoking cigarettes okay? Sarah Palin has said carbon dioxide is natural and therefore ‘okay’. This is the same logic that teenagers have towards cocaine or pot: “Its natural. Its not meth! It grows in nature its not a big deal.”
George Will says in his article “Earth’s Next Last Chance” (Monday Dec. 7th 2009) “climate change is always a 100 percent certainty.” It troubles both logic and human compassion to state in essence “Those climate scientists have discovered basically every move the climate has made in the past and I believe them but when they make projections about the future based on their findings of the past I distrust them. The world changes and we could have an Ice Age at any moment so I’m going to be content with polluting the world as much as I want because I live in the most greedy, gluttonous, and abusive Empire in history.” In short, George Will: you are a moral and intellectual cretin and should be ashamed of yourself.

You Are An Alarmist!–Those who called the U.S. to action in the early days of WWII were alarmists too, I bet. Those who foresaw and warned of the current economic collapse were alarmists too no doubt. If you speak about any issue that involves compassion for the world’s poor and marginalized (which climate crisis is most fundamentally about) you must be an alarmist. Prophets, saints, compassionate clergy people–they are alarmists when they speak out against arrogance, apathy, destructive and violent actions. Well if that is the case, call me an alarmist. Because while I do not ever wish to ‘cry wolf’, I will not be silent while our nation and the world’s elite are being propped up by unjust and pollutive industries. Nor will I in any way support the ravenous and unquenchable consumerism of much of the West.

There Is Still Debate About The Effects of Humans on The Environment and Possible Consequences–There is still “debate” about whether humans rode dinosaurs like Tauntauns.
Well, George Will, I hope you sleep well tonight. I hope that you don’t get malaria, your local crop doesn’t fail, your city isn’t submerged, you don’t drink contaminated water, you don’t have an extreme pollen allergy, you never have to rely on fishing or hunting for sustenance, and you don’t ever live in a hurricane/typhoon affected area.
Bottom line: be a Francis of Assisi, not a Saruman.
Ryan McGivern

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2009/copenhagen/8386319.stm

I’ve been thinking about The Road a bit of late. I’d been turned off from reading the book when it first came out because my friend told me it was too emotionally stressful and I, being emotionally distressed by half empty (full?) coffee cups decided to protect myself and read BoingBoing.net daily instead.
Well, that same friend came to me when the movie’s (delayed) release was ‘fast’ approaching and said “you really should read the book before you see the movie.” Had I grown in my emotional maturity? No, I think not. But I believe that the friend had been able to process the simple beauty of the tale and see it as a hard story with a redeeming and ultimately positive message. So I read it and I loved it and have since read two other of Cormac McCarthy’s corpus and they’re all amazing. So I admit: my love for the book and the creative mind behind The Road coloured my experience of the film but I will say that it is a solidly enjoyable filmic experience.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m positive and hopeful almost to a fault. It would come as no surprise to those who know my style that I find this movie uplifting and hopeful. I know that the film looks bleak. Heck, its done in a color scheme of four different shades of gray and everything around them is dead! Its like a travelogue of Eastern Colorado! This film summarizes Cormac’s view of the indomitible human spirit and the courage and tender heart that is necessary to live what he often offers as the closest thing to a ‘good life’.

Art acts as an anvil. It confronts us and decides us. Art is crisis and like an anvil, we each crash upon an individual art piece (in this case a movie) and through our experience, interpretation, and response to it, the art is given a life in us. How that will look is different to each person and of course will differ as we reapproach the same piece. The Road works very well to demonstrate this phenomenon. I would be very interested to hear from those who think it bleak, dark, or depressing. Do they feel the same about “The Pianist”, “Schindler’s List”, “Alive”, or “Cast Away”? I mention these movies because I feel that they, like The Road depict humanity at the edges and yet triumphing. Each is about human dignity, the ethics that some live by even when all circumstances would allow them to be tossed aside, and the deep conviction that life is worth it–even in great darkness.

