View Full Version : My Sweet Lord Contemplates Life in an Easter Basket

James Brody
April 2nd, 2007, 02:37 PM
Cathedrals: echos, drafts, dust danced in the colored light let in by stained glass.

Voices from on high, married ladies in black bag dresses went daily, while their husbands at the sidewalk table, shared gossip with other men and sneaked later or earlier to their inammorata. Such are my memories of northern Italy where, because of my father's Army assignment, I attended high school in Verona, one of whose gates is not 200 but 2000 years old, and Vicenza.

Imprinted on Gothic and Renaissance architecture and intrigued by and comfortable with a certain level of mysticism, I, nonetheless, joined the Catholics for practicality. I needed to settle down a prospective bride and her traditionalist parents. (Women have always pulled men into ritual, I was to be no exception.)

The shock! At the very instant that I put a diamond on her finger, bankrupt inner city parishes moved to the suburbs, Latin became English, two or three stories of marble fell to one and morphed into red bricks, and all the little carved guys, perhaps lonely from abandonment, never left their old perches, high above city streets, watching for prospects and eavesdropping on pigeons.

I was still a superstitious kid, one with memories of Italian cathedrals and one to whom God was more real in cold stone edifices lit from the side and above by shafts of warm light. The architecture paralleled the relationship between a Civitas Dei and whatever it is that we have here. The change in ritual and its location demystified the experience for me.

Now, some forty years later, Tom Waits called in a song for a chocolate Jesus and a sculptor, Cosimo Cavallero, answered that prayer his week with a chocolate, nude Jesus, six feet tall and clothless. The show was cancelled after a massive protest, one labeled as a "Catholic Fatwa" by the art director as he resigned in protest. Some of the protesting Catholics had Muslim indignation as a standard: "What would happen if there were a chocolate Mohammed?" Some of them complained about timing. And others of them merely wanted to be noticed. (How long is their MAOA and, correspondingly, how solid is their self esteem?)

Pagan tradition carries Christian over-rites (sorry!) during Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. And the tale of a Fisher King, born of a virgin, sacrificed, and resurrected was familiar to the ancient Egyptians. The chocolate Jesus also parodies traditional rituals that find wafers and wine to be the literal substance of Christ's flesh and blood and, in so teaching, introduces not only an instantiation of the Last Supper into the service but also a (M)ass psychosis about cannibalism for the purpose of redemption.

On the other hand, the vitality of rituals holds hands with the vitality of a culture: secularism neither fights nor holds itself up. The indignation that removed the exhibit could hint that, despite our invaders on two fronts, we will be here speaking English in a Christian culture for a little while longer. If so, then my agnostic mind is at ease. I am the rare secularist who will fight and, while surrounded by traditional believers, I have some comfort, safety, and prosperity. Does EP inform us about the folk origins of Christianity?

Unfortunately, our popular media and, per Toynbee's phrasing, other members of an "elite minority," are filled with narcissism and a smug sense of the present but none of past or future. That elite ridicules devotion to traditional borders, language, and culture as well as the possibilities of an afterlife.
Toynbee, perhaps delusional, predicted that the loss of a national secular unity led to its replacement by a religion, not an established faith but a new one that grows from within or one that arrives with invaders. And that civilizations do not fall to external attack unless decay from within made external attack both tempting and possible.
Even if he was grandiose and a little paranoid, that did NOT make him wrong all of the time...


* Since you asked about Bose condensates: there was little variation in story content regardless of source as, apparently, one writer fed news outlets on several continents. The problem is that there are now independent news sources because no once wants to pay an investigative reporter. Not at all good...