Maundy Thursday's not really about washing feet is it? Funny how an example of a way of being in the world is often reduced to a ritual performance, a rehearsal rather than an embodiment of an alternative consciousness about life and living and being human.Foot-washing in the 21st century has a very different set of associations than the 1st century I imagine, there it was a necessary part of life dealing with the dirt and dust of walking-today it is performed in the sanctified environs of religious enclosure-it still has impact, still carries meaning, but I fear it is viewed as simply part of the easter event-the various regular rituals that are performed during Holy Week.
If I were in complete charge of a church these days I would essentailly invert Easter--deprive it of the pomp and circumstance and make it all happen 'off-campus' in the real world, rather than in the suspended space of religious performance where so much gets said and so much gets left behind when we depart.
I want one of these:)
Via Whole Foods online magazine, Dark Rye.
One of the topics that I brought up early on in my latest theology and culture class was the issue of the self and the shifting terrain of the soul. The 'erasure of the self,' a term I used from Mark I. Wallace, is an issue of real importance to the realm of the religious in my opinion. Our understanding of what it means to be human, how we think or perceive of the condition of human nature, and particularly, the body and soul dualism that has generally been regarded as given. For most of our history in Western civilization we have operated with a classic view of the self, gifted to us by the Greeks etc., the idea that the 'soul' is subjective and exists outside of matter. There has been a lot of re-thinking of these concepts, and above is yet another from Iain McGilchrist, asking whether or not the use of the term soul has any value or currency in the world today--spoiler--he thinks it does, but redefines it nicely I think.
(There is a blank spot in the video because of music copyright issues but you can listen to the piece yourself via another source)
This lecture is part of an ongoing series created by the RSA to consider spirituality anew in the 21st century.
As many may know, one of my ongoing jobs is at an art school in the advertising department where I teach on words and concepts and ideas in the world of ad and design. I'm fortunate to be able to explore any number of topics in most of the classes I teach and it allows me to indulge my own fascination in things like the origins of swearing, how language works, where ideas come from, design and culture--so many things really.
Some where along the way I came across the work of Steven Heller , a man with a storied career in the world of visual and graphic design. He has written something like 120 books on issues related to graphic design and visual culture, covering a mind-boggling range of topics.
My latest read has been his book on the swastika. Swastika: Symbol beyond redemption? is an exploration of the origins of the symbol and its transition to symbol of evil. It's a provocative work that has been called polemical. It's a fascinating into controversial territory taken from a very personal angle. You can read an interview with the author here, which might deepen your curiosity, beyond the provocative icon he explores the book is also a great tool for thinking about how symbols work in society.
And here is a talk he gave on totalitarian regimes and their use of propaganda which is really worth a look and listen.
Adolf Hitler was a logo.
I'm back teaching--the never-ending cycle of the school year:). This time it's the required and general theology and culture class, exploring the intersections between various elements of culture and theology. Yesterday we broached the topic of theology and where we all 'speak from.' All of the 21 students in the class declared that they came from some kind of conservative church background whether it was pentecostal holiness or fundamentalist or something else. I realized as we were talking that there was a huge chasm between where they are even now and where I am. Even though some of them are definitely in process and re-thinking their theological perspectives, they are not even close to thinking about things in the way I have been the past few years--back to the drawing board I think, I'm going to need to fill in some gaps, not to get them to think like me, but so that they can understand more clearly the trajectory I am sketching out with regard to the dynamic between theology and culture.
I assigned a Mark C Taylor book for a theology read, About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture, it's a tough book, as much of his work is, but I have a feeling that this will leave them little more than confused--'this Derrida guy is interesting...' was about the most positive comment I got yesterday. That's not to say that the class feels contentious or even resistant, just that there is so much material that I have digested that I doubt has even been on their horizons, reference points and conceptual ideas that don't even register, and this makes it necessary to re-think how I am going to teach this one. I don't want to dumb things down, but I need to figure out an accessible way of speaking about all this stuff.
It made me a little unsettled inside I must admit, having nothing to do with any of the students or their positions, but a reminder that I am just not living in this particular world and I wonder if I have the energy to keep on engaging, I don't particularly want to argue about stuff--I don't mean that therefore everyone should just think what I think, it's more about the environment itself--whether it is the best fit for me at this stage in my life. Of course the tyranny of the paycheck is a factor and I freely admit that, but it's not worth it if, in the long run, I am engaging in conversations that frustrate me.
What am I saying? Essentially I am saying that I feel that I don't fit in any of the religious situations I find myself in at present and am wondering what to do about that because in the long run it is not healthy for me--you'd think I would have this shit worked out by now...apparently not.
I have a book called The Wes Anderson Collection, by Matt Zoller Seitz, which explores Andersons film, via essays, interview and an expansive visual record of his almost obsessive commitment to detail. it's th evisual component of anderson's films that I am drawn to, don't get me wrong, I love the stories in and of themsleves, but it's the wya they are told visually that holds such joy for me. When I'm feeling uninspired, I often look at the book, just to marvel at the fantastic stuff that gets put into his work.
I recently came across a mention of Dublin-based graphic designer Annie Atkins, who does a lot of graphic work for Anderson's films, as well as other films. She creates some of the elements that Anderson puts into his films which makes watching them such a delight--the world is complete, down to the minute detail.
His most recent Grand Budapest Hotel has been called a 'return to form' personally I wasn't aware that he had lost form but there you go, to each his own. I watched this film with geelful delight and revelled in it's mischief. Ralph Fiennes was just perfect in his role and his character arc perfectly complimented the quirky and somewhat dark threads of this particular story. You can check out a lot of Atkin's work here and you'll see the amazing work she does.