Another Week Ends

1. Bob Dylan’s new record, Together Through Life, has left me a bit cold, which […]

David Zahl / 5.8.09

1. Bob Dylan’s new record, Together Through Life, has left me a bit cold, which I’m chalking up to the fact that the lyrics were written with Robert Hunter (of Grateful Dead fame). But in his recent Rolling Stone interview, the master offered some characteristically profound thoughts on his identity:

“I’ve never seen [Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home documentary]. Well, a lot of that footage was gathered up from the Sixties. So I’d seen that, and I thought that was like looking at a different character. But it certainly was powerful. And I don’t, or can’t, do that anymore…”

“Popular music has no, whatever you call them, critics, that understand popular music in all of its dynamic fundamentalism. The consensus on me is that I’m a songwriter. And that I was influenced by Woody Guthrie and sang protest songs. Then rock&roll songs. Then religious songs for a period of time. But it’s a stereotype. A media creation. Which is impossible to avoid if you’re any type of public figure.”

“I don’t think you’ll hear what I do ever again. It took a while to find this thing. But then again, I believe that things are handed to you when you’re ready to make use of them. You wouldn’t recognize them unless you’d come through certain experiences.”

2. The following quotation from Reinhold Niebuhr’s An Interpretation of Christian Ethics found its way into my inbox this week [thank you, PW!] and is very much worth sharing:

“The moral effectiveness of the religious life thus depends upon deeper resources than moral demands upon the will. Whenever the modern pulpit contents itself with the presentation of these demands, however urgent and fervent, it reveals its enslavement to the rationalistic presupposition of our era. The law of love is not obeyed simply by being known. Whenever it is obeyed at all, it is because life in its beauty and terror has been more fully revealed to man. The love that cannot be willed may nevertheless grow as a natural fruit upon a tree which has roots deep enough to be nurtured by springs of life beneath the surface and branches reaching up to heaven.”

3. Star Trek. The reviews are [inter]stellar! The NYTimes describes it as, “a testament to television’s power as mythmaker, as a source for some of the fundamental stories we tell about ourselves, who we are and where we came from.” Slate boldly calls it, “the first blockbuster for the Obama age” and asks, “Can’t you picture our president—levelheaded, biracial, implacably smart—on the bridge in a blue shirt and pointy ears?” Affirmative.

4. Stanley Fish’s recent NYTimes blog post, “God Talk” continues his hot streak, taking British critic Terry Eagleton’s new book Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate as its subject. Fish quotes Eagleton’s inspired response to Christopher Hitchens accusation that “Christianity no longer offers an explanation of anything imporant,” by saying “Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything in the first place. It’s rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov.”

Another Eagleton gem: “Believing that religion is a botched attempt to explain the world… is like seeing ballet as a botched attempt to run for a bus.” Best of all, Eagleton apparently “turns the tables and applies the label of ‘superstition’ to the idea of progress.”

5. Speaking of Hitchens, Green Day is finally set to drop 21st Century Breakdown next week, their much-anticipated follow-up to American Idiot. Apparently it contains a token and predictibly sanctimonious Christians-Are-Hypocrites anthem entitled “East Jesus Nowhere”. If it’s anywhere near as catchy (or Beach Boys-influenced) as “Jesus Of Suburbia”, I may not be able to resist…