Pope discusses life’s biggest questions with International Space Station crew

Pope Francis talks to the six astronauts during a video conference with the International Space Station. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian

The Earth is a fragile thing that could even destroy itself, Pope Francis told astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, saying they had an opportunity to see the planet “from the eyes of God”.

The voice of Pope Francis was heard in the heavens when he made a 20-minute video call to six astronauts to talk about life’s biggest questions – including their opinions on love, their sources of joy and how life without gravity changed their view of the world.

The US astronaut and mission commander Randy Bresnik told the pope that they saw a world without borders or conflicts from their point of view above the Earth. .

“What gives me the greatest joy is to look outside every day and see God’s creation – maybe a little bit from his perspective,” Bresnik, 50, told Pope Francis. Far from wars, famines, pollution or human folly, he said “the future of humanity looks better from up here”.

The pope replied that Bresnik had “managed to understand that the Earth is too fragile and it passes in a moment”.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, 60, admitted that despite the bird’s eye view of Earth from the ISS, he too remained “perplexed” about a human’s place in the world, while American Mark Vande Hei said seeing the planet from space made them “realise how fragile we are”.

The Argentinian pontiff sat at a Vatican desk, facing a widescreen television on which the astronauts from America, Russia and Italy could be seen floating together in their blue suits.

“Astronomy makes us think about the universe’s boundless horizons and prompts questions such as ‘where do we come from, where are we going?’” the pope mused.

“Our aim here is to spread knowledge, (but) the more we learn, the more we realise we do not know,” said Nespoli as Francis nodded and smiled. “I would like people like you, theologians, philosophers, poets, writers, to come to space to explore what it means to be a human in space.”

To read entire story, click HERE

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What came after: The Counter-Reformation art of Carlo Dolci

Carlo Dolci, Angel of the Annunciation, early 1650s. Oil on canvas, 20 ½ x 15⅞ inches (52 cm x 40 cm). Musée du Louvre, Paris. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photo by René-Gabriel Ojéda.

By Yonat Shimron (Religion News Service)

Five hundred years ago this week, Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg, Germany’s Castle Church, ushering in a revolt against the Roman Catholic Church.

The ensuing theological demolition also involved its artwork, much of which was defaced or burned in now-Protestant areas of Europe.

On the turf it managed to hold, the church mounted a response — the Counter-Reformation, a multi-pronged movement responding to and resisting the reforms.

It, too, had an artistic aspect: Titian, El Greco and Caravaggio. But also Carlo Dolci of Florence, Italy, whose meticulous paintings of Christian themes, saturated with emotion and glistening with color, were everything the iconoclast reformers railed against.

Dolci (1616-1687) is finally getting his due, with a solo show — his first in the U.S. — at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. (It was shown earlier this year at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College.)

To read entire article, click HERE

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The Raw Devotion of Julien Baker

Photograph by Angela Owens / NYT via Redux


The first book in English that can be identified definitively as written by a woman is the mystic text “Revelations of Divine Love,” by the fourteenth-century anchorite Julian of Norwich. Everything about Julian was unusual, particularly her intense awareness of failure and frailty: she was a child when the plague came to England, and the sixteen religious visions she chronicles in her book were triggered by a near-fatal illness that struck her at age thirty. Her pursuit of the truth of God is solitary and blazing, gorgeously rigorous, as if she was generating and synthesizing personal theology to light her way through an awful dark. Sin is “behovely” to her, and to God—necessary, expedient. “The soul is highest, noblest and worthiest when it is lowest, humblest and gentlest,” she writes. To read her is to observe a young woman flaying herself open in a startling act of devotion. Julian’s writing is physical—at one point, she likens the body of Christ to mother’s milk—emotional, and cerebral at once.

I thought of Julian of Norwich while listening to “Turn Out the Lights,” the new album from a musician who almost shares her name: Julien Baker, a twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter from Memphis. Baker is a Christian whose faith has been shaped by trial and revelation: she is gay, and went through addiction and recovery before she was out of her teens. She is theologically minded and obsessively self-interrogating; on the phone last week, we spent ten minutes talking about Calvinist doctrine, which depends on the presumption of the total depravity of man.


“A house show feels like a true faith community, socialist and communal,” she said. “The lead singer is less than two feet away from thirty people who are screaming the same thing. Punk teaches the same inversion of power as the Gospel—you learn that the coolest thing about having a microphone is turning it away from your own mouth.”

