Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal--Lenten Ironies, a Jesuit, Harris, Seven Samurai and Dr. Fate

I'm sitting at my computer, having just copied a CD that I have been looking for for years, and which just arrived in the mail today after I finally won an eBay auction of it, into my iTunes. And I gave up listening to recorded music for my Lenten discipline. So now I'm talking to God about how I'd like to listen to those songs. Is that a good Lenten increase of prayer?

I set up another of my doctoral questions with great success yesterday, talking to Fr. Thomas Hughson, SJ about doing my ethics question in the Church and State area. I'd never gotten a chance to take a class with him, but we've always gotten along very well. Every semester he would offer something mouth-watering in this general area, there were two classes that seemed just a bit more critical for me to take. So this will be a way to make up for that, and I hope that I'll get a goodly amount of "oversight" from him in talking through the books that I read to get the advantage of actually working with him. He got quite excited as I talked with him at the Brew Bayou yesterday and seemed to think that I was making some new contributions to the field just in the way I was framing some issues in turning away from a focus on the Supreme Court and talking about how the Executive Branch could today be the locus of some of the most critical thinking in the field. We finally decided on my taking a focus, however, not on the Court or any particular decision of theirs, nor on the Bush Administration itself, even though that would be a hot and current field of study. Instead, I'm staying a bit more theoretical and focusing on religious discourse in the public sphere, to which I've given a lot of thought, particularly leading up to and since the election. I'm going to start my bibliography by reading Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff's Religion in the Public Square: The Place of Religious Convictions in Political Debate from 1997.

Some good times hanging with Mike Harris over the weekend. We had our usual sci-fi night with Enterprise and the new Galactica, and pulled our hair out with the tired "science vs. religion" clichés of the latter, even while enjoying the story. It turned into an interesting theme, though, later in the night when we got to talking about interpretations of Genesis 1 and I discovered that he himself holds to a pretty literal interpretation of it, although not so far fundamentalist as to necessarily deny biological evolution or contemporary cosmology. More, he seemed to be concerned with the idea that if you remove any aspect of the content of the story, you effectually are likely to remove it all. I thought it a slippery-slope argument, and tried to articulate a true-in-what-it-teaches, but not-true-as-historical-or-cosmological-timeline kind of argument--all very Catholic--but this was a point where his own conservative evangelical tradition was rather leary and cautious, so he seemed to think that I'd likely throw the baby out with the bathwater. It was the first time we'd seriously butted heads, theologically, since we tend to merrily be working together in the patristic era when we have courses together, so that made for a different kind of evening. Tonight, I introduced him to Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, as intended, and it went swimmingly. I was surprised at points in the story, having not seen it in three years, and was particularly thrown by the anti-romanticising of the samurai in the midst of the greatest (romanticising?) samurai movie of Japan's history. The parts about the peasant's turning on the samurai, seeing them as both tormentors and protectors was compelling: I can't think of a critique of the American cowboy in the same way. Even though the cowboy mythos was of the same status in America, with its "rugged individualism," (although I don't really think it has been in the last few decades--unreplaced? the cop?), the cowboy never had the "protector" or military/national role in American history and couldn't have the same mythological/political/social ambiguity. And damn! That battle in the rain!

Along with working on my "dense reading" of a passage from Augustine's De Trinitate for Barnes this weekend, I also knocked off a 4-issue mini-series from 1987 that I'd picked up starring Dr. Fate. It was actually rather disturbing, and I don't think that I care for where I've gathered the character has gone since. I liked the original stuff, and the stories in the mid-80s I'd read let me find the mystical character rather compelling, but I gather there've been a number of new, post-Crisis incarnations, and I don't know that any of them have been real keepers. I'll probably pick up more of what was written after this, but it seems to me that the character could have been written better without going through a variety of new host bodies and repeatedly starting over. I see on the internet that DC is actually going to sell a replica of Fate's helmet and amulet. If you have money to burn and want to try to buy my friendship, you could blow a few hundreds and grab this for me. As I'd re-read the character recently in The Immortal Doctor Fate reprints of those 80's stories, I had thought to myself that it would be great fun to have a copy of the helmet laying around my apartment, unexplained, to shock those rare few


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