The Banality of Power

When meaning devolves

The search for meaning is inherent to our existence, and an aspiration that brings greater health to our minds, bodies, and communities. For many, the answer to this relentless hunt for meaning is found within God. Religion. A higher power. But what is the fallout when the quest for meaning concludes in something external and stratified versus holistic and intrinsic? Our self-obsessed view of the universe as a hierarchy of values is reinforced with a God at the top reigning supreme. When you attempt to ladder existence instead of ramify it, the integrity of meaning distorts into the sticky acrid froth of power.

It’s hard to write about Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest without revealing too much. Set in Nazi Germany on the outskirts of Auschwitz, it is a singular experience that continues to gnaw at you for months. The banality of what’s in front of you permeates your psyche and the silence scrapes against you, the slash lines barely perceptible making you wonder how it is you feel so raw. It is masterful, leaving you horrified with humanity and the ways in which you too have the capacity for horror. A timely concept. Perhaps a timeless concept even.

Still. Stark. Unsettling.

Everything Kristoffer Borgli does is a snack-and-a-half. Whether it’s a music video, a short film, or his 2023 first feature, each piece is able to cast social critique without being smug or smarmy. In Former Cult Member Hears Music for the First Time, he turns his cynicism on the sanctimony of journalistic filmmaking. The film blooms into absurdity without ever raising its voice, walking a humorous tight rope of perverse and understated. It will leave you grappling with your 10-cult-documentary-deep Netflix queue and pondering, “Who am I to tell anyone else’s story?” I’ll be honest I’m not totally sold on the ending. But again, who the fuck am I? Favorite line: “Let’s have a little respect for the production.”

Dark. Absurd. Satirical. 

Created by photographer Jim Mangan, The Crick began as a survey of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (F.L.D.S.) along the Utah-Arizona border. After the imprisonment of leader Warren Jeffs, the community fractured and many were left navigating the disintegration of the institution. Among those adrift were a group of young men seeping through the cracks of religious decay known as “The Lost Boys.” Previously cast out for activities such as swimming in the cooling creeks, these boys were caught in the liminal space between F.L.D.S. stronghold and a devolved power structure. It was within this space that The Lost Boys, yearning to find their place in the world, were found by the power of the land, the surging rivers and the whorls of rock. Mangan’s rich kinetic photography startles you into reverence. His boundless landscapes stir reassurance that, if there is a god, it would never thwart a grand life lived within the land that formed us.

Dynamic. Lush. Transportive.

Snack: Preacher Cookies

Preacher cookies get their name because they come together so quickly that, in the event the preacher pays you an unexpected visit, you can prepare them in the time it takes him to get from his car to your front door. With no religious affiliations, I don’t expect a preacher to come knocking at my door any time soon. But I did spend my Sundays at church growing up. I devoted most of that time in the kitchen where they kept the body of Christ. The church we attended had the most luscious, savory, delicious body of Christ. I loved that body. I’d sneak into the kitchen and devour it, relishing in every ounce of salty goodness. Once service would start, I’d sit in the pew salivating as I waited for communion, at which point I’d get on my knees and be served one more square of decadence. Then I’d slouch with a dumb lopsided smile for the rest of prayer luxuriating in the lingering taste that wrapped my mouth. I don’t have that recipe for Christ’s bangin bod, but I suspect the secret ingredient was taking something meant to be good and doing something a little bit bad. So if you really want to enjoy these cookies, pretend you’re a perfect little housewife who sees the preacher coming up your driveway. Then lock the door, pour a glass of blood-red wine, and enjoy every bite of sin all by yourself.

Rich. Luxurious. Easy.

  • Over medium heat bring to a boil 1 stick of butter, 2 cups sugar, ½ cup milk, and ¼ cup cocoa powder. Once it’s boiling, let it roll for a minute.

  • Remove from heat and stir in ½ cup crunchy peanut butter and a pinch of salt

  • Once the peanut butter is melted, stir in 3 cups quick oats.

  • Drop big dollops of the mixture on lined sheet pans, sprinkle flaky salt, and let cool for about 30 minutes. Or pop them in the fridge until you’re ready for your wine.

  • Heavenly or devilish? Let me know.

There is power in being small,

<3 Julie

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