Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Pussycat, Pussycat...

Where have you been? Well, after churning out the previous in-depth essay (which would have taken up eighteen printed pages, double-spaced, half again as long as the longest term paper I ever wrote), I kind of needed a break. Besides, I wanted to give you plenty of time to read it, because it would suck to write all that without everybody reading it.



So, though I have kept abreast of my Daily Reads and three or four other blogs I'm auditioning for Daily Reads, as well as other readings and explorations, I haven't written so much as an email (except at work) for the last five days.



But I haven't been completely idle... I've been thinking, and reading, and watching films, and going places, and stuff like that there. Want to hear about it? If not, move on now, because I'm going to tell you, anyway (at my usual disgusting length):

Going Places

Thursday, aside from work, I didn't do anything but go to the gym and then go home, where I watched television and re-read my post more times than I care to admit in public. Friday I went to work, the gym, and home, where Caroline and I watched a couple of movies after a KFC dinner.



Saturday I spent the whole day in San Francisco with Caroline, first at a rehearsal (Angelique has conned a bunch of us into an elaborate production-number for Ducal Ball), then at a movie, then at a play. In between the movie and the play, we ate dinner at this place called The Public; it serves great food, though a trifle expensive, and was just a little, well, precious (just short of pretentious, but definitely on the right path), situated in an old brick industrial building with mismatched light-fixtures and lots of exposed iron beams; I had the duck papardalle, which was utterly divine, and entertaining conversation with the sous chef (we sat at the counter because we didn't have reservations, and so could observe all the salads being made, the soups being assembled, and desserts being displayed).



And on Sunday I of course went to church with the Grandmother and the Daddy, where we endured a rather tiring sermon on complacency (delivered by one of the elders, who apparently didn't know the first rule of public speaking: never use words that look great in print but which don't fit into your own mouth... words like "enmity" and "nevertheless"); then we went to Fry's so Daddy could buy a movie he'd seen advertised on sale (Once Upon a Time in Mexico... I can't imagine why, aside from being on sale), and then to Long's so that Grandmother could buy some tomato plants and some FiberCon (completely unrelated).



Which brings us to Monday, with work, gym, and writing this post (which I have been taking altogether too long to write, and doing all out of order, because I idiotically started writing out the Thinking portion first). All in all, a not terribly eventful five days, I've gone out more often in the past. But it was enough for me and I'm utterly exhausted.

Seeing Things

L.E.A.R. (Love, Egos, & Alternative Rock): this was (is, actually, but only through next weekend) a play featuring my friend Chris; come to think of it, I have in my life only seen two plays in which nobody I knew was acting, and I have probably seen a good twenty plays (but not twenty good plays... one sits through some stultifyingly bad drama in the community theatres to which one's friends have access). This is the second play in which I've seen Chris, and he was an absolute wonder (the first was Edward II).



The play was sort of like one of those VH1 Behind the Music rockumentaries, with little staged interviews of people involved in the rise and fall of some nearly-forgotten band, interspersed with behind-the-scenes vignettes of the band members themselves; this particular show chronicled the creation and eventual dissolution of an indie girl-band called The Cunning Stunts. Chris played a beautifully sleazy music producer, a role that suited his special talents right down to the ground. It was a wonderful production, funny as hell, well-acted and well-written, with gorgeous costumes on gorgeous actors and some really good music in the background.



I felt awfully bridge-and-tunnel, though, sitting there in a SOMA "art space" in my complete GAP ensemble (well, my shoes were Converse and my boxer-briefs Hanes, and then I had on my sixty-carat CZ pear-shaped solitaire and an Art Deco bracelet, but everything else...) among a lot of Diesel-wearing young avant-garidistes, watching some really talented people put on a brilliant little play that will most likely fold up and completely disappear after its twelve performances.



Still, it was kind of exciting seeing such an ephemeral piece of art put on with such passion and joy. It was wonderful to be part of it, even if only from the audience.



Troy: I went to see this summer blockbuster for the sole purpose of ogling Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom in long hair and short skirts — and in this I was not disappointed. I was somewhat disappointed in the hetero-heavy reconfiguring of The Iliad, with Achilles having hot sex with the virginal Briseis but never laying a hand on his toothsome "cousin" Patroclus... but this is Hollywood, so what can one expect? The visual effects were amazing, the art-direction exquisite, and the acting (much to my surprise) subtle and effective.



