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Food for the Poor Godspy.com: Faith at the Edge


John Murphy

John Murphy | 43 posts | Member since 11.24.07


RE: Radiohead: Together in the Alone
Thanks for the kind words, Paul! It was fun writing the piece if only because it gave me the chance to revisit the Radiohead catalogue. I wasn't aware Yorke had borrowed from Dante, but the source doesn't surprise me. (Do you remember the passage, by any chance?) I vaguely recall Yorke citing the Tibetan Book of the Dead as an influence on Amnesiac's lyrics in general, if not Pyramid Song specifically, but Dante makes a lot of sense to me -- especially since the album at times sounds like a fiery descent to hell (Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors, for example). Thanks for the heads-up!

RE: What the Presidential Election Reveals About the American Soul
I've come to the party a tad late here, but just wanted to add my two bits. A friend of mine (now a priest) cited Albacete as one of the primary forces behind his conversion. Referring to Albacete, he told me that "to deny Christ would be to deny this man." In some ways that's the logical extension of Hertzberg's comment that he didn't believe in God, but he believed in Albacete. The Msgr's "Good enough" retort is classic, of course, but I think my friend's insight was more profound than Hertzberg's: we encounter Christ in our relationships with others. To deny Christ would be to deny Albacete, and to deny Albacete is to deny his sense of the world, which is joyfully infused by Christ's message.

RE: America: Encounter the Pope
Thanks, Harold! I really appreciate it. You can be sure that I'll be praying for all my fellow spies, as well.

RE: The Pope's Birthday Party
I didn't catch sight of Maher, but there was definitely a small but vocal contingent of demonstrators. I have footage of one poor fellow with a megaphone detailing why Catholics aren't real Christians while sort of aimlessly wandering around an empty patch of grass with nobody listening except for me. Wrong venue, I guess.

RE: America: Encounter the Pope
Ah, thanks mom! Don't worry, the weather's pretty warm out here and I have the sunburn to prove it. (I know, I know, I should've worn sunscreen...) RobertsDavid -- I haven't heard mention of that, though he's obviously not shirking the scandals in the press. The pope is accused of 'empty words' by his detractors, but I don't see why a meeting with victims wouldn't prompt an accusation of 'empty gestures' from the same detractors. If he did meet with them, or some, or even one, would it help with the healing process? I obviously couldn't say. Remember when JPII met with his would-be assassin one-on-one and forgave him? This would almost be like the opposite -- a personal plea for forgiveness by the pope on behalf of the Church. I really don't know how he should handle it, and that makes reason #2,485 on my long list of reasons why I wouldn't want to be pope. It's a tough job.

RE: Close to Benedict at the Basilica
I feel for ya, Panther. Hopefully my coverage will help give you a sense of what it's like to be there, and as RobertsDavid pointed out it's all over the TV! But it's a great honor to be present at the events and participate with everyone giving high-spirited witness to the faith.

RE: Vatican Searching for Next Raphael. Or Roy Lichtenstein?
For Michelangelo, art certainly was a form of prayer. It continues to be a form of prayer for many artists working today, even if their art doesn't resemble Michelangelo's. A painter like Piet Mondrian would use simple colors combined in abstract designs to create an impression of harmony and balance. It was Mondrian's way of expressing, in a style that had the "shock of the new", the underlying unity and beauty of God's creation -- a prayer, in other words, even if a quiet, contemplative, and highly personal prayer. Perhaps the problem is that much contemporary art has made expression of Self the highest good, and this has given rise to much of the 'phony art' that I think Chassup is talking about -- mindless splatters of paint, 'provocative' art that is fundamentally puerile (most any art that involves bodily functions, let's say), or art that exists only to draw attention to the cleverness of the Artist. But it's worth remembering that the Renaissance was part of the development of secular humanism, with the philosophy of Neoplatonism and a fascination with the pagan, Greco-Roman ideal of beauty -- something that appears in Michelangelo's art. Michelangelo was a fervent Catholic, certainly, but he also pushed art forward by making art that challenged the mainstream and abounded with individuality: he even scrawled his signature across the sash of Mary's robe in his beautiful Pieta, that's how much he wanted to get noticed for his talent. This is the privilege and the responsibility of an artist -- to use one's talent and genius (which can include creating art of 'arresting strangeness,' as Harold Bloom put it) in the service of something higher and more powerful: thus, the Sistine Chapel, Mozart's Requiem Mass, or the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. I hope the Vatican will seek out beautiful examples of Catholic art from innovative painters, sculptors, and stained-glass designers who filter their art through the life and lessons of Christ. Christ's message included paradoxes. Goya and Caravaggio were both hotheaded rebels who got into frequent trouble with the Church, but they produced some of the Church's most enduring masterpieces. If the Church keeps an open mind, I think some wonderful surprises could be in store for the art-loving faithful in the years ahead.

RE: Secrets of storytelling
Beautifully put, Cartesian. Certainly Morricone's music for "The Mission" is a rapturous dialogue with God (though his scores for "Untouchables" and "Once Upon a Time in the West" aren't shabby either). And the films of Peter Weir? Don't get me started on the beauty of "Fearless" or "Picnic at Hanging Rock"....

RE: Funny as Hell
Uh, Larry King also called "De-Lovely" the best musical biography ever made, but that aside... "Religulous" is funny in the way "Borat" is funny (same director): queasy, uncomfortable laughs at the expense of real people that is ultimately more depressing than humorous. In both cases, we laugh because the scenes are painfully awkward. The British version of "The Office" does this kind of humor much better and, I must say, with a much deeper sense of humanity. The funniest bit in "Religulous" was actually a clip from Maher's early stand-up, when he joked about growing up a Catholic-Jew (mom, Jewish; dad, Catholic): "I'd bring my lawyer into the confessional."

RE: Damien Hirst: The Death of Art Explained
Reminds me of Andy Warhol's quote: "Art is what you can get away with." It is now, certainly, as the success of a snake-oil salesman like Hirst proves. His rise is proportional to how low the art world has sunk. As Jacques Barzun has argued, the art world is in a state of full-blown decadence when pranks and provocations are the coin of the realm.

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