Oct 10, 2020

A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi.


A saint for the millenials: the young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 of galloping Leukemia, will be beatified today in Assisi by Pope Francis (last step before being officially declared a saint). I was Carlo's English teach for a year and his passing was a great shock to me. Carlo came from a luke warm Catholic family, but at the age of 7, when he received his first 'Holy Communion', he displayed an astonishing devotion to the Eucharist and remained a daily communicant until the end of his short life. He was cheerful, generous, fun to be with, devoted to the poor, but also a typical teen who loved computer games and ice cream and was a computer wiz as well.  At the age of 11, he started reading college textbooks on computer programming and began designing a beautiful website  displaying all of the 'Eucharistic miracles' in the history of the Catholic Church. He is already been touted as the Patron Saint of the Internet. 

This is the short version of his life. At a later date, I'll post my reflections about the impact and implications of this event for gay people of Spirit. For the moment, I'll just say that these kinds of phenomena in the Church, whether it be Eucharistic miracles, Marian apparitions, saintly teens who die young, tend to attract the most conservative and reactionary elements in the Church, who then view. these phenomena as somehow God's holy stamp upon all of their convictions and prejudices, including their antipathy towards gay relationships and marriage. Nonetheless, I consider this event, Carlo's beatification, to be a really significant spiritual event and the young man himself an extraordinary witness to the life of holiness. Amen

Here is a link to the official website

And Carlo's website devoted to Eucharistic Miracles

And his website devoted to Marian apparitions

Carlo in his tomb in the Church of Saint Mary Major in Assisi

I will end this brief posting with a traditional 'holy card' depicting Carlo with a  Eucharistic monstrance over his heart, rosary beads in his hand and a statue of Our Lady of Fatima behind him and a traditional picture of the Sacred Heart. All symbols dear to that element in the Church that most disapproves of gay people choosing whom they may love and how they may seal that love. Its a paradox and a conundrum, but there it is. Somehow a bridge needs to be buiilt between these conservative factions and those of us living on the fringes - some of whom, myself included, feel a genuine devotion to this holy teen, dressed in his coffin in Nike trainers, an Adidas track suit and a hoody.

Oct 28, 2019

Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars

(Jack Vidgen)

Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Huston and Adele songs. As one of the judges said to him, "|You've got a black woman inside of you." Jack was a cherubic blond teen at the time, a bit shy and self-effacing, but with a vocal instrument of unparalleled power, maturity and intensity. His audition for the show, singing Whitney Huston's I Have Nothing, reached over 9 million views on YouTube and earned for him considerable international interest from music industry execs. He was touted as the "next Justin Bieber", not in terms of his voice - which is far more powerful than Bieber's, but in terms of his potential earning power $$$.

Ronan Park
The second boy, a year younger, was Ronan Park, a smaller and even more cherubic 'choir boy', also equipped with a vocal instrument of extraordinary operatic depth and power. Ronan was even more of a shock than Jack Vidgen, because of his diminutive size. Where did all that gorgeous sound come from? Ronan was the runner-up in Britain's Got Talent contest that year, but in practical terms (record contracts, media attention) he was really the show's de facto  winner. He also was touted as "the next Justin Bieber" teen sensation. Except that ...there was just something too obviously gay about him, whereas Jack gave off no such clues in voice and mannerisms.

Both boys were touted as 'the next Justin Bieber' teen sensation from different parts of the world and on different continents and there were numerous articles in the media comparing them. And then...within a few years of their respective 'wins', after albums and touring, both boys at the age of 16 disappeared from the limelight, gave up singing publicly and retired back into school boy normalcy, or so it seemed. And all that momentum built up by their wins and media attention - fizzled out.

And then, after a five year hiatus, both boys this year - quite independently of one another - made their comebacks. As of this writing, both young men, Jack Vidgen 22 and Ronan Parke 21, are struggling to make an impact, but they have nothing close to the following they had eight years ago. Yet both young men seem much stronger and more self-assured than their younger selves, and both have extraordinary voices and talent. They also have a special story to tell.

What happened?

Being gay is what happened.

Once in the limelight, both young boys were subjected to massive on-line bullying about their sexuality, Ronan Park especially. Both boys were scrutinized minutely, every gesture, every word, every action and subjected to viscous homophobic attacks. Both received death threats on social media and even sadder, both boys were subjected to intense pressure from their record company execs to 'mute' their sexuality or risk of sacrificing their careers. And both boys attempted to comply, with the result that they felt they were disconnecting from their authentic selves. As a result both boys felt a need to pull back, simply out of self preservation.

