Hollywood and Holy wood pieta
Hollywood and Holy Wood (Pieta’) photo by Tony Endaya
Our present February issue deals with arts as a vehicle for positive change in society. A very timely theme this is indeed in sync with the forthcoming National Arts Month celebration. At the recent Golden Globe Awards, we have seen award-winning actress Meryl Streep delivered her impassioned speech criticizing then president-elect Donald Trump for his previous campaign trail proposal to expand the Mexican border wall and for his demeaning remarks about women and persons with disability. Hence, many other Hollywood celebrities have followed her in the much-publicized women’s march, days after Trump’s inauguration. Hollywood, the icon of contemporary artistic expression, now seems to draw ever closer in empathy to the plight of humanity.

But for many of us, who do not enjoy the fame of Hollywood celebrities and whose tiny voices are but drops in the ocean, “What can we effectively do?” comes so naturally to mind. Where do we stand in front of the severe challenges facing humanity and even our very own nation? A stark example: in several nations, a certain populism has influenced many citizens who opted for more populist and ultranationalist leaders, even at the great risk of seeing certain inviolable principles like human rights, such as care for immigrants/migrants, compromised. Where is respect for life when the death penalty is allowed and extra-judicial killings are tolerated? A number of people in social media are so vocal with their stand on certain issues that they would lambaste anyone with a divergent point of view, with total disregard for social ethics and responsibility. Some others even call on the public to consider another people power and still others want a coup or violent revolution as a means for social change. Where and how do we stand as ordinary people whose voices may not even be entertained by the powers that be in the world?

In the midst of global anguish and turmoil, I know of a certain revolution launched from an awesome piece of wood that has become so holy because of the love that surrounded it. Mysterious wonder shrouds the wooden cross right after the body hanging from it had been gently lowered and entrusted to the hands of the Desolate Mother who embraced and supported her bloodied and tortured son. Her response and stand was one of ‘silence’, a ‘silence of love’ that echoed throughout the centuries and became immortalized in stone by Michelangelo, one of the greatest artist of all times, Michelangelo, in his work the Pieta’. Her “silence” spoke loud and clear: She laid the foundation for the social teachings that have endured through time… Our stand, therefore, in front of a suffering humanity, can be an imitation of that mother’s powerful ‘silence’ of love. Far from being passive, it is an effective revolutionary silence that involves, first of all, a transformation at the roots of all evil. Since evil is a matter of choice, no lasting transformation in society can come about without a change of hearts. This transforming ‘silence of love’ is so full of hope, believing that after the darkness there will be light, after the rain, the sun, and after Good Friday, Easter…

In that transforming silence in front of that Holy Wood, many of humanity’s dramatic situations just like in Hollywood, can find hope and meaning. Silent hope perseveringly waits, it stands firm, and it even calls on us to speak out constructively in every changing present moment. We have to believe that in the search for light, humanity has no recourse other than to live universal brotherhood, where we all care for one another in real and concrete ways.

Standing together, just like those who stood in front of that Holy Wood almost 2,000 years ago, humanity can achieve its redemption. Then a new world can emerge, founded on the principle that respects and value every human person and creation, and is so necessary for the survival of humankind as well… And the arts can then help to express such truths…

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