Everyone should be familiar with Gandhi's use of non-cooperation and peaceful resistance in his pursuit of justice. Like the Christian non-violence I support, Gandhi's ideas were anything but passive. He called for a nationwide protest against the Rowlatt Acts. This included the call to close all offices and factories, withdrawal from Raj-sponsored schools, police services, the military and the civil services, and lawyers to leave the Raj's courts. Not stopping there, he wanted a boycott of public transportation and foreign-manufactured goods, but Gandhi did not want force or coercion used by the protesters. Gandhi's life and teaching demonstrate a rigorous attachment to notions of truth, faith, and courage. Gandhi was aware that his commitment to nonviolence required incredible faith and courage, which he realized not everyone possessed. This raised the worry that supporters of nonviolence may support it out of cowardice. As Joan Bondurant recounts in her book, Gandhi wrote, "I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence." This isn't too far from my claim that given the attractiveness of despair during the Nazi regime, I would probably take Bonhoeffer's path even though I'm a pacifist. There was a unresting character to Gandhi's life; he did not celebrate independence with the rest of India, but mourned the partition, knowing that there was still work to be done.
There's a lot of dirt in life. I recently came across an interesting NPR piece from 2004:
"A British street artist known as Moose creates graffiti by cleaning dirt from sidewalks and tunnels -- sometimes for money when the images are used as advertising. But some authorities call it vandalism.I think there are similarities between Gandhi's non-cooperation and nonviolence, this reverse graffiti and the kind of imagination which Christianity demands. Though Gandhi was jailed multiple times as a result of his views and political activities, he could always appeal to the British law, moral convictions, and argue that he was no enemy as his only weapon was a walking stick. This made Gandhi difficult to demonize and allowed him to say, "At every meeting I repeated the warning that unless they felt that in non-violence they had come into possession of a force infinitely superior to the one they had and in the use of which they were adept, they should have nothing to do with non-violence and resume the arms they possessed before." This should also expose a significant if not fatal flaw of so-called Christian anarchism, namely, that by rightly or wrongly making themselves easy to demonize, they problematize any attempts to build coalitions, which will be increasingly necessary when facing global economic/political structures that are much larger than the state. In the piece on reverse graffiti, one sees British authorities in a similar quandary as the one produced by Gandhi. How do you criminalize someone who goes around with a walking stick or cleaning public grounds with water? Christians should constantly be looking for ways to exert peaceful resistance in ways that puzzle typical responses.
Moose, whose real name is Paul Curtis, tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that he got the idea when he saw that people had written their names with their fingers on dirty tunnel walls in his hometown of Leeds. Moose does some freehand drawing, but also uses the grid from wall tiles to create perfect shapes and letters.
The tools are simple: A shoe brush, water and elbow grease, he says.
British authorities aren't sure what to make of the artist who is creating graffiti by cleaning the grime of urban life. The Leeds City Council has been considering what to do with Moose. 'I'm waiting for the kind of Monty Python court case where exhibit A is a pot of cleaning fluid and exhibit B is a pair of my old socks,' he jokes."
Bourgeois suburban Christianity is limited in practice to largely interpersonal matters. It tends to see the command to love others as elevating the personal encounter with another person over working to alleviate the structural conditions that enslave others. [Given the impersonal nature of people's daily lives, this may seem right, but one cannot claim love while failing to address the structures of poverty and classism.] So, they send teenagers on mission trips dressed in GAP clothing, largely unconcerned with their own suburban exclusion, greed, and perpetuation of poverty. "It is stronger on adultery than on armaments...Its view of democracy...is the abstract one of the ballot box, rather than a specific, living and practical democracy which might also concern" the moral reasoning about war in the Defense Department and the effect of buying a morning latte at Starbucks. By largely sharing the anemic American view of individual freedom, its "view of individual freedom is similarly abstract: the freedom of any particular individual is crippled and parasitic as long as it depends on the futile labor and active oppression of others."
To get past such unfaithful embodiment of Christianity, to refuse to cooperate in daily practices that cripple others, to be a artist in world of dirt, sometimes it doesn't take much: courage - one's willingness to stand with others, an imagination that goes beyond the ballot box, and resources - sometimes as little as a sock, water, and elbow grease.
 Joan Bondurant, Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1988).
 Here Terry Eagleton is actually writing about liberal humanism. I've applied his words to middle-class Christianity in part to make the point that because capitalism makes discussion of class difficult and therefore classism invisible, Christians often have more in common with their class than with their Gospel. Eagleton calls liberal humanism a suburban moral ideology, which in my opinion becomes the suburban Christian ideology. Eagleton, Literary Theory, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983), 207-8.