I'm not going to go into detail in this short blog post, because it's better to let the boys, now young men,  speak for themselves. Of course, they attribute their withdrawal from public life to numerous reasons and influences, but as you listen to them, it becomes clear that being gay and the hatred that brought them on social media together with the pressure put upon them to hide their sexuality were the dominant factors that led to their withdrawal. Sad, terribly sad, on one level. On another level, however, both young men came to realize that these negative experiences were meant to be a learning experience for them, and as well known public figures they had a responsibility to witness to their experiences and speak out.

But it is at this point that their stories diverge somewhat. Ronan Park, in a wonderful article in the gay magazine Attitude, is quoted as saying:
Ronan claims he attempted to come out to his parents when he was 8 years old, but they told him, "Yea, yea, we know. You're gay." And went back to watching the tv. In other words, no big deal and he lived his childhood in that climate of acceptance and normalcy. As a result, he was genuinely shocked by the hateful comments he received on social media about his appearance, mannerisms, gestures, voice because his parents had done such a good job shielding him from this kind of hatred. It came as something new for him, but it also led him to take a pause in his music career and 'leave the stage'for five years. He is now all the better for it. Mature, poised, self-assured and confident, with a story to tell and a message to convey.

Jack Vidgen was in another place psychologically when he got hit with the homophobic hate unleashed on him through social media. As he explains, he was going through puberty at the time and very confused about his sexuality. What did being gay really mean? The hatred had an impact. At the age of 16, he went into a tail spin, left family, friends and Australia behind and went to live in Hollywood, California for a year on his own, attempting to launch his career in the US. He has spared us the details of that year, except to say that he was 'exposed' to certain influences and experiences that no 16 year old should have to face. One shudders to think what these experiences might have been for this blond cherubic teen - in Hollywood of all places! After a year, he just wanted to return home and be with his mom again. So he returned to 'schoolboy' normalcy for 5 years.

Of the two young men, Jack appears to have been the most wounded by the experience of homophobic hate , but he also comes across as a strong, reflective, self-aware young man who has found the means to heal himself. He is mature beyond his years.

Here is his YouTube interview in which he discusses the bullying he received and the effect it had on him personally and on his career.

Ronan, on the other hand, with that very special upbringing by tolerant parents, seems rock solid in his identity as a gay man and gay artist. There was no journey of discovery for him as a gay boy, he always knew.

Here is his YouTube video describing cyber bullying:

Prior to writing up this post, I did a google search of both of them together. While there are numerous articles comparing them in 2011, there is nothing out there I could find that compares their respective experiences of being bullied for their sexuality and the impact this had upon them and their careers. No one seems to have made the connection. But the parallels and timing are uncanny. Both boys 'win'  their respective contests in 2011, both are touted as the next teen singing sensation, both find themselves bullied on social media and pressured because of their sexuality, both - at the same time - withdraw from singing publicly, both spend five years in seclusion, and both decide -in the same year - to return to public life as pop singers. Its almost as if they planned it together, but there is no evidence that they even know one another personally.

There's a lot more to say about these two openly gay pop stars, who have now become ambassadors to gay young teens, but I leave it to the interested reader to follow up. Ronan has numerous YouTube videos where you can hear his extraordinary voice in its mature form,

Here is Ronan singing "Never Enough" from The Greatest Showman. A sensational cover. As of this writing, Ronan is appearing all over the UK, but usually to small audiences. With a voice that would leave most pop stars in the dust, he is struggling to find an audience.

And here is Jack Vidgen's audition this year for Australia's The Voice. He chose to enter this contest as his way of returning to the stage. Yes, his appearance has changed dramatically, but I'm not going to comment on that here.

Amazing parallels and coincidences, almost as if these two extraordinary gay pop sensations were being led by the same compassionate, all-wise, all-loving Star. Blessings on them both.

Feb 22, 2019

In The Closet of the Vatican: New Investigative Study

In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy - just published today, February 22nd, 2019.

Thanks to Kittredge Cheery of the wonderful gay Christian blog,  QSpirit Blog, for the heads up about the publication of this major new investigative study into the secret homosexual double lives of many priests (and bishops and cardinals) in the vatican - and the way this affects Church teaching. I just purchased my kindle edition today. A must read for those of us Gay/Lesbian folk who feel connected to the Christian tradition and a sense of vocation to witness to being spiritual and gay within the Christian community.

Here is Amazon's blurb:

In the Closet of the Vatican exposes the rot at the heart of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church today. This brilliant piece of investigative writing is based on four years' authoritative research, including extensive interviews with those in power. 

The celibacy of priests, the condemnation of the use of contraceptives, the cover up of countless cases of sexual abuse, the resignation of Benedict XVI, misogyny among the clergy, the dramatic fall in Europe of the number of vocations to the priesthood, the plotting against Pope Francis – all these issues are clouded in mystery and secrecy.

