Saturday, April 30, 2011

"The God and The Universe Conversations". Week Twenty.

"The Sacrifice of Isaac"

Part Three

For fear you will be alone
you do so many things
that aren’t you at all.

Richard Brautigan

Tom Schulz, "Red States, Blue States" © 2008
Gouache, House Paint, Gesso on paper mounted on canvas.

11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 12He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ 13And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. Genesis 22, The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989

Isaac Schulz, "EALL 271"©, 2003
House Paint, Spray Paint on Canvas.

From the Editor: I recently talked with a friend. She shared her story of a recent series of life decisions that have left her feeling (emotionally and fiscally) bankrupt. Her question to herself and to The Universe became both prayer and lament: "What was I thinking?". It made me think of Abraham with the knife to his beloved son's throat. It made me think of Jim Jones and Charles Manson. Susan Smith and Andrea Yates. And I wondered, why was it that Abraham required a mediating agency to stay his hand? Why was he so willing to act out of a concept of obedience? A concept that allowed his perceived directives to supersede his ability to properly judge the ramifications of his actions. Perhaps we should look at our interior Abrahams and ask what precious part of our selves are we are willing to sacrifice. Hannah Arrendt stated that, "The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil." Let us not wait for intervention. Or mediation. Let us make up our minds. Let us make up our minds and hearts and interactions to be good. Stay your own hand, pilgrim.

Marc Chagall,
Sacrifice of Isaac, 1960-1965

“There is no beauty in sadness. No honor in suffering. No growth in fear. No relief in hate. It’s just a waste of perfectly good happiness.”
Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

“He learned to live with the truth.
Not to accept it, but to live with it.

It was like living with an elephant. His room was tiny, and every morning he had to
squeeze around the truth just to get to the bathroom.
To reach the armoire to get a pairof underpants
he had to crawl under the truth, praying it wouldn’t
choose that moment to sit on his face.”

Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

This concludes Week Twenty of
"The God and The Universe Conversations".

All art and writing by Tom Schulz unless otherwise noted, or unless it is so cool
he will try to get away with claiming it as his own."The God and The Universe Conversations" are based on Tom's protracted reading of Process and Reality, by Alfred North Whitehead.

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to
sacrifice what we are for what we could become.

Charles Du Bos

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Movie Night at the Educational Center: Batman Begins.

"Batman Begins": Looking Back / Looking In

A Review by Tom Schulz

"Hidden things hinder wholeheartedness."

I was a DC Kid. My friend Robby was a Marvel Kid. I embraced the epic struggles of Good and Evil, especially as portrayed through the Batman. Robby discovered kinship in tortuous transformations wrought by a Science run amok: Spiderman, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four. He declared me a simpering simpleton, overly concerned with issues of justice. I accused him of being a prima-donna elitist with no sympathy for the plight of the downtrodden masses. Yeah, we were the best of buddies. Good times.

Years later, as my son approached his teens, he introduced me to Frank Miller’s graphic novel series, Batman: the Dark Knight Returns. He would copy the magazine covers in loving detail for days on end and I devoured the stories after lights out. Here was a fractured soul, rolling the Sisyphean rock of guilt and vengefulness up the slippery slope of vendetta, with every intention of doing what was capital “R” Right. I was in. I could relate.

This was no longer a kid’s story.

In Batman Begins (2005), director Christopher Nolan maintains the spirit and look of Miller’s gritty graphics and eschews the cultural camp that had become attached to the Batman franchise. Taking place in the deteriorating Gotham City, Nolan owes as much to Dickens and Bronte as Homer. In fact, the city itself becomes a character in the film: flatulent and lost and sinking into the abyss of a striated social hell. The nature of our hero, Bruce Wayne (who interestingly enough was named after Scottish patriot Robert Bruce by Batman’s original creator, Bob Kane) is carefully revealed through an interconnected series of flashbacks. The young Bruce tumbles into the depths of an abandoned well on the family’s estate. Bats burst forth from the gaping maw of an adjoining cave, engulfing the panicked boy and rendering him helpless. That same helplessness is later embellished with guilt, when his parents are shot down in front of him during a robbery. Here are the seeds of fear and guilt planted. Here is where the desire for revenge takes root. Here grows the verdant field of obsession.

Heartsick and in despair, the adult Bruce Wayne (played with severity by Christian Bale) sets out to lose himself. His choice is to metaphorically tear down his heritage “brick by brick”. He delves into his own underworld. He makes himself physically impoverished so as to reflect his inner deprivation. He lays himself bare to the very foundations of self. It is only in this abject emptiness that he is able to manifest a new format of being – a symbol of being. And though he views this actualized symbolism as “incorruptible” he remains divided and at odds with himself.

The only major female character is Bruce’s childhood friend, Rachel Dawes (a doe-eyed Katie Holms). She has matured into an authentically concerned DA, and is appalled when she discovers that Wayne is seeking revenge on his parent’s murderer, outside of the law. And though her role receives short shrift, it is significant nonetheless. She plays both Penelope and Ariadne in our hero’s quest. Penelope in her ultimate steadfastness to her perception of Wayne’s character. And Ariadne in providing the mantra, “it’s what you do that defines you.” This one phrase gives both Wayne and his alter ego, Batman, the thread of reason that may lead him through the maze of divisiveness, anger, and fear.

Batman Begins is an origin story as mythically archetypal as Moses in the bulrushes. Sure it’s dripping with testosterone-laden action (Hello? The parting of the Red Sea isn’t?). But we the viewers can tumble into the lush darkness of the film and ask where these characters and situations and struggles reside in our lives. How do we unite our fractured selves? What is the authentic self that we ‘present’ in our relationships and social interactions? And what, what is the mask that we wear to protect our secret identity?