To read entire profile, click HERE.

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“Trouble No More” Documents – and More – Dylan’s Gospel Tour

Still from Trouble No More: Dylan and his harmonica, via Sony Music Entertainment

By Anne Margaret Daniel

“Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”  — Proverbs 31:7

“Some day baby / You ain’t gonna trouble poor me any more.” — Sleepy John Estes, Someday Baby Blues (1935), sung as Trouble No More by Muddy Waters, the Allman Brothers, and many more

Trouble No More: A Musical Film had its world premiere Monday night at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center as part of the 55th New York Film Festival.  Released this autumn in conjunction with the next installment of Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series (Vol. 13 / 1979-1981), from the time of his “Gospel Tour,” Trouble No More is neither documentary nor biopic. It’s not purely a concert film, though the newly rediscovered footage from Dylan’s concerts in Toronto and Buffalo, with the camera seemingly inches from his face, is tremendous. It’s not a contemporary commentary on the Gospel Tour, though, as you quickly realize, this element has been newly made, now a part of the art.

We start as any concert tour should start, in the rehearsal studio, warming up with an old gospel standard, “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well.”  Dylan is frowning in concentration, with huge fuzzy unmodulated hair and a wild gold sequined guitar strap.  Sequins will be much in evidence, as will big shoulder pads, when we come to the concert footage of the five female backup singers. It is, after all, the last gasp of the 1970s. Dylan, and the company ranged around him, end the song with huge smiles.

To read the entire No Depression article, click HERE.

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Punk legends X honored in Los Angeles

Photo by Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs

By Steve Beard

Members of the legendary punk rock band X were honored by the Los Angeles City Council in celebration of the group’s 40th anniversary and the Council officially declared Wednesday, October 10 as X Day in Los Angeles.

The band was launched in 1977 and began playing at The Masque, a Hollywood punk club. The four original bandmates – Exene Cervanka, John Doe, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake – were all in attendance for the recognition.

Heralded as a “groundbreaking, historic band” by Council member Mitch O’Farrell, X produced four critically-acclaimed and defining albums in the early 1980s: Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under the Big Black Sun, and More Fun in the New World. O’Farrell characterized the albums as explorations of “aspects of dark love amidst the dark, Moorish backdrop of Los Angeles.”

In her remarks before the Council, Cervanka compared the fledgling days of punk rock to the silent movie era of the Roaring Twenties “when all the girls looked like Theda Bara and Clara Bow with their bobbed hair and their red lips and the guys were unpredictable Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd figures and the crowds paid a nickel and sat in the dark and did not know if you were going to be terrified or cry or laugh.”

“Those movies – like the silent movie days – were gone in an instant,” Cervanka said. “It was a brief, shining and glorious moment. And today is our moment. Thank you very much.”

“We are all dreamers in this band. We just dreamed something up and it became real,” John Doe told the Council. “That’s something that could happen in Los Angeles and the West. You could just introduce yourself as John Doe and then after a while someone says, ‘Oh, hey, there’s John Doe.’ Or you can say, ‘What do you call yourselves?’ And we say ‘X,’ and they say ‘What?’ And you say it a second time: ‘We’re X.’ And in Los Angeles and the West, they will say, ‘Oh there’s X. They’re over there.’”

“We’ve been here for 40 years and we’ve given something to LA to put LA on the map for punk rock,” Doe observed. “And now it’s really rewarding to have LA give something back to us. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for recognizing us.”

The irony of having politicians honoring punk rock legends was observed by Council member Paul Koretz. “When X was founded,” he said with smirking smile, “the most likely thing that you thought would be happening is that 40 years later you would be surrounded by a bunch of folks in suits at City Hall. But here you are.”

X was recently honored on August 16 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and John Doe’s memoir, “Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk,” was nominated for a Grammy in the spoken word category for the audio version of the book. The Grammy Museum at LA Live will open an X exhibit titled X: 40 Years of Punk in Los Angeles on Friday, October 13.

Steve Beard is the founder of Thunderstruck Media.

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Bono’s eucharist in Bogotá

Via Twitter (Juan Carlos Iragorri).

According to news reports, Bono received communion at a local parish on the morning (October 8) after performing the Joshua Tree anniversary concert in El Campin Stadium in Bogotá, Columbia. According to those attending mass, Bono arrived without fanfare, sat quietly in the back of the sanctuary, prayed in silence, and received Communion.

