the reason for this pilgrimage

Clipping this primarily because I suspect it will make an excellent case for thinking about the mirrorscreen idea I was kicking around earlier this week:

I visited an elaborate recreation of the Virgin Mary’s appearance in a French grotto in 1858. A narrow footpath led through a forest to a candlelit statue of the Virgin in a shallow cave. The scene was illuminated by dozens of telephone screens that floated in the gloom like devotional candles.

Hanging back, I watched a strange ritual unfold among the men attending a weekend Catholic retreat. They formed a line in front of the statue, and when the first man knelt to pray, he handed his telephone to the man behind him, who would photograph him praying. After the man finished his prayer, he retrieved his phone and reviewed the image. The next man repeated this process as he knelt before the statue. The photo had become the meaning, the reason for this pilgrimage to kneel before a simulation of the appearance of a ghost.

I can’t remember when or why I started following James Reeves’ blog, but I’m glad I did. I suspect he’d be the first to point out that it’s not exactly been a torrent of cheer over the past twelve months—but hey, there’s not been much to be cheerful about, has there? Nonetheless, Reeves has the knack of making a sort of imagistic poetry out of the fears and anxieties of the moment, and in a strange way it’s been one of the most comforting windows on the USian experience that I’ve looked through this year… perhaps because it’s a reminder that, beyond the panic and rage and fingerpointing, there are still people quietly thinking and reflecting on things, no matter how tragic or difficult.

So thanks, James, for letting us follow your thoughts this way. It’s made things a little less lonely for me, and I hope it has for you, too.

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