thumbnail of Assignment America; 107 And 126; Harvey Cox: What In God's Name? and Cartier Bresson's New Jersey
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[music playing] [music playing] [Doris Kearns]: Hello. I'm Doris Kearns and it's been a long time since I've had a basic and serious conversation with anyone about God. Asking a friend whether he or she really believes in God, in heaven, or in hell. Perhaps as long ago as the days when I was a student here at Harvard University, when late at night, such talk about big ideas really was possible. But since then somehow the subject rarely comes up. Perhaps that's a mark of our secular pluralist society, a society in which religion is something separate, apart, on Sundays in churches.
A society in which it's fashionable to say or even believe that God is dead. But if God is dead, his people remain. And I somehow believe that those basic questions that have plagued religious societies and shaped religious societies for thousands of years, they too remain. Where have we come from? Why are we here? Where we going? These questions, they remain. [music playing] Harvard is one of the oldest universities in this country. In this yard many
historical figures have walked. Among them John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, William James and John Dewey. And part of the mystique of the place is the sense of the past. But it's a past that inevitably and always merges with the present. There's a man on this campus today who also combines the past and the present. He has, for example, his own interpretation of the old biblical saying that the bread should be cast upon the water. At a church service a few years ago, he encouraged everyone to give something to the person next to him. Anything, A pen, a bandage, a card listing one's legal rights when arrested. He himself received a pair of socks. And then he said it is good to give something away. We are brought up in a world where we are told not to share bread. We are taught to acquire bread and then to invest that bread. That was his special way of expressing a biblical injunction. Indeed as you will see he generally tends to talk and think in such unorthodox ways. This is Andover Hall and this is where Dr. Harvey Cox has his office and a great many
friends because he is a likable man with a very difficult job. He has taken upon himself as a profession to try and explain what man's relationship to God is. He's a theologian and I don't envy him his task because I don't know. I must admit as we sit here in the middle of the Divinity School that I don't really know very much about what goes on inside divinity schools. What the curriculum is today? Does it differ from the past? Who is coming to Divinity School and what for? [Dr. Harvey Cox]: Well what we're trying to do basically is prepare the priests, ministers, rabbis, and teachers of religion in colleges and sch- and secondary schools of tomorrow. And that's not an easy thing to do. And a when I, when I tell you all the kinds of people that come here that will be in itself perhaps the most eloquent commentary on how it's changed. I think the Puritan forebears who founded Harvard Divinity School so many hundred years ago would be rather shocked if they came back and found that nearly half of our students here are women for example. [Kearns]: I bet they would.
[Cox]: We also have far more Catholic students here now than we did say before the Second Vatican Council when Catholics were kept pretty much in their own institutions. [Kearns]: You know it's funny I remember, ah, a, an experience that I had when I was in Jerusalem about 3 or 4 years ago and seeing within the space of maybe 500 yards three different major religions being practiced at the same time. And it made you feel at once a sense of but what can religion be about if so many people can come up with such entirely different concepts of God and life after death. And on the other hand that says that here was the Hindu religion, here is the Muslims, and here's the Jewish faith with some deep need to somehow answer these basic questions. It made me feel the power of religion in general even if not in the specific at that moment in time. [Cox]: Yeah, I think that that can happen. Sometimes it gets a little nasty in Jerusalem because [Kearns]: Yeah, I guess. [Cox]: they're all kind of there they sort of get in each other's way but it is remarkable that for how many different groups that tends to be a very important place. You know I'm not as worried as some people seem to be or
sort of offended by the pluralism and diversity of religions. I sometimes wonder why that bothers people so much. Uh, maybe it has to do with the fact that so many of us in middle age now grew up with the kind of understanding of science where it's either this or it's that. Whereas when you begin studying world religions you see the remarkable diversity of the way people symbolize reality, the way they relate to it, their their their ultimate beliefs. And I rather enjoy that kind of diversity. I think many religious, uh uh, movements and traditions go through a stage in which there's a kind of a ghetto mentality in which anything outside is viewed as rather threatening. We protect people from it. But it's my conviction that any religion now which, which has to depend on a ghetto mentality to survive, is going to die. It's impossible to do that in an age of television, travel. It's just impossible and therefore the excitement now is, is to make, is to, is to a learn something from the diversity.
