by Ryan Phipps
My close friends often accuse me of being a panentheist, meaning that I see God in everything. I don't know if that's true or not, but I have always found God reaching me through very ordinary things and experiences. It could be a poem or a piece of art. It could be a song or a documentary. And yes, books of all kinds.
Below is a list of some of these ordinary things that have added a layer to my life that is anything but "ordinary."
Of course there are many more than three, but these are top of the list for me.
Into Great Silence
Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months—filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one—it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, Into Great Silence dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it’s a rare, transformative theatrical experience for all.
Bill Cunningham New York
The “Bill” in question is 80+ New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. For decades, this Schwinn-riding cultural anthropologist has been obsessively and inventively chronicling fashion trends and high society charity soirées for the Times Style section in his columns “On the Street” and “Evening Hours.” Documenting uptown fixtures (Wintour, Tom Wolfe, Brooke Astor, David Rockefeller—who all appear in the film out of their love for Bill), downtown eccentrics and everyone in between, Cunningham’s enormous body of work is more reliable than any catwalk as an expression of time, place and individual flair. In turn, Bill Cunningham New York is a delicate, funny and often poignant portrait of a dedicated artist whose only wealth is his own humanity and unassuming grace.
Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.
I always know a book is doing something in my heart based on how many times I feel compelled to read it again. These are three books that I've read multiple times this year.
The American Bible
by Stephen Prothero
Since Thomas Jefferson first recorded those self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence, America has been a nation that has unfolded as much on the page and the podium as on battlefields or in statehouses. Here Stephen Prothero reveals which texts continue to generate controversy and drive debate. He then puts these voices into conversation, tracing how prominent leaders and thinkers of one generation have commented upon the core texts of another, and invites readers to join in.
Few can question that the Constitution is part of our shared cultural lexicon, that the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision still impacts lives, or that "The Star-Spangled Banner" informs our national identity. But Prothero also considers lesser known texts that have sparked our war of words, including Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In The American Bible Christopher Hitchens weighs in on Huck Finn, and Sarah Palin on Martin Luther King Jr. From the speeches of Presidents Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan to the novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ayn Rand—Prothero takes the reader into the heart of America's culture wars. These "scriptures" provide the words that continue to unite, divide, and define Americans today.
The Varieties of Religious Experience
by William James
The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature is a book by the Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James comprising 20 lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. These lectures concerned the nature of religion and the neglect of science, in James' view, in the academic study of religion. Soon after its publication, the book found its way into the canon of psychology and philosophy, and has remained in print for over a century.
Jesus Through The Centuries
by Jeroslov Pelikan
This book was recommended to me by my good friend, Jared Witt.
It's about how each age creates Jesus in its own image, discovering in his life and teachings the answers to fundamental questions of human life and destiny.
It studies the images of Jesus cherished by successive ages, suggesting that the depictions are key to understanding each era.
These are artists that I've discovered who I find myself listening to a lot for inspiration while studying or walking.
El Ten Eleven
El Ten Eleven is a Los Angeles post-rock duo known for combining guitar/bass doubleneck or fretless bass, with heavy looping, orvamping, and the utility of an effects pedal, over acoustic or electric drumming. They have released five full length albums, an ep and a remix album.
Jon Hopkins is an English producer and musician who writes and performs his own melodic electronica and dance music. After starting his career playing keyboard for Imogen Heap, he has produced or contributed to albums by Brian Eno, Coldplay, David Holmes, and others.
Helios, a.ka. Keith Kenniff
Keith is an American composer, multi-instrumentalist, and electronic music producer. He composes ambient/electronic music under the moniker Helios and post-classical piano music under Goldmund. He is also one-half of the indie band Mint Julep, and ambient project "A Pale Fire" (previously "Hollie & Keith Kenniff"). Keith is also a composer for film, television, dance and performance art.
Beck, "Morning Phase"
Morning Phase is the twelfth studio album by American musician Beck. The album was released in February 2014 through his new label, Capitol Records. According to a press release, Morning Phase is a "companion piece" to his 2002 album Sea Change, and "harkens back to the stunning harmonies, song craft and staggering emotional impact of that record, while surging forward with infectious optimism."
ILLUSRATION, ARCHITECTURE, DESIGN, AND PHOTOGRAPHY
These are artists and designers whose work regularly inspires me.
Richard McGuire is an illustrator, graphic designer, comic book artist, animator, children's book author, musician and toy designer. His illustrations have been published in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Le Monde, and other publications. His short story Here is likely the most lauded comic book story from recent decades. He is a founding member and bassist for the band Liquid Liquid. His bass line from the song Cavern is considered one of the most sampled bass lines of all time
Rams is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and the Functionalist school of industrial design. His unobtrusive approach and belief in "less but better" design generated a timelessness nature in his products and have influenced the design of many products, which also secured Rams worldwide recognition and appreciation.
E. Fay Jones
Euine Fay Jones (January 31, 1921 – August 31, 2004) was an American architect and designer. He was an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. Jones is also the only one of Wright's disciples to have received the AIA Gold Medal (1990), the highest honor awarded by the American Institute of Architects.
Rut Blees Luxemburg
Rut Blees Luxemburg is a German photographer. Her technique is to take photographs at night, mostly exploring the urban landscape. She employs long exposures which allows her to use the light emanating from the street only. Many of her photographs and prints deal with nocturnal themes.