Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Eschatology of Hope

Fig. 1. Not so exciting for the sardine.
TGS's Tracy Morgan's greatest wisdom has been "live every week as if it were Shark Week." Well, last week was Shark Week, but I'm afraid the phenomena surrounding the exciting tv shows seem remarkably unpleasant when there is actually blood in the water. Social upheaval in London, economic struggles in the US and Europe, ridiculous political gridlock in Washington; a feeding frenzy looks very different when you suddenly discover that you are a sardine [Fig. 1]. I confess I am feeling a pull to just dive deep, hide in the murk, and count my blessings.

One of those blessings was the attendance of a very special wedding. One of my former students, let's call her Lily, a dramaturg, was joined in holy matrimony to her longtime beau, who happens to be an Episcopalian priest. This presented Lily's family with something of a pickle - they are devout Catholics. The happy couple asked me for advice many months ago, because they knew that Mrs. Doc and I had confronted a similar conundrum when we wanted to get married, back in the late Cretaceous period - Mrs. Doc is a Muslim, and I am Jewish. Our solution (to elope, get married in a parking lot, and present our detractors with a fait accompli), seemed not preferable in this case. I was optimistic - at least they were both Christians, and him a man of the cloth no less, and also they didn't have to worry about Tyrannosaurs.

Now, apart from the fact that I am a theatre history scholar with a particular interest in religious practices, I have a special attraction to wedding ceremonies because I became ordained in the Church of Universal Life many years ago in order to conduct weddings for my non-religious and gay friends. Weddings are at their cores performances of a hope for the future, and opportunities for communities to come together and affirm their specific hopes for the couple's happiness within a context that re-inscribes their shared hopes for their collective futures. For most people, this context is described by their religious practice, so it seems natural for weddings to be celebrated in a religious context. But religions, while very good at nurturing their internal communities, seem to me historically to be very very bad at integrating the practices and beliefs of other communities. It's to be expected - as Hayden White observed, it is difficult to identify the content of one's own felt humanity, and much much easier to ostensibly self-define by negation. To wit: "well, I don't know what I am, but I know I'm not THAT."  So religious communities define themselves in opposition to one another. How to reconcile that? Well, for Catholics and Protestants, the historical solution is to make hot and cold war on one another for centuries.

Fig. 2. You know you want to.
So I have to take a moment and applaud what happened at this wedding. Lily and her beau talked it out with their respective families, and I'm sure there was much gnashing of teeth and renting of garments, but in the end there was a really beautiful wedding ceremony. I think it was largely Episcopalian, as it was conducted by the Dean of the Episcopalian cathedral where Lily's beau works. I know something about this Dean - she's been on the frontlines of the recent schisms of the church having to do with acceptance of homosexuality, and frankly I think she is a pretty heroic figure. However, also present was a Catholic priest, who was specifically invited to say a few words. The invitation was pretty telling - it said "you are a guest here." But the Father's words were all about compassion, acceptance, and a bringing together of Christians despite the historical enmities. It would probably have been even more beautiful for me if I wasn't a Jew married to a Muslim and father to a... uh... devout Futuramaist [Fig 2], and therefore not really included in the benediction, but what the hell. You still need a negative against which to ostensibly self-define, and traditionally Jews and Muslims are still really useful for that. I stopped taking it personally after I graduated from elementary beatings -- I mean, school.

The point is, I applaud these families for figuring it out, because finding hope in a world in a lot of the evidence seems counterindicative is a tough job. It requires compromise, and compromise requires a sacrifice, of one's ostensible identity if nothing else. That's hard to do, particularly when you are frightened of losing something dear to you, like your faith, or your daughter. And yet, those dark shapes in the water are getting closer, and it's not like we have a lot of options. Like the wily sardine, we're gonna have to work together to survive.

What's that you say? Sardines actually don't work together? Correct. That's why they die.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Werewolf Hunter Arrested

I've noticed that the Thomas Stroup story (see: Non Culpae Ex Esse Lupintotuum below) was picked up by online and television "news" services all through June, including a site dedicated to hunting which seems to be encouraging adding werewolves to the US Big Game lists. I feel obliged to point out that so far your humble correspondent has been the only source to do any investigative journalism; it was here, on Glorious Wreckage, that the information about the populations of wolves in Germany and the phase of the moon during Stroup's transformation was uncovered. You're welcome.

But today I ran across this little item. Apparently a shirtless man was approached by police while he was attacking objects with a sword in a parking lot. He explained that he was "hunting werewolves and C.H.U.D.s."

Ridiculous. C.H.U.D.s are only found in New York.