And I think the Second Vatican Council made an enormous contribution to that. We took a step at least in the right direction for Catholics, but it's also happened in other groups. [Kearns]: Do you think there's a, is there a common denominator, um, to the beliefs that the students hold when they come here? I mean can you assume on the part of a majority of them a belief in God for example? Or did they debate that themselves? I mean [Cox]: Yeah, there's a lot, there's a lot of debate about that sort of thing that goes on here. I think if there, if there's one thing that, that all of them have in common it's a belief that somehow or another the questions, ah, religious questions or important questions. The answers may not all be the same, but that the questions are worth asking, worth pursuing, worth striving and uh suffering over. [Kearns]: Do you believe in God? [Cox]: I'll start by saying yes but I want to point out that ah that's a kind of question almost of the nature of do you really love your children or are you we are you afraid of death?
Or do you, uh, um are you trustworthy or something like that. It's not, I don't think it's the kind of question that one answers fliply or, or, or easily or simply intellectually. Ah, and when I say yes I don't mean to give an easy answer. I mean to say that when all of the explanations are over and when all of my difficulties with the subject are suspended for the moment. I think what people really mean when they're not just playing games but when they're really, ah facing hard questions, Do you believe in God, I say yes. [Kearns]: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God? [Cox]: Yeah, well that's the same thing. I mean ah in any kind of literal way, fathers having sons, like I have a son, of course that is not credible to me. So I have to ask the question, What have people meant over the years and they talk about God's son.?
Then I think about the meaning that my son has for me not the physical relationship but the, but the intimacy of expression, uh uh, have between a father and son and the uh, the uh, the, therefore the kind of link between God in the world represented by that close a bond, the familial bond uh between, uh Christ and God. And, uh, uh, uh given that kind of reading of what that means I would uh, I'd, I'd say yes to that answer to that question. I, I, but I'm always kind of annoyed when people use it, you haven't done it, but when people use it as a kind of test question. Sort of, it's like a litmus paper. They hold it up unless it turns blue than they're not going to listen to you for the rest of the time. [Doris]: ahum, ahum It's a, it's a, it's a club code and you're either in the club or you're or you're out depending on that. And if I thought the question were being asked that way I would say no. [Kearns]: Just because of your anger at the person for the question? [Cox]: Yes, just because of I don't believe that people should test of the people that way with litmus paper. [Kearns]: Especially something so important as this. [Cox]: Yeah but I think the way you're asking it I can I can answer yes and I
don't feel like I'm being hypocritical to give different answers in different situations and I do hereby warn anybody when they ask me [Kearns laughing] that questions. Holding up a light meter or litmus paper to me they're going to get a no answer and that's really a commentary on their attitude and asking the question. [Kearns]: When when you think about the, the rules that would govern you or this set of ethics that that allow you to know what's right and wrong, how d-, how does that relate to what the scriptures say about what what should and shouldn't be done? [Cox]: Well you see I think the scriptures are more about uh about that grounding and we have mistakenly read them as as basically rule books and laws and so on with the secondary reference to that that grounding. I think that's that's [Kearns]: Tell me more what you mean by that. [Cox]: Well when you, you stop the normal person or any, the first person you see walking down the street and ask them what religion is about in the United States and they'll say it's the Ten Commandments. It's, it's what you should do, what you shouldn't do.
