Saving the World: A Reflection on Germanwings Flight 9525

A couple of weeks ago, a German man decided to kill himself. There are thousands of such occurrences every day, except this time the man was a pilot, and in the process of his self-destruction, he also killed everyone on the plane along with him. Nobody seems to know why—he was depressed, disillusioned, etc.—but not to the degree that anyone thought him capable of such an act.

The black box of the smoldering wreck reveals the co-pilot’s pounding on the bolted cockpit door, and the screams of the 149 lives soon to be obliterated in a firebomb amongst the French Alps. Who knows what was racing through the mind of the man who had doomed the innocent along with himself. Was he lost to all sense, or was he impossibly indifferent? G.K. Chesterton considered the suicide a type of mass murderer: “The man who kills himself kills all men. As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world.” [Read more...]

My Only Begotten Sin

11087699415_16fe60c2bb_zBecause I remain restless and impatient even in middle age, I am often only halfway listening to important things spoken of in church. Therefore, I can mishear what the priest is saying, sometimes to comical effect.

Like Bart Simpson, “In the Garden of Eden” becomes “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” I have heard “sex” for “sects” and “possums” for “apostles.” When I was a boy, for the longest time I thought “Agnus Dei” was the name of the woman up front who played the choir organ: “Agnes Day.” [Read more...]

God in the Godforsaken Places

1834413480_3f2cfbf078_bI live in the shadows of Washington, D.C. It’s a big place and said to be a very important one in geopolitical matters. I trust them on that. But I’ve found that in most cities its size—in most cities of any size, for that matter—many of the citizens share a rather parochial disposition about the rest of the country.

The other day, a longtime resident who comes to this metropolis by way of an even larger one was telling a story at work. Though an educated man, and a world traveler, he didn’t really know where the action in his narrative took place. So he gestured towards the west with a dismissive flip of the hand and named a few states, randomly: “Kansas, or Nebraska, or some other Godforsaken place,” and went on to finish the tale.   [Read more...]

Hazel Motes Is Out of Time

wisebloodTCM broadcast John Huston’s film version of Wise Blood yesterday, and I wound up watching it again. The whole movie is available on YouTube, so there was no need for me to delay my plans for two hours. I did it anyway.

I wanted to see some perfect casting—Brad Dourif, Mary Nell Santacroce, and Ned Beatty, to name just a few—and Huston’s low-budget cinematography. The story, set in post-World War II, is shot in 1970s Georgia, and the blend of the earlier and later dates gives a timelessness to the production, one I think Flannery O’Connor, author of the novel upon which the film is based,  would appreciate.

[Read more...]

The Sublime and Beautiful

sublimeFrom antiquity to the Enlightenment, one of the great aesthetic dichotomies involved the sublime and the beautiful. If the contrast of those terms is any indication of meaning in Blake Robbins’s movie of the above-referenced title, the intention is extremely subtle. The film deals with unspeakable tragedy, and one would be hard-pressed to find any conventional definition of either term as fitting for what transpires.

However, if they are taken not as terms to be distinguished, but as terms that inform a third object—due to an important excision of the second article “the”—there is more of an argument. That is, if the terms are taken as adjectives modifying a particular person or state—“that which is sublime and beautiful”—then you can see what he is after. Still, it takes some convincing.

[Read more...]


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