In the Closet of the Vatican is a book that reveals these secrets and penetrates this enigma. It derives from a system founded on a clerical culture of secrecy which starts in junior seminaries and continues right up to the Vatican itself. It is based on the double lives of priests and on extreme homophobia. The resulting schizophrenia in the Church is hard to fathom. But the more a prelate is homophobic, the more likely it is that he is himself gay.

'Behind rigidity there is always something hidden, in many cases a double life'. These are the words of Pope Francis himself and with them the Pope has unlocked the Closet.

No one can claim to really understand the Catholic Church today until they have read this book. It reveals a truth that is extraordinary and disturbing.

Feb 11, 2019

Wanderer by Sarah Leon: Gay Debut Novel of the Year

A very young Sarah Leon published this heat-wrenching  love story in French in 2016 when she was barely twenty years old. Three years later we are blessed to have this exquisite English translation of the work  by John Cullen, a translator of note with many books to his name. It is one of the most affecting love stories you will ever read.

Wanderer has already been nominated to Lambda as the gay fiction novel of the year. It is a love story of such tender sorrow and grief that it tears the heart to read it. Words fail when it comes to reviewing a book of such extraordinary sensitivity to all the modulations and nuances of unrequited love. 

Wanderer tells of the relationship between a boy of 15 (when the couple first meet), Lenny Weick, and a young music composition student of 25, Hermin Peyre.  When  Lenny  walks into the piano store where Hermin is working to put himself through music school and asks to play one of the pianos, the young composer, Hermin Peyre, recognizes that the boy has a prodigious talent that needs nurturing. He provides him with the encouragement and guidance he needs, as well as directing him towards more accomplished piano tutors than himself.  This guidance finally propels the boy into becoming in time one of the most renowned pianists of his generation. However, at the age of 17, on the edge of his spectacular career, Lenny disappears from Hemin's life without a word of explanation. 

Spoiler Alert: The book opens ten years after Lenny's mysterious disappearance from Hermin's life. Hermin has retired to the Bourbonnais Mountains in the center of France to live a hermit's existence and compose his music. He nurtures a profound grief over Lenny's disappearance - without fully understanding or acknowledging the nature of the love between them, the love that dare not speak its name. This is the heart of the tragedy between these two young men, fated to be together in love, but blocked by Hermin's inability to come to terms with his true sexual nature.

Now, quite unexpectedly, Lenny arrives at Hermin's door in the Bourbonnais after his ten year hiatus. Over the next several days, the two men explore the nature of their relationship and the reasons for their inability to come together and recognize the true nature of their love. Lenny announces that he is giving up the piano altogether. It takes several days before Hermin understands - and gets Lenny to admit - that one of the reasons for this is that Lenny is seriously, even fatally ill, with tuberculosis.  

But it is not the only reason for his decision. The real reason, buried deep in Lenny's heart, is his profound grief over Hermin's inability to accept their love and to openly admit that he loves Lenny in the same passionate way the young man loves him. Lenny rebukes Hermin for never realizing that the only reason Lenny played the piano at all was to express his love for Hermin, and to play with him and be with him. Life and his beloved piano have no meaning for him without Hermin's love.

As I read these words of mine, they seem unbearably clumsy compared to the astonishing beauty and subtlety of Sarah Leon's prose, translated for us by John Cullen. At first, Lenny is tentative and cautious about the hints he gives out about his true motivations, afraid that he will frighten Hermin away. Hermin, for his part, picks up on the clues and they force him to face his true nature for the first time in his life. It is a painful process, with many doubts and hesitations on Hermin's part. He is threatened by the implications of what is happening because he had never thought of himself in 'that way', it is not part of his self-image.

Too much plot here, perhaps,for a book review. The tragic dimension of the story is revealed when we understand just how seriously ill Lenny really is - because he has refused medical treatment out of despair over his lost love for Hermin. Only now, in the mountains, he hopes that Hermin will acknowledge that he is 'like' Lenny in 'that way' and that he loves Lenny as Lenny passionately loves him. If this love is acknowledged, then Lenny will seek the medical treatment he needs. But alas, Hermin hesitates, prevaricates, retreats - 

Summarized in this fashion, the story might appear mawkish and sentimental, but I can assure you it is nothing of the kind, not as it is fleshed out by Sarah Leon. We believe every word of it and long for a healing and reconciliation between the two young men.

The story climaxes through an experience of union with nature at a waterfall in the forest, with the dying Lenny in Hermin's arms The whole experience feels to Hermin like a 'mystical marriage', a chaste consummation. But even then, after this moment of spiritual revelation, Hermin still hesitates.

