Am I the only one who finds it utterly cool that we just lived through something that has only happened four times in recorded history (that we're sure of, anyway) and only once before in the past 600 years?
I should add, however, that the sede vacante left by the latest incumbent is a siege made perilous by the still-unresolved problem of clerical misbehavior.
As one who flirted with Catholicism in my adulthood as much as I appreciated the pageant-history and magical traditions when it came to the sticking point I couldn't stomach the authoritarianism. It seemed to me then and still does that if a faith or a religion (and I do not consider the two the same or often even very similar) is to do more human good than harm it must allow for its adherents the freedom of their own morals. Especially Christianity, which is probably the most difficult and complex religion to practice.
Pace the other great faiths but in their essence they seem to me fairly coherent for the believers. Islam and Judaism are fierce, totemic tribal faiths based on loyalty to a patriarch-deity partial to His partisans and implacable to outsiders. Buddhism is as much a tradition and a philosophy as faith and one based firmly on a peaceful, meditative tradition and renunciatory philosophy. Hinduism...well, I haven't figured out quite what the hell Hinduism is.
It doesn't seem terribly complex to me to be Shinto, Jain, Animist, Sikh, or Zoroastrian.
But Christianity? Christianity is fucking impossible.
You have to reconcile the tribal-God of the Old Testament with the Father-God of the New and try and figure out how to live by the strictures of a Savior who only demands six impossible things of you before breakfast. No wonder many people of faith, and almost all the major Christian religions, have either abandoned, or never even attempted, to live as Jesus commanded. Because, as a better writer than I put it:
"No, you just don't understand. Let's all put our brunch plans on hold, because if you really heard what I said, you'd be absolutely terrified. You'd want to run or give up your faith, or kill me right now, because what I said was impossible. What I said is absolutely going to break you. If you're lucky."And you all probably know how I feel about what happened when Jesus met Rome. The result wasn't just rendering unto Caesar that which was Caesar's. It was becoming Caesar.
IMO the clerical child-and-pretty-much-anything-else-moving-with-a-hole-in-it-abuse-scandal isn't about who put whose totem pole in whose donut hole.
It's about the fact that when confronted with the most clear-cut choice between humility and contrition, and power, the Holy See chose power.
The reigns of the last two Popes have, at bottom, been about buttressing the power of the Church rather than its humanity. Regardless of how you feel about the Levitican rules, you'd have to agree that if you choose in favor of an ancient text over kindness toward living humans you aren't exactly choosing in favor of the things your Savior talked up like brotherhood, compassion and love. That tends to work better for things like dietary rules about shellfish or owls than deciding who should or can love whom and what should place a man or woman outside the bounds of your God's care.
It seems rather dreary that an institution like the Papacy - which, whatever you feel about it, carries such a glittering and complex tradition of scholars, schemers, poets, madmen, villains, and saints - has been filled in my late lifetime by little men who seem to be obsessed with rules, authority, and chastening any trace of individual conscience in both laity and the lower clergy rather than trying to expand the horizons of the faith and the love their founder preached.
Their legacy is a curia crammed to bursting with other pettifoggingly narrow and stern little men who would rather wag their fingers at a couple of homosexuals embracing than leap with the joy of the Good News and give all their riches to the poor. And from this precious lot the Church will be blessed with its next pontiff.
Ma nisrat lech bamoch!? as Jesus himself might have said.
Speaking of old things, this early Kodacolor/Kodachrome test film is kind of fascinating:
The fascinating thing is not so much the film itself, which shows that the Kodacolor process still had a long way to go in 1922, but the motions of the actresses in the film.
As the Slate website says: "Their open expressions of feeling and the particular way they move their hands and tilt their heads...are so unfamiliar now, they seem like a foreign language." It's that, combined with the peculiar intimacy granted by the color film.
Black and white film emphasizes difference. The images look removed t us, unlike anything we're used to seeing either in film or our lives. The monochromatic pictures increase the distance between us and the people we're seeing on film.
But the women (and the child) in this little film look very familiar, less the Twenties fashions. Especially the last subject, the blonde woman in the shiny robe that smoulders and pouts, not all that much different than some 2013 starlet vamping for the camera.
And I mention as an aside that we tend to forget that the Twenties and early Thirties were, in fact, a very "modern" period in films. A lot of pre-Code films of the time have an almost 21st Century license around sex and sexuality; so it's no surprise that a screen test actress might throw in something spicy for the boys in the editing room.
Except that...go back and watch her. The actress' face and her body just...well, they just don't look and move like a modern woman.
You've seen modern screen actresses smoulder and they don't smoulder like that.
I think we often don't realize how we are shaped by our arts as we shape them. The gestures and expressions in the 1922 film are the exaggerated ones of the old melodrama and Victorian stage by way of the silent film era, where the actors had to "talk" using stylized movement and larger-than-normal facial gestures.
To us in 2013, raised on the naturalistic style we see around us, and on television and film they appear ritualistic and bizarre.
So I thought that this little clip at once brings to young life people who must be dead or very, very old while at the same time emphasizes how far removed from them and their time we have grown.
Surely, while "everything old is new again", many things are irrevocably changed into the weird and marvelous with the long passing of the days.