And then maybe it's what you uh how you fix it up. No, I think that that represents a serious distortion of uh of the Bible by a, a religious tradition. Catholic and Protestant in, in our culture which is obsessed with moral trivia and with moralisms. I mean it's been an over moralization of basically a statement about what what's real and what isn't real in life. And if you if you if you honestly read the Bible from beginning to end very small very small sections of it really are these are these more moral rules and many of them emerge from very concrete situations in which people found themselves trying to relate to that basic God. And some of them I think are equally applicable today and others aren't. I mean I don't think that the vast array of ritual rules that we have in the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament have much to do with us today. I think there are some rules that that do. But, um I'm, I'm all for getting people back to relating to the to the basic
core of what I think the Bible is about which is that there is a God who is concerned, so concerned about the world that he's become a part of it. That's what I think its about. And that makes a difference in the way I live my life. So my my, as far as my own ethical choices are concerned, I don't flip open the Bible to check on them what to do [Kearns]: Page 68. [Cox]: But I, but I see the the biblical story as being that which nurtures people that I trust. So if I, if I had a really hard choice to make, the people that I would talk to would be people who in one way or another, uh share that kind of vision of what the world could be about, which comes basically comes from the Bible. Uh where people eventually beat their swords into plowshares. [Kearns]: One of the arguments that that I've been involved in lately seemingly quite often is this question of how responsible are we for the people who are starving outside of our country. Can you feel responsible for someone beyond your own national borders or should you limit your responsibilities to only worry about someone who doesn't have enough to eat in the South of America, for
example rather than in Biafra? And it's just an infuriating thing to me that some people see the nation as a unit that makes sense [Cox]: Yeah. [Kearns]: to absolve you of your responsibility to other human beings. But they do. You know they say we don't have a responsibility and you can't go feeding all these people, there aren't enough people being fed here. And that's a hard question I mean is your responsibility greater to a person who is not eating well within your own borders versus outside. [Cox]: See, that that's really an assumption that really divides sheep from goats. I mean, do we live in a globe in which we're all part of one family in some way? In which I-, in some ways I'm just as responsible for people in Bangladesh as for people in, uh, in uh Southern California. I mean, who decreed that these national boundaries have any kind of reality to them? I- I sometimes think that one of the major anti-Christian heresies of the modern world is, is the national state, [Kearns]: Mm, hmm. Mm, hmm. [Cox]: some kind of a, of a, of a genuine human community I think it's it, and certainly there's been much more torture and death and hatred in the, in the
name of, of, of modern nations than anything I can think of virtually in the history of humankind. [Kearns]: That's right. [Cox]: The thing we need, uh, uh, uh more than anything else is a restoration of our sense of global community and of neighborhood community. [Kearns]: Aha, those two being the reflections of one another. [Cox]: Yeah. I mean they're the two places we really live. We really live in our neighborhoods, uh or with what, let's say neighborhoods with the people that we kind of interact with on, on, on a, on a on a daily basis. I think, in the way modern cities that are constructed, s- often undercuts neighborhood, and, and we should plan our cities so it doesn't. And the way nation states have develop undercuts the whole idea of a world community. Um, so I'm, I'm for both of these and I'd, I'd, I'd like to see us relax and if possible discard the loyalty we have to these nation states and move into a time in which we're, we, we're members of a world family and of a neighborhood. [Kearns]: Was, was there ever a time in your life when you, you felt a personal experience
or understanding of God? I mean like a sense of being converted to to him or being saved by him or, or touching or contacting him? [Cox]: Yeah, I don't think anybody ever gets saved by religion. I think, uh probably religion, uh religion doesn't have the power to save or damn people. If anybody gets saved, ah presumably it's God who does it and not religion. And I remember one time as a, as an adolescent kid, uh, in which I uh really had a very memorable, in fact utterly memorable experience of God, uh which will be with me as long as I can remember and I think, in which uh, which I go back to. [Kearns]: You mean a felt sense of his presence? [Cox]: Yes, a sort of feeling in the presence of God, right. In a, and this was, this had to do with my being baptized. I mean I grew up in a Baptist church and I was baptized by complete immersion under the water and it was a very very moving occasion and it was not easily forgotten by a 13 year old kid, uh in a church where there were people were singing and there were
