Laudato Si’, finally released this morning in Rome, is a remarkable 183-page document, incredibly rich—it’s not dense, but it is studded with aphorisms and insights. This marks the first time that a person of great authority in our global culture has fully recognized the scale and depth of our crisis, and the consequent necessary rethinking of what it means to be human.
When a Republican politician, asked about climate change, says, “I’m not a scientist,” most of us hear just a cowardly way of dodging the question; but the politician’s supporters hear a brave defiance of an alien force. They summon a courage not to know. Even when Pope Francis’s new encyclical on climate change introduces a concern for the poor into the environmental discussion, conservative Catholics will think him nice but naive, and suspect the Devil fooled him.
I’ve felt at home in cities as diverse and foreign to me as Barcelona, Krakow, Mexico City, and Sarajevo. All I need is a street full of people and I’m happy. Like most of our habits, my love of street life has its origins in my childhood. I was lonely and miserable, but was not always bored, and at times almost happy seeing so many strange and interesting things. If anything made me who I am, living like a vagrant in the streets did.
There are numerous uncertainties about what will happen on November 8 of 2016, but one thing is not in doubt: it will be a very peculiar election, and not just because there are, as of now, so many candidates. It’s also that some candidates were running before they announced. And it will almost certainly be the most expensive election in history, with the wealthiest in the land able to have more influence than ever.
The Arab Spring is now on the verge of turning into an Islamic fundamentalist winter, whether we like it or not. With Arab money and persuasion, al-Qaeda’s Syrian and Yemeni branches have changed profoundly and are gaining capacity for local governance. However distasteful the jihadist ideology behind them, these efforts suggest an alternative that may be considerably less threatening than the Islamic State.
Many propaganda films produced under the aegis of the National Socialist Party, including some forty movies made between 1933 and 194, are still illegal to show publicly in Germany, except in an approved academic setting. What Forbidden Films, Felix Moeller’s excellent documentary, seeks to answer is the question of whether these films are not only chemically but politically incendiary—and whether they should continue to be banned.
Should a ballet be about something? Wayne McGregor’s new ballet, Woolf Works, which is derived from, or based on—the verbs being precisely the problem—three novels by Virginia Woolf, recently premiered at Covent Garden in London. It is a brilliant, uneven, tender piece—and it offers one way of thinking about this constant conundrum for the art of ballet.
The arrest of the six Baltimore officers might have provided an opportunity for the kinds of reform that would prevent the abuse or death of future Freddie Grays. But by failing to match prosecution with LEOBR reform, the officer’s indictment and possible conviction is likely to be little more than a symbolic act of accountability to calm fed-up African-Americans.
How is it possible that even when I know nothing about a novelist’s life I find, on reading his or her book, that I am developing an awareness of the writer that is quite distinct from my response to the work? Literary genius is the ability to draw readers into one’s own world of feeling, with all its nuance and complexity, and to force them to position themselves in relation to you.
There’s some irony in celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the British defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, given Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum within two years to decide if Britain should leave the European Union. Nevertheless, Britain has got Waterloo fever.