A subtle but not so subtle hard hitting gospel (A review)
Did Joss Whedon just write a show?
At least that’s what I thought while I was at New Life earlier tonight. Christ in the Concrete City, thankfully, isn’t a gore-fest with the crucifixion at its epicenter. Evangelism as a hard sell is tough enough in a world that often demands substance and reason. The show is riddled with snark and wit in all the right places. It quotes scripture. It also takes us to an arresting place where we realize we’re laughing at ourselves. The adaptations bring about the relevance of Jesus in these present times and without awkward over-Filipinized nuance. Just brilliant.
Written by Philip Turner in the mid-1950’s, the material has been modified for cultural relevance. English and Tagalog are used alternately with ease all through out the show. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll go ahead and talk about what the show talked about.
As I mentioned, the material didn’t glorify the obvious, the obvious being the death of Jesus Christ by way of blood and gore. Instead, it put the banal on the spotlight. The show opened with Joan Osbourne’s “One Of Us,” duly presenting its theme.
The show takes us to other places behind the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. It touches on the crowd anticipating the execution of the “King of Jews.” It explores what it’s like have a job that includes nailing a human being. It gives a brief glimpse of Pilate’s insight (with brilliant subtlety) during the trial. It also takes us to where we are now, when we hardly think about the gravity of someone undressing his godly likeness just to die for creation’s sake.
Christ in the Concrete City poses questions that force us to wonder about our lives but not in a way that asks where we’ll end up when we die. As the cast takes the audience between modern and Biblical times, the eras disappear as they blur the difference between spectator and sinner. A lot of us were raised in upbringings that make us out to be saints and free from all error, but this isn’t the case. We tend to forget that we’re imperfect and we tend to let the baseline of our lives nestle in the safe, unassuming position that says “we didn’t do anything wrong” and convinces itself that “I’m a good person.” We have to constantly check on how we live and we think, and how we regard ourselves should not shelve itself into general goodness and merely being “okay.” This is how the the message of the show did not hit hard on sinners and sinfulness. The subtlety hints that there is something wrong in thinking that there is nothing wrong with us. I think that this is the biggest, most self-inflicting denial that can lead to certain demise. This is where Jesus is supposed to come in and save the day, but it doesn’t work that way either.
Jesus said “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I think this is what the cast of Christ in the Concrete City accomplished. I hope they open more shows.
Christ in the Concrete City has three shows today, Easter Sunday, at New Life Alabang at 10 am, 3 pm and 6 pm. Admission is free.
The Lent Thing, Part Two: Giving up Cheetos was surprising
This year, I decided to make a conscious decision about Lent. I should give something up.
In less than two days, I’ll be able to eat Cheetos.
My Lent sacrifice was a decision made three days after Ash Wednesday. It was already Friday at the time, and I realized that I had not bought a bag of Cheetos since Tuesday that week. I question my ability to stay true to this sacrifice, but here I am, some 38 days later, and with sufficient reflections.
Cheetos are a vital part of my life. They are my go to snack. My comfort food. They are what you should sacrifice to me as tribute. I would lie for you if you would give me a bag of Cheetos. I’d do your homework. I’d clean your house, bathe your dog, chaperon your curmudgeonly grandmother. Anything. I’ve reached beyond the point where Cheetos became associated with me, the same way four leafed clover because associated with Saint Patrick and the rose to the virgin Mary.
Keeping shop at Moments Salon made Cheetos ridiculously accessible. In fact, almost every purchase of Cheetos was a mindless and automatic. A habit bordering on bad. I could make my leisurely 5 pm walk breaks pass through Shopwise at Festival Mall and buy two snack bags of Cheetos. OR I could make a quick hop to the 7-11 at the other end of our building and splurge 65 Php (roughly a dollar fifty or so) for a King size snack bag. Life was great.
I fought with myself about this Lenten fast: “But there’s a bag of Cheetos in the kitchen.” My Superego must have said this. Or a worried Ego.
"Then let’s be realistic," I said to myself. "I won’t eat a bag of Cheetos that I bought with money from my own pocket. I know Rod will want to share it. I will not initiate in the partaking of that bag. Once it’s open, that’s it." A reasonable Id. (If anyone knows me, it’ll make sense that it’s the Id making sense of all of this; I blow my ow mind this way sometimes)
It seemed rational, honest, and realistic.
The first thing I noticed is that I have the propensity to not spend. Accessibility is the number one reason for Cheetos booty calls. The virtue of thriftiness also spread itself elsewhere. There are three (count them: one, two, THREE) second hand book stores near Moments Salon. It so happened that I hardly spent on books. I’d only buy a book if it was ridiculously cheap, like an Arthur Blisset epic for 20 Php.
