Last night I finished Seven Storey Mountain. I appreciate Merton's insights into the contemplative life...but parts of this book really bothered me. First, I appreciate that he was a Catholic. Generally, I have no problem with Catholicism. However, if you really start to break down the belief that Mary is the "Queen of Heaven," things start to get dicey. If one couples that with the language of "Christ is king," that makes for a strange theology. Second, Merton fires off a few shots against Protestantism, some of which is justified, but all in all it's in the name of becoming a Catholic cheerleader: degrade others to make yourself look better. How does he claim that all Protestants are lazy and not really committed to our faith, particularly without leveling that critique at his own church as well? Finally, Merton spends a decent chunk of the book pining for a cloistered life shut off from the world so that he can get some serious prayer and study done without distractions and corruptions (you know, just like Jesus wanted for us). He seems to realize this faulty thinking near the end, when he says: "I was fully convinced that I was going to indulge all the selfish appetites that I did not yet know ho to recognize as selfish because they appeared so spiritual in their new disguise." All in all, the book left me with a different impression of Merton than I'd expected...now I know he's human.
Over Christmas, my family watched a movie called Joyeux Noel. I guess it was nominated for Academy Awards and such, but I'd never heard of it before a few weeks ago...or I don't remember hearing about it anyway. However, I have heard of the concept: set during World War I on Christmas Eve, Scottish, French, and German soldiers call a ceasefire and celebrate Christmas together in the middle of the battlefield. They drink champagne, play soccer, sing, and celebrate mass together. Once their home governments begin hearing about this, they aren't too happy, worrying that the public hearing about it will cause an uproar. The most disgusting scene is when the Scottish priest who presided over the group mass is chastised by his superior, who then gives a sermon to new recruits about why God wants them to kill their enemies. It's a very good film. There's another short film that I saw years ago that features German and Scottish soldiers playing soccer, but I don't know the name of it.
We've both become serious watchers of the show Scrubs. It helps fill the Arrested Development-shaped hole in my being by having both wit and heart. The comedy is a little more slapstick and blunt, particularly when someone gets Dr. Cox going, but the writing is clever and it doesn't strive for cheap laughs. I'm also becoming convinced that Zack Braff can do no wrong.
Just so everyone knows, I was listening to the Chemical Brothers' Galvanize before Budweiser started using it. And while I'm at it, I was listening to Sarah McLachlan before y'all ever heard of Lilith Fair. So...uh...in your face.
Around the web, here's a guy ranting about Pachelbel's Canon in D. Also, Letters from Kamp Krusty has been added to the blogroll and has quickly become one of my favorite new blogs to visit.