[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

GG: QitL

Bradley brought up some interesting questions vis a vis GG's
"docudrama," _The Quiet in the Land_ and I thought I'd make an effort
to respond.

I guess I'll start by mentioning some of the passages that interest
me most.  My favorite character is the "father figure," the older
Mennonite sage.  There is a quality of belief and gentleness in his
voice that grounds all the ensuing conversation.  I've realized on
what's probably my 15th listening that there is none of the antagonism that GG
put into _The Idea of North_.  

The mention of Kierkegaard has been much on my mind.  A younger man
quotes him: "the purity of heart is to will one thing..." (where does
this quote come from?) Kierkegaard wrote under pseudonyms in an effort
to achieve an irony in the manner of Socrates, or Christ's parables.
I think of GG's personae, and his manipulation of these "characters"
and I think that QitL is autobiographical in the way that
Kierkegaard's writing is autobiographical-- but that's just my theory.

Later another man speaks of a Mennonite belief that philosophy will lead you
astray, that humanism is dangerous.  The speaker says the church lost
that one and and that Mennonites were increasingly interested in
humanist pursuits.  This reminds me of GG's statement that art is not
inevitably begign.  As GG has constrcuted this docudrama, there is a
great deal of Kierkegaardian dread throughout-- a quandry that once
you've chosen your identity, in this case as a Mennonite, you're left
always to judge your own actions based on your ethical system-- how
best is love, or God's will, served in every given situation?
Inevitably, there is conflict.

1) The Mennonite woman who talks of the mistake of reaching out to a
troubled child who has trusted no one, and speaking to this child of
God, whom he can not see-- 

2) The Mennonite man who talks of how moving he finds _Waiting for
Godot_ because it depicts the plight of non-Christians who are seeking
faith (in his interpretation) but find only absurd existence-- this
man speaks of his own "guilt" that he, that Christians, have been
unable to communicate what God brings to their lives to these people
waiting for Godot...

3) Then there is the question of how people who consider themselves
"in the world but not of the world" can be evangelical and isolated at
the same time. One speaker maintains to seperatists that "the world
that God loves is the world of people" and I can't help but think that
GG by broadcasting this docudrama was helping out a bit...

My favorite scene:
The discussion of the 12 tone church anthem, with T.V. music in the 
background-- a harmonica-- and a Mennonite man talks of his interest in
William Walton's _Balshasaar's Feast_ and he says that people find the
music dissonant and he has to reconcile how he can be interested in
dissonance in music and live in the harmony of Christian experience.
As he says that the church "has no use for my 12 tone interests" a
terribly dissonant version of "Battle Hymn Republic" squaks in the
background and the conversation turns to the nature of gopsel songs--
that they written for a short time, that they are a part of a pop
culture that "has been fossilized and is still used in our churches,"
this "disposible music." From dissonance in music the subject changes to
the Existential passage on _Waiting for Godot_.  As the talk turns
to the failure of Christians to communicate their experience to those
waiting "for Godot," a piano roll plays, indicating a brothel.  Then a
stripper barker yaps about a 26" girl who will strip for viewing
pleasure-- GG's aural dramitization of Existential absurdity.  This
morphs into a choir rehearsal and there is more talk of music and
Mennonite theology.

I hope I'll be forgiven, but Gould was brilliant-- just brilliant!  My
enthusiasm for these radio pieces grows exponentially every time I

I ask myself, are Mennonites in reality this self-aware?  Is the
questioning that goes on in QitL manufactured by GG who leaves in a bit
of conversation at one point about how there are people who think
about some topic, I forget, but that "they're on the fringe."  I
realize the ideas are culled from hours of tapes and spliced for
maximum effect but even so!  What a dinner party of anonymous guests!

I think the greatest question of the piece are 1) the role of art in
music in Mennonite life 2) to what extent should Mennonites be "in the
world" in order to serve their religious convictions... in one sense,
these were GG's greatest questions for himself.

As far as how I would characterize Mennonite identity after QitL, I
hesitate because I'm aware that this is an artistic philosophical
piece-- I guess I'd say there is a great deal of conflict, both racial
and ethical.  I can only imagine these issues have grown more
complicated in recent years for Mennonites as they have for all of

Whew!  Any other comments?  Anybody??

-Mary Jo