Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jesus Groundhog Day at Sagrada Familia

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."  -John 1: 1-4

The Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barecelona, when completed, will have three separate facades.  The westward facing Passion, (most unlike Gaudi's style) southward facing Glory, (uncertain date of completion) and the eastern facing Nativity (which is most like Gaudi's particular style, pictured above).  George Orwell said, "The Sagrada Familia is the most hideous building in the world."  But when I see the unfinished work, I can't help but reminisce about the beauty of the Nativity and the strange telling of Christ's life through two vignettes:  His Childbirth and Death.
"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.'"  -Luke 1: 26-28

Through paintings and statues and most of western art over the last two-thousand years, Jesus is seen as either a baby laying in the arms of his mother or hanging dead upon a cross.
"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."  -Luke 2: 19

This is a huge challenge for most people in their faith, we are shown Christ in infancy and then he reappears some thirty years later ready to be tested in the desert, perform miracles, minister to crowds, teach disciples, and be resurrected.
"When the angels had gone away from them into heaven,  the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass.'"  -Luke 2: 15

But what happened in between?  What was Jesus like as a young boy?  Mischievous?  Good humored?  What about as a teenager?  Sullen?  Withdrawn?  Romantic?  Where is this human side to him?  How is the growth of the boy not seen in context to the man?
"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger."  -Luke 2: 7

In essence, it is like one long Groundhog's Day where we relive his birth which leads to his death which in return symbolizes his birth, and there is great mystery and wonder and salvation in this, of course... but why were we not allowed to know and see more?
"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."  -Luke 2: 10-11

Perhaps that's the real test... to meditate and slowly, patiently, find meaning.
"Then being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way."  -Matthew 2: 12

Staring at this unfinished cathedral... waiting years for it to be completed, painted, glistening, for it to come alive... is a reminder of the need for meditation and calm in one's own life.
"And when he was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.  When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem."  -Luke 2: 42-43

I'm no saint.  I'm as flawed and foolish  and prone to mistakes as anyone, but standing in the crowds outside the Sagrada Familia, jostled and shoved, pushed aside by the screaming and barking army of Chinese tourists pouring off the tour bus with their tripods and scowled at by the Korean girls because I'm standing in the way of their selfie and herded into a ticket line by the Spanish hawkers with megaphones warning me of pickpockets and thieves... I can't help but feel closer to what this monstrous and gaudy building represents.  I hope it is never finished.  I hope I visit here thirty years later and it's still the same:  A complete test of faith.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sagrada Familia, You Had Me At Hola!

 Of course, the first thing travelers notice when approaching Antoni Gaudi's mind-blowing Sagrada Familia is fact, it's still a work in progress.
 Construction began in 1882 and at the time of Gaudi's death (he was run over by a street car at the age of 73 in 1926, it was less than a quarter completed).  But his fingerprints on the massive undertaking is undeniable.  Gaudi's naturalistic, gothic, and curving art nouveau lines make it the most unique, perplexing, and recognizable cathedral in the world.
 Then again, this style is not for everyone.  Sagrada Familia has its critics.  For myself, I long struggled with the blurring, dizzying facade.  It's almost like a Roman Catholic candle dripping wax.

But that's the beauty, the far-reaching triumph.  When this building is finally complete... when it is painted, when the actual plan of Gaudi is realized, Barcelona's Sagrada Famila will be one of the world's greatest completed dreams.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Magical World of Antoni Gaudi's Park Gruell

 (Antoni Gaudi 1852-1926 was a Spanish Catalan architect whose work is fused all around Barcelona.  Balconies, staircases, building facades, ceramics, and the magnificent Sagrada Familia.  His belief in Romanc Catholicism so prevalent in his work, earned him the nickname "God's Architect."  But when I see his work, all I can think magic.)
 Barcelona is a city of angles and curves.
 Straight lines on an endless periphery...
 Some that keep  you out...
Others that hold you in.

 But every where you travel in the city, the lines are notes on a musical staff in constant song.
 Children kicking balls by the sea...
 Wooden dolls in gowns hung by strings...
 Artists levitating in thin air...
(A wooden donkey mask?  Oh, Hartenstein! I couldn't resist)
 Dancing glass figurines...
Paintings with fiery eyes...
And one of the most amazing places to visit in the city, Antoni Gaudi's magical Park Gruell.
The colorful ceramics and bright tiles dance sparkling in the sun.  
 Stones defy gravity...
 Dragon Lizards come to life...
What a magical world this place can be.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Headless Levitation and Shel Silverstein's The Loser

"Mama said I'd lose my head if it wasn't fastened on.  Today I guess it wasn't cause while playing with my cousin it fell off and rolled away and now it's gone.  -The Loser, Shel Silverstein

Believe me, who doesn't want to step outside their own head once in a while and fly away!
But when you are traveling with little hands and feet...with tired legs and precious little eyes that see everything and have so many questions... you've got to keep your wits.
Yep!  My daughters pretty much ate Barcelona for breakfast.
How do you say 'chipmunk' in Spanish?
They were so good!  They walked all day, carried their own cameras, never complained, and never even rolled their eyes when I made them do homework of drawing Sagrada Familia Cathedral in MINECRAFT.
"And I can't look for it 'Cause my eyes are in it... and I can't call to it 'Cause my mouth is on it... couldn't hear me anyway 'Cause my ears are on it...can't even think about it 'Cause my brain is in it..."  -The Loser, Shel Silverstein

You never know what's around the corner!
"So I guess I'll sit down on this rock... and rest for just a minute..."  -The Loser, Shel Silverstin

Keep your feet on the ground... head in the stars!

