A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma...
Tragically, one of the most underappreciated shows on television, Estevão Ciavatta’s magnificent PREAMAR, has been discontinued by HBO as a result of their contentiousness over production rights. While we sincerely hope that HBO will change its mind or that someone else will pick up this masterpiece of Ipanema, for the time being our friend Fernanda Rodriguez has graciously compiled a very thorough and interesting interview with three of the show’s most compelling characters, Paula (Karen Junqueira), Maria Isabel (Paloma Riani), and Pepete (Thiago Amaral) . The interview transcript follows:
Karen Junqueira (Paula)
What took you to acting?
Ever since I was little I…
One of our favorite quotes comes from Thornton Wilder, the great novelist and playwright, who voiced a vision for the rehabilitation of Christianity in the midst of the Great Depression:
The revival in religion will be a rhetorical problem — new persuasive words for defaced or degraded ones.
This principle, in my view, still holds true, and it’s motivated a good deal of what we try to do at Mockingbird. Recently, Francis Spufford and Christian Wiman have been heroes in revivifying the language of faith, in respective terms of emotional intelligibility and a “new poetics of faith.” To those authors we could add…
In September of this year, we missed an interesting article over at the The Guardian profiling the then-governor of Bastoy Prison, one of the most successful prisons in the world, located in Norway. ‘Success’ immediately raises the question of what success looks like, and we could say there are two major approaches to this term: the first, ‘success’ in terms of making inmates less likely to reoffend, and second, ‘success’ in terms of how much prisoners serve a just punishment equal to their crime.
The second seems a bit vindictive, though most people would be if they were the victims of these…
Our pride drives us to establish our own righteousness. We strive all our life to see ourselves as keepers of rules we cannot keep, as loyal subjects of laws under which we can only be judged outlaws. Yet so deep is our need to derive our identity from our own self-respect – so profound our conviction that unless we watch our step, the watchbird will take away our name – that we will spend a lifetime trying to do the impossible rather than, for even one carefree minute, consent to having it done for us by someone else.
Really, no one…
From his short meditation on love, titled Love Alone Is Credible:
“The first thing that must strike a non-Christian about the Christian’s faith is that it obviously presumes far too much. It is too good to be true: the mystery of being, revealed as absolute love, condescending to wash his creatures’ feet, and even their souls, taking upon himself all the confusion of guilt, all the God-directed hatred, all the accusations showered upon him with cudgels, all the disbelief that arrogantly covers up what he has revealed, all the mocking hostility that once and for all nailed down his inconceivable moment of self-abasement – in order to pardon his creature, before himself and the world…
“Once a person learns to read the signs of love and thus to believe it, love leads him into the open field wherein he himself can love. If the prodigal son had not believed that the father’s love was already there waiting for him, he would not have been able to make the journey home – even if his father’s love welcomes him in a way he never would have dreamed of. The decisive thing is that the sinner has heard of a love that could be, and really is, there for him; he is not the one who has to bring himself in line with God; God has always already seen in him, the loveless sinner, the loveless sinner, a beloved child and has looked upon him and conferred dignity upon him in the light of this love.
“No one can resolve this mystery into dry concepts and explain how it is that God no longer sees my guilt in me, but only in his beloved Son, who bears it for me; or how God sees this guilt transformed through the suffering of love and loves me because I am the one for whom his Son has suffered in love. But the way God, the lover, sees us is in fact the way we are in reality – for God, this is the absolute and irrevocable truth.”
I’ve been reading Niccolo Machiavelli lately, the brilliant Renaissance-era adviser of princes, and have found myself much more attracted to him than I’d expected. To say that his reputation precedes him is an understatement–very few last names become as frequently dropped modifiers as ‘Machiavellian’, which usually refers to someone who believes that ends justify means (a statement often misattributed to the Florentine) and endorses cruelty, opportunism, and cold manipulation. But there’s a gap between Machiavelli’s reputation and his writings, and I think that gap can speak to us.
