Thursday, 10 July 2008

Return to innocence

Leafing through an interesting booklet (by Bruce Stewart) on my first literary ecstasy - Irish genius writer James Joyce - I read this statement (which can be found in his Letters) attributed to the author of Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake – then a melancholic person, doubting if “anything lies ahead of us except ruin”…I cannot help marvelling at how great people, great artists end up – almost unmistakably – as pathetic or even deplorable human beings whose access to innocence seems forever banned. Joyce’s daughter, Lucia (who spent most of her life in an asylum for people suffering from mental diseases) is said to have received the news of her father’s death “with all the marks of his condition and a curious echo of Joyce’s theme in his last book, saying, ‘What is he doing under the ground, that idiot? When will he decide to come out? He’s watching us all the time”…How far an end from the serenity of the dying old man in Dovzhenko’s silent masterpiece, Zemljia / Earth (a movie released in 1930), who dies peacefully, surrounded by the whole village, next to a toddler and a heap of apples. The video Return to Innocence by Enigma was to use the same kind of poetic images - with MTV-like overtones, of course.

Funny enough, Tarkovsky’s hero in his last opus, Offret / Sacrifice (1985) ends up in a van that takes him to hospital after he has set his house on fire. But then, this (almost) Bergmanesque movie does not finish before the main character’s son performs his duty with religiosity: observing his father’s ‘canon’, the young boy waters a withered tree until it miraculously comes to life again. Then he rests under the tree and says: “’In the beginning was the Word' ... Why is that, Papa?" Thus, Tarkovsky’s light and beauty prevailed upon “the heart of darkness” and the meanders of this age. Because “beauty can save the world” (said Dostoevsky), and the director of Andrei Roublev lived by this adage. Until his last breath.


So, the Assembly of BOR (Romanian Orthodox Church) summoned to judge upon the controversial (even “heretical”) ways of two Orthodox bishops - one for having taken the Eucharist in a Greek-Orthodox Church (because he pathetically "fell for the spirit of brotherhood existing in that church at the time of its inaugural service" – some journalists said afterwards that now we have the EMO spirit penetrating the church), and the other for having consecrated the water together with a Non-Orthodox, at Theophany. There has been much rumour among (“practising” and “nominal”) Christians – both within BOR and outside its boundaries. The dice were cast yesterday: both bishops were pardoned as they repented. Only God can tell whether these slippery hierarchs were paying a lip service or not when they admitted their error and acknowledged their crimes. They were given an ultimatum and that’s it. I’m afraid the fuss among the ultra-Orthodox will not stop that easily.

This incident reminds me of a funny short movie (a kind of a studio – rather than live - stand up comedy), called Mephisto, starring Toma Caragiu - the great Romanian actor who died during the 1977 earthquake. At the end of his part he tells us about a football match between Heaven and Hell. Of course, the best players are in Heaven’s team – he says. But the referees …For the time being, in most of day to day matters, it is the referee who rules. I’m afraid that, in yesterday’s assembly of BOR, the dice had long been cast. Only a naïve person could wait for whatever ecclesiastical law to do justice. Wonderful verses from the Bible were soon found to support the judges' sentence, as – they say – God wants the sinner’s repentance, not his punishment and death. The other team (the ultra-Orthodox hardliners) claim that heresy and sin brings its own reward, therefore the two bishops must be excommunicated. In fact, they say, by what they did, they excommunicated themselves anyway. On the other hand, when there are no star bishops to be defended (as it happened recently), the clergy do overcharge ordinary communicants with canons, rules, bribes, and punishments. So, it all depends on what and who is at stake. The truth and the execution of the law (however vital) can wait…