The service was conducted at the chapel of The Gimnasio Moderno, a prestigious primary and secondary educational institution in Bogotá.

“Coolness might help in your negotiation with people through the world, maybe, but it is impossible to meet God with sunglasses on,” Bono said in a provocative 2005 book-length interview with Michka Assayas. “It is impossible to meet God without abandon, without exposing yourself, being raw.”

In regard to his faith, Bono told Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone: “If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there’s a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in “straw poverty”; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me. … As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that would make me a Christian. Although I don’t use the label, because it is so very hard to live up to.”

The photo was taken by an unknown participant at the religious service.

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Tom Petty on greed and power

“Through these hypnotic eyes, we’re told we’re nothing if we don’t have a mansion and dress like a movie star,” Tom Petty says. “I’ve never seen so much jewelry advertised. It’s hard on a young person to not think that’s the game. When I was growing up, people didn’t expect to get a swimming pool.

“You can boil all the world’s problems down to one word: greed,” Petty says. “It’s not greed on the part of poor people. It’s these very wealthy people who make a lot of money and then live only to make more. The money starts to make them miserable because they’re worried about somebody getting it. Then the money’s not enough and they seek power. Very few people on this globe know how to responsibly handle power. It’s gone into the hands of really shaky people who don’t care who they hurt in their quest to have more money than they’ll ever need.”

To read Edna Gundersen’s entire article,  click HERE

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Jack White’s patron saints

Excerpt: “Jack Outside the Box” by Josh Eells, New York Times

White was brought up Catholic, and he still feels an affinity for the martyrs and saints. He likes their devotion, the purity of their sacrifice — especially St. Sebastian, the patron saint of endurance, and St. Rita, the patron saint of the impossible. He also admired Simeon Stylites, a Christian ascetic in fifth-century Syria who spent almost 40 years living atop a huge stone pillar, despite frequent entreaties to come down and not a few doubts about his motives.

White seemed to relate. “People were saying, ‘You’re just doing this for show, you’re not really devoted, you’re crazy, you’re self-indulgent,’ ” he said. “So he came down and stood on the ground and said: ‘I’m down here. Now what? Am I proving to you that this is not what it’s about?’ ” Then, White said, “he went right back up.”

White once said he has three dads: his biological father, God and Bob Dylan. Dylan was the first concert he ever saw — he says he had seat No. 666 — and he shares with his hero a love for manipulating and obscuring his own persona.

Some things we know. He was born John Anthony Gillis, the 10th of 10 children, and — in a rare instance of mythology dovetailing with reality — the seventh son. His father, Gorman, was a maintenance man at the archdiocese of Detroit; his mother, Teresa, was the cardinal’s secretary. They named him after John the Baptist.

To read Jason Eells’s full New York Times article, click HERE

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On the anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death

RIP Jimi Hendrix, who died in London on September 18, 1970. A year before his death, Dick Cavett asked Hendrix if music had meaning.

Jimi Hendrix: Oh, yeah, definitely, it’s getting to be more spiritual than anything now. Pretty soon I believe that they’re gonna … have to rely on music to … get some kind of peace of mind, or satisfaction – direction, actually – more so than politics, because like politics is really … a big fat ego scene – the art of words which mean nothing. Therefore, you have to rely on a more earthier substance, like music or the arts, theatre, you know, acting, painting, whatever.

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Lady Gaga praying rosary; explaining ailment

From Lady Gaga’s Instagram account: I have always been honest about my physical and mental health struggles. Searching for years to get to the bottom of them. It is complicated and difficult to explain, and we are trying to figure it out. As I get stronger and when I feel ready, I will tell my story in more depth, and plan to take this on strongly so I can not only raise awareness, but expand research for others who suffer as I do, so I can help make a difference. I use the word “suffer” not for pity, or attention, and have been disappointed to see people online suggest that I’m being dramatic, making this up, or playing the victim to get out of touring. If you knew me, you would know this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a fighter. I use the word suffer not only because trauma and chronic pain have changed my life, but because they are keeping me from living a normal life. They are also keeping me from what I love the most in the world: performing for my fans. I am looking forward to touring again soon, but I have to be with my doctors right now so I can be strong and perform for you all for the next 60 years or more. I love you so much.

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