Sunday, April 30, 2006

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Granta 93: God's Own Countries

Granta is a quarterly magazine that publishes non-fiction and fiction from writers from all over the world. The latest issue is titled God’s Own Countries. Ian Jack, the editor of Granta writes in his introduction:
“For most of the twentieth century, and not only in the West, organized belief in the supernatural was held to be in decline. All of us know the story. Science, rationalism and materialism—usually personified by the Europeans Darwin and Lyell, Marx and Freud—had given religious belief such a bashing that its explanations of how the world came to be, how we came to be in it, how we should best live in it, and what would happen to us after our death—these explanations and the strictures that went with them became, quite simply, unbelievable and disagreeable. The idea of God as creator and custodian died, and many words in the old vocabulary were robbed of their potency, even their meaning: heaven, hell, salvation, sacrilege, blasphemy.

Or so the secularists thought, forgetting the great psychologist William James’s judgement that beliefs do not work because they are true, but true because they work. Today the godly, if not God, have bounced back. As I write, I can see them at work in today’s news...”
God's Own Countries attempts to understand the role religion plays in the world today. There are short articles – titled God and Me – by many well-known writers including Pankaj Mishra and Nadeem Aslam, a writer of Pakistani origin who now lives in England (his most recent novel, Maps for Lost Lovers, received very good reviews). Also, there’s an interview with Orhan Pamuk, one of my favorite writers.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Tumacacori National Monument

Below is a photograph of the church that is now part of Tumacacori National Monument. The monument is 20 miles north of Nogales and the Arizona-Mexico border. The church was built in the late 1700s under the supervision of the Franciscan priests of the Spanish empire, and was never fully completed (the region was steadily entering a period of lawlessness at the time). But the root of the mission at Tumacacori goes back to the foundations that Jesuit missionary Eusebio Kino (1645-1711) had laid earlier.

The Pima Indians did the actual construction, and something of their style would have surely made its way into the building of the church. The presence of the church in what was then the land of the Pima Indians brings to fore the theme of a revealed religion (specifically Islam or Christianity) ushering in new ideas, new ways of viewing things, but also attempting to erase centuries-old, perhaps millennia-old, earth religions and beliefs. The theme is a persistent one in history.

I visited the church last December; it made me think of the Spanish presence in southern Arizona, and spurred me on to research the history of the time. For more details on this, see posts 1 and 2.