Skip to main content

From Tirol to Hawaii: The Omnipresence of Faith and Religion

I have lived in L.A. more than ten years and still things amaze me which others who were raised in the U.S. take for granted. The way religion, politics, public life, and pop culture meld is one such area. I was recently reminded of this when I came upon pictures of Jeremy Scott's Enjoy God fashion line in the LA Times Magazine and again as I was browsing some photos I had taken in Hawaii in April.

"Amen". License plates in a burger restaurant... 
...and van with banners (both in Lahaina, Hawaii) 
Where I come from, in Austria, faith and religion are omnipresent too - but in a different way. In my home state, Tirol, Catholic shrines and crucifixes line country lanes; chapels stand at crossroads out in the fields; and many a church is tucked away in a hamlet up on a mountain. These structures are part of the alpine landscape and they have been for hundreds of years - though their meaning is lost to many. (The days when children were taught to make the sign of the cross whenever they passed a blessed site are gone. If kids forgot they needed to go to confession lest they end up in hell.)

Confession or hell? Church of Kronburg, Tirol,...
...with high altar to its patron saint, Mary


debi said…

The contrast between European and US religious advertising is striking in these pictures; Tirol is so beautiful but here, uh, well… the pictures speak for themselves; it's almost comedic.

I understand your point, though, about the melding of "religion, politics, public life, and pop culture", and your pictures illustrate it perfectly.

I often wonder if we haven't convinced ourselves as a society that any set of ideals or beliefs should not be personally embraced unless and until the almighty public opinion has put its stamp of approval on it.

Where has our individualism gone? Great post.

Thanks, Debi. Always good to see you on Across the Pond.

What happened to individualism? I think it is still there, just maybe harder to find, more hidden. Our world of social media and general connectedness, of show and tell in blogs (here!) and on Facebook, encourages mainstreaming, at least on a superficial level.

In an era where everything is public (and where, in turn, anything we produce can be used against us), people can be reluctant to set themselves apart, be it from the norm or from "officially" sanctioned beliefs. And so we wear masks, slip into roles, showing our individualism in small safe zones and to a select few only.

I don't think this happens consciously and that is where the danger lies: after a while it can become easy to take our own camouflage for the real thing, the false identity for the true self.

A profile of the internet pioneer Jaron Lanier in the most recent issue of the "New Yorker" relates to this ("The Visionary", July 11 & 18). Lanier compares our "fakey-fakey social life" on the internet to the life of citizens in Communist countries "where people had a fake social life that the Stasi could see, and then this underground life".

Personally, I believe that authenticity and integrity cannot be valued high enough. Become who you are! The pursuit of this goal should be a constitutional right - and an obligation too.

Popular posts from this blog

Visions of Editors: How Good Stories Go to Waste

Recently I stumbled upon Visions of Mary, a war story by Joseph Richardson. The book begins in a present day emergency room in Tennessee: A physician, a good guy who takes his work seriously, fights to establish the identity of a man who was found wandering about in a snow storm. The M.D.'s questions bring up memories of World War II in the disoriented patient. Thanks to the lost man's recollections we eventually learn that he is Colonel John Stone, an American war hero. The colonel tells the physician how he enlisted and became a pilot, how he married his sweetheart, Mary, and how he almost died when the Japanese shot down his plane, the "China Doll," in the last months of the war. After the attack, Stone and his men found themselves on a raft in the middle of a shark infested nowhere called the Pacific. Without food, water and radio connection their death seemed imminent. The men's fight for survival is where the book turns exciting: plunged into this crisis,

Lyman, Whitford, Reality Check: A Career in the West Wing?

On a chilly Sunday night in February two young girls in jeans and light blouses were standing in front of the artists' entrance of one of two local art theaters in Pasadena, California. The pathway beyond the barrier, an iron gate, was barely lit. It stayed empty for a long time while the girls, shifting weight from one foot to the other, chatted and giggled. After a while a figure emerged from the shadows. The girls fell silent but it was the wrong actor. When the right man, Bradley Whitford, finally appeared he was wearing a bicycle helmet pushed way up on his forehead. Whitford is best known for playing Josh Lyman in the TV series  The West Wing   but on that night he had performed in the Pasadena Playhouse's production of Yasmina Reza’s   Art.  The girls stopped the actor, told him about their social studies class and how the teacher would have them watch The West Wing.  Whitford smiled, asked, "Which school is it?" and autographed the two print-outs the girls

Solid Rock, Human Transience (The Huntington 2)

Organic blend: Chinese garden at the Huntington The Chinese garden at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino (L.A. county) is a magical place. It blends the man-made and the natural, architecture with trees, straight lines and curves, all in an organic way. Last week, as I was wandering the cobbled paths of the garden I decided to take a closer look at some of the rocks. I got to my knees, admired the shades of white and grey, the undertones of purple, green, and red; I let my hand glide over the limestone's spurs, cracks, and sharp edges, felt the coolness of the rock against my skin, its enduring solidity against my human transience - and decided to look up some facts. Spurs and cracks: 50 Chinese stone workers flew in to carve the stone Transplants in L.A.: 850 tons of rock The limestone rocks in the Huntington's Chinese garden are transplants. They were imported from Lake Tai in the Yangtze Delta in China. Acc