Friday, December 09, 2016

Time's Man of the Year

For the last couple of days I've been engaged in an online, group analysis of the subtle, and not-so-subtle meanings of Time Magazine's cover naming Donald Trump as "Person of the Year." One of my Facebook friends linked to an article on the web site by Jake Romm which makes some observations worth commenting on.

Ever since ancient times images have been used to magnify or malign rulers. Napoleon's official portrait artist Jacques David depicted the Emperor seated on a throne and looking, not just regal but downright divine.

The article points out that the cover image image has a nostalgic "kodachrome" feel to it. That makes sense. If you boil Trumps campaign message down to its essence, it was about the past. And who doesn't love the idea of going back in time? Almost everyone has some romantic, nostalgic longing for some lost period of their person past, or for a bygone era of history. Trumps campaign slogan was brilliant; instead of evoking an ethereal notion of "hope" or "belief" in an unknown future, it rouses our longings for our lost past. Every day we saw it on the news; "Make America Great Again." And everyday we were reminded of the notion that things used to be better than they are now. Of course, it's not true. Things weren't really better, except in each voter's subjective imagination.

The article goes on to discuss the iconography of being seated in such a way that the chair becomes a symbolic throne. Important personages, from Hitler to Lincoln have been represented in this way.

In Romm's analysis he sees Trump as look back at the viewer with a conspiratorial wink. I see it a little differently. We, the viewers have come up on him from behind and he is not pleased. The ones to whom he intends to present himself are out in front of him. We are have approached him from his back side where he is unguarded and vulnerable. He casts an irritated, disapproving, and threatening glance in our direction. We're not supposed to see him from this angle. The chair, which would seem appropriately ostentatious from the front, looks worn and fragile on the back side. This is an uncomfortable position that can't be held for long. He will soon have to turn back towards his intended audience.

The back of the chair is emblazoned with three palm branches. The iconography of palm branches relates to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Of course the triumphal entry of Jesus was short lived. Within a few days he was crucified. It is not hard to imagine Trump believing himself to be a messianic figure and perhaps even one who is headed for martyrdom. But the symbolism connected with the palm branches goes back to ancient Rome and Greece where palm branches were used to celebrate conquests. Palm branches grow from the top of a high, towering trunk. Trump's Towers can be found all over the world. 

I acknowledge that much of this could be coincidence. I could be reading things into this image that are not there. But are the two devilish horns projecting from Trumps head coincidental? No way. Time's editors claim that this has been an ongoing issue with the "M" in "TIME" Creating the appearance of horns on the various personages who've been featured on their covers over the years. But their protestation is really an admission that they knew what they were doing. No coincidence. 

Monday, May 02, 2016

An Impractical Prophet

There is one consistent criticism that I've heard throughout my life, again and again; "It's Impossible." Spiritual visionaries and progressive political political pioneers who envision a better world are dismissed as being "impractical" and "unrealistic."  Father Daniel Berrigan died last week at the age of 94. He spent his life as an advocate of the impossible, unrealistic, impractical ideals of the Kingdom of God.

In our contemporary world elected representatives generally fail to see any further down the road than their next reelection campaigns. Business leaders and Wall Street investors think in terms of riding bubbles for a year or two and then cashing in before the bubble bursts. There are few visionaries in the realms of politics or economics who have the courage to take a long-term, multi-generational view of things. We are a generation who've been trained to expect and require immediate, instant results. We "zap" our microwaved lunches in three minutes and web pages are loaded onto our monitors from halfway across the world in mere seconds. The concept of deferred gratification seems like some musty left-over from our puritanical past. And the idea of making present sacrifices for the sake of future generations strains the limits of our imaginations.

But people like Danial Berrigan remind us that there are realities that transcend our brief, ephemeral moment of incarnation. Danial lived his life in the larger dimensions of an evolutionary process which his fellow Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin  called "cosmogenisis."

Berrigan and Chardin understood what awakened souls of every spiritual tradition have understood; that our individual lives are but precious, fleeting moments; that the tenure of our civilization is but an imperfect, faltering, infantile phase in an incomprehensibly expansive developmental process of the divine-human-planetary project. They understood their own lives as unique opportunities; not just as a short-sighted opportunistic chance to consume as many goodies as a lifetime affords, but as an opportunity to engage in co-creation. 

Enlightened beings such Berrigan don't expect immediate results. He surrendered his life; he lived by faith, offering himself as a sacrifice, throwing himself; his creative energy into an incomprehensible future that he knew as "The Kingdom of God."  He partook of "the age to come."  He knew that next phase of evolution is the process of Christo-genesis would carry us towards into increasing love of God and neighbor. He understood the need to live in reference to a transcendent dimension of reality, that we have not yet supplanted either biogenesis or the phase of egocentric acquisition and consumption. Berrigan understood that Christo-genesis, Christ in us moves us toward, uniting all consciousness, all humankind and the life of our planet in unity with God.

In this expansive view of the future, humans will be raised to the position of co-creators of complexity-consciousness, and to our self-awareness as the cosmic-Christ.  By living his life forward into the a seemingly impractical, unrealistic, impossible future, discernible only through the eyes of faith, Berrigan participated in the creation of that future. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Relevance of the Impossible 

Why the Idealism of Bernie Sanders is Exactly What America Needs

by Doug Holdread