/ Scholarship / Literature /
2016 03 15 Easter coming up fast, I’m watching The Robe.
The Robe, Burton, slave auction
The book, by Lloyd C. Douglas, was published in 1942, the movie, with Richard Burton, was released in 1953. I saw the movie when it was fresh, but I’d reported on the novel in junior high, freshman English, c. 1953. There’s a nest of contexts here, I’ll touch on several: so this will be / Movies, / Literature / autobiography, culture, history, fiction, theology … ethnic sectarianism, magic, horse shit … Scrapbook.
I post the first edition of this while I’m paused 2/3 of the way through the film: Marcellus has just met Peter, the Big Fisherman.
No matter what anyone says about myth, about religion, somebody else, humans still surviving, talking, scribbling, can mean still something else, by this, and that, and all of it.
But today, tomorrow’s priesthood will try every dirty trick to monopolize and control the meaning.
Never mind, I’ll still mean what I mean; not what the publishers substitute.
(Meantime, remember: we don’t have a single manuscript from Jesus, or from Peter.)
(What do we have from Abelard? what do you have from pk?)
My mother read Lloyd C. Douglas, as did her book club, as did America, and the world. I correctly picked up the 9th grade English teadcher’s hints. Douglas was right in my wheel house, as he was in Hollywood’s. Had my Sunday School teacher been a reader, of anything but the Bible, I bet he would have squirmed with approval.
My mother, a pro typist, helped me with the reports. She had an IMB electric from her boss for work at home. She also had an esthetic and a prose style that matched Hollywood like ham and eggs. I picked it up with no trouble.
The IBM had a one-use-and-discard black ribbon: “Paul, did you have this printed?” the teacher asked in awe, the whole class feeing the room vibrate with something like an orgasm.
“Hollywood”‘s role in Lloyd C. Doublas, in my church, in Hollywood, in America, cannot be overstated. I would have eaten The Robe up even without the book report assignment.
Read and graded my paper came back to me marked “100”, twice! Perfect grade, doubled. Better than perfect. Ditto the next report, and the next. I was hitting like Babe Ruth.
Funny, I tried the same bull in college, at Columbia, and got smacked between the eyes: Columbia pretended to be Christian, Church of England, when Hamilton dropped out, but by the mid-Twentieth Century, under McCarthy, under Eisenhower, under Hollywood, it was pure atheist: as atheist as it had been under Lincoln.
Understand please, I was not a passive consumer of Hollywood: any more than I was a passive consumer of Christianity, or America. I, right in step, despised Hollywood’s trash interpretations of scripture. I loathed people, like my friend’s mother who luxuriated in Roman battle orgies, blood-gluts, severed heads, severed hands, crushed bodies and thought it was “Christian”.
I loved last evening seeing Marcellus visit Cana, meeting a boy whose lameness Jesus had cured, meeting a woman whose spirit Jesus had cured conspicuously without curing her lameness. I loved being reminded of the scene where Marcellus, gathering a list of names of Christians for Tiberius, pretending to be a rich merchant, a rich stupid merchant, paying more than top dollar for ordinary goods: the Christian leader shames the people into repaying Marcellus his excess gold. Why didn’t that behavior snowball? Did Columbia refund excess tuition? Did Columbia refund all of my tuition, and volunteer penalties once it was clear that Columbia had tipped my already already America-resistant sensibility into discipleship of Ivan Illich: making pk sabotage bait? Total unemployable? With no compensating royalties for having run the world’s first “free” database internet from 1970 to 1973?
I hated McCarty because in killing Communism, an agreed evil, he was also killing voluntary Christianity where the Christian has to pay back the overpayment, love Jesus, ignore Tiberius.
OK, babble babble, but let me hook right there: confiscating your charity dollar and saying it’s for the poor isn’t the same as putting out a poor box and letting you throw your penny into it. Constantine murdered Christianity when he made it compulsory as surely and Tiberius murdered Jesus when I bade us be nice to each other.
This may re-write well, meantime I blurt.
Hollywood’s “Douglas” has Tiberius tell Marcellus that what people want is freedom. Strikes me the opposite is true: men will do anything to get rid of freedom. Look, dig it: the stories have it that an innocent arrives, full of wise saws: a god, a king, a messiah. It doesn’t matter what you call him, language is a cripple, point is, he’s different. Everybody opposes, he complements. Everyone competes, cheats, he cooperates: puts in more than he takes out.
In The Robe Marcellus is in change of crucifying Jesus, another day at the office. Tiberius rules, Jesus in on the cross.
Is that historical? we won’t know history until facts can be established. With Tiberius on the throne, facts cannot be establsiehd.
I don’t trust the Jews’ God to know a fact from a fiction. I don’t trust myself, or you, to tell a fact from a fiction. Ah, but in myth we can. In religion we can.
The Christians in the movie voluteer to play fair, they offer Marcellus half his money back. But it doesn’t matter: becuase Tiberius is understood to be taxing fourt times too much!
When will Tiberius become a Christian? When Constantine orders it? four hundred years later?
In my Anachrin belief system Tiberius has to voluntarily abdicated, disband the army, give power to Carthage, go fishing.
But in “history” he doesn’t. He becomes Trump, looking like a punch doll, all concussed out. or like Hillary: almost as sausage stuffed as Donald.
We’ve had Obama, lean and ridiculous; now we’ve got the Donald, and the Hillary: stuffed to bursting. They’ll tax, to bursting. Obama taxed to bursting however skinny he looks. like the story in the Bible about the skinny kin earing up the fat kine, and everything being thereafter emaciated.
No, Christianity had to be voluntary. We missed the boat.
It’s ridiculous to see Illich trying to be lean and sated, me following him.
Me already lean and sated, except for my beer belly, my scotch belly, my martinis.
Notice elsewhere where I describe picking Ivan up and whirling him around in his private entrance hall at CIDOC: he felt as thin as a power cable, with all the power of the electromagnetic universe.
My Hollywood wrapped myth, religion, superstition, magic all together, blended them inseparably. One strand could be separated: the strand that was Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature … It’s wonderful to stream the movie now where I can pause and research Michael Rennie, Richard Boon … Jay Robinson … Yes, there’s no real religion without Jean Simmons, no real Dickens either.
Have you mined K. to see what I was tring to say to you, to your father, to your grandmother in 1953? 1963? 1973? 1983? 2013?