Tag Archives: God
August 19, 2011
February 25, 2011
Now there’s a book that will help youngsters build a belief system — and it’s a good refresher course for adults, too.
In “Images of God for Young Children,” author Marie-Helene Delval offers dozens of ways to discover God in the world, from simple ideas like breath and light which we can’t see but know are real, to more concrete concepts like justice and covenant.
“God is a path” and “God is a promise” and “God is a mystery” are just some of the mind-pictures Delval’s words make us imagine. Illustrations by Barbara Nascimbeni have the child-like feel that will help young minds better grasp the ideas.
Adults will hear snatches of Holy Scripture in a number of places, and that’s because the Bible is the base for the teaching within the text.
It’s a text that’s not difficult but yet not simple either. The suggested target is ages 4 through 9, but that may be a stretch for the lower end of that group. You’d have to go with the it’s-never-too-young-to-start approach and not expect instant understanding from a preschooler, not so much for the vocabulary but for the concepts of God as, well, beauty, for one, or majesty.
Those of school age, though, are going to easily pick up on just about all the many images of God because Delval takes examples children in elementary school already know of. Take this excerpt:
God is justice.
Before judging others, we should see, know, and understand who they are, and why they did or did not do something. “We should ‘walk a mile in their shoes,’ as the proverb says….
A tip: Don’t try to read the book in one sitting. For younger ones, a page a day is plenty. Older children will be good for three to five pages at a crack. — bz
September 30, 2009
June 19, 2009
January 19, 2009
“Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel,”
by Andrew Graham-Dixon
If you’ve ever taken a tour with a guide who wasn’t connecting with his or her group, you come to appreciate really good tour guides, people who not only know their subject but engage you in the topic, bringing information, insight and even entertainment.
My wife and I had that excellent kind of guide — Liz Lev — with a group touring the Vatican Museums. Everything we saw became so much more meaningful thanks to a great guide who was able to help us see not just artistic value but intention and the works’ place in history.
With “Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel,” Andrew Graham-Dixon offers much of the same insight to his readers.
It’s not quite halfway into his book that the London-based art critic begins an absolutely thorough interpretation of Michelangelo’s famous paintings on the ceiling and wall of the Sistine Chapel.
But that’s because he sets up his art instructing by first giving readers a rather complete picture of the artist and his world at the beginning of the 16th century.
Inside Michelangelo’s world
No piece of the life of Michelangelo Buonarroti is left untouched, and I came to feel that the biographical section of this book was as helpful and important for understanding the Sistine Chapel as the interpretation of the world-renown paintings itself.
We learn of the artist’s family background, his training, his benefactors — and most importantly his faith.
Graham-Dixon’s analysis is that Michelangelo felt the hand of God in his life:
“Before he was ever chosen by the Medici, or the pope, he had been chosen by God. . . . He felt that he had been given his gifts by God, and charged with serving the purposes of the divine will.”
Using those God-given skills then, “Michelangelo did not just invent a new kind of art, but a new idea of what art could be,” Graham-Dixon claims. “He put his own sensibility, his own intellect, his own need and desire to fathom the mysteries of Christian faith, centre stage.”
A superior user’s guide
The heart of the book, written in observance of the 500th anniversary of the start of the work by Michelangelo in 1508, is Graham-Dixon’s interpretation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling itself. While not ignoring style, he focuses on what Michelangelo meant by what he painted, how the pictures’ meanings unfold, the subtle ways through which the artist gave expressive life to this amazing group of interlinked compositions.
As a user’s guide to the Sistine Chapel, this book is superb.
Graham-Dixon walks us through each section and each panel of each section, pointing out not only beauty and the technical skill but why each figure is painted the way it is.
What we learn is that Michelangelo was a student of Holy Scripture — especially the Hebrew Books — and that he aimed to paint “his own vision of what he believed to be the eternal truths of Christianity,” the author states.
Readers will come to understand the geography of the chapel ceiling, how the famous depiction of creation — with God’s pointed finger reading out to touch the finger of Adam — fits into the rest of the biblical history, with the great cast of characters including Eve, Noah, David and Goliath, Judith, Jeremiah, Jonah and on and on.
Graham-Dixon gives his excellent interpretive skills to helping readers grasp in much the same way Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement,” painted 15 years after the ceiling. Taking up the entire wall behind the chapel’s altar, it is a monumental fresco as rich with meaning as the ceiling above.
Sadly, details of this beautiful work are depicted only in black and white photos, which hardly do justice to this colorful masterpiece.
Bigger would be better
And, if there is any fault at all in “Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel,” it is the small size of the pages — six inches by nine inches. There are 32 full-color pages that bring the Sistine’s ceiling right into our hands, but I couldn’t help but think how much more delight to the eye would have been deivered in a larger format. Perhaps Skyhorse Publishing will be able to work that out in a later edition.
As it is, though, I compared the printing in this latest book with the same Sistine Chapel panels printed in a larger, coffeetable-sized book given to me as a gift several years ago.
The color work — the brightness and the clarity — in “Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel” is far superior.
If you plan to visit the Vatican, take this along to read on the plane ride. It’s a fact-filled yet easy read with the beautiful prose that is the hallmark of a fine writer.– bz
October 6, 2008
by Steffan Postaer
“People are not responding to the message anymore,” God tells an angel named David. The old stuff — burning bushes, parting waters, changing water into wine — aren’t working anymore. God’s looking for a new and different approach.
“In order to inspire goodness we’ve got to improve our image,” God says. “We need better copy!”
Her answer (yes, God is a she in this novel): Hire an advertising agency.
With that as a great jumping off point for the plot, author Steffan Postaer mines his knowledge of the ad biz to create a fairly interesting story with characters that readers will care about.
That is, if readers can get past the soft-porn.
David the angel gets sent down to earth to find an ad agency to “market heaven,” bumps into a beautiful woman and has sex with her the very first evening. (Is this really the way “dating” happens today? Is it art reflecting life, or does art justify — give permission to — dismissal of the virtuous life?)
And although the sex is admittedly an element of the plot, the scene does get pornographic. As do other scenes later on. They’re unnecessary and offensive. Some, too, will be offended by the language. I’m sure the crude language does reflect reality, though, and it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
What just happen here?
What is a deal breaker, though, is that Postaer develops a handful of characters, gets us involved with them, works them into the plot and subplots, and then you find yourself asking, hey, what just happened there?
The ad exec with the overactive libido suddenly gets transformed into a caring, sensitive male. His ex-wife turns from witch to a do-gooder. The creative genius at the ad agency goes from workaholic to father-of-the-year.
But we never find out why. And Postaer never quite brings all the subplot elements together. Still, he does a pretty good job of leading us to what looks like it’ll be an engaging final scene.
I won’t ruin the ending for you, but the Greeks who invented “deus ex machina” have nothing on Steffan Postaer.
Greek tragedies aside, “The Happy Soul Industry” has worthwhile lessons to share about life and faith and virtue and marketing — if you choose to get past the offensive passages. And Postaer, a successful ad copywriter who runs Euro RSCG Chicago now, has a thought-provoking idea for an ad campaign to promote goodness to the American people. Think this would work? Picture billboards at bus stops and train platforms with messages like:
The insider peek into the advertising world is worked in creatively, and Postaer has a great touch with humor. It’s good writing and good reading. The pity is that this could have been a really good novel with just a bit more work on the ending and a tad less bowing to the convention that sex sells. But I guess we know where that comes from. — bz
September 29, 2008