Are you religious?

Easter, Passover, spring break, holiday weekend. Let us unfurrow the brow and look at something elevated. It’s a small thing, a half-hour television interview from 60 years ago, but it struck me this week as a kind of master class in how to be a public figure and how to talk about what matters…

Is he religious? Here Hammerstein told a story. A year ago he was rushing to work and jaywalked. A policeman called out; Hammerstein braced for a dressing down. But the officer recognized him and poured out his appreciation for his work. Hammerstein thanked him and moved to leave, but the policeman had a question. “He said, ‘Are you religious?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t belong to any church,’ and then he patted me on the back and he said, ‘Ah, you’re religious all right.’ And I went on feeling as if I’d been caught, and feeling that I was religious. He had discovered from the words of my songs that I had faith—faith in mankind, faith that there was something more powerful than mankind behind it all, and faith that in the long run good triumphs over evil. If that’s religion, I’m religious, and it is my definition of religion.”

~ Peggy Noonan, excerpts from The Wisdom of Oscar Hammerstein II (wsj.com, March 29, 2018)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Zofia Nalkowska writes in Medallions that we’re never given reality in its entirety, it reaches us only in “fragments of events,” and this alone permits us to bear periods of historical catastrophes. But isn’t it just the opposite? We manage to survive great misfortunes, times of terror, only because we receive an excess of reality. Of course, tyrants waste no time, but a bird is still singing somewhere, a tram bell rings, rain begins falling, a neighbor asks to borrow a pinch of sugar, I hear my heart beating, stars burn at night as they always do. Someone plays cards in the suburbs, a bottle of rotgut stands in the grass, green tomatoes ripen in the sun.


Notes:

  • Post Inspiration: A gunman walked into a small Baptist church in rural Texas on Sunday and opened fire, killing at least 25 people and turning a tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s most recent mass horror. (NY Times, November 5, 2017)
  • Photo: Harvest to Table
  • Related Posts: Adam Zagajewski

I just don’t see the connection

Paris-the-newyorker-red-blood-terrorist

Once he heard the gunfire stop, Matthieu made his way back to the restaurant. “I saw a lot of women dead on the ground,” he said, his voice catching on the “f” of “femmes.” “It was mostly women that I saw.” He found one of his friends, a Brazilian studying in Paris, lying in the middle of the street. She had been seated across from him, and was shot in the chest. Matthieu sat on the ground and held her legs, feeling her shallow breathing. She would survive.

People were running through the streets in an eruption of panic, shouting as the police arrived and tried to establish order. The scene couldn’t be secured; Matthieu worried that the shooters might return. Next to him, a man without injuries held his girlfriend’s lifeless body in his arms. Then, without warning, he ran off. The woman was about twenty-five and very beautiful. Matthieu searched for words to describe her perfect, uncanny stillness. […]

Last week’s victims were normal people doing normal Parisian things: eating and drinking together, going out at night to hear a concert or watch a soccer game. After a few days, the rhythm of Parisian life returned, but a new fatalism hung in the air. People seemed resigned to the idea that more attacks would happen, maybe soon. […]

I remembered that when Matthieu and I first met we’d discussed our upbringings, and religion had come up. His family was Catholic, but I couldn’t remember if he was religious. “I’m more agnostic than Catholic, though I come from the Catholic culture,” he said. “In any case, this isn’t really a moment when I’m thinking about religion. When I think about religion, I always think about it in connection with what’s beautiful, what’s good. But never in connection with evil. I just don’t see the connection.”

~ Alexandra Schwartz, Letter from Paris: The Long NightTerrorist attacks and a city changed.


Illustration: Arc De Triomphe by Christoph Niemann in The New Yorker

Flying over I-95 S. With Germanwings Flight 9525.

plane-window-touch

Flight departure: 6:59am. From LGA to points South.
A restless night. I’m tossing. Turning. Weary.
Up before the alarm. I shower, shave, dress, zip up suitcase.
And, bolt out the door at 4:30 am.

Good Morning.
This is Captain Greg with First Officer John.
We’ve reached our cruising altitude at 38,000 feet

We’re expecting a smooth flight this morning.

The German newspaper Bild reports that 1.5 hours of audio was obtained from the black box and shows the plane reaching a cruising altitude of 38,000 at 10:27 am local time.