Two or three weeks into the fast, not having any Cheetos didn’t bother me as much. At this point, my mind would deliciously imagine myself at Easter, munching at every Cheetos piece I’d pop in my mouth. However, every time this would happen, my body would actually say something to my mind:
"Ma’am, Cheetos are splendid things and we sort of miss them. However…it’s kinda…icky. And the things that the digestive system churns out into the bloodstream are less than desirable. In fact, ‘less than desirable’ is an understatement."
My body, as it turns out, talks to me like a staff of household help, led by a polite but brutally honest butler. I should feel like a being divided by its desires and concerns, but being merely human, I’ll go with what my body says.
Actually, this was a fear I had on the onset. I feared that I might end up not eating another morsel of Cheetos. I was afraid of being detached from this glorious wonder food. At the same time, I don’t find myself gorging on Cheetos on Easter Sunday, or the Monday after. I’m not pining for it anymore.
The point of Lent is to sacrifice. Growing up evangelical with Catholic influences somehow painted a lopsided picture of Lent. There is so much mention of “the sacrifice has been made…you don’t need to sacrifice.” My problem with this is the notion that there is no need acknowledge our human nature to give in to what we think is good for us. In my mind, there is a kind of superiority complex behind the notion “we don’t need to sacrifice.”
It’s true that we don’t need to. However, making a conscious sacrifice does anyone some good. It’s like the freedom of accidentally forgetting your phone at home when you’re at work. It’s kinda liberating. I think this is what Lent is all about as well: you make yourself aware of your humanity and you end up being aware of more things that what your body wants.
Next year, maybe I’ll sacrifice tea. There will be negotiations for sure. But I wonder what I’ll learn at the end of it. I think that’s what worth the experience.
In celebration of Conan’s birthday, life and achievements, and just out of my own curiosity:
1. First memory of Conan? 2. Fondest memory/ies of Conan? 3. How has Conan influenced you and your life? 4. And of course, the most pressing question: BEARD OR NO BEARD?
1. My first glimpse of Conan was at a Sesame Street/Muppet music video. There were a lot of other celebrities making cameos. I knew most of the cameos but I didn’t know Conan. I wanted to see his face again.
2. Every time he leaned over his guests and said something. There were times it looked like an intense conversation. All I could think of was I WANT IN ON THAT!
3. The day after watching his show, I find myself talking like him. I also caught on to his humor. The other day, I put a show together (like a small concert thing) and I’d riff like Conan does on his show. The audience laughed. Thankfully.
4. I’m on the fence about the beard. I REALLY LOVE IT OMG. It frames his face perfectly and it gives him an edge. I do love scruff on a man, so there goes my preference. However, I’d love to see him clean shaven again…but only if he grows it back.
The Lent Thing, Part One: My Personal Need For Ritual
Ever since I started listening to Mars Hill podcasts, I began having yearnings for some semblance of a tradition. They were doing Lent for what I think was the first time when I downloaded my first Mars Hill podcast. I wanted in. I’m (no longer) Catholic, but there are things in the Catholic tradition that I absolutely love, some of which are Lent, the call and responses in Mass and the rosary.
When my family converted to Evangelical Christianity, we were taught to believe that traditions and rituals are not necessarily sincere presentations, offerings or expressions of love and devotion to God. Services at the church I went to learned the beauty of being spontaneous and we learned much about the Holy Spirit. However, there was an underlying animosity about things that were Catholic. Lent and Holy Week therefore were seen as - I can’t use the word “evil” - unnecessary and maybe even foolish.
In the last few years, I’ve had to confront the things I believe in, and question them long and hard. While there are things I did not entertain the benefit of thought that are outside of what I grew up believing in, there are things in Christianity that I definitely cannot let go of, and there are things that I think are misunderstood and blown to proportion.
One of these things is that Christianity is the only way and the right way to live life. Saying this might put me in a hot seat of some sort. At the same time, I don’t want to theologize or justify this first sentence. Rather, I’d posit this: that Jesus is one heck of a man everyone should follow without any other context than what’s contained in his milieu. I’m leaving that right there.
Okay fine. One other thing. One of the things I find jarring about Christianity is the whole personal relationship thing. Communing with God and/or the Universe and/or nature is technically like having a relationship. But there are things that can fall through the cracks that misunderstand the solitary aspect of this faith. Things like “God told me so,” the fact that the sinner’s prayer isn’t in the Bible, the way that some Christians are legalistic to the point of replacing free will, down to things like what we should wear when leading worship. That last bit? Pisses me off to no end.
And this is why I appreciate the Catholic Mass, and the Catholic Church’s traditions. They do have a foundation. They also hold a lot of people together. There is no doubt that repeating words and prayers again and again ingrain thoughts and virtues and ideas in to our minds until they become a part of our own being.
On the other hand, worshiping God in a church service is great. It’s probably one of the best things ever. I’d even compare it to awesome sex but I’m not one to say and my only reference to this is the ending of the movie “Perfume.”