"[I]n his creatureliness, for all its inner differentiation, [the human] may be a solid inner unity, a whole. That he is soul and body does not threaten him with an infinite contradiction which he would have to meet with an achievement of which only God is capable...Death is the final and conclusive result of the delusion in which man wants to be both creator and creature. In death as the unnatural division of soul and body this sin is paid for...The difference and antithesis between soul and body is as great in death as it can possibly be within the created world. In death man is only the spent soul of a spent body, and he cannot live at all unless the God who let him live and then die gives him new life." =============
 Karl Barth, CD III.2, 370.
Improv Everywhere No Pants 2007
Originally uploaded by crnphoto.com.
Here's a fun video montage of the event:
In other news, I went and saw Ray LaMontagne last night in Aberdeen. While I enjoyed his performance, I was more captivated by Leona Naess. I'd recommend listening to the song "Ghosts in the Attic" on her MySpace page. If anyone has an Mp3 of the song, could you please send it my way. Thanks. Happy Wednesday!
"I consider Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, and Babel sister films, three films that speak about similar themes. I think that the theme of ideology as a world between the communication of people is a common theme of the three films."
--Alfonso Cuaron, director of "Children of Men."
Guillermo del Toro sets Pan's Labyrinth in 1944 Spain, and like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, has a militaristic point of departure for his fantasy. However, Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) never actually departs from this situation. Del Toro's fantasy follows a little girl, Ofelia, as she travels with her pregnant mother to live with her mother's new husband, a harsh man and a captain in Franco's military, in a mountainous rural area of northern Spain. The story weaves her fantasy world - full of fairies, fauns, and magic - with the oppression of the post-war Fascist regime.
Pan's Labyrinth is not a movie for children and one would hope that the viewing public realizes that fantasy and fairy tales need not be a child's affair. With a dark film like Pan's Labyrinth there is the worry that some of the uncomfortably violent scenes would be seen by children, but also that adults would dismiss this as child's play and not see what is a fantastic film. One should remember that fantasy in the end may be more real than a reality that is painted by philosophical and biological materialism. Having already mentioned the Narnia film that came out in 2005, one need only compare the representations of a faun to realise that with del Toro the audience is not in Lewis' quaint wonderland. Cinematically, del Toro would be closer to a Hitchcock who successfully blends humanity's care and brutality. Fairy tales, as del Toro says, "are meant to be tough lessons in life. This [film] is a fable about choice and disobedience. It's about that particular moment we all go through...when we are asked to stop believing, asked to stop choosing who we are, and become who everyone else tells us to be. In a world like the one that we live in, a world where the choices are every day poorer and more pathetic, it's very important to remember that we should not obey, that imagination should not comply."
Del Toro is aware of the political implication of how we imagine, and presents a work of fantasy that does not attempt to straddle the worlds of childhood and adult producing a story more rich and more subtle than Lewis' Narnia tales. If one sees that The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe was a poor film based upon Lewis' anemic narrative [anemic in the sense that Narnia was insufficiently fertile or creative having been imaginatively constrained by Lewis' allegorical impulse - the reason Tolkien hated the Narnia books], then it is possible to understand how Pan's Labyrinth goes beyond Lewis' allegory by tying together post-war Franco oppression with fauns, fairies, and royal child who enters the world of mortals. There's a wildness that comes from not knowing where the narrative might lead and this can be seen in the characters as well. A chummy Mr. Tumnus might invite you in for tea, but the faun in del Toro's fantasy resists being easily named, proclaiming, "I've had so many names...Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce."
Watching Babel immediately before starting Pan's Labyrinth, made the similarities between the films more apparent. In Babel ideologies that separate various cultures result in mistrust and separation. This alienation is held in tension with the tenuous but loving relationship between parent and child that unites each story line. Pan's Labyrinth has an ideological divide between those characters who reject fantasy and those who embrace imagination. Ofelia's mother discards a magic root that Ofelia had placed beneath her bed and in so doing discards her life. The doctor who responds to the captain, "But captain, obey for obey's sake...That's something only people like you do," realizes that to be human, to be bound to other people, means having the imagination to move beyond the demands of a disordered world.
I enjoyed Pan's Labyrinth more than Babel, and Babel is an excellent film. I've avoided going into more detail so as to avoid spoiling various parts, but I highly recommend Pan's Labyrinth; it is fantastic, horrific, beautiful, and heartfelt. Now I just need to see Children of Men.
"Rational self-interest and social reciprocity are genuine goods in proportion, but when they are the central political motivation, justice itself atrophies. The surest way to secure peace may be to work for justice, but the surest way to promote justice is not to value it too highly or to aim at it to the neglect of other virtues, such as love...Otherwise we forget those human ties that bind - compassion, mercy, forgiveness - and reduce our life together to contractual obligation or historical convention." ==========
 Timothy P. Jackson, "Prima Caritas, Inde Jus: Why Augustinians Shouldn't Baptize John Rawls," Journal for Peace and Justice Studies, 59.
[Kate Winslet with Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry in front.]
Something I had not seen, however, was The Polyphonic Spree's video included on the DVD. I started listening to the traveling circus which is The Polyphonic Spree in April 2005. This is a good song and the video is captivating if not a little creepy.