Pont Del Sospirs / The Barcelona Bridge of Sighs

We arrive in Barcelona and let out one long slow deep …sigh!

The elegant Pont del Sospirs (Bridge of Sighs) joins the eastern wall of Palau de la Generalitat to the western wall of Casa del Caonges… which is better known as the House of Cannons.  Seriously, Barcelona!  Apparently, there used to be many of these bridges so the hoity-toity ecclesiastical holy-rollers wouldn’t have to hob-knob with the peasants.  Ok.  Fine and Dandy with me.  We will admire one another from afar.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Barca Nona, The Ninth Ship

 “Love, did you say?  It is a mighty curse.”  -Medea, Eurypides

The ancient Greek hero Jason (Yeah!) was but a child (ahhh!)  when his evil uncle, Pelias, (imagine twisted up black moustache) dethroned his brother in battle and put himself on the throne of Lolcus and then killed the rest of the family so no one would usurp him.  (Yikes!  Ancient family reunions… not so mucha da funna!)  Jason, the infant, escaped and was given to a shepherd who hid him in the mountains until he was full grown. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…)  Pelias, a ruthless tyrant, felt confidant even after warned by an oracle (these guys are waaay underpaid) that only the man wearing one sandal could bring his ruin.  (Huh?)
 When Jason was grown, he traveled to his father’s kingdom to take back his birthright from Pelias.  (Naturally) Along the way he encountered an old woman attempting to cross a stream and (being a good boy scout) helped the poor woman, he lost a sandal in the waves and continued onward with only one shoe.  Little did he know the old woman, was Hera, the wife of Zeus in disguise.  (Oooh, plot thickening!)
 Word spread of Jason, the one-sandaled traveler who was brought before King Pelias and demanded his father’s throne back (three fingered SNAP!).  Pelias, agreed to returning the land and title to the rightful heir but only upon fulfillment of an amazing heroic task:  Bringing back the Golden Fleece, which was a stunning gold-haired ram held prisoner on a faraway island.  Jason agreed.  (Sucker!)
 With the help of the genius shipbuilder Arnus, (there really needs to be a Greek god of spelling… thanks be for the letter “R”) the great Argo was created and fifty men in ten ships set out to retrieve the golden ram.  (ADVENTURE!) But Jason had a co-pilot:  (Jesus?  Nope, wrong book)  the Great Hercules, (can you smell what the Rock is cooking?) pausing on his fourth labor, joined the voyage for a spell. (Another Sucker!)
 So, Jason and Hercules sailed through the Aegean Sea into the Mediterranean  having adventures and landing on different islands.  The first was Lemnos where the women were cursed by Aphrodite to smell so terribly that their husbands would not touch them.  (Gross!) In anger, the women killed their men and chased Jason and Hercules away (…with their nasty stinky armpit hair) and promptly created the first Ashley Madison website in antiquity.
 Next they sailed to Doliones, arriving on the western shore, where they were greeted warmly by the king, but upon leaving they became lost and arrived on the eastern shore of the same island and were attacked by the same king, which they killed before all realizing their mistake.  (Lewis Carroll anyone?)
 Next they reached Thrace and saved the blind prophet Phineus (sans Ferb) from Harpies sent by Helios.  The seer then showed them how to pass the terrible cliffs of Symplegades (say that three times fast) by releasing doves and following them through the passages.  Finally, they arrived at the island of the Golden Fleece. (It’s about time!)
 Here Jason met the terrible and diabolical love of his life, the princess (witch)  Medea, who tricks him into marriage, helps him steal the fleece, and then kills her own father.  (Not COOL, Lady!)  The two sail away in a honeymoon vessel of blood.  (Haha…Killer Sentence!)
 It’s not smooth sailing though, as punishment for killing her family, Zeus yields his power to push the ship toward the Sirens and total destruction.  (Oh no…Odysseus?  Nope, wrong book)  It is only with the help of beautiful Orpheus, (played by Jared Leto) who lulls the monsters to sleep with his lyre, that they are able to pass. 
 Enraged even more, Zeus orders the Argo and it’s following ships blown off course, scattering them throughout the Mediterranean Sea.  A terrible storm comes and sends the ships in all directions.  When the waves calm, all but one ship is accounted for:  The Ninth Ship, which has been lost.  (Insert Gilligan’s Island song)
 Jason then sends Hercules to find it.  (Now you’re thinking!)  So the great hero leaves his 12 Labors and sails out alone looking for the lost vessel which he finds on Montjuic Hill along the Iberian coast toward Gibraltar.  When Hercules finally locates the survivors, they are not wounded or distraught, in fact, they are overjoyed at the stupendous beauty of the land, the gentle sea breeze, and the lush vegetation.  The men abandon Jason and the Golden Fleece and decide to build a settlement there which they name “Barca Nona,” which means ‘The Ninth Ship’ in Latin.  Hercules leaves them (he was traveling that way anyway) and continues toward the Erymanthian Boar.  (Sheesh!)
As for the doomed Jason, (aren’t all heroes fated?) he returns to find Pelias has killed his own father and his mother dead of grief.  In revenge, he tricks Pelias with the help of Medea’s magic to drink a potion from the fountain of youth that is actually poison.  (Nice!) At Pelias’ death, Jason becomes king.  The bliss doesn’t last long.  Jason spurns Medea and marries another.  (Idiot!)  Medea, furious, murders their two children (what’s with this chick and killing family members?) and casts a spell on the Argo, dropping the great hull of the ship onto Jason’s body as he sleeps.  (Ultimate Irony!)
As for the “Barca Nona,” the land of the Ninth Ship is fruitful and the names changes over time to Barcelona.