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The Lion of Saint Mark and This Most Serene Republic

The Lion of Saint Mark and This Most Serene Republic

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
You don’t have to be a Marxist to notice the often astonishing overlap between big money and big religion. Nor to be somewhat shocked by the bigness of the whole affair. Consider the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, one of the most popular and most-densely populated tourist destinations in Italy, nearly rivaling its much larger cousin in Rome. It is a striking monument in every way, not least for the bizarre mish-mash of architectural elements and artistic styles that define this most funky profile.

The Christian—Pagan Mix-and-Match

The Christian—Pagan Mix-and-Match

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University…..
After Christmas and Easter, what’s the most important Christian holiday? It’s not really a very Protestant question—since you need saints and Mary, and the whole ritual calendar they entail, to pose it—and even in the Catholic or Orthodox Christian world it depends very much on where you put the question. In Greece the question has a pretty clear answer: it’s August 15, the feast day of the “All-Holy” (Panagia) Virgin Mary. And in Rome it’s equally clear: it was June 29, the Feast of Peter and Paul.

What Makes The Saintly?

What Makes The Saintly?

Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr…..
What makes a saint a saint? This may seem like an odd question with an obvious answer, but really it is not. It’s no easier to capture the saintliness of the saint than it is to capture the secret magic of the magician, the inspiring musical power of the muse, or the prophetic power of the prophet. But it’s worth the attempt. The question bears extra weight just now, as Pope Benedict XVI has initiated the process whereby his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II, will be recognized one day as a saint. The previous Pope’s beatification on May 1st was celebrated with great pomp and circumstance, reminiscent of the more somber ritual attached to his death in 2004.

It’s Elemental

It’s Elemental

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr…..
An important set of referenda was offered to the consideration of the Italian people on June 12th; the results were fascinating, and potentially instructive. The referendum invited the populaJune ce to reflect on three seemingly unrelated matters: 1) whether to pursue nuclear power as a new energy source; 2) whether to privatize the water management in the country; and 3) whether to undo the several legislative protections that Silvio Berlasconi had set in place to protect himself from what he deemed punitive and politically motivated legal proceedings directed at an administration that seems now merely to limp helplessly along from scandal to scandal.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, 1915-2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor, 1915-2011

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
At the ripe age of “eighteen and three quarters” (his words), Paddy Fermor decided to take a long walk, in lieu of attending university. He determined to travel by foot from the Hook of Holland all the way to Istanbul (a city he always imagined Greek-ly, and referred to stubbornly as “Constantinople” or “Byzantium,” its first name as a Greek colony). The trip took some years, and it gave both flavor and form to the rest of his extraordinarily long and extraordinarily creative life. But he did not begin to publish his reflections on the journey until fully forty years later, and that generational lapse between a youthful excursion and a mature reminiscence is a central feature in what makes his writing so singular, and the genre he created so difficult to define.

Savage Beauty

Savage Beauty

By Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr…..
On the day after Osama bin Laden’s unexpected death was announced by the US President, a fascinating new exhibition was previewed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Entitled “Savage Beauty,” it bore more than a casual relevance to the city’s attempt to grasp the right tone in the twinned face of this assassination and the upcoming decennial commemoration of the September 11th attacks. Naturally, that strange-sounding juxtaposition needs some explanation. It has something to do with the sacred. That is to say, it has something to do with an important aesthetic and religious category very popular among the Romantics: the Sublime.

Pondering The Face Of Ground Zero

Pondering The Face Of Ground Zero

Louis A Ruprecht, Jr., Georgia State University….
God knows it’s understandable, the tumultuous range of sentiments. I felt it too, uncertain how to feel exactly, and unsure what I’d come expecting to find. The havoc created here was beyond describing, and the grief of shattered human lives multiplied by the tens of thousands brings us very close to the sacred place where language fails to capture the essences. Tears have been more eloquent in the past, and now, perhaps, a raised fist or two. As I picked up to leave, one image on the screen suddenly caught the attention: It was the Statue of Liberty, but this goddess was not holding the flame of liberty aloft; she was holding Osama bin Laden’s severed head.

