Monday, January 28, 2008

The Right Stuff

Virgin Mary souvenir soap(left) from Ephesus, Turkey, where the BVM supposedly spent the rest of her life after her son's crucifixion. The label reads:
"This soap is produced from the olive trees in the district of Virgin Mary's House" and "Tura Turizm, Sea Tours." My father bought this for me during a Mediterranean cruise that stopped at Ephesus.

I had a deprived childhood: I was deprived of religious tchotchke.
Raised by secular humanist parents, I longed for trinkets and incantations.

The Catholic kids seemed to have the best stuff, like rosaries and genuflection.
No doubt this is one of the reasons that I became Catholic as an adult (besides that my father's Sicilian religious genes beat out my mother's Scottish ones). But I really would have made a terrific Hindu.

Folks like stuff with magic-like properties.
In "The Right Stuff," a movie about the Mercury 7 astronauts, the "right stuff" means having guts and nerve, but you also see that some of the men engage in little rituals.
Pilot Chuck Yeager always asks his friend for a stick of gum before he risks his life testing supersonic jets. The first man into space prays. John Glenn hums.

I decided to use my Ephesus soap, figuring it will eventually get rancid anyway. It smells nice, and I feel I am anointing myself with strengthening medicine.

And speaking of bravery and space, I've mentioned two Sigourney Weaver movies in this blog so far (Death and the Maiden and The Year of Living Dangerously), but her best role was as the space heroine in Alien.

I haven't seen that movie since it came out, but I thought of it the other day because it blows Star Trek's image of women out of the water.

Feminism has been so successful that most young people don't question that women can have the "right stuff" too. But I remember when it was otherwise.

Given what she went through, I think Mary must have been more like the heroine in "Alien" than the prissy Victorian girl of childhood holy cards, wonderful trinkets though they are.

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