At the church I go to now, there would be a little more than just a handful of services where the worship was nothing short of fantastic and amazing. One particular service had the pastor allow the entire service devoted to just worship. We sang a few songs over and over but it was euphoric and we were all convinced that we broke a barrier. It felt like were singing songs together for 6 hours non stop but we ended right on time, if not early. At the end of it, I wanted to turn to a stranger and say “Wasn’t that just great?” because it really was great.
You can’t expect such phenomena to happen just like that. In fact, anyone can allow that kind of spontaneity to happen, but later on it becomes like a drug. Worship pretty much is like a high. Your brain pumps up dope and makes you feel high. This isn’t to discredit God with science and the chemistry of the body but worshiping God or being in an epic worship service really does make you feel good but that’s not the point of the whole thing.
Which is why I find myself looking for structure and ritual. Another thing that bogs me down about the whole anti-Catholic thing was that rituals don’t mean anything just because they’re repeated mindlessly. A lot of the Christians I grew up with would loathe the word ritual, or even avoid it. I was convinced of this myself until I got sick and tired of spontaneity. Worship doesn’t mean anything if everyone just sings and wait for something to happen, not knowing what it is they’re waiting for.
I started reading about Celtic Christianity a few years back. It’s a subject I fell in love with but have read enough to not about it just yet. This is probably because it’s the same Jesus we all worship and meditate upon. There are things like thin places and monasteries and prayers and work and ritual and responses and living together as a community. I haven’t read enough, but the way the physical and the spiritual is so intertwined with words and silence appealed to me. I didn’t mind living like that.
Then I looked a creeds. I revisited the Apostle’s Creed because everything I believe is true is in it. Then I went further and prayed the rosary. I discovered the Protestant Rosary, which, to be honest, is more hard core than the Catholic one. Each decade of each mystery is different, unlike the single style of the the Roman Catholic paternoster. I’d pray the Protestant Rosary once a week. The one I use is a Lasallian rosary with 6 decades and I use thatfor my own intentions. The feeling I get after praying the whole thing was uplifting and I felt like I broke through a wall and still feeling strong.
I no longer go to the church I grew up as a young Evangelical. A number of things people-related ultimated my excuses for not going. They have good intentions, but why should I go to a place that has me ending up feeling frustrated? Try as I may, I’ve given that church a second chance one too many, but I thought it best to just silently disagree by not showing up.
The church I go to now is pretty great. I’m not active as was in the previous one but I know enough people to say “Hi” to or to wave at or greet. I don’t always agree with the teachings but even that doesn’t discourage me from going; instead, I find my faith rejuvenating itself into a discourse and my faith is still intact even if I still end up not agreeing with the teaching.
However, I still love the mass. Each chance I get, I respond to everything that I know a response to. A prayer meeting I went to in QC had us all in call and response. I felt that it was one of the most powerful things. The masses I’d happen to attend at events and parties would more often than not have a relevant and stimulating homily.
A wedding I went to a few years back had to two services, a Catholic mass and a nondenominational Christian service. I liked the Catholic one better. The way that people respond in prayer together as witnesses to the union is, I think, a very beautiful thing. The homily is most likely to be a run of mill about loyalty and love and all that, but people respond and do the same thing along with the couple exchanging vows.
That is what I love most about the Catholic mass, and everything that’s got a ritual in it. It’s about people doing things together and caring about one another, and living in concern for one another while all along communing with God. I this is the way the world should work, and how people should add to their repertoire of loving one another.
(Before anything else, I know I should be writing just as much as I reblog. I should rectify this within the year.)
So I’ve been taking voice lessons since November. It’s been nothing short of awesome since my teacher found me (Yeah it’s that kind of epic apparently) and since November, he’s been challenging me and pushing me to do things that I thought I couldn’t do vocally. I got through a lot of high notes and I could literally feel my body and my brain react to what I’m doing. I get tired after lessons, and after a rehearsal last week, my body just sank into migraines for the next couple of days.
I’ve been singing since I was little and the last five years spent doing theater and performance is almost like a default setting for me and the things I learn at the side of my teacher’s piano are things that have expanded me in more ways imaginable.
At my teacher’s urge, he compelled me to have a recital before I leave the country. I’ve been preparing for this for about two months and my little concert happens tomorrow. It’s nerve-wracking. I’ve never had to sing a lot of songs alone on stage in one event. Now that’s another push.
This morning at rehearsal with our accompanist, I had a few pitch issues. I was singing in tune, but my brain overrides the right kind of notes I should be singing.
When Miss Panaligan corrected my pitch, we went through the problem areas and I can literally feel my parts of my brain light up and work at getting the notes right. Then when I stopped, my brain kinda started to relax.
This got me really curious as to how my brain looks like when I sing, or learn a new song, or get corrected for the right pitch.