The word ‘apocalyptic’ has been thrown around a lot it seems in recent years. And it seems that some have spoken of this movie as being ‘an apocalyptic vision’. Well, properly speaking, it isn’t apocalyptic genre (or Apoc Lit for your biblical scholasticizing shorthand needs) and I would say it also is not prophetic literature. Surely, it is prophetic in the true sense that it is speaking to culture with themes of justice and righteousness–but the power of The Road comes from the intimacy of it and its tight focus on the Man and Boy. That makes this film a spiritual story set in a dystopian frame.

The Road–its title recalls the ‘path’ that we can undertake in our spiritual journeys or even the name given to early Christian movements “The Way”. It is a roadmovie and as most roadmovies, the journey is interior and the destination (here: South) is not important geographically, but spiritually.
The spiritual crisis is located primarily within the Boy. He is pitted against two positions: his disposition towards the world, and the worldview of his father. It is a crisis that many are familiar with: the LGBTQ young person growing up in a bigoted family, a young one who loves across class or ethnic boundaries that their family disagrees with, the youth who chooses to leave the religious tradition of their family,….and really the life of every youth to some degree in their process of individuation and personal agency.
The Boy displays trust, compassion, and inclusivity versus his Father’s antagonistic fear, eye-for-eye ethic, and isolationism. But let us not be naive–the Boy’s view of others and the world is truly dangerous. In his world and ours. This is the beauty of the movie. It is risky to be as trusting and compassionate as the Boy regardless of the context. That is why there is a spiritual attraction to great figures of compassion-Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Oscar Romero, Annie Besant, etc. They challenge the very ‘red in tooth and claw’ “law” of nature which seems so intuitive and unarguable.

The question that comes with the film that I find very attractive to think about is ‘what is civilization’? Is it about technology, amenities, organization of large groups of people? This movie allows a tighter focus than even Lord of the Flies in terms of roots of civilization and the ‘rules of engagement’ in relationships. What makes a ‘civil’ person? Or civil society?
Is America civil? America is said to be a Christian nation by some (and what that means and why some folks think that I’m not sure) but is it an ethical or civil nation? Our consumption, warring, imperial thuggery, death penalty, injustice towards the Original Nations, white supremicist culture, and class structure would be points of contending that indeed we are not.

What makes the movie work is the Father as an Anti-Hero. And by antihero, I mean ‘human’. Heroes in film have a way of often being idealized caricatures of our virtues and hence becoming less real, flawed, complex, morally gray, and ‘human’. (Watch Mel Gibson’s Passion to get a feel for what I’m talking about). Here the Father is so delicious to watch because he is acting out of best intentions and with his Son’s best interests in mind. He is willing to sacrifice so much for the love (or “god”) of his life–with the exception of showing vulnerability and trust. I know: he does give in to his Son–helping Eli (a blind prophet! Ha!) and the Man who stole their belongings on the beach–but it is only after his Son’s badgering.
There is a conservativism that comes with being a parent. Risk and novelty become seen in a different light with the entrance of a child into a person’s life. The Father here is no different than anyone else and I imagine that many parents wouldn’t do anything differently than he.
This leads me to what I see as the thrust of the film: the need to conquer our previous generations’ determinations of ‘safety’. Our world changes much too much in each generation for anyone to really impart the correct worldview that will be best suited for the world of their young. We are continuously at odds with the lives and lifestyles of our ancestors. We are held to the bigotries and denialism that they bore–to the creations they’ve made (napalm, lead based paint, meth, 5.56 mm round, etc.) and we are only alive in part because of there being some worth to their fears.
That’s right. When it comes down to brass tacks, there is a level of survival merit to a degree of skepticism towards others and fear of risk. “Mom, can I eat some shellfish?” “Nope.” “Why?” “Either because there’s honest to goodness chance of bacteria and toxins or God says so.” “Okay.”

But the lesson to be learned is clear: when the grasp of the previous generation is let go, a new community is available. It makes me wonder about my own life: who and what is out there waiting for me to give up my baggage? It is a challenge that the movie leaves with everyone–what are you missing out on? What would happen if you gave up on your fears and distrust?

