The Chosen: Going From “What?” to “Oh!”

In Field of Dreams (1989), Ray takes the pen in his hand to sign over his beloved Iowa farm when his daughter falls from the bleachers. Doc Graham comes to save her, knowing that if he steps off that baseball diamond, his dreams of playing major league baseball will end. He does the right thing, of course, the choking girl lives, and he strides back into that magic cornfield appreciative of his opportunities.

But the most important thing that happens in that moment is the line from Ray’s brother-in-law Mark: “When did these baseball players get here?”

I’ve recently had a similar experience. If you read last week’s post, you will notice my topic is virtually identical. (I know—either it is or it isn’t, a la “literally.”) This one is different because I have known about my topic, The Chosen series, from the beginning. I just hadn’t watched it even after the recommendations of some, the deep insistence of many more.

My reasons seemed logical: I am very particular about images of the Savior. This recent painting by Salustiano Garcia Cruz, for example, has created controversy in Spain and around the world because it depicts a young and unnaturally handsome Jesus. (The link doesn’t show the whole image, which is a good choice, I think.) This link, in contrast, shows the oldest depictions, the last of which is a dark-haired, brown-eyed man who is rather plain. The scripture are clear on the topic: Isaiah 53:2 tells us that there is no comeliness or beauty. Somewhere along the way, pictures became very European, and quite white, discussed briefly here.

My second concern was the language. It was just too modern. They did not use the word “okay” in the first century (first known use 1839.) Or “weaponize” (1957). Not to go on too long, it was just more than I was willing to manage.

It’s not that I was not impressed entirely. I had watched scenes for a few years. For example, when the woman in the marketplace touches the hem of his garment, the event is much more active than I’d imagined. The crowd is pressing hard. There is no way He could have noticed her touch. Rather, it was the fact that power left Him to heal her because of her faith.

And I knew the data: Crowd-funded, wildly popular, authentic history, diverse casting, a SAG exemption to continue filming during the strike. Wikipedia doesn’t do a bad job. This article has more depth and external links to reviews plus explanations of various controversies. The writer, Ajo Romano, has this conclusion:

Therein lies the true power of The Chosen: Its depiction of Christ is pleasing enough to summon this kind of loyalty from fans. But despite the themes it engages with, its avoidance of politics is so deft that it never does the Christlike work of challenging its audience’s concepts of unconditional love, government oppression, and what it means to truly embrace the marginalized.

Still feeling too clinical in my assessment, I decided to go to the theater to see Season 4, Episodes 4-6. It was a 3.5 hour commitment. I was all alone in the place. I was deeply moved several times, to tears. In one (no spoilers), Jesus is watching olives being pressed for oil. There are tears in his eyes, and we can see He knows what is coming. This video connects the process to Gethsemane, a Hebrew word which means “a press of oils.”

So, I’ve apologized to the people to whom I said I was fine to admire it but not watch it. I’ve committed to seeing two episodes tomorrow, and the rest. It’s a personal decision, of course. I was already converted to Christianity (10 years old, in the car, “Christmas is real” experience). Now I can say there is more to know. It’s like going from being a “So what?” convert to a “Now I see!” one. Like all those baseball players who’ve been there all along.

Have you heard of…?

Among my blog themes, one has been all the things in plain sight that I haven’t seen before. This post includes this idea in its first paragraph, to do with wisterias. I wrote a poem about the 2022 (Winter Storm Uri, or Snowmageddon) in which I mention ruby-crowned kinglets. I’d never heard of them—must less seen one—until someone said they flock with chickadees. And there they were, not later, not occasionally. Immediately.

Flora and fauna. What I learned about recently is a sociological phenomenon in New Orleans: Mardi Gras Indians. The story is fascinating.

Since as early as about 1855, members of the African American community in inner-city New Orleans have paraded in their neighborhoods. The purpose is to honor the Native Americans who helped escaped enslaved people. Strictly speaking, it’s not that they were in plain sight because these early marchers didn’t feel they could be included in the mainstream parade.