The inspiration for the whole book is the music of Franz Schubert, whom both men love - especially his  the Wanderer Fantasy and the Winter Journey. I would recommend that the reader listen to Schubert's music while reading the book. It is what I did and it complements the story exquisitely, sorrowfully, poignantly. 

Well to keep in mind that Schubert died at the very young age of 31 (of complications from syphilis). And Lenny - at the very young age of 27.

Nowhere in the book are the conventional terms or phrases used - gay, coming out, out of the closet, repression. Lenny is well aware of the difficulties Hermin is facing, but the references to these painful issues for many gay men is subtle and indirect. 

Lenny - full aware of his true nature and his love for Hermin,  but afraid of frightening Hermin away.
Herman - slowly becoming aware of the true nature of the love between Lenny and himself - but hesitant, timid, fearful - a caution that has tragic consequences, which will remain with Hermin for the rest of his lonely days.

Gay debut novel of the year 2019.

Jan 18, 2019

Boy Erased and Gay-Conversion Therapy Films of 2018

We've been singularly blessed this past year to have two superb film treatments of the controversial 'gay-conversion' therapy, still legal, unfortunately, in 36 US states. The first, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the story of a teenage girl forced into the therapy program by her conservative guardians, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance film festival. This win ensured the film some necessary and well deserved fame, because without it the movie would have been relegated to the small art film houses, as a gay gender film, interesting for its sensitive depiction of this unfortunatel situation, but not the most compelling drama. I still recommend the film highly, for any treatment of this subject from such a sympathetic, critical viewpoint is welcome. And I really loved the trio of young teens in the film who form a sympathetic, supportive bond with each other and their thrilling escape into freedom at the end. Soul inspiring.

The second film, however, Boy Erased, of which I spoke in the previous posting, is a very compelling film that was catapulted into the mainstream by its powerhouse cast, veteran megastars (and graduates of the same acting school in Australia) Nicole Kidman and Russel Crowe, together with young and rising star, Lucas Hedges, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor. And lest I forget, sizzling pop star and openly gay Troy Sevan has a cameo performance in the film and a very impressive acting debut it is. So with this kind of cast, the film's reputation was ensured and a wide audience appeal guaranteed.

Based upon a true story (we see shots of the original boy and parents at the close) the film is anchored by the dynamic, very powerful lead performance from young Lucas Hedges (nominated for too many awards and wins to mention). And while there are bigots aplenty to satisfy any righteous viewers, what most struck me about the film was it's compassionate and even-handed treatment of the conservative Christian community in America. We are shown a variety of good, decent, compassionate and well meaning conservative Christians who have been shaped by their religious (mis) education about gay people and who are struggling with the contradictions. This is especially true of Hedges Christian pastor father, played by Russell Crowe, a man struggling between his deep and genuine love for his son and his fundamental Christian beliefs. The film makers have wisely avoided the easy cliches and righteous judgmental-ism frequently meted out to this subject. The staff of the treatment center are blind and odious enough, but not so the parents - or the conservative Christian doctor, who tells Lucas she is both Christian believer and scientist, and the scientist in her tells her Lucas is a perfectly normal, healthy young man, his sexual inclinations included. Perhaps influenced by the intentions of the family, this is a film designed to build bridges between the conservative Christian churches and the world view of the social scientists today that 'gayness' is not a choice, nor is it a biological defect or an psychological abnormality. The film attempts to show the way. It's subtlety and nuance, and it's deep understanding of the complexities of this situation (no easy judgments here) places it far above most films we've seen about this subject, including the previous Mis-Education of Cameron Post.

One final comment - and a reference to my previous posting on this film. Boy Erased is in some key respects similar to the hit gay romance of last year,  Call Me by Your Name, which raised the young Timothee Chalamet to stardom and garnered him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. In both films, the powerhouse casts ensured an openness on the part of general audiences and a wide popularity. These are not art-house gay films, but classics that made it into the mainstream and did the gay/lesbian/transsexual community immense good.

Boy Erased, however, went one step further than Call Me By Your Name, because of the candor and honesty of it's young star, Lucas Hedges. Whereas the stars of Call Me By Your Name, Arrnie Hammer and Timothee Chalament, deflected any questions about the own sexuality and what the film process itself might have revealed to them about their own sexual natures, Lucas Hedges came out with a statement announcing himself as "not totally straight," but somewhere on the continuum of human sexuality between bisexual and straight. This is not so remarkable as a scientific observation as it is for breaking a taboo. Psychologists have been telling us for decades that human sexuality is spread out on a continuum, but it is still all too rare in 2019 for a noted Hollywood actor to admit this about himself. Lucas Hedges has 'outed' himself as a perfectly average young heterosexual male, not ashamed to admit his small portion of gayness, and we in the gay community are all the better for it!