candles and I was brought in and I had a white shirt on. And, uh I knew in a sense because I'd been taught it, to this is, was sort of following in the steps of Jesus. Jesus had done this in the, in the uh in his own boyhood, uh and it was it was a powerful and memorable experience. Which leads me to think that there is, that uh ritual of any kind is a really powerful, dangerous weapon. It can be very badly misused. But when it's used in the right way, it can, it can deepen people's awareness of themselves and of their place in the universe, and in the cosmos, in a, in a way that I think nothing else can. And in a, in a way that you don't forget what you [Kearns]: Once it's happened. [Cox]: once you've been through the Jordan River you know. [Kearns]: You know I think that's why those memories of when I think about my memories of childhood religion, it's really more just the texture of the, of the smell and the place. And one of the things that I remember the most clearly about the sense of sins that
were committed when I was young, is that there really was a tendency to feel that those sins were defined by the church for me. And that I somehow had to make up for them and that each sin was worth a certain number of years off my, on my life in purgatory. I didn't quite ever believe in hell. That was too, too, too much to contemplate. But somehow I really did believe that there was a purgatory and that each night before I went to bed, I would say all these prayers. Um, and each prayer was worth a certain number of years off my life in purgatory. Twenty-two years for a Hail Mary and 37 years for an our father. And then I add them up and say Dear God I've said 622 years of my life in purgatory, please put it to my account. I live at 125 Southern Avenue, Rockville Center, New York and assumed that he was really counting that plus all the sins that I had committed. And that at some years of my life I'd be over on the side of still having 28 years in purgatory to, to, to work off or 1000 years in purgatory to work off. And that notion of somehow that the church could define for me what was right and wrong, the sins were often church related sins. Not so much sins that I deeply felt I
was committing like talking in church or missing church or not making a good act of contrition or eating meat on Friday. And for those things I said prayers night after night. Oh you know, one of the other things that really interest me that that I think these same lines of questions lead to is the argument about whether people really are responsible for their acts or not. There are some who say that if you've grown up in a poor community and your conditions are narrowed, that you're really not responsible for an act of theft or perhaps even an act of murder. [Cox]: I had in mind one of one of my favorite theologians Dietrich Bonhoeffer, about whom I've written some things. And, and the thing that really knocks me over about Bonhoeffer is that he had to answer in real life the question all pacifists are faced with what would you have done about Hitler. [Kearns]: Right, right. [Cox]: Here is, here is a German theologian, a pacifist. Very unusual thing for his time. A pacifist who had to face the question, would you pull the trigger or throw the bomb to kill Adolf Hitler? And in killing him, they, he
believed, and his co-conspirators in the German underground believed, this would possibly save hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe millions of lives and he struggled over that question. But he didn't, [Kearns]: What did he, what did [Cox]: Well he's finally decided to go ahead. He joined the conspiracy to kill Hitler. Uh, he was eventually uh, uh arrested, because they broke the conspiracy. You know it didn't work, the bomb [Kearns]:Right. [Cox]: went off [Kearns]: Right. [Cox]: wrong, and he was eventually killed by the Gestapo just before the war was over. But he always said regardless of the stringency of the, of the circumstances, I chose this. I admit that I chose it. I can make a case for it, but he would not forego the fact that he was a responsible person making a choice. [Kearns]: Well then [Cox]: I think I would stick with that. [Kearns]: Ok, ok. [Cox]: I'd stick with that. [Kearns]: That means that, that you have to recognize that in killing Hitler you are using a person as a means to some larger end: his death toward the end of freeing others and that's a very serious act. And that there may be conditions under which you can justify that to yourself, but it has to be a real reasoning process and a moral process, I would think. [Cox]: And a moral process, yeah.
