February 2010 Archives
I was delighted to read Pulitzer-prize winner Michael Dirda's review of Bible Babel in the Washington Post last week. He clearly read the book carefully through, and "got" it. That he liked it, too -- how sweet! Meanwhile, check out some of Dirda's own books, if you haven't had the pleasure already. As an avid collector of quotes -- inspiring, intriguing, comforting, and unsettling -- I especially love Dirda's Book by Book, containing such gems gleaned from Dirda's wide-ranging reading and organized with a bit of engaging commentary by the author himself.
February, and I'm excited to be heading to MN... for a few days, anyway. I know. You'd think it's the worst time, and yet -- to share warm conversation about books with family and friends and friends-yet-to-meet -- is an especially sweet pleasure in the midst of winter's hold on the north. And word's getting out. This morning's New York Times ran an article about the surprising pleasure of trekking into the frozen wilderness of Minnesota's border lakes -- the waterways we share with Canada. They snake their way through piney islands, rocks, and fiercely clear air for more miles than you can imagine,... and there's not a motor in sight or auditory range. It's awesome in ways we seldom experience anymore but that, with no warning or fanfare, lay bare our deepest and perhaps truest connection to each other and this great green-blue globe of earth. To touch a little such wildness, or be touched by it, can be transformative, as the whole biblical book of Numbers ("In the Wilderness," as the Hebrew title identifies the book) attests. Dangerous, yes, but good.
Christmas came and went with its cards adorned by chubby-cheeked winged babies. Now it's Valentine's Day, and they're back again. We're accustomed to calling these charming figures cherubs. But it's a biblical word, and in the Bible, cherubs are nothing like that.
Given its title, I figured that the movie would have something to do with demons -- a whole, well, legion of them... in full-on "possession" mode. After all, "Legion" is the name of a biblical demoniac, according to the stories in Mark and Luke, because many demons were involved. But in the movie, Michael (our hero-angel gone rogue) actually goes to some trouble to explain explicitly that the troops of zombie-like murderers are not possessed by demons but rather are angels fulfilling the command of God. And yet. Here the movie suggests that the line between angels and demons frays as God's patience wears thin. That's just one thing among many that I found intriguing about this movie. Another (and I admit I loved this) is the paradox of obedience. [spoiler alert!] Michael is finally deemed a better servant of God than the hyper-obedient Gabriel, set on fulfilling God's command to kill off the human race. Precisely by disobeying, Michael satisfies the "need" (vs. "want" hmmm) of God. That part's a little silly (God as some adolescent to the angels' maturity?!). But hope for a future unwritten (no theological fatalism, here), and mercy at the hint of goodness... I like that.