If I were to only able to read one book for the rest of my life that book would be John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. It is a true American epic, portraying the life of the Trask family through three generations from the Civil war to 1917. The main conflict lies between the brothers of the novel. Adam and Charles Trask and Cal and Aaron Trask. The brothers are metaphorical representations of the biblical allegory of Cain and Abel.
Steinbeck bookends the novel with the two fiercest wars that America had been involved in at the time, The Civil War and WWI. This is a great reflection upon the story itself. The Civil War pitted families against families and brother against brothers. Globally WWI did the same by engulfing all of Europe against each other.
While the main conflict of the novel is that between the brothers themselves, there is a secondary one also. When the reader is introduced to Cal Trask, the youngest brother, Steinbeck focuses the prose on Cal’s internal workings. In doing so the reader is given a look at not only how another human faces the prospect of evil in others, but also how he faces it within himself. This depiction and self-realization of an evil lurking within us leaves the reader with a viewpoint that has rarely been seen before.
Credit Wikipedia for image.
In Edvard Munch’s painting of Madonna the viewer is given a new perspective on Jesus’ mother Mary. Where as more classical representations of Mary choose to show her in a chaste manner, this version gives Mary sensuality and is sexualized. Gone is the mother with child, instead the viewer is given a Mary whose breast are exposed, and appears to be in the act of lovemaking. She is presented as if she is being viewed from the perspective of the man making love to her.
Munch painted her with such skill and full of internal conflict. The eyes are closed expressing modesty, yet the twist of her body is there to reflect the light of her shimmering skin. Another notable thing about the painting is the halo above Mary. In most classical interpretations of Mary the halo is golden showcasing her as the mother of the king of men, yet here it is red, colors that reflect pain, and passion. This allows the viewer to not only see Mary as Jesus’ mom but also as a woman. The sensuality of the painting helps it relate to the viewers and takes away some of her divinity and adds some humanity.
Credit Wikipedia for image.
Christ the Redeemer is the second largest Art Deco statue in the world. It not only serves as a beacon to Christians of South America, but it also as a national identity to the citizens of Brazil, much in the same as the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of identity for Americans. It is composed of a combination of sandstone and reinforced concrete. It is the second largest in the world only recently surpassed by another statue of Christ in Poland. The suggestion for such a large depiction of Christ was first suggested by a Catholic priest in 1850 by the name Pedro Maria Boss. Construction didn’t start on it until 1922 and it took 9 years tell it was finished in 1933.
The statue poses Christ with his arms out allowing for the statue to posses multiple interpretations for viewers. The extension of his arms with his hands facing outward, allow viewers to either reflect upon the tenant that Christ accepts all with his love, or it serves to remind viewers of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
The statue has enjoyed many depictions in modern day pop culture but none more recent than its uses in the trailer for the movie 2012. The trailer shows the statue crumbling around itself as the world ends. The juxtaposition of the end of the world and the destruction of the statue can serve as multiple metaphors. I like to think that is relating the destruction of this man made idol by nature as a reflection that humans are powerless against the forces of nature.
Credit Wikipedia for image and date specific references.
In what will be the first of four blog post tonight I ask myself what is blogging about theodicy? First I look to theodicy. The definition of theodicy is a theological or philosophical study which attempts to justify God’s intrinsic nature of omni-benevolence omniscience and omnipotence , despite the existence of evil which, in the view of some, would otherwise stand to refute one or more of these qualities or God’s existence altogether, according to Wikipedia. So before I start blogging about others belief in God within this world I must first describe how I believe in God in these trying times.
I’ve never thought of myself as a spiritual person. I’ve always been a major holiday Catholic, enjoying the fringe benefits of Easter and midnight mass services, but true spirituality in these environments escaped me. It wasn’t until the first time that I tried mushrooms that I finally understood the idea of an omniscient omnipresent force within this world. It was under the influence of these small fungi that I was finally able to look within myself and see that I was just a part of something larger. I wasn’t just part of the human race even though that at the time I felt that all humans were basically good, but something more. Something told me that all of this (motions hands around) was part of something beautiful given to us as humans. If I could relate it to anything I would link it to those 16th century philosophers that based their belief in God on the fact that Earth and its creatures seem to project an element of design to them. Yet I didn’t feel designed. I felt organic, and as if I was already in heaven. That’s when I understood that God surrounds us.
Cartoonists have a gift for seeing the world from a view askew; maybe none more than Gary Larson, creator of the comic The Far Side. With a gift for the perverse Larson would often employ classical tropes, and give them a twist that satirized not only subject matter but modern cultural society. In the above comic we have western depiction of God. Old white man in the clouds with white hair, what you imagine a Republican looks like. Except here we have a lazy God. A stab at the classical all knowing, powerful, and meddling God of Puritan America, this depiction cast him as a lazy oaf. Excited about an easy day at the office, just rolling some clay and making snakes. A God like this is just thankful he doesn’t have to deal with witch trials or plagues right now and that’s understandable. He’s been working six days a week for 5000 years.