Red Riding Hood Arouses Man’s Inner (Were)Wolf

Red Riding Hood Arouses Man’s Inner (Were)Wolf

By Louis A Ruprecht….
We know, for example, that werewolves are shape-shifters, much like vampires, though they are their sworn, almost genetically-determined enemy. But recently we’ve learned that they can also make treaties and commit themselves to truces, fragile though they inevitably are. Vampires and werewolves can have common enemies (like witches), articulate common purpose (survival, most obviously), or strive heroically and movingly against their natural antipathies. Their relationship looks a lot like the dance between capitalists and communists in the waning years of Soviet power. “Trust but verify” is their watchword. And now this mysterious figure has come out of our collective dream-world once again, hard on the trail of a no-longer-little Red Riding Hood in Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, released earlier this month.

Art, Sex, and Censorship—Washington Style

Art, Sex, and Censorship—Washington Style

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
Given the complex and sometimes sordid blending of religion and sexuality in this culture, the debate morphed significantly in late November 2010—just after the elections, be sure to note—from sex to religion. That is to say, from a debate about the virtues of exhibiting a show devoted to gay and lesbian sexuality, into a debate about obscenity, blasphemy, as well as varying perceptions of religious offense in a religiously diverse democracy such as our own.

The Super Bowl As Epic

The Super Bowl As Epic

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
No, this year the story really was in the game. That seems relevant to anyone interested in the curious and complex trajectories of the sacred in contemporary American culture. As Gary Laderman has argued, in his book Sacred Matters, professional sports, to the degree that they contribute to our contemporary cult of celebrity, are bearers of profound spiritual resonance. But they are also highly complex choreographed events, what the student of religion is trained to see as ritual.

How Hard The Hearing

How Hard The Hearing

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
In an interview with Mother Theresa, not long before she passed away, the topic of her own prayer life came up. The interviewer clearly wanted to know how a real spiritual adept prayed–and with such apparent spiritual efficacy. Her answer showed her to be a true adept: “Mostly, I just listen,” she smiled. I’ve been thinking about that strange confluence–of praying, speaking and listening–as I’ve watched current events continue to unfold in Egypt (and Yemen, and Tunisia) in the past week.

The Sacred Artist Stands Alone

The Sacred Artist Stands Alone

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr….
In short, Enrique Celaya is deeply interested in the realm of the sacred. Hence his creation of “Whale & Star” as a place where scientific enquiry and contemplative community mutually inform and inspire.
An essential part of Celaya’s studio is a library-and-lounge where he conducts most of his interviews. He reads widely in Continental philosophy and literature. Nietzsche and Heidegger, Thoreau and Melville, William Blake and Anton Chekhov, are all central interlocutors and inspirations for the work. And always, always, there are echoes of central biblical paradigms, never quite raised to the level of explicit

On Self, the Spirit and Creativity

On Self, the Spirit and Creativity

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr.
Deren was born in Kiev, but was raised in Syracuse, New York. She studied literature, especially the Symbolist poets, first at Syracuse University, then later at NYU and Smith College. It was in New York that she got involved both in radical politics and in modern dance. Even then, it would seem, Maya Deren understood art to be a form of radical politics and an experiment in radical religious vision. She eventually landed on film as the medium best suited to her own expansive visions, and she began making a number of important short films in an explosively creative period that began in 1946 and lasted until roughly 1951.

Three Faiths, Yes, But Out of How Many?

Three Faiths, Yes, But Out of How Many?

The show, which has been assembled entirely out of gorgeous manuscripts from the Library’s own vast holdings, is intended to offset the more regrettable interreligious energies unleashed by this so-called (and somewhat poorly named) Mosque Controversy. The exhibit is designed to remind its visitors that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a great deal, and it manages to do so while avoiding seeming preachy, or by cheating to making things seem rosier and more peaceable than in fact they are. Instead, the show offers the visitor a remarkable walking tour through sacred geography, religious history, and even the history of the technologies of the written word.