solitary_summer: (Default)
Prompted by [ profile] green_maia's posts about MD and religion, and my own comments there.

My reaction to Immortal Sins in comparison to [ profile] green_maia's, as well as other people's, made me remember a blog entry by Ricardo Pinto, where he talks about the Catholic themes he noticed in his writing despite being an atheist, and how differently Portuguese readers and readers from English speaking countries react to the violence in the Stone Dance of the Chameleon books (*). He remarks on the prevalence of the crucifix in Catholic countries as opposed to the plain cross used by Protestant Churches, and goes on to ask, 'How profoundly is a culture shaped, the minds of its children shaped, by the difference between these symbols? The contrast between the abstract instrument of torture and execution, and the instrument being demonstrated in use, viscerally, by having a man depicted on it suffering?', and concludes: 'And it seems that I am Catholic enough to have portrayed a unity between violence and redemption, between violence and love, that is immediately understood by people who have grown up with the crucifix and causes much more of a problem for those who have grown up with the plain, bare cross….'

I have no idea if this would hold up to scientific analysis, but I do find the idea interesting, and it made me think.

My personal religious history, Catholicism, and the religious themes in TW and DW. )

(*) Which, btw, I cannot recommend enough. They're not flawless, but IMO deserve more recognition than they got.

solitary_summer: (dreamsquid (© clive barker))

It's HOT. 9 pm, still 31 degrees, I should have checked. I thought it was safe to open the window, it being dark and all, but I'm already covered in sweat...

In other not-so-news, now that the whole eye-related drama is over & done with [although, again, knocking on wood...] & I have panic-free brain-capacity again...

Last Saturday my sister and I saw Jesus Christ Superstar in Amstetten, and for once we both agreed that this was a little on the weird side.

I've never seen it before, I didn't know what to expect; I didn't expect much of anything, to be honest. It's a musical, I thought. It's Andrew Lloyd Webber, I thought. How catholic can it be, I thought. Or was it only the production that turned it into a passion play, only with singing and dancing & homoerotic not-so-sub-text?

We both left wondering what exactly was the point - of the musical itself, and, more specifically, of the production; vaguely we'd both expected a different, at least slightly controversial approach, nothing quite so literally catholic. None of the characters (with the possible exception of Judas) had any personality, they remained gospel cardboard cut-out personas; it didn't help that the music was so loud that it seriously messed with the voices. I perhaps understood one word in three & during the intermission was left wondering what exactly was Judas's problem, other than his obvious jealousy of Maria Magdalena.

There was one part especially that made me more than a little uncomfortable. While it looks like as if with the costumes of the priests they were trying to avoid anything too distinctly Jewish, in the trial/flagellatlion scene there's this pretty, blond, long haired Jesus, in white trousers, a sympathetic Pilatus, and there's the whole ensemble, dressed in black in a way that definitely suggested Jewish orthodox dress, the men in coats and hats, screaming for Jesus to be crucified. You'd have to see the choreography to get the full impact of it, the hatefulness, the ugliness. I sat there, disbelieving, and i'm still wondering what made them decide to stage this particular ugly Christian stereotype. It'd have helped, at least a little, if there'd been (e.g.) a dark-haired Jesus and blond Judas, but as it was... I have a hard time believing that a young, thoroughly international team and cast would have suddenly chosen to channel a collective anti-semitic prejudice, but what then? Sheer obliviousness? Hard to believe. Or were they consciously playing into the stereotype, indeed, over-playing it, trying to make the audience reflect? If that, it's a precarious gamble that could have gone wrong in many ways, and perhaps has, because it's scarily effective, and the intention not clear at all, especially since nothing else in the production particularly invites reflection. If I went to see it with a child, there'd be a long talk afterwards about the historic circumstances and where this kind of Christian prejudice led already.

Another thing that shocked me on a very personal level was how after nearly fifteen years of more or less pronounced, occasionally militant, anti-catholicism and atheism, this still managed to stir some kind of primordial religious feelings/memories and to really grip me in the end. Not on any intellectual level, there was nothing abstract about it, nothing transcending the story actually told, no universal message about sacrifice, but on a very simple, emotional childhood-religion gut level, when you still believed these stories they teach you, in a very literal way. Suddenly I kind of understood what makes people watch passion-plays and such. It's scary and embarrassing at the same time, to suddenly discover something like that still lingering in yourself. Strange. And does it make sense at all that little anti-catholic, atheist me was sitting there, almost disconcerted, when right after the crucifixion scene, it was over, and the lights went on, and they did the Jesus Christ... reprise, and it was a musical again, and people were cheering and applauding.... Again, weird, in many respects.