[Kearns]: And that, that's, that's and that you know because the older notions that every person's an end in themselves, the Kantean notions, really can't work in a situation like that I can't work, I would guess. [Cox]: No it doesn't quite work. I think not. And, and uh the, the, the great theologians like Augustine of Saint Augustine, have always dealt with this in terms of protecting the third party. [Doris[: hmn hmn [Cox]: I don't think myself, that I would, I hope that I would not kill another person even to save my own life. I don't know. I've never been actually confronted with that situation. Came close once, but - However, I think when a third person is in question, uh defending that third person, then the moral issue arises. What is my responsibility to that person if I have the power to protect him or her from destruction or torture or something like that. Vis-a-vis, the other person, then it gets very complicated. But I would maintain this is still a responsible free agent making these decisions, who bears responsibility for them eventually. [Kearns]: Your mention of Bonhoeffer reminds me of
a, of a concept that he developed that that I've always really wondered about where he's talks about the fact that we're moving toward a religionless time, and that people simply cannot be religious nowadays. What does that really mean? Is that a possibility? [Cox]: Well I think for him it meant that, uh, uh, religion as an explanation for the, for things that are not explainable otherwise, kind of a stopgap for ignorance is no longer going to be possible. Uh, and also I, I, I think he had in mind the kind of religious um, grounding of governments and uh regimes, a kind of public religion: you know, the blessing, the the church's blessing for various kinds of political regimes. [Kearns]: He was reacting against [Cox talking over Kearns]: He was against that. [Kearns]: the church's involvement. [Cox]: He was reacting against religion as, as as a superstition and religion as kind of a, of a civil ritual. Ah, and he saw us moving more and more toward a time when, uh
when that, when that would,nt be important to people anymore and I think we've more or less reached that time. [Kearns]: Is that partly what, what Camus was trying to reach for? That, that there is a morality and even a Christian morality, but not necessarily a religion that's enforcing it? [Cox]: I think he was really trying to make the same separation that Bonhoeffer was making and really, uh he was very attracted to what he understood to be Christian ethics. And was, was constantly, and I think rightly, scolding Christians for not living up to their own ethics. Uh, but he couldn't simply couldn't believe the kind of underlying metaphysical basis for it. [Kearns]: You mean God, heaven, hell? [Cox]: Yeah, that, at least what he understood it had to be. And, and I think that's a possible option. I think people [Kearns speaking over Cox]: Is that where [Cox]: can do that. [Kearns]: you lean to? [Cox]: No, because I, I can't, I can't buy that myself because I feel that the choices one makes are, are, are eventually based on some belief about what's real and what isn't real, what's underlying and what isn't underlying. [Kearns speaking over Cox]: It's not just a matter of preference [Cox]: It's not just preference and it's not just ethics.
I mean, I think ethics are very important but, uh [Kearns]: That's your understanding that ethics are grounded in in this, in this larger purpose. [Cox]: Yeah, I, I believe so. And I would have a very hard time, uh trying time to take, uh, uh, uh trying to adopt Camus' unbelief in the, in the, in the meaningfulness of, of the universe and then still leading some kind of ethically noble and sacrificial life. [Kearns]: Okay, what's the difference? I mean here is two people, one has, say the content of the ethics is the same under your understanding of love being at the center of things and his understanding of a certain set of ethics. But one's connected to a larger purpose and and force that that has something to do with the universe as a whole and the other isn't. Why would it be more difficult, do you think for the one person just to act rightly? [Cox]: Well I'm saying- [Kearns]: Or for you? [Cox]: For me it would be harder because I find that I always want to know what is, what's what's really happening? I mean, my, my ethical decisions are always based on what's really going on here, rather than on the application of some kind of ethical code.
And uh, uh, I want, I want to relate to it what I think is the facts of the situation. Uh, I rather believe that, that although individuals can do it, that over the long haul, the the, the Camus solution would not work for large numbers of people over generations. People would eventually say, oh why are we doing this? I mean, why why are we sacrificing ourselves? Why are we loving people when we get clobbered, if there's if there's nothing going for us. I mean, the, the sensible answer would be get yours. [Kearns]: What if I asked you, um do you believe that that people will be rewarded for their acts or punished for their acts in some later life after this one? [Cox]: I would, I would say the people are rewarded and punished throughout life. Uh, and [Kearns]: You mean by civil society? [Cox]: Uh, I think by themselves and by the very nature of, of, of uh, of life itself. Now I have some problems personally with uh the traditional beliefs about life after death.
