Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Biblical Angels and Celluloid Fantasies

Perhaps this is an image of actress Naomi Watts testing her Antigravitarian powers:

Or maybe it's just another altered photo of a Hollywood dream girl.

Either way, why doesn't this image shock? Why does it seem almost natural to portrait a beautiful movie star in a supernatural pose?

Because, I think, we've developed a subconscious tendency to replace, to some degree, the angels of our religious traditions with the celluloid fantasies of today. Certainly it's not that much of a stretch between heavenly messengers who visit earth and earthly luminaries who look just heavenly.

See what I mean? The main difference being, of course, that Ms. Watts is here displaying a lot more leg than your traditional presentations of Biblical angels. Which will strike many observers as a pretty good thing.

Of course, not every winged star possesses such visual charms. I don't mean to pick on Tiny Fey, but . . .


Antigravity Dreams in Contemporary Chinese Cinema

Humanity's communal dream life is haunted by a sense of flying. Yes, you must be able to remember those nightly visions in which your body has floated free of gravity, letting you soar through the sky with a magical power that's both thrilling and taken for granted.

As has been pointed out by any number of observers, experiencing films shares a good deal in common with dreaming dreams, so it should come as no surprise that floating and flying feature largely in contemporary cinema. For reasons related to their long obsession with mystical martial arts, the Chinese are particularly likely to portray the human body as an Antigravitarian object.

I'll allow stills taken from one recent Chinese martial arts movie to represent and dramatize this trend. The movie is Zhang Yimou's Hero, which was released in 2002 and stars a perfect cast that includes Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung, Jet Li, and Zhang Ziyi.

Here in Hero, the special effects suggest that you can slough off gravity at will, as you might dead skin, which always makes for a very satisfying fantasy experience:

Unfortunately, fascism appears to triumph at the end of Hero, which mars the movie badly. For fascism is not an Antigravitarian form of government. In fact, it's got the worst kind of gravity written all over it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Little Light Doggerel


If you act like St. Jerome,
beating heart with nasty stone,
you will never be happy,
wretched child of gravity.

Rise up, then, and greet the day,
throwing nasty stone away.
Let your heart and lips both smile.
Play with Antigravity a while!


Fashion World in Hair-Raising Struggle Against Gravity


Today'sTimes tells the tale
with pictorial precision:

Well, this is a consolation, I suppose.
The stock market may be down,
but feminine hair is enjoying
an unexpected ascendancy,
proving that the struggle
against gravity persists,
even in hard times.


Monday, February 16, 2009

An Infernal Problem

If death is the most potent manifestation of gravity on earth, then the general resurrection at the end of time is the most potent manifestation of Antigravity. Here is one portrayal of that resurrection by Hieronymus Bosch, as painted in the year 1485:

Of course, the story of the last judgment continues to develop from the moment captured by Bosch, for the reanimated bodies that are here seen rising from their graves have yet to be assigned to their eternal dwelling places in either heaven or hell.

Heaven, as we know, represents the great goal and ultimate reward of all spiritual striving. But what about hell? Isn't it enough that we have to age and die? Do some of us really have to face the prospect of ceaseless damnation?

Alas, in the cruel vision of almost all world religions, some of us do. Yes, hell waits for unrepentant sinners, and for them gravity will carry a force far more malignant than any ever experienced on earth. Down, down, down (it is said) they will go, and from hell there is no exit or return. Thus Hans Memling's painting of the year 1472:

The social psychology behind hell is pretty obvious. Once certain kinds of organized religion gets their hooks into you, they count on your fear of hell to keep you where you are -- in a weak, fearful, and submissive faith. And that's why you should never trust anyone who aims to gain control over your life by exploiting your fear of eternal punishment.

The fact is, our great concern in this lifetime should be to ameliorate earthly hells, not to become obsessed with visions of postmortem infernos.

But doesn't the very existence of earthly hells suggest that visions of Satan's realm represent something very real? I would answer that question by echoing a bit of medieval Christian mystical wisdom: "Nothing burns in hell but the ego."

