Category: God


The heartless horror of Mother!

MOTHER! directed by Darren Aronofsky (USA, 2017)
mother1

Beware of films with exclamation marks in the title!

“Mother! is a movie designed to provoke fury, ecstasy, madness, and catharsis, and more than a little awe”.  This verdict is from a review in Vox that Darren Aronofsky says ‘gets it’.

It culminates in an apocalyptic finale that works on the theory that nothing succeeds like excess. It is shocking in the sense of being shockingly awful.

If Aronofsky’s goal was to get under my skin he succeeded but, while I usually gain a perverse pleasure from mindfuck or body horror movies, this one left me cold and with feelings of distaste and repulsion. Continue reading

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WALK WITH ME  directed by Max Pugh and Marc J Francis (USA, 2017)

walkwithmeThis movie shows the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns in the secluded monastery of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village in the South West of France.

The key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment. The goal of the cinematic distribution campaign is “about turning movie theaters into meditation halls, and bringing communities together for a common goal”.

This message was lost on the woman sitting in front of me in the cinema who spent most of the time glued to her mobile phone!

The practice of mindfulness may have reached the mainstream but the number of people prepared to give up their daily distractions and possessions is still limited.  My impression is that most want a quick fix rather than a permanent lifestyle change. Continue reading

A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh (First published, 1934)

dustIn his chosen career as a novelist Evelyn Waugh has to write about human beings but you get the strong feeling from this cynical and morally vacuous novel that he didn’t like people much. He became a committed Catholic soon afterwards and presumably he took comfort from an organized religion that takes it for granted that we are all born sinners.

Its title comes from a line in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land – “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” – an allusion to death given that someday all of us return to dust.

Like a vindictive deity or grim reaper, Waugh moves his sad characters around like someone idly engaged in a game of chess with himself. None of them are presented in a flattering light and their actions are mainly driven by apathy, ennui or spitefulness. They are well off, comfortably placed and bored out of their skins.

Continue reading

new_skin_for_the_old_ceremony As a gift to a friend of mine who is retiring soon, a group of friends and colleagues have been asked to write articles about a poem or song.

These texts will be connected by the themes of one, or more, of the four elements – fire, earth, water and air.

I have chosen to write a piece on Leonard Cohen’s Who By Fire which, as you may know or recall, goes like this:

And who by fire, who by water,
 who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
 who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
 who in your merry merry month of may,
 who by very slow decay,
 and who shall I say is calling? Continue reading 

A good God is hard to find

A PRAYER JOURNAL by Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2013)

flanneryMy favorite joke about praying is by the surreal American comic Emo Philips (although it’s also been attributed to Al Pacino) and goes: “I asked God for a bike but I realized it doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness”.

I think the Southern Gothic novelist Flannery O’Connor would have appreciated this witticism. She was a staunch Catholic but she also had an eagle eye for life’s absurdities.

As an atheist I am biased, but surely even believers can recognise that praying ought to consist of more that than reeling off a wish list to some kind of celestial Santa.  Continue reading

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