Timothee Chalamet
p.s. This reminds me of a comment made by Justin Timberlake on a talk show when asked how he felt about one of his former band mates in NSYNC who came out as gay. When asked if he was shocked by the revelation or found it hard to accept as a straight male performer, Timberlake snapped back, "I'm gay enough!" In other words, don't put my friend in one 'weird' category and me in the other so-called normal one, completely separate from him and his admission. Well done!

Jan 14, 2019

'Boy Erased' Star Lucas Hedges Comes Out as 'Not Totally Straight'

This story is about four months old, so I'm a little late coming to it. But I feel it is quite significant. I've borrowed the title straight from Out MagazineA young up-and-coming American actor, Lucas Hedges, star of the 'gay conversion therapy' film, Boy Erased, with Nicole Kidman, came 'out of the closet', according to reports, by admitting that he was not totally 100% straight.   He explained that during his high school years, he was primarily sexually attracted to his own  male friends. Not till his early twenties, did he discover that he really preferred women. He further clarified that he was neither gay nor bisexual, but some where in between bisexual and straight. 

A health teacher in his high school had explained to his class that human sexuality exists on a continuum, with human beings spread out along the continuum, not simply placed in one of three boxes, gay, straight,, and bisexual. In other words, there are infinite variations in human sexuality, with groups of people clustered around the main poles of 'gay, straight and bi' with subtle differences in degree between one person and another. Well, this has been common knowledge among psychologists for years, so it's surprising it has taken so long for this common insight to reach the mainstream.

Lucas explained that since he had taken on the role of a young gay boy subjected to gay coversion by his fundamentalist Christian parents, it was important for him as an actor and a public figure to be as honest as possible about his human sexuality. I can't help thinking this is a reference to last year's 'gay hit', Call
Me By Your Name, in which the two 'straight' actors of the film, Arnie Hammer and the remarkable young actor, Timothee Chalament were continually asked about their own sexuality and whether working together on the film revealed anything to them about their own sexual natures. Given the nature of the film and it's cultural importance for gay people, I felt the quesiton was entirely fair. Yet, both actors -with immense charm - deflected the question every time. This highlights my point above. Culturally, we are still at that point where it is extremely difficult for public figures to admit they might have some small degree of bisexuality in their natures. Its either one or the other, gay or straight - with the bisexuality category sitting there designed to include everyone else. Lucas seems to be referencing the behavior of these two actors last year. He is acknowledging that there is a certain responsibility an actor should take on when assuming a role of this nature. Honesty and openness. 

Needless to say, the story of Lucas's admission caused a lot of comment, and I'm not sure why, except to say there are still a lot of cultural controls in place about what we may and may not say, and may and may not think in our culture about human sexuality. . I was a high school teacher for over thirty years, and for five of those years (in the 1990's), I was part of a sex education team and we also taught our students about the continuum of human sexuality. So there is really nothing novel about young Lucas' revelation. What is novel is that it is a public comment, because even now, in 2019, some people are shocked by the suggestion that straight males can have within them some element of same-sex attraction that doesn't
change their predominantly heterosexual nature. And now here we are - finally - with a young Hollywood movie star (nominated for two academy awards already in his young career) bringing the subject up and out into the open. What young Lucas has done here is out himself as a perfectly average, healthy young heterosexual male. The significance of this for young adolescents, especially gay teens, can't be exaggerated. A young 'straight' celebrity has admitted to having some element of gayness in his nature - thereby normalizing gay inclinations as powerfully as any gay celebrity 'coming  out'. 

Judging by the petty gay-bitchy comments under the article in Out Magazine, there are still people within the gay community who don't get the point. This is a  victory for us, and Lesbian American talk show host, Ellen Degeneres, was quick to recognize this fact and invite young Lucas onto her show. Fortunately, the comments under the YouTube video were much more enlightened than those in Out Magazine. We should all be grateful for Lucas' candor and honesty. 

Feb 21, 2018

Mystical Czech artist, Marie Brozova

About Life, Universe and All…

The luminous Czech artist, Marie Brozova, creator of the wonderful 'Forest Shaman' painting featured on my blog, lives with her husband and seven cats deep in a Czech forest - without electricity or running water. No computers, no cell phones, no TV. Only the silence and the sounds of nature and the spirits. 