The morning sun beams through the window. The sky is marked with thin wispy clouds, but otherwise steely blue. Another spectacular day on Planet Earth.

The recordings picked up every detail of the co-pilot’s actions – suggesting that he was conscious and alert. “We could hear him breathing. He breathed normally.”¹

The stewardess doles out water and soft drinks. My noise canceling headphones are feeding in Jackson Browne. Sky Blue and Black. I’m in an aisle seat 14D. The aisle is clear. My line of sight to the cockpit door is clear. The door is reinforced with a four-inch steel plate. Gray, cool, steel.

The Germanwings Flight 9525 blackbox audio indicates the captain attempted to break down his flight’s cockpit door with an ax as the Airbus A320 accelerated into the French Alps.²

[Read more…]

Neeson. Revenge. Being more virtuous.

movie,gun,pointed gun

This has been clanking around upstairs for weeks. “Taken” is a story of an ex-CIA agent whose daughter is kidnapped by an Albanian gang engaged in human trafficking. They drug, prostitute and auction off young women. I dismiss the probabilities of the predicable storyline. I cheer him on through the mayhem and destruction right to the Disney finish. His daughter is saved!

I watched the movie in the attic. A dark room dripping with evil. I finished watching the movie and headed outside, I needed to get to the Sun.

I have a daughter.
It’s just a movie.
This evil actually exists.
It’s just entertainment.
Getting the bad guys felt so good.

Then why do you feel so dark now?
And why do you watch these things?

I came across this op-ed essay by Arthur C. Brooks titled The Trick to Being More Virtuous and asked myself:

  1. Demand outstrips supply for this “poison.” Am I further poisoning the well with my spend and my attention?
  2. What does my next “click” say about my desires?
  3. Will the next movie or book or article that I read, “elevate” me?
  4. Like that third donut, can I pass it by and “seek personal moral improvement?”

Here’s a few excerpts from Brooks’ essay:

[Read more…]

Our dark and our light are so intertwined

Jeff-Bridges

He considers his latest film (The Giver), co-starring Taylor Swift and Meryl Streep, a cautionary tale. “I think it’s an impulse for human beings to want to suffer less, and we’re kind of addicted to comfort at all costs—at least I am. And of course comfort has a price,” he says. “So the film is asking…what’s the true cost of our comfort, and what are we willing to pay?”

What is he too comfortable with? Sitting on a long white leather couch at a photo studio in New York, Mr. Bridges holds up a half-eaten almond croissant. “I love taste, and I love the immediate gratification of flavor and that satisfying swallow you feel all over,” he says. “But I look at my body and I should say, ‘Is that really the most healthy thing for me?'”…

But leaning back and eyeing the last of his croissant, he says that he is constantly dealing with the idea of perfection. “Wouldn’t it be great if I stopped eating this and worked out every day?” he asks. “Imperfection and perfection go so hand in hand, and our dark and our light are so intertwined, that by trying to push the darkness or the so-called negative aspects of our life to the side…we are preventing ourselves from the fullness of life.”

He’s referring to one of his favorite quotations by the Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “…the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Mr. Bridges interprets it as a reason not to judge other people. “You’re saying that guy’s evil, somebody else is saying you’re evil, and we all have that in common, but as The Dude might say, ‘That’s just your opinion, man,’ ” he says. “What I’m proposing is that we’re all connected, and we’re all in it together.”

~ Alexandra Wolfe in her interview of 64-year old actor Jeff Bridges

Read full interview in wsj.com: Things That Jeff Bridges Can’t Abide


Notes: NY Times Movie Review of The Giver

Can’t sleep boys?

Nigerian-School-girls-kidnapped

What a mistake it was, before my bed time, to read the finishing line in The New Yorker article titled Captivity:

They are perhaps thinking only that night is falling again, and that the men will come to each of them again, an unending horror.

Fellas, here’s my short good night prayer to you:

May you find it in your heart to let them go.
All of them.
NOW. Safely. Untouched.

And if you have no Heart and remain in Darkness,
I hope you watched the News today.
And saw that your government has accepted U.S. assistance.

You may be hearing Footsteps.
We’re coming.
You may be hearing Thunder.
We’re coming.
You will see Lightening. You will feel Rain. The skies will Open.
It’s coming.

Sleep well Boys.

It’s coming. Hell is coming.

DK


Image Credit: CNN.com

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