The costumes cost thousands of dollars in materials alone, with months of design and construction. The beadwork is intricate and beautiful. Feathers abound. This includes a listing of the groups and some of the traditions. Here’s a short documentary about the making of the suit. And a long one. And a song “Iko Iko” associated with the culture.

A natural reaction to such an influx of information is to ask others if they know about a phenomenon. My first question met with a “Never heard of that” but my second was a “No, but that sounds like…” The Choctaw Nation had just ended the long and tragic trek to Oklahoma. In 1847, they gathered funds ($170, or $5000 today) to send to the town of Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, to offer assistance for those suffering in the famine. In 1995, the Irish president, Mary Robinson, came to Oklahoma to the Choctaw Nation, to say thank you. This is a sculpture called Kindred Spirits commemorating the gift.

Other visits followed, and in 2020, when the Navajo and Hopi were hit especially hard by COVID-19, the Irish sent money to them to assist and recall that Choctaw gift from over 150 years before.

Things we know: The concept of “pay it forward.” These phenomena are good representations of the practice, though I’d never heard of the phrase until the film Pay It Forward (2000), an early appearance for Haley Joel Osment, with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, James Caviezel, and Jon Bon Jovi. It’s not a great movie, but the opening scene is riveting. I can’t find it, but I remember someone having a wreck and someone handing her his car keys. And a teacher scene. Here Caviezel saves a woman by asking her to save him, because he owes someone a favor.

Perhaps you’ve heard of all these things. I know people who probably have. Share something with me that you’ll bet I don’t know. Thanks in advance…

Leaning Into Art: Langston Hughes

Recently, I worked on a PowerPoint for a humanities class where I was to be a sub (much easier in college than for 4th graders). The professor had introduced the class to the Harlem Renaissance the week before, so I decided to go further with Langston Hughes’ “A Dream Deferred.”

A PP is a summary, and I won’t try to replicate anything I may have said. College or not, the students are not likely to remember anything other than the experience anyway. The good things about the PP below involve hearing Hughes and others read, plus some modern young slam poets. It was, in fact, students years ago who introduced me to the art and energy of slam.

The passion of slam continues the theme of the other works: motivation. The Matthew McConaughey graduation speech soars in spots, but in my opinion, it’s not art. See what you think…

The PowerPoint is very short, just 6 slides which include the intro page. Consider listening to the shorter works if nothing else.

ART.pptx

 

Zion: Becoming of One Mind and One Heart

Recently, the host of the Commentary podcast, John Podhoretz, burst out, “What does the Left want anyway?!” Because I thought I’d written a blog about the answer, I planned to send it along to him via email, as one does. Nothing. If there was something, I can’t find it and don’t know where else to look. This one on whether science fiction is liberal or conservative (yes) is good but doesn’t answer the question of why. This one is shorter and works on explaining Republicans to Democrats and vice versa. Ironically, it has “Friend” in the title, which can be a challenge for some.

My thinking for some time has been that the Left does know what it wants: a better, fairer, more equitable and more just world.One dear liberal recently responded to whatever it was I was saying, “I think we can do better!” I agree. It’s the “How?” that matters, R or L.

A short history of the term Right, for the culturally-minded: Although it’s tempting to say that the Right is called right because they are correct, that’s not based in fact. The terms left and right come from seating in the French Estates General with the random choice of those wanting to preserve the old ways on the right, the revolutionaries on the left. People know that, but it’s easy to forget; it is a basic explanation but—all things considered—the French Revolution was bloody. La Marseilles (short version) is rousing, but the lyrics are, well, graphic. The citizens are asked to grab their weapons. The enemy is slitting throats. The battlefield will be watered with impure blood. No liberté, égalité, fraternité à la the motto.

A quick switch to Beethoven, about whom I recently presented a paper for The MacMillan Institute alumni conference. The motto for this teacher academy is “Equity through Excellence” and the guiding quotation from Dr. Donald Cowan is “The spirit of learning is marked by JOY!” Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (1:21:22) has a finale which includes his setting of “An die freude” (“Ode to Joy”), a poem by Friedrich Schiller extolling the brotherhood of man. It’s even more rousing than the French anthem. The melody is found in over 400 hymnals. It’s the subject of many flash mobs, this one in Spain. The Muppets. Rousing is probably not the best word, but the music resonates all over the world. The documentary Following the Ninth (2014) takes us to Japan, Chile, Tiananmen Square, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

These are the words of the first stanza, one translation:

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,

Daughter of Elysium,

We enter drunk with fire,

Heavenly One, your sanctuary!