  • What did you want to be, when you were a child?I wanted to become an astronomer. Even before I went to school, I was able to find the main constellations in the sky, I knew the names of the biggest stars and I memorized the names of all the satellites of planets in the Solar system. I read in ecstasy, difficult books on astronomy – not that I undestood much, but I intoxicated myself with the exotic terminology. I had long debates with my grandpa about the infinity of the universe and the big bang. But at last I had to go to school and enormous disappointments awaited me – I discovered that I couldn’t think in numbers. Years later, I even failed math in high school. But astronomy has been my passionate hobby. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than spending the night on the roof with a telescope, watching the starlit sky – looking into the windows of the universe.
  • What influence did your childhood have on your work?The influence was deep and profound. I was raised in love and acceptance. No idea was impossible to carry out and, what is more, my family helped me whatever it might be. My childhood gave me absolute confidenc, that whatever I did was right. Without this confidence, it’s almost impossible to perform art in public.
    My childhood was full of imagination. I had many friends among various ghosts and pixies and, naturally, I felt very a close connection to nature. I saw a smal fairy behind every flower, a faun in every tree that I could talk to. My Mum helped me to discover the world and she taught me to perceive it sensitively and in colors. She managed not only to read fairy-tales from books to me, but she was able to make up a fairy-story about anything interesting I had seen, and she illustrated these stories very skilfully. The drawings we made together comprise my most beauiful childhood memories.
  • Are you human, or an elf?I get this question surprisingly often. People tell me, that I look like an Irish fairy. I admit that, even as a child, I often felt more like an unconcerned onlooker than like a participant among all the swarming and vanity-fair. Since early childhood, I easily plunged into the world of my imagination and completely lost all connection with reality – especially at school. Even now I feel much more comfortable among trees, flowers and stones than among people.
  • What is your zodiac sign?I was born on the the exact moment of the new moon, which means Sun and Moon in conjunction, in the sign of Taurus. That gives a true drawing of my character. I love to discover the beauty of the world with all my senses. I am creative, determined, a stubborn plodder and nothing can discourage me.
  • What do you do when you are not working on your drawings?I´m strollin in woods and across meadows, meeting my friends among trees and stones. I listen to the water in brooks. I fly a kites in strong wind, look into the flames in the camp-fire, cross snow fields, pass across the horizon. Every spring, before the fields and weeds grow, I wake up with my husband early in the morning and we set out on a journey before the sunrise. We follow the sun all day and we always find many beautiful hidden places. And, when it is ugly outside, I like to read books.
  • What books do you like?I prefer strong stories bringing wisdom, told in rich literary language. I love Russian classics, Turgenev, Gogol, Pasternak. And my favorite books? Doctor Zhivago by Pasternak, A Hunter´s Sketches by Turgenev, Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka by Gogol, but also East of Eden by John Steinbeck. In poetry I feel close to old Chinese Poetry, especially the painter-poet Wang Wei and the hermit Han Shan. But there are many other books. Recently I really enjoyed Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smila’s Sense For Snow, or Angela’s Ashes by Francis McCourt.
  • And what music do you listen to?I prefer silence most of all. I never listen to music as a background, it must have some meaning or message. I prefer classical music (Borodin, Tschaikovski), but I also admire exceptional creative personalities, who never repeat themselves, like Paul Simon, Sting, Suzanne Vega. Among Czech musicians, Jaromir Nohavica, Jiri Pavlica, Iva Bittova, Jan Burian.
  • For a number of years you lived with your husband, more or less like hermits in the forest. What has this experience brought to your life?First of all, it gave me the time to find myself. These days people hurry too much, the results of any activity are required too soon. Young people are forced to conform to these requirements before they have the chance to decid, what they would really like to do in their lives. I believe that the most important thing is to learn is to listen to the compass of your heart and then dream a lot about the best journey in your life. Only when you dream something in detail, can you make a dream come true. Following this path, all your activities are full of joy, no matter if the results come as soon as other people expect.
  • Ecology: What does it meant to you?Ecology and enviromentalism are frequently misused terms, because anything can be hidden in it, from militant fanaticism to advertising propaganda. For me, ecology means to live in harmony with nature, not waste, not polute – learn to enjoy a modest life style. When you are overeating and sated with information, you get sleepy and feel no need to create anything.
  • Do you still live without TV?We do and for ten years haven´t missed it. The thread that connects me with the world of my imagination is very thin and fragile. I don´t want to break it by deliberately consuming negative and destructive information about things I have no chance to alter. Awareness, being informed, is one of the great illusions worshipped by modern society.
  • You look optimistic, are you worried sometimes?I am often worried about the arrogant attitudes towards nature taken by so many people. They destroy something which is more valuable and more important than their fleeting lives. I look with a certain amount of desperation at how beautiful countryside is ruined forever by tasteless suburban sprawl.
  • Do you have any role-models in art?I don´t have any leader I would like to follow, but I admire the omnipotent creative talent of architect, ecologist and painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser; the honest love for wood of sculptor Martin Patricny, or drawingsque illustrations of Roberto Innocenti. My heart breaks at the sight of Egon Schiele’s drawings. And I remember from my childhood, ilustrations and animated films by Jiri Trnka. His films The Old Czech Legends and The Midsummer Night were the most wonderful artistic experience when I was small.
  • What conditions do you need for creating your art?Silence, space and peace. And if possible the scenery of my childhood memories – the surroundings of Velke Popovice – where I feel the close connection of earth under my feet and the sky above my head, likean open window to the universe.
  • What is the most important thing for you?Staying sane in the middle of the madness of our times.
  • Are you as patient in other aspects of your life as in your art?Not at all. I am an outrageousdisaster as a housekeeper. It makes me very angry when I cannot handle something, as easily as I do with my coloured pencils. In general I can make things up in my mind better than bring them into reality. But fortunately, my husband is very clever and practical.
  • What is your husband´s attitude towards your artistic profession?He enjoys telling stories about how it is when I wake up in the morning with the idea of a new drawing in my head. He describes vividly how he must feed me and look after me, so I don´t forget to drink. Actually, he prevents me from total exhaustion caused by creative zeal. I am very glad that he helps me with the whole project and supports my creative work in all respects.
  • Do you think that imagination is natural to all the children?Yes, but it must be cultivated from the very beginning. If parents regard imagination as something foolish or tiresome, it withers away and dies very soon. The gift of imagination has become very rare in this world. I often meet mothers who complain about their inability to imagine fairy stories for their children, when they are asked. They are very sad about it.
  • What do you believe in?I am not a religious person. I view all kinds of religions as a symbol of human desire to overcome the fact of death. I can´t see any reasons why one religion should be better than the others. If I believe in anything, then it is the power of a nature that doesn´t need mankind, nor its notions about good and evil.
  • If you met a fairy goldfish who would promise to make your three wishes true, what would they be?
    1. I wish that my beloved land was not destroyed by expanding Prague.
    2. I wish that all people could do what they really wanted to do, because in that case the world would be much more hospitable place for living.
    3. I wish me and my husband could stay sound in body and mind.
  • Do you think that people lack imagination these days?People are bombarded by an avalanche of unwanted information everyday. No wonder that the inner space of a human being is often overloaded and filled with debris. There is no empty room inside inviting the imagination or inspiration. This problem does not afflict only adult overworked people. I am very often visited by children alarmed by their own inability to dream or invent things. Sometimes they are not even able to read a book because they cannot imagine anything beyond the words. The world they are growing up is too perfect, their toys are perfect, and they do not have to dream anything up, to improve anything. They can also have whatever they wish, but stil,l they often feel some longing, they crave for something that was left denied to them. This void seems to be the miraculous gift of imagination that can change even the most ordinary life into an exciting original story.
  • Why do you think the kitsch is so commercially successful?If people could find more harmony and beauty in modern art, they would not have to seek salvation in kitsch. Modern art is beyond grasp of ordinary people, qualities like harmony and beauty are viewed by art experts as something embarrassing and undesirable. Most people think that they do not understand modern art, and I am not surprised, when the art pretends to be a science. Our age is concentrated on technical and scientific progress. In spite of all that I think that viewing art is the matter of human soul, far from logic and reason. When somebody claims to be an art expert understanding everything modern, I cannot help feeling that he is a snob.