On a more ::cough:: mundane level... Hard to say much about the cast because the characters were so un-developed and the voices so drowned-out and/or-turned up too loud. Kim Duddy's choreography is good as always, but IMO as a director she simply lacks the vision of what you might do with a play/musical. Drew Sarich was a good Judas, but then again the part is perhaps the most interesting in any case, and the one most open to interpretation. Cue somewhat predictable homoerotic overtones. (Symbolism right until the end, shooting himself, gun in mouth) Not to be overly sarcastic, though, the whole death-scene was very touching, especially his variation/repetition of I don't know how to love him. I guess one might object to making Judas (more or less explicitly) gay on top of the whole betraying Jesus thing, but then again his character is at least somewhat interesting and he does play a vital part in the story, whereas Maria Magdalena... She soothes. She anoints. She pines. Yawn.

Still almost 30 degrees at 11 pm. Still sweaty. No point trying to sleep.
solitary_summer: (Default)

Life of Pi (Y. Martel). I hate when that happens. Initially liking a book, really liking it, only to end up very much resenting it. Couldn't even bring myself to finish it, read the first two hundred something pages, after which in exasperation I skipped to the ending/revelation, and then browsed through the rest.

Maybe I'm stupid, maybe I'm not open minded enough, but I don't get the hype about this book at all.

He first alienated me when the protagonist summarily condemned agnostics, and lost me when he then proceeded to be a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim all at once. Too much religion - a rather wishy washy brand of religion -, followed by too much gratuitous, voyeuristic violence, a plot too artificially contrived, all serving the purpose of a symbolism laid on too heavily for my taste.

There's something slightly obscene about the mixture of it.

Come to think of it, perhaps it's the ex-catholic in me that makes me resent martyrdom, violence and death for the sake of a higher purpose.

Still, it'd be tolerable, if there at least was a point - which there isn't.

Now personally speaking I'm an atheist on some days, an agnostic on others, and moving from one to the other was a conscious step for me, and I think one in the right direction, because it meant opening my mind to something I'd prefer not to have in my world-view; but if I were to chose any religion, it'd be Buddhism. My issue with all theist religions is that while God can be seen as something more abstract and symbolic, more often then not they simply reflect very mundane social structures with all their inherent issues of power and authority, their pettinesses and prejudices.

However. Maybe that's the ex-catholic talking again, but if I were to believe in god (not the god of one particular religion, but one self-aware power, creative force, whatever term you prefer behind the motions of the universe) the point would be to assume that this god was real, wouldn't it? Strive for proof of its reality, if possible, or at least be convinced of it?

How exactly is this book supposed to restore your faith in god, if it reduces god to the 'better story', something to prettify an ugly reality and make it more interesting? Not even tolerable exactly, not more purposeful, merely more interesting.

And what, after all, is 'better story' supposed to mean? Every X-file-esque conspiration theory is a better story than the sad reality that humans are often stupid, greedy, short-sighted and generally have the tendency to mess up things. That life often sucks, even when no one's to blame.

God (if there is such a thing), and I think most religions and a few philosophers would agree on this, even if they disagree about most of everything else, would be an absolute, something transcending the limits of human perception and prejudice.

This book sums up every argument of my younger self why god is nothing but a human invention.

I don't have anything against imagination. I love Clive Barker's book exactly for their scope of it. But Barker's imagination - or, you might say, spirituality - is something powerful, inescapable, it is real, without any qualifications. It saves his protagonists in an entirely different sense; it is never reduced to 'the better story', because in Barker's universe there is no other story.

[/rant] Shower. Work.

For a moment there I sorta, kinda thought I got what he was aiming at; the equation between atheism and religiosity addressed early in the book, both the atheist teacher and the devout Muslim seeing the same reality, the same beauty in a zebra, mostly because it reminded me of something Posa says in Schiller's Don Carlos, but it's not really that, because in the end the story with the tiger is presented as the better one...

[ETA: ::sigh:: And promptly, post-shower, the more rational part of my brain kicks in and, yes, obviously the whole argument depends on what your image/definition of god is. ]
solitary_summer: (abarat. tower)

Long rambling post inspired by the controversy about Mel Gibson's movie. )

It's still/again snowing... gah.

... off to take a hot bath.


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March 2013

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