Light beyond violence

first_imgWhen he first encountered the work of Cormac McCarthy as a college student in the mid-’90s, Matthew Potts became spellbound by the novelist, whose dark and violent narratives have led readers deep into history (“Blood Meridian”) and forward into a post-apocalyptic future (“The Road”). Potts remained enthralled for almost two decades. Now, that feeling has gained shape and texture. The Harvard Divinity School professor and Episcopalian priest recently published an academic book about his favorite writer. “Cormac McCarthy and the Signs of Sacrament: Literature, Theology, and the Moral of Stories,” draws on both postmodern theory and Christian theologies of sacrament to analyze McCarthy’s use of religious images and the moral significance of his stories.The Gazette spoke with Potts about his book and how McCarthy’s fiction helps him see the value of human goodness in the here and now. GAZETTE: You’ve said that McCarthy’s books are inflected with religion. What’s the role religion plays in his novels?POTTS: On the one hand, there are many places in his books where institutional religion is skewered and critiqued without much ambiguity. The novels show impatience with institutional religion at large and with certain forms of religious life or practices. In spite of that, the novels are also adorned with religious images, especially sacramental images, all over the place. Even at the same time that Christian religious institutions are being undermined or dismissed, when rare moments of tenderness or goodness arise, they do so alongside images or invocations of the Christian sacramental tradition: the sharing of food, baptismal imagery, images of washing, the Eucharist. For someone like me, who wants to write from a Christian theological standpoint, I can use these books because I think they expose aspects of the sacramental tradition that Christianity sometimes forgets or neglects.GAZETTE: What do you think sacraments represent, in the author’s view?POTTS: One of the things McCarthy helps me see is that Christian sacramental tradition raises the question of what it means for the holy to be present in the here and now. Take the Eucharist, for example. There are longstanding and intractable arguments in Christianity over what it means for Jesus Christ to be present at communion. Some say the bread and wine must go away to make room for Jesus, that they only appear to be bread and wine but have actually become body and blood. Others say the bread and wine can only be symbols, because how could God really be present in bread and wine? In either case, however, there is a worry over allowing these ordinary things, bread and wine, to be recognized as holy. I think McCarthy wants to challenge that worry, to ask what holiness without transcendence might look like.GAZETTE: How does all of this relate to his books?POTTS: McCarthy is often interpreted, in popular culture, as agnostic or a nihilist or an atheist, and he might be all of those things. It’s clear that he’s really impatient with institutionalized religion and doesn’t believe in any idea of a sweet hereafter or a great beyond. But I think he does want to insist that even if we can’t hold onto a notion of transcendent goodness, we can hold some notion of goodness in the here and now.GAZETTE: Where do you see that in his novels?POTTS: In “The Road,” the story is of a man and his son in a post-apocalyptic world. There’s nothing to eat, everything is dying, but they are traveling to get to the ocean because they have the idea that once they get there, everything will be fine, something good will be waiting there for them. But when they get there, it’s not any better than before, it’s just as bad.There is the common notion that a journey is redeemed by its end. That’s the way Christian theology often works, we endure the trying journey of life so we can end up in the sweet hereafter. But that doesn’t happen in “The Road.” Still, in the novel there are moments when the man and boy share bread and care for each other, and these are the moments that give meaning to their journey. The journey is not redeemed by its end, but by being with each other, that is what’s valuable. It’s not the great beyond that redeems the struggle; it’s actually the love for one another in the struggle. In my view, what he’s saying is that we don’t need to believe in the great beyond to believe in goodness.GAZETTE: Can goodness be achieved through religion? Or can someone be a moral person without religion?POTTS: Even though I’m religious, I believe that one can be perfectly moral without religion. In fact, because religion sometimes places all its concern upon another world instead of this one, I think it sometimes struggles to adequately attend to the moral