Feb 14, 2018


Here is the website of the wonderful meeting group for gay Christians in the Czech republic, Logos. And below is their position statement. Check them out. 

Logos – Gay Christians 
in the Czech Republic

We are an ecumenical fellowship of gay and lesbian Christians and their friends, in which we share our faith in all its diverse manifestations, and try to support participation of our people in their home churches.

Our stance on homosexuality

We are not trying to “cure” sexual and emotional orientation of gays and lesbians. We believe that God accepts us as we are. In the spirit of the gospel of Christ we are trying to bridge the chasm that separates gay and lesbian people from God, and re-establish their severed relationship with Christian churches and religious communities.

We have no ideology

We do not have any binding ideology, nor do we blindly succumb to external ideological influences. In our fellowship, some believe in the legitimacy of homosexual partnership, while others are not convinced about it, and still others sincerely pray in their helplessness to find answers. Our fellowship remains open to all these groups. 

Jan 18, 2018

Call Me By Your Name: Film of the Year

An exquisite love story that defies explanation and refuses to judge or label its characters. Why did they fall in love, why were these two men able to cross the gender lines and love another member of the same sex. The film doesn't answer that question and even challenges us not to ask it. Simply to accept the beautify and power of love where ever and how so ever it manifests itself between human beings. Love is a mystery and all the rest is silence. 

