Wednesday, January 12, 2011

on art, literature, and Dogma (incoherence reigns)

Like the last time I had wanted to see some good free live music on the east side, the snow decides to come down in massive quantities. I love public transportation on days like that because at the very least if I'm stuck I can read or something, but anything's better than being in a long line of cars and wondering if the bridge you're sitting deadlocked on is going to buckle and send you nosediving into the frigid Cuyahoga River.

However, having a stash of CDs to get me through and leftovers from lunch in the car made the gridlock and the catcalls from loiterers on the corner much easier to bear though I wish I'd remembered to set my alarm this morning so I don't have to reprise all the fun.

Hibernation and not having anywhere to go is a beautiful thing, being able to change out of work clothes and make tea and a dinner consisting of Goya taquitos with no nutritional value and a grapefruit, and watched 'Dogma' for the first time.

I had heard a lot about how bad and blasphemous the movie was from the Catholic newspapers that my grandparents got but I've always believed that you should know what you're talking about for yourself as opposed to what other people say about something.

While I take God as a literal supreme being and la Santa Biblia more seriously than some wingnuts seem to, I'm also convinced that God has a fabulous sense of humor and a deeply creative nature, due to the heady combination of beauty and weirdness that is the created world. I get this sense of wonder when I see photos of galaxies and nebulas. I probably get this from my mom, whose faith was rekindled as a grad student in environmental studies in the 70's.

Everything else, however, is up for grabs, and there's enough dry humor in Proverbs, downright scatological imagery, and some serious sarcasm woven into the Good Book that I really didn't find anything terribly shocking or blasphemous. I do think that there are certain truths and beliefs that mean way more than simple "ideas" and that these do affect one's life in a massive way, but I honestly didn't expect to laugh as hard or find as much depth as I did.

But for someone like me who grew up Catholic, argued with my theology teachers, questioned everything under the sun, gets very cynical about the increasingly common and ridiculous Buddy-Christing of modern church culture, was accused by a college professor at Kent of "sucking on the tit of Mother Church" in the middle of class as an undergrad, whose conversations with God often involve a lot of cussing and questions wondering why things are the way they are and why do things happen the way they do and what's the point of all this.

I'm sure that people will get what they want out of it, whether it's an "I told you organized religion is a sham" or "there's something strangely redemptive here." And that always happens whenever art is involved. One of my art school friends did a final project installation piece that included a film about her great-grandfather who wrote the first hymns in the Tamil language and at the show, a lot of the people who viewed it couldn't get past the Indian-ness of it, assuming that said girl in sari was of course Hindu and into an entirely different theology.

And I wonder if I'm just too English-major-ish when I'm seeing echoes of the Screwtape Letters in the conversations of the fallen angels, the calling out of idolatry in modern civilization, concepts of grace and forgiveness and judgment, and a sense of humor and theology that reminds me of Flannery O'Connor's crazy preachers of the Church Without Christ and carnival freaks that are as unlikely prophets as Jay and Silent Bob, and Walker Percy's apocalyptic scenarios of fragmented partisan Americas and Jesus showing up on Phil Donahue.

Maybe if I was still Catholic I could write something good and God-haunted, but I can't go back there at this point because there's just too much that I can't believe in anymore. That being said, the evangelical wing of modern Christianity kind of sucks in the fiction department, with its terrible virginal romance novels about Amish people and governesses, and general ripping off of already mediocre pop culture.

I don't expect anything to be terribly cool or trendy because that's not what this whole thing is about. If I wanted to be 'with it,' I wouldn't be bothering with this. It has to come from within and not be imposed upon. That's how things got screwed up post-Constantine.

But seriously, fellow believers, a little bit of originality and talent put to good use never killed anyone. Heck, if you believe in God as a supreme and genius Creator and you're made in his image, you need to step up your game a whole lot. More Albrecht Durer and T.S. Eliot and less Thomas Kinkade and less hipster memoirs and prairie romances, okay?


Randal Graves said...

The Painter of Light™ is going to sue you for defamation of character. Hmm, I wonder what his tripe would look like Englished, or given a Where's Silent Bob? treatment.

thatgirl said...

helloooo Photoshop!

Randal Graves said...

I hope the impending cease-and-desist + jail time was worth it!