Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Madonna Of Marpingen

On July 3, 1876, three 8-year-old girls, returning to the village of Marpingen in Germany from picking berries, saw a figure in white whom they identified as the virgin Mary. After some initial skepticism, the girls' families and neighbours became convinced that the Mother of God had, in fact, come to their village. She appeared several times thereafter, identified herself as "the Immaculately Conceived", and performed miraculous cures. The villagers piety and deep devotion to Mary, combined with their pride in being chosen for this holy visitation and their growing sense of its commercial possibilities led them to hope that Marpingen could be the German equivalent of Lourdes. The local innkeeper telegraphed his beer supplier with a request for 150 gallons: "Marian miracle in Marpingen. Enormous pilgrimage. Send several hectoliters immediately!". Isn't that the stuff playwrights (and theatres) used to dream of - at that long gone time when they were still allowed to tell stories that were tragic, comic and metaphoric at the same time?


  1. Thank you very much for the question. My answer is a "Yo", made of 80% Yes and 20% No:

    Yes, I agree at large, this is exactly the right kind of stuff. No, the wonder-theme flatters and amuses the cocky minority and frustrates the majority - which is longing for sensible, senseful dreams - with a revelation that isn't enchanting (only enchanting revelations are good revelations), and it might be impossible to build a sweeping plot which remains in a pointful way as ambiguous, and mysterious as life itself. If you manage it, you will create an ever lasting masterpiece like Eco's "The Name of the Rose".

    I would go to see the movy "Lourdes" and then go to Lourdes to decide...

    I like this story because the potential for different levels, which I am always speaking of, is clearly perceptible, because the important potential for "emphatic irony", which you once have pointed on, is there, and because what you say today, on the tragic, comic and metaphoric dimension, is exactly right and of fathomless importance.

    The "cherry" is nearly perfect therefor, but the flesh seems hard to me, and the stone sweet.
    The perfect story has to satisfy the majority and to seduce (and partly to frustrate, as matters stand today) the intellectual minority.

  2. storyarchitekt@gmail.comFebruary 27, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    Thanks for your comments which are, as always, inspiring.

  3. My answer is “Yo” as well, but 80 % No and 20% Yes. This is, at first, because I can´t find the dramatic element in this Marpingen stuff, and secondly, because yesterday we´ve seen a baroque opera containing all these elements, based on a very ancient stuff: Ronaldo by Vivaldi. And what was more astonishing: that was a wonderful kind of “Regie-Theater” with jokes and slapsticks (Ronaldo was sung by an Italian woman consequently playing the crazy man!!).

  4. fifty-fifty after reading:

  5. Thank you, to both of you.
    Dear cs, I love it when you turn the chessboard up side down and jump enthusiastically into things you usually detest.

    I can't see the dramatic elements either, but I smell them. I am sure that with a pencil and a notebook, in a humorous and respectful mood on board of a bus going to Lourdes one would find even too much appropriate inspiration to invent these elements. What a wonderful experience

  6. There is an even more important point which makes this theme powerful.

    In the introduction to "Highroad to the Stake", if I remember well, you have reminded Michel Foucault's sight, that the cruelty of the witch trials were not due to medieval ignorance but to the cold "rationality" of the new age.

    I would say, it has to do with the encounter and twisting of both. Foucault's point of view is a beautiful example of how selfcritical the western tradition can be, but after Salman Rushdie's destiny so much selfcriticism can be harmful.
    Anyway, Foucault's basic idea perhaps remains helpful in viewing the contrast between, on one hand, obsessive rationalism and, on the other hand, the subjectivistic human capacity to trust one's own intuitions, perceptions, feelings and psychosomatic dispositions.

    We trust our own feelings, when something gives us goose bumps, and sometimes "joy makes our heart stand still". But had Saint Francesco of Assisi really even his hands and feet bleeding and Pater Pio only recently as well? Can "too much empathy" really have this effect? Or did Pater Pio hurt himself knowing, how much people desire visible signs?

    Claude Levy Strauss tells us about a sceptical native of South America who became apprentice of a traditional healer, because he wanted to unmask his tricks. Well, he learned all those tricks - like keeping a feather in one's mouth, biting one's own tongue and the showing the bloody cause of a disease -, but unfortunatly he became also the best healer of the area and at the end he didn't know what to think on his own charisma.

    Ronald D. Laing tried with honest relativism a respectful, attentive listening to and reading of the visions of his schizophrenic patients...

    Morbus sacer was the ancient name of epilepsia.

    All this has to do with charming unselfconsciousness and the paradox, that mature childlike wholeness is the best remedy against childish infantilisation.

    It has also to do with the fact, that in german the word Vernunft derives from Vernehmen.

    Saint Francesco apparently was a childlike, charming figure and the great spiritual antagonist of Stupor Mundi Frederic II.

    Contraria sunt Complementa

    Isn't it funny that Wolf Singer - a neurologist who denies the existence of free will and who is an expert of the human brain - is a member of the Pontificia Academia Scientiarum?