And when the illusory nature of the ego is finally and universally realized, hell will just have to close up shop. It and all its horrors will -- poof! -- be gone forever.

Now that, by my lights, is the real true faith.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Antigravity Mania



Antigravity Mania Sweeps
Judeo-Christian Tradition!

Feast for the Eyes
With Guaranteed Full-Color
Semi-Exclusive Illustrations!

Wide Variety of Pious
Antigravitational Poses!

See Floating Figures
(No Strings Attached) in
Cosmic Drama Stretching From
Creation of World to End of Time!

Key Points in Salvation History
of Planet Earth Represented
in Chronological Order!

No Commercial Interruptions
or Requests for Donations!

(For Best Viewing, Kindly Click on These
Smaller Images to Reveal Larger Images.)

Michelangelo's "Third Day of Creation"
(detail, Sistine Chapel)
Genesis 1: 11-13

Giordano's "Dream of Solomon"
I Kings 3: 5-13

Angeli's "Elijah Taken Up in a Chariot of Fire"
II Kings 2: 11

Giordano's "Fall of the Rebel Angels"
Isaiah 14: 12-15, Revelation 12: 7-8

Lorenzo Lotto's "Anunciation" (detail)
Luke 1: 35 (& elsewhere)

Raphael's "Transfiguration"
Matthew 17: 1-3 (& elsewhere)

Chagall's "White Crucifixion"
(detail, with extra-canonical
figures floating above cross)
Matthew 27 (& elsewhere)

Gruenewald's "Resurrection"
Matthew 28 (& elsewhere)

"Ascension" from Saint Honore
de Thuison Monastery, Abbeville, France
Acts of the Apostles 1:9 (& elsewhere)

Michelangelo's "Conversion of St. Paul" (detail)
Acts of the Apostles 9: 3-8

Charonton's "Coronation of the Virgin"
(unattested in Scripture)

Memling's "St. John the Evangelist
on the Isle of Patmos"
Revelation 1: 9-11 (& throughout)

Bosch's "Last Judgment"
Book of Revelation 20: 11-13
(with a lot of extra nuts & bolts
thrown in for good measure)

That's all for today, folks!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Sweet Lightness of Valentine's Day

When covering the Antigravity beat, you're bound to encounter messiahs, angels, gods, and saints, and this being St. Valentine's Day, I thought it wise to trot out the appropriate figure, with Antigravitational angels in attendance.

This image then, painted by Jacobo Bassano in or around 1575, shows St. Valentine baptizing St. Lucilla:

Admittedly, this is not everyone's idea of a romantic interlude, but let it be noticed that the angels hovering over this scene are extremely cupid-like (see my post of 12/25/08 by clicking here), and though Valentine did not, as near as we can tell, lead a sexually indulgent life before embarking on his career as a model of Christian virtue, his feast day, which the world has adopted as a celebration of earthly love, is said to mark the beginning of mating season for birds.

The latter claim holds some local interest for me, since I heard the mourning doves in my lady love's garden start cooing just two days ago--for the first time this year. Such song would suggest that some billing and other intimate behavior have begun to happen here in the borough of Brooklyn, as they may well have done in your neighborhood as well. At least in the northern hemisphere, the days lengthen, and the building of nests and the flowering of crocuses cannot be far away. So thanks again, St. Valentine: You do make a happy marker on our calendars.

As for St. Lucilla, she seems to have been a fairly run-of-the-mill martyr, which doesn't necessarily mean that her soul ascended to heaven in a run-of-the-mill sort of way. Martyrdom, let us remember, was considered a great blessing during Christianity's early centuries, for it guaranteed eternal life in celestial realms. (Does any of this sound familiar?) To reach back a bit to the mourning doves and the lyrics to a sentimental 19th-century song, Lucilla must have been happy to feel her spirit "pluming for flight."

Farewell gravity, hello heaven. What more could you ask for?

P.S. Sweet greetings to lovers everywhere. Please remember that true love is forever kind and courteous, speaking no word in callousness or wrath.