Bonus Section For Those Who Read The Book
-Hilcoat, director, took an easy way out by starting the film with a flashback, don’t you think? I would have liked to see the film start right-off to allow the audience to question what kind of person the Father is, not be made to feel safe with him by showing him frolicking with a horse and Charlize (one of the best looking people in Hollywood).
-It would have been nice to have more time in the waterfall scene methinks. Here we have some playful joy available and we could see a different facet of the Father/Son relationship. And how’s about that rainbow in the waterfall? God’s promise to not flood the earth has been kept…
-Letting the audience off easy again at the end by having Guy Pierce (one of the best looking people in Hollywood) and (sheesh!) a nuclear family complete with dog was a bit much. I liked in the book how the New Man signifies his moral fiber by burying the Father and that’s all you get for evidence to trust him.
-Also: what’s up with writing in the idea that this mystery family has been following the Father/Son for much of the last half of the movie? I urge Mr. Hilcoat to challenge us even more in his next film. Show us some trust–that’s what the Son would want you to do!

Thanks for reading. May you have many happy days along your own road!
RyMcG

I inquired politely if I could snap a photograph and he responded in an excitable, deep Texan and follicly muffled voice, “If I can take one of you.”

WHY ON EARTH DOES GOD HAVE TO PAINT? / CENTRIPETAL ART
By Rafael Chodos, Based on Selected Works and Writings of JUNKO CHODOS
Giotto Multimedia, 2009
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Rafael Chodos’ Why on Earth Does God Have to Paint?/ Centripetal Art acts as a baptism into the post-modern landscape of junctures of art and religion. Troubling and formative, it is nothing short of a crisis point between what has come before and the promises that lie ahead. While clear in its spiritual direction, it is immediately accessible to spiritual aspirants of many traditions.  The author, husband of internationally celebrated artist Junko Chodos, has initiated a delightful and thoroughly post-modern midrashic project upon her art that through traditional and web-based publication will aid future forays into art and theology.
Like the best of post-modern spiritual inquiries, this book defies easy categorization and eschews being definitive or prescriptive in favor of authentically and humbly offering possibilities for the spiritual seeker and artist. And it has an uneasy prophetic power:  Junko Chodos’ art calls to spiritual refugees across our contemporary landscape with an exhilarating corpus of work reflective of the aspirations of a twenty-first century mysticism.
This book is an exploration of the life, spiritual journey, and mission of Junko Chodos and the art that her ardent spirit has forged. Included is a processional of the visitants, or iconic themes present in Junko’s art, biographies of both Junko and Rafael Chodos, treatments upon her style and process, and a stirring description of the artist’s vision of centripetal art and integrity as foundational to her art. With intertextual sensibility Rafael deftly includes private correspondence of the artist, studio notebooks and diaries reflecting the contemporary consciousness that rends text, welcoming readers to participate spontaneously unrestricted by genre and media expectations. More than catalog or collection, Why on Earth invites the reader to contact image and text at once rendering it an intimate and sensual engagement.
Although the book is challenging, it is a highly engaging book for even the uninitiated or the collegiate student of post-modern art and/or theology and it balances many functions. It is a post-modern treatise where readers can witness how Junko reflects the commitment to non-commercial integrity, collaboration among artists and the centrality of bodies as seen in her FATHOM project, an acute awareness of the danger and promise of technology, and the role of art in establishing justice-in-community. It also is an epistle of hope and inspiration to post-colonial theorists. Individuals who like Junko have experienced subaltern cultures, war, or the multivalent violences of consciences no longer at home within creedal religion will be livened through the reflections within the book’s reflections of Junko’s identity as spiritual refugee.
These many themes and functions find their narrative integrity here as a living archaeology of mysticism. Through their collaboration, Junko and Rafael Chodos erase prejudices, dichotomies, and limitations of the modern worldview. The political is the spiritual, the artist is the prophet, and law, justice, art, and religion are all joined by the same strivings of the human spirit. Artist, art, and viewer intimately participate in the shared return to the same spiritual center.
Central to the book’s mystic vision is centripetal art, which affirms that the human heart will ever remain undefeated by imperialism, social divisions, and dogmatism.  For whether the darkness is within an individual’s own psyche or arises from the devastations of war, yet comes the redemptive hope that art still may usher one to the center of divine presence.

The book is available at CentripetalArt.com and Amazon.com

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