Your magic binds again

What fashion strictly divides;

All men become brothers

Where thy gentle wing dwells.

The key phrase, of course, is “All men become brothers.” This highest of ideals may explain, ironically, why the wordless tune is the anthem of the European Union.

But there’s more. The secondary theme is nothing like the joy melody. In this verse, the rhythm is virtually nonexistent.

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the canopy of stars
must dwell a loving father.

Do you kneel before Him, oh millions?
Do you feel the Creator’s presence?
Seek Him beyond the stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

It doesn’t say God, but in German is lieber Vater, which need not have the capitalized Father in English. Nevertheless, the message is clear: The “kiss” for all humankind must be sought in a higher power.

Next, Zion. These days we are more likely to hear the word in “Zionist.” That can be politicized but means one who longs for a Jewish state. (Also found in other faith traditions as well.) The Israeli national anthem is Hatikvah,” in which the text is concerned with the hope of a return to Zion. Psalm 137 begins with these words: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The Jewish people had been deported to Babylon, and the psalm goes on to say they cannot sing there.

Rather than just another name for Jerusalem, or the Jewish people, Zion has other synonyms, per Merriam-Webster: “the ideal nation or society envisaged by Judaism, heaven, utopia.” Another way to think of it is “the pure in heart.” This talk discusses the origins of this concept that an ancient prophet named Enoch built a city named Zion “because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” Utopia means “no place.” Zion, therefore, is its opposite. A real place, a real people, who are no longer on the Earth because God took the city to Himself.

Realizing that this could go on for quite a while, I will summarize. The joy that Beethoven idealized finds evidence in the word “Zion.” The concept of “being better” is important, indeed the goal for all. It seems the goal for the Left (equity and justice would result in no poverty). The government is not the answer, however.

From what Schiller envisions, and with the understanding that the world is a difficult and dark place, it is only possible to achieve Zion with a people of one mind. The result (no poverty, for example) is the goal. Achieving the ideal of unity in purpose and action may be impossible without divine guidance.

It is possible to conceive of something beyond God for that end, however. We must turn anciently for more. The Egyptian goddess of truth, justice, and harmony was named Maat. However, “Maat represents the ethical and moral principle that all Egyptian citizens were expected to follow throughout their daily lives. They were expected to act with honor and truth in matters that involve family, the community, the nation, the environment, and the gods.” This podcast discusses how the entire universe is based on these ideals, that the importance of rightness keeps the universe out of chaos.

The conclusion is that the ideal is right, the method of implementation is personal, and it would work. My political vision is that the government cannot make it work. Examples of its failures to do so abound. The War on Poverty, for example, was a catastrophe according to this Forbes article. A slightly left-leaning source, I’ll add. Let’s at some point discuss ways that we can become more of one mind. Maat’s symbol is the ostrich feather, by which she judges the goodness of our hearts. Perhaps we could start there.

 

Zion: Becoming of One Heart and One Mind

Recently, the host of the Commentary podcast, John Podhoretz, burst out, “What does the Left want anyway?!” No one could do anything but mutter. Because I thought I’d written a blog about the answer, I planned to send it along to him via email, as one does. Nothing. If there was something, I can’t find it and don’t know where else to look. This one on whether science fiction is liberal or conservative (yes) is good but doesn’t answer the question of why. This one is shorter and works on explaining Republicans to Democrats and vice versa. Ironically, it has “Friend” in the title, which can be a challenge for some.

My thinking for some time has been that the Left does know what it wants: a better, fairer, more equitable and more just world. (Although it’s tempting to say that the Right are correct, that’s not based in fact.) The terms left and right come from seating in the French Estates General with the random choice of those wanting to preserve the old ways on the right, the revolutionaries on the left. People know that, but it’s easy to forget; it is a basic explanation but—all things considered—the French Revolution was bloody. La Marseilles (short version) is rousing, but the lyrics are, well, graphic. The citizens are asked to grab their weapons. The enemy is slitting throats. The battlefield will be watered with impure blood. No liberté, égalité, fraternité à la the motto.