problems of the world at hand. What I see in McCarthy’s novels is that he’s skeptical about the idea that the only source of goodness must lie beyond this world, and I happen to agree with that. If religion is to be of help in our world, it has to be to locate goodness in the here and now. Our task, as persons religious or not, should be to give attention to the world as it is, even if it’s broken, dying, or violent.GAZETTE: What do you make of the violence and cruelty in McCarthy’s books?POTTS: I’m unsettled by the violence because it seems gratuitous at times. I think that’s intentional, that McCarthy’s trying to unsettle us. Because although McCarthy’s violence is horrifying, it’s not fantastical. The things people do to each other in his books are things that people have done to each other in history and still do to each other today. I think McCarthy doesn’t see the value of testing the worth of goodness if the test is too easy or unrealistic. McCarthy creates the worst possible situations to make the point that if goodness still seems worthwhile under those circumstances, then maybe it really is worth the trouble. So I think he’s saying it’s worth the trouble, but it’s still trouble.GAZETTE: Would you consider McCarthy a religious man?POTTS: In an interview, when he’s asked whether he was religious, he said, “I wish I were,” which is interesting. It’s not no, it’s not yes. Michel de Certeau, the Jesuit scholar, said once, “The desire for faith is the same thing as faith.” For McCarthy to say, “I wish I were religious” raises the question whether or not he is. I wouldn’t call him religious or Christian just because I don’t know. I doubt he’d call himself one. But I think he’s useful to Christians and religious people.GAZETTE: What do you mean by that? How so?POTTS: He’s useful because of the way he manipulates the Christian tradition and exposes meanings that the tradition likes to ignore or neglect. A lot of Christians are troubled by his books and therefore put them aside or discount him as non-Christian, agnostic, atheist, or nihilist. … But in putting his books aside or reducing him to those categories, people who want to call themselves Christians may miss the opportunity to see what he’s exposing in the sacraments, miss recognizing how these sacraments might be meaningful to the Christian church and Christian lives today.GAZETTE: Could you elaborate on that? Are you referring to the value of being good?POTTS: It’s not only the value of being good, it also has to do with where the source of goodness lies. If you think about what happens at an altar, where the priest consecrates bread and wine, you could say that that ritual points to a heavenly banquet, and that what’s going on at the altar is just an imitation of that heavenly banquet. If you say that, you’re saying that the source of goodness and holiness lies outside this world. But if you say what happens at that altar is itself holiness, then you have to look at the people around you, regular people you may like or dislike, broken and fallible in all the usual ways, and maybe change your definition of what counts as sacred.In his books, there are moments when people risk a difficult thing for the sake of love, and even if they may not be rewarded for it, they do it because it’s the right thing to do. I think when he writes such violent things, what’s he’s doing is asking us to think seriously about what the stakes of goodness are. Just because you’re good doesn’t mean the world is going to be good, just because you do the right thing doesn’t mean all is going to be OK. He makes the world not OK precisely in order to ask the question, “Is this still worth doing?”GAZETTE: Many people consider McCarthy’s books very violent, but in your book you said that McCarthy defies violence and that he doesn’t celebrate it.POTTS: One way to read him is that he’s celebrating violence. I don’t read him that way. In “The Road,” again, for example, the main characters, who are father and son, love each other and care for one another, and what McCarthy is trying to say is that it’s still worthwhile for them to love each other even though the man is dying and the world is not going to get better. That’s not a celebration of violence, that’s a realistic appraisal of violence, a defiance of violence. It’s McCarthy raising the question of goodness. It’s about doing the right thing even though it might put us at risk, even though it might not save us, because it’s valuable in and of itself, not because it carries us into safety or up to heaven.GAZETTE: How do you think general readers should approach McCarthy?POTTS: Just read him. I think they should read McCarthy and not be put off by the violence. There are many moments in his novels when one might want to stop reading because there is too much violence. I’d encourage people to keep reading. I really do think that McCarthy is trying to ask questions of meaning in a violent world, and if we stop after reading the violent parts without asking the question of meaning, then the violence simply stands. If we keep reading, we may find a way to stand up to it.last_img read more

