Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gethsemane in Microcosm

I'm a critic. I read books, poetry and plays. I watch movies and television. Literature and art is my life. I love to sink into a text, to absorb it and meditate upon it. I love to reflect upon the representation and imitation of life in modern cinema. I'm fascinated by the intricacies of language, especially past language, and the possibilities, ambiguities, and pleasures this brings. I'm also devoted to responsible hermeneutics, to understanding what an author is actually saying and to not only grasping at what modern theory thinks he might be saying. I think art, both literature and entertainment, print and film cultures, can make us better people, can humanize us. If art does not do this, it is not necessarily a failure on art's behalf but on the behalf of people who are unable or unwilling to be taught - people who have grown dull to the voice of intelligence and morality.

Lately, I suppose, I've been in a bit of a depressive funk. Our culture seems to have no place for the moral critic, for those who think great art can make us better people. Most people don't even listen to critics and so prefer to watch CSI Miami instead of Dexter; prefer to read The Da Vinci Code instead of Hamlet. Today, you can get a degree in English Literature without ever having read Paradise Lost. Without reading The Iliad. Without The Divine Comedy. The great works of literature are being forgotten in a pale wave of democratic enthusiasm, which prizes the lowest common denominator, the easily marketable.

I guess today is just one of those day when you look at what you're doing and find your faith in your ideals or your hopes shaken, when you wonder just what the hell it is you are doing. These days creep up on you, like cancer - an invasion from within rather than from without. It's not as if a major crisis inspires them. You just wake up one morning and find yourself quietly drifting into despair and doubt. Then, the next morning, you're back to normal and know what business you are about. These are Gethsemane days. As a kid, only 12 years old, Jesus was steadfast and knew that he must be about his Father's business. But then, eleven years later, there came that terrible night in Gethsemane when his Father's business suddenly looked very different. Today's a Gethsemane day, I guess, which I know is a rather pretentious metaphor. On these days, the days that you question who's business you are doing, it's sometimes hard to know who your father is. These days of doubt and terror pass, I know; unfortunately knowing that they pass does not make their passing any easier. We still weep and sweat blood at the prospect and uncertainty of our futures.


Life of Turner said...

Pretentious and audacious. Though I did understand the metaphor, with the background of Tom Morello's song "The Garden of Gethsemane". That said, I agree with your lamentation about the lack of respect for art, though I do find it interesting to find reviews of both Hostel: Part II and Ocean's Thirteen on the same page. I think that it is a shame that not all students get to read ________ (fill in the blank), but as a future educator, if I can give them the tools and the desire to do so, I will consider my job done.

Derek out.

dcornelius said...

Yeah, those two movies are likely not too often found together. I also kinda chuckled when I realized I had reviews of Marilyn Manson and Hostel: Part II back-to-back. I suddenly seemed focused only on the darker elements of our culture.

Anonymous said...

*twenty-one years later - not eleven*

Would dcornelius have ever been familiar with a little place called Gable Heights?

-Brendan W.

dcornelius said...

You mean the demolished-but-still-standing-in-our-hearts Gable Heights? Why, yes, I am familiar with that place.

Good to hear from you. Where are you guys these days?