Thursday, December 13, 2001

And now for another installment of Deep Thoughts...

I think that everyone reading this knows that I am not an overtly religious person. And I think that most of you also understand that this also means that I don't lack some sort of spiritual connection to the world. I just usually don't choose to participate in my spirituality within the confines of a church. I made an exception last Friday... it was actually and exception I didn't realize I was making until I was in the midst of it. Michelle and I went to a performance of Handel's Messiah at the Washington National Cahedral.

The National Cathedral is a HUGE and gorgeous Episcopal Cathedral located in Washington DC. It was the site of the memorial service that all the Presidents and important people went to in the aftermath of September 11th. The church is huge. When you walk through the doors you feel like you've entered an ancient place. The wierdness being that it isn't ancient, so it's a new ancient place. That makes it even odder, you feel like you've walked into the past... to when something that should be so ancient really was new. Usually I am a little spooked in churches like that. I remember Notre Dame and feeling bad cause I was just there to look at the pretty art while all these other people were there to worship. Fortunately, that night I was there for the occasion and so those thoughts didn't happen.

The Cathedral is supported by these HUGE columns. It's pretty cool because as they reach the ceiling they arch out to creat the ceiling supports. Anyway, beyond the cool architecture of the church, Michelle and I had awesome front row balcony seats for the performance. There was an orchestra, the boys and mens choir and then proffessional soloists. They took up about 5% of the church... it's that huge. Everyone is familiar with Handel's Messiah-- you know, Hallelujah, Hallelujah... It's beautiful and LONG, but the length is worth it, because it sounds so amazing. It is made up of three parts, the end of the second is the familiar Hallelujah chorus. It was the first time had heard the whole thing... thanks for taking me Michelle. I really enjoy the chorus parts and when the soloists do short recictations of pieces but I don't really like the arias... they are so long and repetitive. Even so the entire thing is beautiful...In the Cathederal is was especially beautiful...

Now, back to what I started with. My little moment of clarity. We had an argument in class at some point over "America's Navel Gazing"-- Us assuming that we've done something fundamentally wrong and that it's okay for Bin Laden's followers to hate us.

I wish I could say that I don't ever fall into that trap, but I know that I have. Not every day, but on occaison. Sometimes I look at all of our stuff-- Coca-Cola, CNN, The Mall of America and movie stars making $20 Million a picture (and even that evil stretch of highway filled with strip malls near Jim/Wendy and Grandma & Grandpa) and I wonder if we are doing the right thing. Heck, I take advantage of all of those things as much as any one else, but I still wonder if it's wrong... if maybe our culture of mass-media and hype is horrible. Yes, some of it is... but it isn't all wrong. I was looking down upon this beautiful church, listening to amazing sounds coming from the cultured instruments of the orchestra and the voices of children and I realized that the same people that have done bad in the sense of over commercialization have also done good in taking advantage of the gift of being able to create such a masterpiece. If we were wrong. If God was against us, we never would have been given the gifts to create such perfection. And I also know that those 3 hours of Handel's Messiah was only a small example of the creativity, ingenuity and genius that exists among the people I share my world with.

This is probably an appropriate time for me to say Happy Holidays to everyone. Much love and hope to see you all soon.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

I teased you all with my meeting Peter Bergen. I've been reading his book and realized that he didn't give us much insight that isn't in his book. Still, I was mighty impressed with him and with his book. SO, I'd encourage you to consder it as your pick for December's book of the month club (well, don't forget the Night Before Christmas and The Polar Express, but it's a timely addition).

As I mentioned before, it's called "Holy War, Inc." It was written with now 8 or so years of experience studying Osama Bin Laden and the Al Queda. He told us that he started collecting information during the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. In 1997, as a producer at CNN he was able to make contact and get a himself and crew into interview Bin Laden. His foray into Afghanistan to do the interview sounded crazy and scary: being blindfolded, many guns and RPG's as well as being told if they were doing anything covert that they would be shot on the spot. He said that Bin Laden wasn't particularly charismatic. That he was tall, thin and walked with a cane, signifying his slightly poor health considering he was barely 40 at the time.

Bergen has now become CNN's Terrorism expert. We met with him in a large group with three other class rooms and then he met with just our class of about 20 because he is close friends with our professor. We all wanted to ask him Journalism-y questions, but you could sort of feel that people didn't want us to while we were in the big group. And then while in the small group everyone got side tracked with little questions like: What are the caves like? He said some even have carpet and furniture... there are generators and even though they aren't living up to our standards it's pretty darn good for the desert.

The only truly poignant thing that you can't read in his book is that he worries about December 13. It's the last day of Ramadan and Al Queda has attempted other acts of Terrorism on the 27th (last) day of Ramadan because if you die on that day you are a bigger Mayrter than on any other day in the year. Fortunately he believes that if something does happen it most likely will not be in America because Bin Laden has a knack for being creative. Thus he believes if there is any act of Terrorism it will be a unique one. Bergen said he didn't mean to be an alarmist, or a pessemist, just that he was making an educated guess. I assume partly because he will go down on record as being the one who said such things if they do happen. Heck, part of the reason I am passing on such a rumor is for the same sort reason. Needless, hopefully nothing will happen. It just happens to be a rumor from and educated source that I couldn't pass up putting out on the table.

With all of those bad thoughts, I promise to write about going to Handel's Messiah at the Washington National Cathedral this weekend. It gave me a different perspective on all of this and one that is much more comforting.

OH and if you'd like to read an excerpt from Holy War, Inc. with out buying the book, the most recent Vanity Fair (the one with Brad Pitt on the Cover) has the first chapter of the book as an article. And speaking of good magazines... try reading Talk. I thought it was over-rated when it first came out but I've bought the last two issues and really enjoy it.

Oh and Grandpa asked me to shorten up the lead in for the journal because it takes up a half page to print. Gee... can't you see an artistic touch?? Just kidding. I'll try to fix it, but it isn't my 'artistic touch' I use a template that I then customize color and font, so I don't know if I can change things like lengths of frames. If you are printing out the journal, which is quite flattering, try copying what you want to print and pasting it in a format like word and then printing.