Archive for religion

Goddess Aretha Franklin

From David Remnick’s lovely tribute this morning:

Prayer, love, desire, joy, despair, rapture, feminism, Black Power—it is hard to think of a performer who provided a deeper, more profound reflection of her times. What’s more, her gift was incomparable. Smokey Robinson, her friend and neighbor in Detroit, once said, “Aretha came out of this world, but she also came out of another, far-off magical world none of us really understood. . . . She came from a distant musical planet where children are born with their gifts fully formed.” Etta James once recalled listening to Franklin’s version of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s standard “Skylark.” In the second verse, Franklin jumps an octave. “I had to scratch my head and ask myself, *How the fuck did that bitch do that?* I remember running into Sarah Vaughan, who always intimidated me. Sarah said, ‘Have you heard of this Aretha Franklin girl?’ I said, ‘You heard her do ‘Skylark,’ didn’t you?’ Sarah said, ‘Yes, I did, and I’m never singing that song again.’ ”

Sinners in the hands of an angry god

Jonathan Edwards, the 18th-century preacher who gave the world that lovely phrase, wrote a sermon on the back of a “bill of sale” accounting for his purchase of a black slave. Susan Stinson’s article is really good.

h/t MD

“Educated”

In honour of the start of my summer semester, I present this excellent interview with Tara Westover, whose book “Educated” is the best memoir I have read in a very long time. Westover was raised in a Mormon “survivalist” home and didn’t go to school until she was 17; she ended up receiving a Ph.D. after studying at Cambridge and Harvard; she also became estranged from her parents and some of her siblings. Her story almost overwhelmed me emotionally, particularly those parts in which her teachers became mentors. It reminded me why I live.

Ô Canada …

… where Good Friday and Easter Monday are national* holidays. I will always find this odd (and oddly satisfying).

*Exceptions: Folk from Quebec have to choose just one of the two days for their holiday. In Alberta employers have an “option” to give their employees Easter Monday off; in Medicine Hat everybody sleeps in on Good Friday.

Three Days

“I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” – Daniel Boone

Saint Robert

ROBERT OF KNARESBOROUGH (1160 – 1218), hermit. The son of an important townsman of York, Robert became a cleric early in life. As a subdeacon he was a novice at the Cistercian abbey of Newminster, but he stayed only a few months. He then chose to live as a hermit at Knaresborough in a cave where another hermit, also in residence, was a knight in hiding from Richard I, on whose death (1199) he returned to his wife. Robert continued there for some years, until a wealthy widow offered him a cell and chapel at Rudfarlington, near by. A year later this hermitage was destroyed by bandits, so Robert lived at Spofforth under the church wall for a few months, then at Hedley (near Tadcaster), where he found the monks too easy-going, before returning to Rudfarlington. Here he had four servants and kept livestock, but was soon in trouble with William de Stuteville, constable of Knaresborough castle, for harbouring thieves and outlaws. The charge may have been true, for Robert was well known for charity to the destitute. The hermitage was destroyed by William; Robert returned to his cave at Knaresborough, where he lived for the rest of his life.

His benefactors included King John who gave him forty acres of land in 1216, which he eventually accepted for the poor and so refused to pay tithes on it. William de Stuteville also gave him land and cows. Robert had a companion named Yves, who remained with him for the rest of his life.

Robert’s death, like much of his life, was controversial. Cistercian monks from Fountains tried unsuccessfully to aggregate him to their Order on his death-bed and, after his death on 24 September, to bury his body in their church. But he refused the first and foiled the second by arranging for his burial in the chapel beside his cave.

– from ‘The Oxford Dictionary of Saints’ by David Hugh Farmer (Clarendon, 1978)

I do love this St. Robert.

The entrance to his cave, dug out of limestone, is shown below.

st_roberts_cave