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If most people don't get the biblical references, why do the creators of popular tv, movies, music and lit still use them so much? Pondering this question over iced tea with a novelist, Ph.D.-candidate friend, we decided: it's tough to say. Here are a couple of ideas that we bounced around:
1) Audiences do recognize the biblical language, themes or characters and that's enough because the Bible continues to resonate or at least suggest something greater than what immediatley meets the eye.
2) The creators know that only a few people are going to know the reference but think, "Who cares? We know it's in there. It's cool and adds levels of meaning that are super-rich. The minority who pick up on it are going to love it."
3) It keeps people like me in business. Ok, no. That's definitely not their reason... and it's hardly a business for me. But I do love catching those biblical references, contemplating how the creators integrated and interpreted them, and what that means for the greater story or art.
What do you think is the explanation?
Living as a nomad, it was bound to happen: I left my computer behind. Bouncing between cities (two) and offices (four) as I've done the past semester, I rely on THE LIST -- things to do before leaving the house (empty the kitchen compost, e.g.) and things to bring (er, that'd be the computer, e.g.). The list works great... if I actually use it. Last week, I didn't. The irony is, I'm finally settling in again, finally staying put -- one city, one office, for the most part, anyway. Maybe that was it. I let my guard down, got cocky.
"Remember." The Bible is full of commands to remember. It is itself a testimony of remembrance, a witness to the power of memory, and its commands humanize with their instructions. Of hospitality and kindness, "Remember that you also were foreigners, strangers in a strange land." Of faith and community, "Do this in remembrance of me." To recognize the sacred and sanctify the ordinary, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."
Being without my computer, the days were different, slower. I wrote by hand, read huge chunks of books for ideas and a big-picture sensibility (rather than recording with detailed notes). Thanks to Audubon, I identified a pair of green herons and watched as Beverly, a large almost black beaver, munched the mini maples around the periphery of the pond out back. I cleared bamboo and braised local lamb shanks. I spent time with the ones I love -- two- and four-leggeds alike.
Then it was Memorial Day. Dinner with new friends and the invitation to share gratitude. Thanks for this place, these people, the food. But thanks, too, for the ones who have gone before. Honor to their memory -- those who have sacrificed in our armed services, yes, but also to those ordinary and extraordinary individuals whose lives, vision, and selves helped shape the ideas, conditions and company I enjoy today. My great aunt Lucille, Thomas Jefferson, those who fought to ban DDT, Louis Pasteur, my boyfriend's father.
Truth is, I have a terrible memory. I want to remember that as I age so that I don't worry unnecessarily about my forgetting. But, well, you see the problem there. Maybe, though, forgetting can lead, as in the case of my computer, to different kinds of remembering. Deeper remembrances -- of our tiny-ness, of our dependence on and debts to others, of what is holy. Now where did I put those keys?
Heading south to Petersburg (VA)'s Life through Lit Fest. It's a book lovin' day to spend in the park. Live music, free books, author chats, and yes funnel cakes. Come if you can (noon-7pm in Poplar Lawn Park)! It'd be fun to see you there~
Years ago, a provocative phrase took hold of me and keeps nagging for attention: "smaller houses, bigger homes."
Wonderful to see so many people at the Charlottesville Barnes and Noble last Wed eve! As moderator David Bearinger noted, Winn Collier's Holy Curiosity and my Bible Babel are very different projects, though both concern the Bible. The Virginia Festival of the Book (a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities event) has included panels on religion and spirituality in the past but not specifically on the Good Book. The conversation and questions reflected well the two ways that Winn and I worked with the Bible in our books -- confessional and informational -- and pushed each of us to think and talk about the other. After all, one cannot assume a confessional position without reflecting intellectually, even if just to read and interpret, the text, on the one hand. On the other hand, any academic treatment of the Bible is still treatment of a religious and sacred text, which inevitably draws the investigator into the world of spirituality, even if only to think about how that text has affected and informed the faith of others. Thanks to all who attended!
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.