One dear liberal recently responded to whatever it was I was saying, “I think we can do better!” I agree. It’s the “How?” that matters, R or L.

A quick switch to Beethoven, about whom I recently presented for The MacMillan Institute alumni conference. The motto for this teacher academy is “Equity through Excellence” and the guiding quotation from Dr. Donald Cowan is “The spirit of learning is marked by JOY!” Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (1:21:22) has a finale which includes his setting of “An die freude” (“Ode to Joy”), a poem by Friedrich Schiller extolling the brotherhood of man. It’s even more rousing than the French anthem. The melody is found in over 400 hymnals. It’s the subject of many flash mobs, this one in Spain. The Muppets. Rousing is probably not the best word, but the music resonates all over the world. The documentary Following the Ninth (2014) takes us to Japan, Chile, Tiananmen Square, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

These are the words of the first stanza, one translation:

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,

Daughter of Elysium,

We enter drunk with fire,

Heavenly One, your sanctuary!

Your magic binds again

What fashion strictly divides;

All men become brothers

Where thy gentle wing dwells.

 

The key phrase, of course, is “All men become brothers.” This highest of ideals may explain, ironically, why the tune is only the anthem of the European Union.

But there’s more. The secondary theme is nothing like the joy melody. In this verse, the rhythm is virtually nonexistent.

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the canopy of stars
must dwell a loving father.

Do you kneel before Him, oh millions?
Do you feel the Creator’s presence?
Seek Him beyond the stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

It doesn’t say God, but in German is lieber Vater, which need not have the capitalized Father in English. Nevertheless, the message is clear: The “kiss” for all humankind must be sought in a higher power.

Next, Zion. These days we are more likely to hear the word in “Zionist.” That can be politicized but means one who longs for a Jewish state. (Also found in other faith traditions as well.) The Israeli national anthem is Hatikvah,” in which the text is concerned with the hope of a return to Zion. Psalm 137 begins with these words: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The Jewish people had been deported to Babylon, and the psalm goes on to say they cannot sing there.

Rather than just another name for Jerusalem, or the Jewish people, Zion has other synonyms, per Merriam-Webster: “the ideal nation or society envisaged by Judaism, heaven, utopia.” Another way to think of it is “the pure in heart.” This talk discusses the origins of this concept that an ancient prophet named Enoch built a city named Zion “because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” Utopia means “no place.” Zion, therefore, is its opposite. A real place, a real people, who are no longer on the Earth because God took the city up.

Realizing that this could go on for quite a while, I will summarize. The joy that Beethoven idealized finds evidence in the word “Zion.” The concept of “being better” is important, indeed the goal for all. It seems the goal for the Left (equity and justice would result in no poverty). The “how” is, then, the issue.

From what Schiller envisions, and with the understanding that the world is a difficult and dark place, it is only possible to achieve Zion with a people of one mind. The result (no poverty, for example) is the goal. Achieving the ideal of unity in purpose and action may be impossible without divine guidance.

It is possible to conceive of something beyond God for that end, however. We must turn anciently for more. The Egyptian goddess of truth, justice, and harmony was named Maat. However, “Maat represents the ethical and moral principle that all Egyptian citizens were expected to follow throughout their daily lives. They were expected to act with honor and truth in matters that involve family, the community, the nation, the environment, and the gods.” This podcast discusses how the entire universe is based on these ideals, that the importance of rightness keeps the universe out of chaos.

The conclusion is that the ideal is right, the method of implementation is personal, and it would work. My political vision is that the government cannot make it work. Examples of its failures to do so abound. The War on Poverty, for example, was a catastrophe according to this Forbes article. A slightly left-leaning source, I’ll add. Let’s discuss later ways that we can become more of one mind. Maat’s symbol is the ostrich feather, by which she judges the goodness of our hearts. Perhaps we could start there.