Update on the latest sports

first_imgUpdate on the latest sports Roush team president Steve Newmark opened a news conference before Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by reading a lengthy statement from Newman.Newman wrote that he was fortunate to avoid any internal organ damage or broken bones, and that the doctors have been pleased with his progress over the last few days. He said he is looking forward to getting behind the wheel again.Newmark said it is Newman’s intent to race for the 2020 Cup championship this season, and the driver plans to ask NASCAR for an exemption to qualify for the playoffs once he’s medically cleared to return.Ross Chastain is driving the No. 6 Ford on Sunday as Newman’s streak of 649 consecutive starts comes to an end.NHL-PENGUINS-CAPITALS Lamar Stevens, who was plagued with foul trouble all game, led Penn State with 29 points on 11-of-27 shooting.The Nittany Lions opened the second half with 12 unanswered points to slice Indiana’s 13-point halftime lead to 37-36. The Hoosiers’ cold streak continued as Penn State took a 48-42 lead with 12:17 left.In other top-25 action Sunday:— Myles Powell scored 18 points, Sandro Mamukelashvili added 16 points and nine rebounds and No. 16 Seton Hall beat St. John’s 81-65. Jared Rhoden added 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting and Romero Gill had 12 points while going 6 for 6 from the floor in in the wire-to-wire victory. The Pirates began pulling away midway through the first half. LJ Figueroa led St. John’s with 19 points, while Julian Champagnie had 14 points and 11 rebounds.NBA-GRIZZLIES-JACKSON INJURED Memphis currently is in the midst of a four-game road swing, holding the eighth spot in the Western Conference at 28-28. They visit the Clippers on Monday night.MLB-NEWSRed Sox put former AL MVP Pedroia on 60-day injured listFORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The Boston Red Sox placed second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the 60-day injured list Sunday, further putting in doubt whether the former AL MVP will play again.The Red Sox made the move while claiming right-hander Phillips Valdez off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray allowed four goals on 22 shots. The Penguins lost their third in a row to cool off and fall into second place. T25 MEN’S BASKETBALL-SCHEDULEDurham, Jackson-Davis lead Indiana past No. 9 Penn StateUNDATED (AP) — Al Durham scored 14 points and Trayce Jackson-Davis had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead Indiana to a 68-60 victory over No. 9 Penn State.Devonte Green contributed 10 points for the Hoosiers, who started hot but needed to hit their final four free throws to help seal the win. Brignone tops World Cup overall standings with combined winCRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP) — Federica Brignone (feh-deh-REE’-kah breen-YOH’-nay) now leads the World Cup overall standings ahead of Mikaela Shiffrin after winning an Alpine combined event on Sunday.By earning 100 World Cup points, Brignone opened a gap of 73 to three-time defending champion Shiffrin who has taken an extended break from racing after the death of her father in Colorado.Brignone ended 0.92 seconds ahead of runner-up Franziska Gritsch. Ester Ledecka, the double OIympic champion in skiing and snowboarding, placed third.TENNIS-OBIT-JEANNE EVERT Grizzlies: Jackson out at least 2 weeks with sprained kneeMEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. will miss at least two weeks with a sprained left knee after getting hurt in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.The Grizzlies announced Sunday that Jackson will be re-evaluated in two weeks.An MRI exam showed Jackson sprained his knee Friday night contesting a shot late in the second quarter. He did not return for the second half of Memphis’ 117-105 loss to the Lakers.Jackson is the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer, averaging 16.9 points per game. The fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft is shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range. Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditNASCAR-NEWMAN-HEAD INJURYNewman confirms he suffered head injury in Daytona 500 crashLAS VEGAS (AP) — Ryan Newman says he suffered a head injury in his crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 but did not disclose details, and there’s no timetable for his return to NASCAR racing. Jeanne Evert, former tennis pro and sister of Chris, diesDELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jeanne Evert Dubin, a former world-ranked professional tennis player and a younger sister of 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert, has died.A funeral home in Delray Beach, Florida, where Evert Dubin lived, posted an obituary that said she died Thursday at age 62 after a 2 1/2-year struggle with ovarian cancer.Evert Dubin turned pro at age 15 in 1973 after a stellar junior career. She and sister Chris played doubles together for two years, ranking No. 4. Evert Dubin reached a career-high ranking of No. 28 in the world in 1978, when she retired from competition.A funeral will be Monday in Fort Lauderdale. The 36-year-old Pedroia has played just nine games over the last two seasons. The four-time All-Star has spent the time trying to recover from an injury he sustained when Baltimore’s Manny Machado slid spikes-high into his left knee in May 2017.Pedroia has two years and $25 million remaining on his contract.In other MLB news:— Yoenis Céspedes (yoh-EHN’-ehs SEHS’-peh-dehs) says he expects to be ready to play by opening day. Out of the lineup since July 2018 with heel problems, Céspedes said Sunday that he plans to play in spring training games by the middle of March. And if all goes well, he intends to be in the lineup on March 26 when the Mets host the World Series champion Washington Nationals in the opener. The two-time All-Star outfielder was out for much of 2017 with hamstring strains, then missed more than two months in 2018 because of a strained hip flexor. While recovering from surgery on his heels last May, Céspedes fractured his right ankle in multiple places in an accident at his ranch.WORLD CUP-WOMEN’S COMBINED February 23, 2020 Capitals snap skid, beat Penguins to vault into first placeWASHINGTON (AP) — T.J. Oshie scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, Braden Holtby made 33 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on Sunday to snap their losing streak at four and leapfrog their archrivals into first place.The Capitals endured a back-and-forth, chippy game to win for just the second time in their past eight games. The team that led the NHL for much of the season showed the kind of resolve that was lacking during a recent stretch of futility.Despite being outshot 36-23, Washington put together responses to some potential momentum-crushing Penguins goals. Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby scored 26 seconds apart late in the second and Evgeni Malkin had a highlight-reel goal in the third that tied it.Tom Wilson scored 76 seconds into the third to make it 2-2, two-time Penguins Stanley Cup champion Carl Hagelin put the Capitals up and Oshie shoveled the puck in on a scramble in front with 9:20 left. Associated Press last_img read more

Syracuse falls to North Carolina State, 3-0, after recording lowest shot output of year

first_imgSyracuse (7-6-2, 2-4-1 Atlantic Coast) fell at North Carolina State (10-4-1, 3-3-1) 3-0, after recording its fewest shot total all season.The Orange has taken the fewest shots in the conference (51) of teams that have played at least seven ACC games. SU, which only has three scores in conference play, is averaging 0.429 goals per ACC game. That ranks 11th in the conference.After a scoreless 35 minutes, N.C. State’s Ricarda Walkling delivered the first blow. Later in the game, just over a minute removed from Kailee Coonan giving the Orange its second shot of the game, Tziarra King matched that number for the Wolfpack in goals. It was her first of what would be two goals in the game.SU didn’t even record a shot on goal before King gave NC State a 3-0 lead that it never looked back from.The sophomore King not only added two goals, but assisted on the first goal of the game. She alone outshot the Orange 6-4 and nearly matched the Orange’s total number of goals since beginning ACC play.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThis performance marks the sixth time the Orange has been shutout, five of those coming in SU’s past seven games.Senior goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan, who faced eight shots on goal, made five saves and enters her final three regular season games with 317 career saves. She continues to inch closer to the Syracuse all-time lead, needing just 15 in her next three games to reach that mark..Syracuse returns to SU soccer stadium to play Virginia at 7 p.m. on Thursday for the first of a two-game home stand. Comments Published on October 14, 2017 at 4:52 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @MikeJMcCleary Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more