I remain kind of an agnostic or a skeptic about that. I occasionally read things and see things that suggest to me that the uh scientific, uh so-called scientific elimination of all that was maybe a little premature. Uh, But I'm, I'm willing to suspend judgement. Still, underneath, somehow uh, love and justice vindicate themselves. We don't know how. We don't know in what world that happens whether it's at some some end of history, in some other realm of consciousness. I think there's not only a strong need to uh believe that, maybe on my part, on many people's parts, but I think that is a, a, a real description of the way reality is. I think, I think it is that way. [Kearns]: You know the fact that, that so many different societies separated by vastly different cultures have come up with the same longings as we were discussing for some force beyond us, must say something, at least it does to me, about man's need for belonging to others beyond himself, belonging to the past and belonging to the future. Now for many millions of people as we discussed, that need found its expression in
Christianity. In the belief that Christ was the Son of God. That he'd been brought to Earth to redeem man for his sins and to make it possible for man to live again in another life in the kingdom of heaven. A kingdom of eternal peace and eternal justice. For others that concept of God and that concept of Christ and even the concept of the afterlife is very different, even if the longings are the same. When I come to thinking of religion I come back in the end to the words of Ambrose Bierce when he said that religion is the daughter of hope and fear, explaining to ignorance the nature of the unknowable. [music] [Maya Angelou]: You really like to teach, don't you? [Angela Davis]: Yes, I really do want to teach, but one thing I'm sort of tired of doing, I was fighting for my right to [Angelou speaking over Davis] To teach. [Davis]: teach, because at UCLA, I spent much more time waging that struggle than I actually did inside the classroom. [music playing]
[music playing] For a transcript of tonight's program please send $1 to Assignment America, WNET 13, Box 345, New York
New York, 10019. [silence/ambient sound] [silence/ambient sound] [music playing] [silence][music playing] [beeping][music playing][silence][music playing] [silence] [car honking] [Interviewer]: Why
New Jersey? [Henri Cartier-Bresson]: Uh, because, uh, people make such a funny face when you mention New Jersey. And, um, it's where I'm going and seeing what it's all about. And you see the, all the tensions in New Jersey; the differences are so strong. It's a kind of ah, shortcut for America in a way. If we hadn't taken New Jersey, I would have, uh thought of ah San Diego County, or something like this in Southern California, something very , where you find extremes. [music playing] [music playing] [car honking] When
we mention to anybody that we're doing an essay that means concentrating on various aspects of New Jersey, which is just as available to somebody, like this, they are always surprised. My but, uh, what's interests? And it seems that the just go through on the turnpike and it's
all the industrial areas that, uh they'd like to forget before going to the country or to a weekend resort. [music playing] [music playing] All that industry which uh helps the standard of living to be what it is. And
people are not prepared to have their standard of living more, how should we say, uh um, frugal. If there was more, more frugality, more and I don't know, and not so much waste, difficulties wouldn't be the same. It seems that humanity hasn't foreseen many things. It's a detonator sometimes, bang, like this, like a petalled question, and ah! We forget all about it and we're facing a, a how do you call it, the precipice, like bend over problems. I'm just coming with a certain distance and, uh struck by things. My problem here is that I know too much and not enough. It's not, if I went to a country I hadn't been for 20 years, I'm coming and going all the time, so I know pretty well question and answers and I never know
enough. [sound] [street sounds] I have the same problem in France. It's not very difficult to uh show a foreign country to French people, exotic, or something exotic to Americans.
Show them China, or something like this. It's not very difficult, but to show a country that uh, your own country to your own people, it's the most difficult thing. [street sound] I think uh to be able to understand better what one sees, one has to forget oneself and disappear, and uh not intrude. You have to come on tiptoes. And uh not to be noticed and at the same time not to be recognized. Anonymity is essential. It is essential to be anonymous.
