We've carried on wending our merry way though Bonhoeffer's Life Together (from which I've posted before) where there have been gems and provocations aplenty. This week, we followed his unpacking of the problems of competitiveness and one-upmanship, as part of his reflections on Luke 9:46. He is entirely realistic. He warns that every single community will always be infected by concerns about 'who is the greatest' - even if the criteria by which we judge greatness differ widely. And this has got me thinking yet again about the problems of power and weakness, control and care in church (issues to which I find myself returning repeatedly on Q).
We were out and about en famille looking at junk and antique shops on Saturday, on Church St, just off Lisson Grove. And we came across this rather inspiring headline on a shop front - in many ways, it sums up far more pithily and profoundly, precisely what I was getting at in my post on Hockney. Paul Klee was an artist with a unique vision - full of vibrant colour, strange abstractions and even music. Very different from Hockney in many ways. And perhaps even more inspiring. But this quotation does offer an inspiring apologetic for the greatest art of every generation.
When Avatar came out, I couldn't help but get swept up in James Cameron's astonishing conception. This is because a hopelessly bad movie was redeemed only by an awesome visual feast of digital artistry, And others were equally swept up. So much so in fact that I noticed at the time that there was a popular sense of despairing yearning for a world as beautiful and stunning as Pandora. Which led me to start a slightly flippant post called Antidotes to Post-Pandora Blues. I never finished it for some reason, but the exhilarating new Hockney exhibition this morning at the Royal Academy brought it back to mind.
Haven't done a Friday Fun for a couple of months - oops. So thought i'd share something from a lovely Christmas present I received - a 1942 printing of Harry Graham's 1930 classic, More Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes. It doesn't get much darker or blasé than this. Just the ticket to keep morale up during the Blitz no doubt.
We actually took Epiphany quite seriously at All Souls this year - by which I mean we spent the first 2 Sunday mornings in January looking at Matthew 2. It's actually quite an unsettling chapter for all kinds of reasons. Quite apart from many of the historical challenges raised by some (though which I think are more than adequately engaged with in commentaries by the likes of Carson, France and Morris), there are some frankly bizarre or horrific elements to the narrative.
I've been thinking about this for a while - and was spurred finally to do something about it after the inspiring Memorial Service at St Paul's Cathedral on Friday. It was a great service - the most affecting were the tributes from Frances Whitehead and Ruth Padilla DeBorst as they felt the most personal. But it was good to have input from Africa and Asia as well as Latin America, and a very apt sermon from Bishop Tim Dudley-Smith.
Churchill famously declared during the Second World War that the "Truth is so precious that she must often be attended by a bodyguard of lies" - and the British military effort entailed the largest and most complex exploitation of deception in warfare to date. This involved the twin arms of message interception and code breaking (through the extraordinary work of Bletchley Park in particular), and the use of all kinds of deception tactics (including the use of double agents and entirely fictitious battalions preparing to invade the Pas de Calais around the time of D Day's Normandy landings).
I get restless if I don't have something to read on the bus. So I grabbed the closest thing on my desk as I ran out yesterday - which had been a recently thumbed anthology of George Orwell's Essays. (I'd been looking at it because of the seminal piece Why I Write, recently recommended to me by the Real Grasshopper). I found myself, somewhat incongruously, sitting upstairs in the front row motoring down Park Lane, and reading a short account of an experience Orwell had in the British Imperial Police in Burma - starkly entitled 'A Hanging'.
So... you want to write a runaway bestseller in 2012? Hoping to fill the cabin luggage of air-travellers the world over? Well, here is just thing... it's guaranteed to hit the headlines at the same time and thus rake in the cash. An ecclesiastical conspiracy theory novel, 'based' on matters of 'historical' record and archaeological 'certainties'. It offers the lot: corruption, scheming, sexual deviancy, hypocrisy, ancient history, power, scandals, and above all, the unveiling of secrets. You hooked yet? I was. And it seems that the book-buying travelling public never tire of a new conspiracy thriller. So... you've got it made.
It is not just the victims of imperialism who easily identify its sins and blindspots. Those who have wielded and then lost empires are quick to spot the parallels in others'. Perhaps that was partly why Graham Greene was such a caustic critic of what he perceived as the twentieth century's new imperialist incarnation: the United States. Of course Greene had strong left-wing sympathies and was openly anti-American, which provided convenient filters by which the right could ignore his perspectives. It's no surprise that he was under FBI surveillance from the 1955 publishing of The Quiet American until his death in 1991.