I won’t attempt (and don’t think there’s much warrant for) a revisionist reading…
Again, Happy Reformation Day! From his Commentary on Galatians:
Paul seemeth here to compare those that seek righteousness by the law, unto oxen that are tied to the yoke. For like as oxen draw the yoke that draw the yoke with great toil, receive nothing thereby but forage and pasture, and thereafter are appointed for slaughter: even so they that seek righteousness by the law, are captives, and oppressed with the yoke of bondage, this is, with the law, and when they have spent their strength a great while, this is their reward, that they are perpetual and miserable servants, even…
Mockingbird favorite Whit Stillman’s wonderful debut film, Metropolitan, is a social commentary which continually crosses over, wryly and adroitly, into the domain of religious experience, Law and Gospel, anxiety and trust. It follows a young group of debutantes and their escorts in New York City, those sons and daughters of established wealth whose socio-economic trajectory has, in their twenties, stalled out. They are the natural members of a generation of new, white aristocracy (“Urban Haute Bourgeoisie”, or UHB), waiting in the wings but, as the prodigious intellectual-cum-self-parody Charlie puts it, “Downward social mobility…I think that’s the direction we’re all heading…
From the wonderful play The Cocktail Party, well into the poet’s Christian phase. A man’s wife leaves him and an Unidentified Guest – who is almost a bona fide theophany (Eliot’s God prefers gin) – gives the man, Edward, some advice on how to handle his crisis:
Most of the time we take ourselves for granted,
As we have to, and live on a little knowledge
About ourselves as we were. Who are you now?
You don’t know any more than I do,
But rather less. You are nothing but a set
Of obsolete responses. The one thing to do
Is to do nothing. Wait.
But waiting is the one thing impossible.
Besides, don’t you see that it makes me look ridiculous?
Guest: It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
That is the best advice I can give you.
“Waiting is the one thing impossible” – in Eliot’s spirituality, activity and self-righteousness and pretension must be cleared from the minds of those who know only “a heap of broken images”, who are only that, and cannot be otherwise. For a man as attuned to grace and broken on the wheels of life as he, the one genuine spiritual vocation is the desperate plea, “teach us to care and not to care/ teach us to sit still.”
“To think that human beings are freedom-loving, you have to be ready to view nearly all of history as a mistake.”
So says pessimistic philosopher John Gray, in his wonderful recent book The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths. If it’s already beginning to sound a bit glum, well, he can’t really help himself. The first word we need to hear is so often a “no”, a judgment, or a deconstruction.
Have you ever known someone who had a truth sitting right in front of them and couldn’t recognize it? Someone who always exonerates her child – bad grades…
From his Notes from Underground, in which the great Russian author’s disturbed protagonist questions ideals of human progress, enlightenment, secular humanism, and other naïvetés of the nineteenth century – but timeless, too:
But these are all golden dreams. Oh, tell me, who first announced, who was the first to proclaim that man does dirty only because he doesn’t know his real interests; and that were he to be enlightened, were his eyes to be opened to his real, normal interests, man would immediately stop doing dirty, would immediately become good and noble, because, being enlightened and understanding his real profit, he would…
Jim Crace’s Harvest, a shortlist contender for next week’s Man Booker Prize, is immensely difficult to review, at first glace a simple and somewhat narrow plot, but one which suggests dozens of vanishing points, valences–something reachable, but elusive. Crace’s indirect sympathy with the old biblical theme of the exile representing the everyman is what most resonated with the mockingbird in me; the fate of an entire community is determined by the fate of the marginalized and dispossessed.
There’s a passage in the Hebrew Scriptures–2 Samuel 24–where King David sins by taking a census of fighting-age men. Presumably, the logic of a census…
For those who missed it, Pope Francis gave another fantastic interview last week, this time with the atheistic founder of La Repubblica. I think we’re on the verge of an additional dialogue shift, as His Holiness, showing no signs of changing his tone, will gradually start to provoke people within his own church, if the past is any indicator. The last “Papa Buono” provoked an absurdly paradoxical schism in the name of traditionalism, and the most interesting aspect of the new Francis I material, to me, is the beginnings of a reaction within his Church. “New persuasive words“, or Christian Wiman’s “new…