Orlando brought a kind of low-key effeminacy to the role of Paris which gave the character a depth that I hadn't expected; he also got to bring his archery skills into play again... I never saw a man make a bow and arrow look so sexy. Brad (despite his unplaceable "period" accent, much like the off-center diction he used for the immortal Louis in Interview with the Vampire) gave Achilles a sympathy and pathos that I've never guessed at in reading the legends, showing us a murderous and arrogant mercenary obsessed with fame who nevertheless feels love and pain very deeply. Eric Bana as Hector was wonderful, a solid, thoughtful, and respectable guy (with stupefying pecs) caught in the middle of the rash actions of his brother and the poor decisions of his father (the invariably excellent Peter O'Toole), who tries so hard to do the right thing simply because he doesn't know how not to.



In fact, the performances and the writing gave all of the characters a set of very understandable motivations and fully transparent emotions. This film was a lot better than I expected it to be, a visual feast with not too much blood, though of course it could have been better, especially in terms of back-story — I would have liked to hear more about how Achilles got to be the way he is, where the Greeks got plague victims to scatter around the horse, why Paris was such a big ol' girl when his brother was such a stand-up man, and so on).



Stonewall: A wonderful little film from 1996 filled with lovely unknowns (except for the ubiquitous bit-player Luis Guzm√°n, who shows his ugly mug in every fifth movie one sees) that portrays the life of a young radical queer and his drag-queen lover in the days leading up to the Stonewall Riots; side-plots include the impossible but passionate affair between a terrified closeted gangster and the unmistakeably male queen bee of the Stonewall Inn bar, as well as the tense struggle of the Mattachine and Homophile Societies for gay civil rights.



I've seen this film before, but Caroline hadn't... nor had she been aware of the historical climate in which the action takes place. As soon as the film was over, we had to have an impromptu history class, where I explained to an amazed Caroline what life had been like for gay people before Stonewall... selective enforcement of "blue" laws (which I also had to explain), police corruption and harrassment, sodomy laws on the books of every state in the nation... and how the recent Supreme Court decision overturning all sodomy laws was just one achievement in a long and hard-fought series of civil rights victories over the last thirty-five years.



I guess you can't blame people for being ignorant of this part of our nation's history. It's not like they teach it in school (or they didn't when I was there... but I guess it was more Current Events than History then), I've had to do a lot of reading and research on my own to find out what I know. But how can people expect to understand and survive the world they live in if they don't know the history that led up to it?



The Wolves of Kromer: another odd little gay film, one I had seen before but Caroline hadn't. I don't really have a lot to say about it, except that it's fun and the boys are beautiful (especially the entrancing and faunish James Layton) and I always cry a little at the end.

Reading

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: I received this book as a gift from my coworker and co-stickler JB, and since I have nothing else to read at the moment I have been able to get through a good deal of it despite its nonfictional nature; I have always had difficulty reading any nonfiction that's longer than a magazine article — the lack of storyline just doesn't draw me in. But this little book is loads of fun, aside from being useful (there are all sorts of tricks for remembering where the punctuation is supposed to go); the author indulges in all the bad-grammar wailing and moaning in which I myself indulge so often, but with that dry British wit that I love so.



Other than that, I'm just reading online, and reading magazines (I never realized before just how right-wing Reader's Digest is), and not reading at all. But I just got an email from Amazon saying my three new books are in the mail... hopefully I'll finish Eats, Shoots & Leaves before then, or I never ever will.

Thinking

So after going through all that last week about beliefs, I of course continued thinking about my own beliefs and the beliefs of others. If you don't want to read any more of my musings on Christianity and spiritual beliefs, please skip ahead to the beefcake below and have a nice day.



I was considering my belief that the Apostle Paul (or Saint Paul the Apostle, whichever you prefer) did what he did in order to create a religion, that his primary concern was for the foundation and longevity of the Church; but then I found myself wondering why he did such a thing. If I accept the historical reality of Paul, but doubt that Paul was directed by God to found the Church (that whole "On the Road to Damascus" scene strikes me as ridiculous), then what do I think was directing him?



