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Dear Friends,

 

Myth is generally dismissed as wishful thinking, these days, childish, not very important, not very useful, not very efficient, not very accurate, not very straightforward, not at all clear as to what it is talking about.

 

Many people put religious faith in the same category as myth.

 

On the other hand, there is an understanding that there is some objective realness, some empirical trueness, some authentic genuineness, that stands outside of our minds and can be observed as stable and predictable and reliably “true” always and everywhere.

 

Conventional thinking understands myth and reality as opposites, myth false, and reality, true.

 

The assumption that we can speak of our world with absolute confidence, if we stick to the facts is, just that, an assumption, in my opinion and experience.

 

I am always amazed when I sit on a plane that it actually takes off, stays in the air and lands without failing out of the sky, especially when it gets bumpy.

 

The Boeing 747 is my favorite plane, it is a massive combination of materials that has taken off and landed thousands of times just as the designers and builders and pilots and passengers have expected that it would.

 

I am glad and delighted that we have those facts that keep a 747 exactly where it should be at all times.

 

There are other, many other facts that keep our lives reasonably stable and predictable and happy, but in regard to that Boeing 747 what if one of our ancient ancestors hadn’t noticed the inclination that we human beings have for playing God, our hubris, the arrogance that we display at times, and didn’t have the imagination to tell a story with a character named Daedalus?

 

In the story about human hubris and overestimation of our capabilities, Daedalus is that ancient Athenian architect, engineer, and project design manager who had created for his king a labyrinth.

 

A labyrinth is an endlessly meandering but very precise path that takes you through chaos to clarity, only to return you to chaos again. As the Daedalus story goes he and his son Icarus fall out of the king’s good graces and need to flee for their lives.

 

So, what if Daedalus and his son Icarus hadn’t tried to escape the kings armies by attaching feathers to their arms with wax?

 

And what if Icarus had not flown too close to the sun and the wax hadn’t melted?

 

And what if people didn’t tell that story when they saw human beings get uppity and over confident and tell of Icarus flying too close to the sun and the wax melting 5 or 6 hundred years before Christ?

 

And what if Leonardo da Vinci hadn’t read the story of Icarus’ fate and tried to design a flying machine that would not fall apart when it got too close to the sun?

 

And what if the Wright brothers had not got that contraption of theirs off the ground?

 

Would we even know what a 747 is?

 

Sure, we would, someone somewhere would have been inspired by another story filled with the intuition that humans could fly.

 

There are what we call “facts,” actual details of “reality,” that many take for granted but I think are essentially myths.

 

We have difficulty acknowledging that they are not really true because we have built traditions, morals, behaviors, values, institutions on what we have collectively agreed is “reality.”

 

We make a contract with one another to agree that some things are real when, in fact, they are not.

 

Take for example the following very powerful myths made facts.

 

Women are not as capable as men in making good decisions, enduring suffering, living with ambiguity, sustaining stamina because women are seductive, seeking to weaken men.

 

Fact? Myth? 

 

Race, ethnicity, gender, nationality are reliable predictors of intelligence, trustworthiness, libido, honesty, faithfulness. (Please notice that I did not say success because success is pretty reliably defined by the dominant group and when you put race, ethnicity, gender, and nationality there will ALWAYS be a dominant group.)

 

Facts? Myths?

 

If you want security and peace, you must have a strong military.

World War II was a unique example of the necessity of military force to “secure the peace” but is it a universal truth?

 

The last 70 years have seen the development of weapons and armaments and armies of all kinds but do we have peace? Americans carry more guns that many armies do but do we have a sense of security in our cities and towns and churches and schools and movie theaters?

 

Truth? Myth? 

 

I offer this just to give you what may be food for thought this Lent. You don’t have to agree with me at all but we really don’t know all that we need to know, we really don’t.

 

Peace,

Father Niblick

 

ADULT FAITH FORMATION LENT 2018

 

The first two artists that we will look at, Paul Klee (b1879) and Alberto Giacometti (b1901) both born in Switzerland.

 

But first a word about brothels.

 

From my very amateur study of art and artists, it seems to me that many artists are filled with lots of erotic and sexual energy, I think all truly creative people are highly sensitive to beauty and erotically aroused to create.

 

Brothels were respected, important institutions in the cities of Europe through the 19th century that lasted up to the mid 20th century. They offered places for men and women and men and men to meet that ensured a level of respect and safety for the prostitutes and their clients both on equal footing (it was, perhaps, the crowning achievement of patriarchy and it gave the prostitutes especially the women freedoms unknown outside of the brothel).

 

They were normal parts of many men’s lives from adolescence to late adulthood as places not only for sex but conversations with like minds and places where ideas about art and music and politics could be shared between the older men and younger men and women without the restrictions of social class, gender, or academic standing.

 

We are not going to be spending a lot of time talking about brothels and prostitution but it is important to note that painting, sculpture, music, dance, literature and drama were radically changing in the 19th century and these changes laid the foundation for what we experience as normal and typical today.

 

The “secularity” that many believe challenges religion and religious faith, in part, was born in the artistic creations that resulted from the new and welcome atmosphere of acceptance of human experience, especially the human experience of sexual passion.

 

These changes challenged the ideas of classical thinking about the human person and human self-awareness.

 

The shame associated with the human body and human passion and that expression of passion began to fade as a factor in human relationships, in part, due to the egalitarian, open atmosphere of the brothels.

 

The dominant role of the Roman Catholic Church is shaping culture, cultural mores, and relegating human sexuality to the utilitarian function of reproduction was ending.

 

We know that Giacometti almost daily frequented a large Parisian brothel, the same one frequented by Edourad Manet and many other artists of all disciplines.  

 

Paul Klee didn’t marry until he was 26, so we can only assume that brothels figured into his life as they would in the typical young man’s life of his age and social/educational status as the logistics of dating were not what they are today.

 

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