Dec 29, 2016

Christmas at Litmanova

The Marian Shrine of Litmanova, Slovakia.
Christmas 2017

A forest chapel at the Slovakian Marian shrine of Litmanova.

Stunning painting of the Sacred Heart inside the forest chapel.

Nov 5, 2016

Conclave by Robert Harris

Capsule Review:

I've just finished reading Robert Harris' very stylish, sophisticated thriller, Conclave, the story of the struggle to elect the next pope in the post-Francis era. The time period is 2018. I have to say I was quite impressed on many levels. The author exhibits a superb understanding of internal Church politics, no simple matter,  and the difficulty of juggling so many conflicting factions in the RMC. He actually succeeds in making this strange, secret world comprehensible. I've read quite a few of this author's previous works and didn't expect this level of expertise and insight. Nor did I expect such spiritual insight, though given the maturity of his work in such novels as The Ghost Writer, perhaps I shouldn't have been completely surprised. Is Harris himself a Catholic, albeit a postmodern one?

All the major issues are handled adroitly through carefully drawn characters (change versus tradition, gays, women, divorced, the preferential option for the poor), from the brilliant, liberal 'periti' Cardinal Berlini to the fiercely homophobic African Cardinal, Adeyemi,  who believes that all 'homosexuals should be in jail on this earth and rot in hell for eternity.' Adeyemi is a major player in the politicking for the papacy, but he has a dark secret to hide. So do several other leading contenders for the papal throne and therein lies the suspense in this very balanced and mature thriller. There is none of the silliness and sensationalism of a Dan Brown here (think Angels and Demons -  which also deals with a papal conclave). The story is balanced, complex, and gripping and makes an arcane, peculiar, highly secretive world humanly comprehensible. Because looked at from the outside, the college of Cardinals - processing into the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to engage in a centuries old ritual of election - is bizarre in the extreme to any ordinary post-modern Christian.

Herein lies the benefit of Ron Howard's quite dazzling film adaptation of Angels & Demons - the sight of these elderly scarlet gentlemen processing in is beyond the weird. First of all because they are all male (and seem to think there is nothing peculiar about this), secondly those costumes, and thirdly all that color enveloping these tottering aged gentlemen. What is this all about a secularist observer wonders, and how could anyone take it seriously. And in what way could it possibly be relevant to the modern world. Harris has succeeded in humanizing the whole affair from an enlightened point of view, and that is much appreciated by this reader here. He makes us understand - particularly the dilemma - and the anguish - of open minded, mature clerics who love the Church and are struggling against such insurmountable odds to move it forward.

The first half of the book is taken up with a detailed description of the mechanics of any conclave and may prove daunting - if not boring - to any non-Catholic. However, Harris uses this mechanism to develop character, especially the character of the major players. Chief among them is the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Lomeli, who is a genuine man of prayer, and a person of unshakeable rectitude and conscience. This characterization is what stunned me. Robert Harris has succeeded in imaginatively expressing Lomeli's interior states of prayer, the darkness and the light, the surges of peace and interior conviction, followed by moments of doubt when "God" seems to be absent. The ebb and flow of the interior life. This is a poor depiction on my part of a very subtle and profound piece of characterization, and it led me to the question: is this Harris' own experience, is he also a man of genuine interior experience, knowledgeable  in the ways of the spiritual life (whether Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or-) . Or - as I suspect - did he have help in writing this book from prayerful, spiritual consultants, because some very high up individuals offered their input.

This spiritual dimension is what sets this book off from every other thriller I have ever read about Vatican scandals, corruption and intrigue. Finally, an author with genuine insight into the life of the spirit, without which all of this ceremony and ritual make no sense.  True, the prayerful individuals in this story seem to be in the minority - but they are there and they drive the narrative, and that is what makes all the difference.

Once past the half way mark, the thriller takes off with a number of interconnected plots and scandals, and the book becomes gripping and intense. . The ending is a slam-bang surprise that finally reveals the author's theological hand - exactly where he is situated on the left-liberal spectrum. Some readers have expressed their disbelief at the surprise shock of the ending, but it seemed plausible enough for me. This is partly because I have lived in Asia for some thirty years (no spoiler here) and am familiar with the ethnicity of the character who figures in the surprise ending. Keep that in mind, any readers who decide to take this on.

A class act all the way, the most mature Vatican thriller I have ever read, intriguing, informative and - a rarity - genuinely inspiring.

Cross-posted at my crime novel book review blog: CRIME SCENE REVIEWS.