The film really struck home with me. Many of the reenactments of the tragedies of the Great Depression caught me eye: the laborers lining up at the fence on the docks hoping beyond hope that they would get picked to work for the day, of families getting torn apart because they didn't have enough food to feed everyone, of ripping down wooden fences to burn to keep warm in the New Jersey winter because the electric and gas are both turned off due to nonpayment, not taking sick kids to the doctor because the last visit still isn't paid for, homeless guys living in shacks made of scrap wood in Central Park. In many countries throughout the world, people still face situations like these everyday and here I am on HuSi whining about the alienation I feel while getting paid to just slide by and do the least amount of work possible. I think its time for me to get my butt in gear and find some motivation.
The other thing that struck me is the difference in attitudes between the people in the bread lines as depicted in the movie compared to the people in bread lines today. If the movie was accurate (and books I've read and documentaries I've watched support the movies depiction) charity and public assistance was something that people were once ashamed to accept. A good number of people are still like that. If you watch the people in line there will be some that won't look you in the eye and fidget as if they are uncomfortable. Usually these people will be older, born two or three generations ago. Most of the people my age and younger don't seem disturbed that they're relying on charity. Not all, mind you, just most.
A good counter example is a friend of mine that has fallen on hard times. He's been looking for regular work for almost three years. Hiring managers tend to think that he's overqualified for most manual labor and service positions and don't give him the time of day. But the field his master's degree is in is highly competitive and he can't get his foot into the door. Another guy I know offered to help him out and was turned down. My friends has his pride and doesn't want charity. But that position seems to be a minority position whereas once it was the norm in the good old US of A.
Other things are changing in the US as well. A young lady from our parish converted to Islam back in December. Today my family went to observe her wedding ceremony. The aura of east meets west permeated the atmosphere in a rather disjointed fashion. The hall the ceremony was in was incredibly crafted with chandeliers, twenty foot mirrors lining the walls, oak trim and a bottom layer of concrete with a thin coat of paint and peeling wall paper with a stucco pattern. The ceremony was brief and had more the flavor of a legal proceeding than a religious ceremony despite being opened with chanting from Quran and a sermon. The reception was mostly segregated. Most of the Muslim men sat with other Muslim men and most of the Muslim women sat with other Muslim women. With a handful of exceptions, all of the tables with a mix of men and women were from the bride's Quaker family.
I found the chanting of the Quran to be the most beautiful part of the ceremony. Islamic chanting is heavily influenced by the octohedros of the Byzantine Churches. These Byzantine tones and melodies, in turn, predate the Byzantine Churches by thousands of years. By the time of Plato and Aristotle, they were already ancient and divided into groups for which tone elicited which virtue so that educators could sing appropriated during the correct exercises to have the music reinforce the appropriate moral lesson. But let me clear, it isn't the Quran itself that I found beautiful, but the melody. Not comprehending Arabic, I wouldn't know if the cantor was chanting about how he wanted to cute me up into little pieces with a chain saw. It's the melody itself that has the power; these tones can change men's souls.
The other interesting part of the ceremony was the emphasis of the Islamic cleric on the ``God consciousness'' during the ceremony. I'm not certain of the Arabic term being translated such, but the English sounded quite a bit like Buddhism. But I am pretty certain that this impression is deceiving. I think it has more to do with the Platonic ideas of Islamic authors like Ibn Rush'd who postulated that the human intellect operates by participating in the Agent Intellect which is some sort of Overmind that emanates from the Godhead. On the other hand, succeeding generations of Muslims have declared such teaching to be heretical, so it's quite possible that the cleric didn't have Ibn Rush'd's teaching in mind either. But I'd be willing to wager that Ibn Rush'd is closer to what he had in mind than the Buddha nature.
The worst part of the whole shebang was the lack of coffee. Who would have ever thought that a Turk would have a wedding without having Turkish coffee served. Unfucking believable. Also, no water was served. Drinks were limited to cans of soda. The canned soda was quite a contrast to the chicken and lamb kabobs that were served for the main course. Baklava was also served. But no coffee.
This lack of coffee at wedding receptions, however, no longer extends to the evenings I'm on campus at the local community college learning to be a web monkey. After seven hard weeks of searching high and low through every building during class breaks, I finally found the single coffee vending machine on campus this past Wednesday. Few joys this past year have topped the feeling of a fifty-cent, shot of crappy espresso scalding my throat on the way down the hatch. Pure mother-fuckin' bliss.
Speaking of my night classes, there are only two weeks left in the quarter. The tech school I'm at divides the year into five quarters. (I don't think I'll be taking a math class from them.) Last night I registered for the new quarter which starts soon. The classes on the slate are a class offered by the art department (Design) and a class on mastering everybody's favorite monstrosity, Adobe Photoshop.
And that, my friends, is all.
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