And that’s not kid stuff.

Movie Night, 7:00 PM, April 15th at The Educational Center

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"The God and The Universe Conversations". Week Nineteen.

"Living into the Labyrinth"

"The being who is the object of his own reflection, in consequence of that very doubling back upon himself, becomes in a flash able to raise himself into a new sphere. In reality, another world is born. Abstraction, logic, reasoned choice and inventions, mathematics, art, calculation of space and time, anxieties and dreams of love--all these activities of inner life are nothing else than the effervescence of the newly-formed centre as it explodes onto itself."
Teilhard de Chardin The Phenomenon of Man, 1955

From the Editor: In our contemporary world, The Word has taken on the promise of a new Significance at the cost of a potential lose of Meaning. We email, we text. We Tweet and blind copy. Blogs, conference calls, social network comments, LED scrolling, and white wall tires. We are inundated with words. Inhale them from a Language Noosphere the like of which Teilhard de Chardin may have grossly overestimated.

© 2011 Mary de Wit, in2Wit, LLC

Then in an implosive irony, we lament a lack of meaning in our lives. Suffer through the maladies of an alienated self. We seek therapy for assistance in discovering the roots of our being. Drown our wellness in oceans of despair. We dare to pick apart Sacred and Ancient texts so that we might find some Historical confirmation to hang our hats on.

I am of this World.

And yet, I am of another World as well. The world of symbols. And Mythology. A world where meaning seeks me out and implores me to fully participate. Where words are most often superfluous, and (most certainly) inadequate tools for describing the complexity of relationships. Words are a handshake.
Symbols are a loving embrace.

© 2011 Mary de Wit, in2Wit, LLC

And when I get out of my own way, I am most likely to tumble into that embrace. Such is my work with Labyrinths. The Labyrinth found me at Myers Park Baptist Church, in Charlotte, NC and put me to work. And it found me at Presbyterian Hospital Hospice and Palliative Care and it put me to work. Then it told me to build a Prayer Wall and a Chapel. And then the Labyrinth sent Mrs. Almetto Alexander to find me and tell me I was to build her a Labyrinth. And she added this caveat from her Muse, “Make it different. And beautiful.” What a gift in those words. “Make if different. And beautiful” Like any good educator, she was giving an assignment, trusting that it would be carried out in a form that would be an extension of her vision. She was granting me permission to take what is most likely the oldest image made by humankind and somehow make it unique. What a gift! I was being asked to make this most ancient of symbols appropriate to Mrs. Alexander’s life journey. And to mine. And then to place it into a public arena so that countless others could walk the winding path that folds you back onto yourself.

© 2011 Mary de Wit, in2Wit, LLC

I was asked to work past my expectations and previous experiences and cross the threshold towards a new center. And so in this way I have literally crawled into this magnificent symbol, and learned that the Labyrinth is not a metaphor for life lived.

It is life lived.

Lived in a way that is beyond the ability of words to describe.

Let us take note from the character Delmar O’Donnell from the movie “
Oh Brother Where Art Thou” (itself a re-telling of the mythical Odyssey) when he warns his friends that they are about to be ambushed. He whispers hoarsely, “Do not seek the Treasure”. Good advice, Delmar.

Let us dare to have the Treasure find us.

© 2011 Tom Schulz, ennisART LLC

“Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.”
Joyce Carol Oates

This concludes Week Nineteen of
"The God and The Universe Conversations".

All art and writing by Tom Schulz unless otherwise noted, or unless it is so cool
he will try to get away with claiming it as his own."The God and The Universe Conversations" are based on Tom's protracted reading of Process and Reality, by Alfred North Whitehead.

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to
sacrifice what we are for what we could become.

Charles Du Bos

Friday, April 1, 2011

"The God and The Universe Conversations". Week Eighteen

"The Sacrifice of Isaac"
Part Two

“If you are not coming to put into question everything you do,
I don’t see why you’re here.”

Jacques Lacan

"My Shadow"© 2005
Gesso, shellac, watercolor on paper mounted on canvas.

"9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and(E) laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son." Genesis 22, The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989

"Boo Kini"© 2004 by Isaac Schulz
Acrylic on Canvas

From the Editor: It is our current observation that sacrifice most often ends up being a way of making a demand. As in, "I'll give something up in order to evoke the results that I desire." In humanity's darkest past, when humans sacrificed humans to appease gods, and then to appease God, there was a mimetic power and control in the action. Today, while we deem our society too moral to practice human or even animal sacrifice, we embrace the same symbolic significance through ritual, sport, politics, and entertainment. Essentially, like Abraham, we are all too willing to take the knife to the throat to that which represents the very essence of our love. Maintenance of a violent cultural tension creates both victims and surrogate victims. Every time we place someone in harm's way, we make a human sacrifice. Every time we turn away from someone in need, someone perceived as different, or every time we stare, badger, and bully......we make a human sacrifice. How do you enact sacrifice, Pilgrim?

"Heat Lightning"© 1992
Pastel on Paper

“About sacrifice and the offering of sacrifices, sacrificial animals think quite differently from those who look on: but they have never been allowed to have their say.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

This concludes Week Eighteen of

"The God and The Universe Conversations".

All art and writing by Tom Schulz unless otherwise noted, or unless it is so cool
he will try to get away with claiming it as his own."The God and The Universe Conversations" are based on Tom's protracted reading of Process and Reality, by Alfred North Whitehead.

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to
sacrifice what we are for what we could become.

Charles Du Bos