You have to forget yourself and people have to forget you. When people are involved into something, When uh there's no, there's no real problem, one has to concentrate enormously. It's concentration to take pictures. And um, we've seen some things quite extremely painful. Sometimes I can photograph and there's moments I cannot lift a camera to my eye. At any cost I wouldn't take a picture. It's in certain circumstances when uh you're intruding. You have to respect people. You have to be a human being before being a photographer. [music playing] [music playing] TV
is a very powerful medium. People have seen you enough to be, oh this is so and so; we've seen him. Uh, he's a photographer and we've heard of him. What kind of lens he's using? Then they come and you have to be polite and uh start the conversation,
and then the subject is gone. And it's gone forever, because things never repeat themselves. It's always something new. How does he do it? Well, I have no tricks. I nothing, in the, in the um, up my sleeve. Nothing. I have no tricks. [ambient and other sound] [sound] That's the difference with this and the other kind of photography where
they have all sorts of ways of printing, of gimmicks, of approaches and philosophy. Well, no, I'm just dealing with reality. Quick, quick. Quick, quick. [ambient and street sound] What I'm interested in is, "why?" Why Why things are like this. And uh the camera, each time you click, it's a question mark you put, trying to understand the "whys." It's a "why" I'm interested in, much more than the answers. It's why things are like that. And uh going with the camera helps you to put things in comparison.
Sometimes the difference between the toughness of life and the kindness of people. [gunshot and emergency vehicle siren] Everybody has got some preconception, but you have to readjust them in front of reality. Reality has the last word. But it's always subjective because you're part of a certain world, a certain culture, a social millieu, and uh you have all your background. So you never, you not sitting the calm making abstract judgements; which is so appalling in a way, but uh, people don't communicate much from one millieu to the other. You can't get out of yourself and
be somebody else, especially in a, in another social strata. I like people and uh I like life but, uh at the same time, I'm appalled by uh the sort of world which uh, we've seen since the 50s, which is coming and tensions bigger and bigger and we don't know how to solve it. Nobody can. [sound] [street sound] [music] [music] [music]
[music] [music] What is it New Jersey? I see tremendous differences. It's like, uh, fishes in the deep uh sea; when they bring to the surface you, feel that they will explode. There's no communication much between. That's why we're very privileged to go in different places and and have these facilities to look at. Not passing judgment, but just be, uh like the emulsion of of a film the sense that they have seen this. Just add one little impression to another little impression and it builds up to something but is not passing judgement trying to take take the temperature.
I actually like surfing when there's a situation and you have to catch a wave and let myself go with a wave there's always a new you have to look for it because everything is interesting everything is new. The ?pins? of yourself . If you scratch everything is interesting. That can't invent a wave prefabricate a wave no it's an aspect of photography un I have no feelings for. They exist all right. That's their business. It's just uh like uh a pidgeon. He knows where the North is. You have to feel things in and people and then it's about ?participation? to be involved be committed have to be committed and and detachment at the same time.