No round-shouldered pitchers here, no stewards
To supervise consumption or supplies
And water locked behind the taps implies
No expectation of miraculous words.
But in the bone-hooped womb, rising like yeast,
Virtue intact is waiting to be shown,
The consecration wondrous (being their own)
As when the water reddened at the feast.
I picked up Heaney's little 1969 book Door into the Dark in a little used book store in Dublin. I've been thinking a lot about why I think poetry is important. Word-care is an important notion to me since language allows us to interact with the world around us, or, to be in a world at all. There is something more than this though, something not unrelated but more determined by what we call aesthetic. Still, I know that the aesthetic bears ideology and there's a classism that I'd like to avoid that seems to creep in when recommending that people read poetry.
First, my list of five superlative works of theology which I suspect may not make it onto other people's lists, in no particular order:
1. Schillebeeckx, Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God [Probably too old to be considered contemporary.]
2. WCC, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry
3. Weinandy, Does God Suffer?
4. Hütter, Suffering Divine Things
5. Henry, C'est moi la vérité
And, secondly, five books which are superlative works of theology which I am pretty sure will be found on other lists:
1. Tanner, Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity
2. Jenson, Systematic Theology [2 vols.]
3. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine
4. Williams, Resurrection
5. Marion, God Without Being
And lastly, five works of theology from the last twenty five years that, when I get a chance to take them off of my shelf and read them, will very likely find their way onto one of the above two lists:
I'll avoid speculation...and, no, I'm not fowarding this on to anyone.
The movie begins even before James Bond has been awarded 007 status providing a less accomplished, less proven Bond than the one we have encountered in the bloated and sagging Bond films of recent memory. There's something rough around the edges in Craig's Bond from which the film benefits. Craig has said, "I think there has to be an element of cruelty. Certain things he does should be questionable. I thing you should go, 'Fuck, that's not nice.' He is an assassin." Assassin may not capture all that is involved in espionage, but killing is part of it. This less buttoned down Bond adds a level of unpredictability and a realistic texture to the film. For example, Bond nearly misses some of his jumps during the opening chase, he is caught on tape blowing up an embassy, and the final car chase ends with James flipping his vehicle, not driving away in style. Things don't necessarily come easily for Daniel Craig's Bond. This works for, not against, the film. Further, one does not miss a character that plays a noticeably smaller roll this time around: gadgets. Bond has the Aston Martin, of course, but he doesn't have or need an erasure that explodes when you look at it cross-eyed. Again, this makes being a spy just a little less aerodynamic, but more believable as well.
The film also succeeds in reviving a franchise utilizing an approach that worked well in 2005 with Batman Begins. Being a prequel of sorts, the film both relies on what the audience already knows and provides the psychological background to that knowledge. The audience knows Bond is a rigorously unattached womanizer. Here we see the same cagey and resistant Bond, but one that ultimately falls in love and is hurt. It is satisfying to see legitimate emotion in Bond's character and know that the womanizer was once in love. In short, it adds depth and provides a character to care about in addition to the question: how's he going to get out of this one? That being said, this is an action film, but an action film worth seeing and one that restores some virility to what was an aging James Bond.
For those who aren't on my email list, this track free online, in case you want to participate. Download the track here.
AYT Notes: "You're not a baby if you can feel the world." The Blow is yet another reason to love Portland. I like indie pop perhaps more than rock, so I guess I can't complain that I wish this track had a little something extra to go along with the head-bobbing rhythm and hand claps. Perhaps I just find it too repetitive, but don't get me wrong I like the song or it wouldn't be here. Hand claps improve almost any song, yes, even Mozart...try it next time you're at the symphony. I included the video as well, though, the song is significantly better than the video. [See below.]
This week's single:
by The Blow
"The claim that we can make a literary text mean whatever we like is one sense quite justified. What after all is there to stop us? There is literally no end to the number of contexts we might invent for its words in order to make them signify differently. In another sense, the idea is a simple fantasy bred in the minds of those who have spent too long in the classroom. For such texts belong to language as a whole, have intricate relations to other linguistic practices, however much they might also subvert and violate them; and language is not in fact something we are free to do what we like with. If I cannot read the word 'nightingale' without imagining how blissful it would be to retreat from urban society to the solace of Nature, then the word has a certain power for me, or over me, which does not magically evaporate when I encounter it in a poem. This is part of what is meant by saying that the literary work constrains our interpretations of it, or that its meaning is to some extent 'immanent' in it. Language is a field of social forces which shape us to our roots, and it is an academicist delusion to see the literary work as an arena of infinite possibility which escapes it." =============
 Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983), 87-88.
Even though I spent more time on form than content, I need to pass these two links along. The first is about Paul House, a man who shouldn't be on death row. The second displays why the role of the bishop is important, and a bishop that has his head on straight.
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
--Philip Larkin, High Windows