Chimayo and the Bloody Knees of Jesus

56521694_33e573d4a0_z“I want a holy experience!” I say to my companions, Amy and Danielle, leaning toward them in the cafeteria of St. John’s College in Santa Fe. We are all spending a week away from our children and husbands at the Glen Workshop to get some time to write and explore the area.

They seem mildly amused by my outburst, possibly because they are used to my naive, idealistic longing for a mystical encounter. We continue discussing a place called Chimayo—about a forty-five minute drive away—that is supposed to have holy dust.

Ooh, holy dust, I think. I want to touch it. I want to feel the holy. [Read more…]

The Erotic Powers of the Holy Spirit

4kiss1My thirteen-year-old son had seen the Viagra commercials for years, but never understood what they meant, until finally, he asked what Viagra is and does, and I told him. Now he has this new vocabulary that includes the phrase “erectile dysfunction,” and another galaxy of humorous opportunities has opened to him.

He begins to explore the ever-present sexual subtext that exists just beyond child-consciousness. Dear Lord, the sex is everywhere. How many people are having it, this very minute? How many conversations, looks, and touches are about it, even when the word is never mentioned?

Fortunately, he still has much to learn and a lifetime to learn it—or not—which is also maybe an option. There’s a fair chance he won’t pick up on certain realms of sexual metaphor unless someone points them out to him. I don’t know if beyond a certain age, such would be a privation or a precious innocence.

For my own part, sex is the non-sensual monument at the center of nearly everything I do and think and feel and pray. It was the last frontier between childhood and adult life, the primary benchmark between innocence and sin, the portal to motherhood and the ongoing cyclical shadow over my bodily liberty.

Sexuality is still a bit of a bog I wade through regarding every new acquaintance or friendship. And sexual temptations are probably the chief source of any humility I possess, the primary impetus for throwing myself on the mercy of God.

And then there is the flesh and blood doing of it—which, what can I say? It makes the cut. But it does require boundaries, especially since we’re Catholic, and we already have six kids, and you can deduce the rest. [Read more…]

It’s Advent and I’m Done Waiting

This is not an Advent post. There are enough of those out there. Writing of waiting, of expectation, of a light entering the darkness, of hope. I have heard them all before. I am done waiting.

In class, we were talking about emotions. I teach English to refugees from East Africa. Per usual, they were quick to talk about what makes them feel joyous, but were silent when it came to the negative emotions.

What makes you feel sad? I asked, not thinking about the great chasms of human experience that separate me from the class. A man who comes every day and sits in the front, quiet and smart and well read, speaks up. His eyes are wide, and his voice is low.

[Read more…]

Antisuperchrist: How the Man of Steel Saves, Part 2

Guest Post
By Lucas Kwong

Today I want to take up the question that ended yesterday’s post: Is Superman the Übermensch?

As a host of commentators have pointed out, Superman’s conventional morals have never positioned him as the destroyer of societal norms that Nietzsche championed. In Man of Steel, our hero’s forbearance toward his human antagonists make it clear he isn’t about to super-speed beyond good and evil anytime soon. Yet all the loving compassion in Henry Cavill’s baby blues can’t erase the fact that humanity doesn’t want a mangy drifter for a Messiah, or even a clean-scrubbed-but-nondescript farm boy: it wants a demigod.

It’s telling that, in this revision of comic book history, the “S” on his chest actually represents the Kryptonian symbol for hope. Misinterpreting this, the humans dub him Superman. What’s a self-effacing savior to do?

Indeed, the cosmos itself seems hell-bent on forging Kal-El into Nietzsche’s prototype. The collision between Kryptonian biology and Earth’s atmosphere produces Clark’s horrifically heightened sense of perception, such that his childhood memories involve seeing his teacher as a walking skeleton. In his all-encompassing sensorial receptivity, Clark recalls the Overman’s capacity to absorb life’s totality, incorporating Dionysian chaos and Apollonian order into his being without missing a (goose)step. [Read more…]

Antisuperchrist: How the Man of Steel Saves, Part 1

Guest Post
By Lucas Kwong

We may have taken Jesus out of our schools, but from May to September, you can find him at Regal Cinemas 13.

It’s hard to find a movie from the past few summers that isn’t an HD variation on the Passion, whether we’re dealing with Harry Potter’s death and resurrection, Bruce Wayne’s dalliance with the ultimate sacrifice, or Captain Kirk’s own saintly renunciation. Of late our boy wizards and starship captains have practically surged into battle with WWJD bracelets girdling their well-toned arms.

Into this pantheon of million-dollar Jungian archetypes careens the original Pop Messiah, faster than a speeding bullet. Man of Steel, the latest reinvention of Superman, eschews red underpants while preserving the character’s longstanding Christological subtext, thereby offering Warner Bros. an opportunity to pitch an ad campaign at evangelical pastors.

But closer inspection reveals a more complicated message than the Warner Bros. marketing department may want to admit. Piling still more philosophical and theological significance onto an already over-determined icon, Man of Steel winds up allegorizing Christianity’s agon with both its Classical predecessor and its Nietzschean inversion. By extension, this both aestheticizes and deconstructs America’s national mythology. [Read more…]