?Done? graffiti for me it's a way of understanding. What I've seen to various elements and the pleasure is when I shoot beyond that I haven't any. And there's a way of looking at the contact sheet just like I can list as a way of listening or without hearing everything. But suddenly sometimes struck something strikes you. [Man speaking}:Great pictures are very very rare only once in a while you have that luck. [Bresson]: I never do layouts uh arranging material for me is something contradictory with the
impulsion of photography and I can take photographs. The photograph has to take me. That means I have to be in a lively situation not something artificial. All the rest is aesthetics, it's for me ?unintelligible? it's something of very decay all these gimmicks of photography. I'm very much interested from a sociological point of view but it's a decay. I'm interested in life first and any photographer dealing with life being in a in a real situation I'm interested. [music playing] It's strange so few people are visual, so many people think they can think properly
they may be inteligent but to be visual something that they have an emotion from the shape of the relations of shapes few people. I ?don't? music and the false ?snow? doesn't bother me. But there's something wrong with me as a musician. I was brought up, I was influenced by surrealism. In the surrealism it's not making strange pictures it's a power of imagination. It is a power and the respect of imagination and the ?intrusion? into photography something it's not at all.? For me all these gimmicks and it's a caricature of something recital in the world. We get into such refinement of
thinking which is amazing and at the same time this tremendous depth of about the future and relating it to the tensions are getting bigger and bigger all the time and this tremendous waste of this problem between quality and quantity. Life is full of contradictions
after all and the absolute is something very dangerous. Death is something absolute. But otherwise, for me there is, everything exists only in relation to something else. But I have no sense of absolute. So it was a relation I'm trying to understand: between people, between things. I think it is a scientific attitude and I respect it very much in the scientist. There's a truth for the certain moment which is going to be questioned very quickly by another scientist, which is a real attitude but not a terrible permanent truth. [Street noise] Everything exists in relation. [inaudible] all at the same time and everything is so old.
The world is so old and you hear all this myth about youth, young, fresh, and all this. It's very strange. You feel just such an old, old world. [Music playing]: I'm never thinking of photography. Never, never. I forget the camera and just to be present. Camera is really no important. It's
And just a way of communicating. That's why we should have film in the camera. But it's, uh, things to be there, and to understand, to feel. I don't do layouts and I don't even look at photographs. If I see too many pictures I don't feel like going and taking pictures. I'm interested in what I see and not in photography nor seeing other things. It's life I'm interested in. It's a way of living. It's an attitude in life, take photographs. And it's a very marginal profession. I- I- don't like that way of working. It's not even- It's so easy, that it's terribly difficult photography. You just have to have a finger. [Music playing]: I know America quite well and I don't know it at all at the same time
America quite well and I don't know it at all at the same time. [music playing] I'm not pessimist by nature. I enjoy life very much, but when I see the different elements specially when you focus on something which is very important, then people will reject. Why, uh? What's this? Why are you in New Jersey? People say it's a battle ?trapped? at both ends by both huge cities. And it
hasn't existed in itself also. And ?everybody is trapped? by something. There's always limitation. For me, liberty is a strict frame of reference and inside that frame of reference, all the variations possible. That's my sense of liberty. [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing]
[music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] For a transcript of tonight's program, please send $1 to Assignment
America,WNET 13, Box 345, New York New York 10019 [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing] [music playing]
Assignment America
Episode Number
107 And 126
Harvey Cox: What In God's Name? and Cartier Bresson's New Jersey
Producing Organization
Thirteen WNET
Contributing Organization
Thirteen WNET (New York, New York)
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Episode Description
This recording includes two episodes of Assignment America. The first is episode 107, Harvey Cox: What In God's Name?. Dr. Cox, radical professor of theology at Harvard, and author of The Secular City, discussed his contemporary and unorthodox approach to religion with Doris Kearns. The second is episode 126, Cartier Bresson's New Jersey. It featured Henri Cartier-Bresson's first photographic essay in two years. Television cameras recorded the artist's examination of poverty and affluence existing side-by-side in this corner of America.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Social Issues
Media type
Moving Image
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Producing Organization: Thirteen WNET
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Thirteen - New York Public Media (WNET)
Identifier: wnet_aacip_3170 (WNET Archive)
Format: U-matic
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:30:00
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Chicago: “Assignment America; 107 And 126; Harvey Cox: What In God's Name? and Cartier Bresson's New Jersey,” 1975-02-18, Thirteen WNET, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
MLA: “Assignment America; 107 And 126; Harvey Cox: What In God's Name? and Cartier Bresson's New Jersey.” 1975-02-18. Thirteen WNET, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 19, 2024. <>.
APA: Assignment America; 107 And 126; Harvey Cox: What In God's Name? and Cartier Bresson's New Jersey. Boston, MA: Thirteen WNET, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from