Friday, April 04, 2008

Emmaus Friday Five

Kirstin tagged me by e-mail, so I’ll give it a try.

From RevGalBlogPals.

With this Sunday's gospel reading in mind, that wonderful revelation of Christ to the companions on the Emmaus road, I wonder where you might have been surprised by God's revelation recently. How has God revealed him/herself to you in a:

The problem is that sticky word “recently.” It is much easier to look back over my life and name encounters that had profound and lasting effects on my life. Another qualifier in the assignment is “surprised,” which means I should think of God’s showing up or acting where I did not expect it. Sigh. I didn’t want to have to think this hard on a Friday afternoon. (Where’s my rum and coke?)

1. Book
“Darkslayer,” my own first novel (in the somewhat stalled process of revision). I knew that writing the book would reveal all manner of things about myself (for the close and discerning friends and my therapist, anyway). Although its themes are spiritual, the book wound up exploring larger issues and pointing to lots of interesting questions regarding God, Gospel, faith, and sanctification. That was not in my plan as author, so definitely a surprise and an ongoing challenge (in revision and the many planned sequels).

2. Film
Last spring some friends were visiting and we watched “Babel.” They were very into it and I watched it off and on. It is a fascinating illustration of our human inability to communicate and connect. I found it incredibly distressing and depressing. But it’s a good film, a salubrious confrontation with our brokenness and willfulness.

Ending on a happier note there is the beautifully filmed and challenging “The Kite Runner.” It also forces the viewer to look at the dark side of human behavior but contains a triumph of friendship in the end.

I watch lots of “fluff” films but it is the challenging ones that affect me more deeply.

3. Song
The Arab Conscience, Part II

I wrote about this a while back, having encountered it at Informed Comment, Juan Cole’s blog. I did not, at that time, embed it because I wanted lots of context for anyone who might watch.

I am going to go way beyond what is normally considered fair use to provide all of Juan’s prefatory comments:
The Arab Conscience and the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War

The below is part of an anti-war "opera" sung by the most famous of the Arab videoclip stars (Nancy Ajram and Cheb Khalid are featured here). The whole is very long. The Zoom videoclip satellite channel is playing it repeatedly this week, apparently to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War.

It begins with a man saying "We want to live in peace. Enough killing! Enough slaughter! Enough!"

"The Arab Conscience" is produced by Ahmad Al Aaryan, written by Karim Maatouk, Sayed Shawki, Ahmad Al Aaryan and Siham Shaashaa, composed by Tarek Abou Jawdeh and Khaled Bakry, and arranged by Adel Hakki. It has been performed at the Cairo Opera House.

Although the opera works within the framework of Arab nationalism, it has a strong anti-war theme and it is not sectarian. One singer has the refrain, "The origin of the human race is the human being; all the prophets are brothers/ Moses, Jesus, Muhammad reject aggression." This verse explicitly states the brotherhood of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and daringly shows the Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount as a site of Muslim-Jewish conflict while doing so, seeming to say that holy places should not be a basis for violence. The lyrics say God is love, God is peace. At one point the "love of the Gospels, the wisdom of the Qur'an" is celebrated, and Christians, Sunnis and Shiites are all called to peace.

For Americans, the most touching part would probably be the Egyptian songstress Amal Maher's libretto sung over a powerful visual condemnation of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. I think she knew she would be singing over those unspeakable images. She turns away in horror as her stanza ends.

The images of US actions in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, etc., interspersed with a denunciation of the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafiq al-Hariri and of Israeli occupation forces' brutality to Palestinians, give a sense of how the Iraq War is viewed in the region, as yet another attack on the Arab nation. But there is also a critique of the internal divisions and use of aggressive violence by that nation. (It does not condemn what it sees as resistance to occupation; but I think the underlying message is that violence just begets more violence.)

I urge my American readers to try to watch the clip below even though they cannot understand the lyrics. (Though, note to the squeamish: the explicit violence may be hard for some to stomach.) Note that a lot of the performers here are Lebanese Christians; others are wealthy members of the new upper middle classes in the region, who speak English and sometimes have signed with American labels. They are condemning violence and war and intolerance.

The opera reminds me of the anti-war anthems at Woodstock in the US during the Vietnam War. There hasn't been anything quite like that on this side of the Atlantic. But the Arab world's Joan Baezes and Arlo Guthries are beginning to be heard. I discussed the Kuwait singer Shams's anti-Bush video here. Although some journalists, including the intrepid Helena Cobban, wrote in English about Shams, I don't know of any article about this opera, which is a major cultural event. I couldn't find a mention in Lexis. And, oddly, even a search of the Arabic web turned up no journalism or music criticism of it.

I really don't think that, in the medium term, Dick Cheney can defeat Nancy Ajram in the projection of soft power in the region.

So, with all that background, click only if you are prepared to face graphic violence while listening to a beautiful cry for an end to that violence.

4. Another Person
My friend Kathy, whom I met in the past year, is someone who faces life with a combination of endless curiosity, creativity, and compassion. The torrent of e-mails that pass between us range from the most trivial to the most profound matters. The three broad topics at the heart of it all are politics, spirituality, and relationships. She has not only a lively mind but also a very giving heart. She says nice things to me all the time—to the point of embarrassment—but perhaps this is a chance to repay those compliments.

5. Creation
Blossoms on my very young fruit trees have reaffirmed the promise of life this spring.

—the BB


FranIAm said...

This was just gorgeous to read and revel in, Paul.

A perfect antidote to the anger I felt when reading about McCain.

You are one truly delightful gift of God sir and I am deeply grateful to be in community with you.

Paul said...

The feeling's mutual, Fran. Happy weekend!

I am off to dinner and Lear.

Kirstin said...

Hah, I ignored the whole idea of "recently." A song from 1990 and a book read in summer 1997, that both still sing to me. There we are.

You, my friend, are recent--and are implied in my other answer.

Paul said...

Of course, from my perspective anything from 1990 to today counts as "recent."