Old School, New School
One of the most engaging aspects of collaborating with Rachel on this blog, as well as in life, is that, creatively, I find Rachel way new school, whereas I am way old school. I don’t know if she agrees with these designations, but I’ll parse it out a bit, because “old school” and “new school” can be tricky tags to apply.
To start, I don’t mean that my aesthetic favors that which is necessarily older; perhaps I simply mean that I have Neoclassical and Romantic leanings. Compare our poetry, for example: Rachel prefers “modern” (often synonymous with “Japanese” and having nothing whatsoever to do with age) styles like haikus, or more flexible forms. I, on the other hand, think of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as my muse.
Or perhaps by “old school” I simply mean that I like things that have not been thought of as hip in a very long time. Consider this exchange between me and another friend:
Me: How can we get more people to look at our blog?
Liz: What’s it about?
Me: Well I was just comparing various interpretations of King Lear…
This is all a long and possibly needless prelude to my admission that, while many Americans find religions like Buddhism or Kabbalah “trendy” and go around extolling their philosophies, I happen to love (or fetishize?) Catholicism. Your Paul Coelho’s “The Alchemist” is my “New Testament,” so to speak.
Just as American love for Buddhism or Kabbalah is almost without exception purely superficial, so too are my feelings for Catholicism. However, because Catholic mania has a certain political ponderousness stateside, I’m going to be a bit careful here: I’m not condoning any particular morals or practices of the Catholic Church. My proclivity really only runs towards Catholic art, literature, music, architecture and other such ecclesiastical impedimenta.
South America is Catholic country, so my fixation became a running joke for the many travel companions I encountered along the way. I went on a road trip through the Andes with two European guys I met on a bus from San Pedro de Atecama to Salta, and after two days they knew to stop at every town square so I could photograph the requisite church in the center. I’ve visited the Recoleta Cemetery, that gothic fetishist’s Disneyland, countless times over multiple trips to Buenos Aires, and taken hundreds of photographs inside.
The one visit to the Cemetery that stands out most occurred this past January, the first full day of my four-month sojourn on the continent. The Cemetery was deserted; it was a weekday around 5pm, right before closing time, and the tourists had all departed to eat overpriced Freddo helado on the lawns. That evening, the Cemetery looked like an Easter greeting card come to life. You couldn’t pay for that kind of lighting. Every photograph I took could have been the cover of a Christian drugstore paperback entitled “Finding the Meaning of Life.” I had to race against both the Cemetery guard, who was politely waiting to escort me outside, and the flickering battery-life of my camera (because all travel stories must involve some sort of agonizing camera fiasco), to capture the moment.
It was the first day of my trip, and many of the photographs were subsequently lost to hostel computers and internet cafes to make room for future ones. But the few that I saved might just convince you to convert. Which is what I’ve been trying to do all along.