I guess that I have been so embittered by much of what I've read in the Epistles that I have fallen into the habit of thinking of Paul as a villain, a charlatan. But I see nothing in the Epistles, as I read them now, that shows Paul to have had venal aspirations in the creation of the Church... and if he did, he was singularly unsuccessful: as far as I know, Paul never achieved wealth or fame as I understand them; he was in fact persecuted by the government and died in relative obscurity, revered by a few hundred followers scattered around the Mediterranean.



So I can only surmise that Paul's intentions were good, and that he believed very strongly in what he was doing. But I still cannot believe that God talked directly to him, nor that the angels went about so interferingly among the apostles and believers as is written in the Acts and Epistles. So what does that leave?



It leaves an inspired man who was nevertheless a man, and limited by his own perceptions as all men are limited. It leaves a carelully considered structure created by a Jew living in the time of the Pax Romana, a structure that was meant to survive beyond the lives of the handful of disciples who actually knew Jesus, to provide a mechanism by which the teachings of the Christ could be broadcast to the known world... at which he was very successful.



It also leaves three hundred and some-odd years unaccounted for, between the life of Paul and the first compilations of the Canons, wherein all sorts of things could have happened to the texts of Paul's letters and the Gospels, none of the originals of which survived even to that date... God only knows how many no-doubt-well-intentioned additions and deletions were made to render the scriptures more "believable" to the ancient mind. It also leaves a world that has changed and grown, and a human intellect that has changed and grown, over the fifteen-hundred-odd years since the Canons of Scripture were chosen.



The believer in the veracity of the Bible will rest assured that God was shepherding those books through the ravages of time to present a true account of His Will, lo these many centuries later; but I can't believe it. I can't believe that God would create us with free will, and then leave us a badly-written instruction manual and send us to Hell for not following the directions correctly.



I further find it difficult to believe that God couldn't have come up with a more efficient manner of saving the the entire world from its own sinfulness in the first place. Why start with one little tribe of nomads, breed them for five thousand years to produce Jesus, and have Jesus preach in this tiny little backwater for a very short time (his ministry lasted only three years); and then leave all the actual church-building work to people who hadn't even met Jesus, bolstering them along with visions and angelic visitations, and then ceasing all visitations after a relatively short period of time (the Age of Miracles passed hundreds of years ago); and then letting the Word trickle out slowly across the globe, a century at a time, until two thousand years later there exists a global communications system that could concievably carry the Word to the entire world?



It seems so baroque, for lack of a better word. And while this interpretation of events isn't the only interpretation but rather the interpretation I was brought up with (there are those who believe that the billions of people who never had access to the Word were not damned, they merely cease to exist at death), I just can't believe it... or anything like it.



So of course I find myself wondering why people do believe it, believe that the Bible is God's Word and believe in particular interpretations of that Word. I mean, I've given a great deal of thought to why I don't believe it, so I feel impelled to balance my rationale with reasons why people do believe.



Unfortunately, there are very few people I can ask about this and get any kind of intelligent answer. My Grandmother believes in the veracity of the Bible, but she can't even explain why she believes you can't use a dish-towel to dry your hands after washing the dishes, much less why she believes that Adam and Eve were the sole progenitors of the human race and lived for hundreds of years. I will certainly be asking Daddy about this when we talk about Christianity some time in the near future, but Daddy is not a scholar or an intellectual; though he has the mental capacity for both, he hasn't the training.



The people in my life from whom I can expect intelligent and intellectual answers don't seem to believe in the complete veracity and singular interpretation of the Bible. I had a long discussion about this yesterday with my coworker BB, who is a Catholic but who does not believe in the infallibility of the pope, the virginity of Mary, the intervention of the saints, or any of the other claptrap that one supposes Catholics believe; she is a Catholic because she was raised as a Catholic, and the vocabulary and masses and prayers and calendars and confession provide her with tools by which she can know and communicate with God.



There are others I can ask, and I shall indeed ask (I can see myself becoming a burden on all of my friends in the next week or so). I'm going to keep searching for answers to these questions, because meditations on the nature of God and the practices of my fellow human beings in seeking God are always worthwhile. And if I gain a little understanding of my fellow humans, and from understanding gain a little tolerance for those who believe differently, then it will not have been a waste of time.



If you have any insights into this problem, please leave a comment or send me an email. I would love to hear from you!



I now return you to your regular Mannersism programming:



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