Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fractals and Subplots

The dragon is hungry.


I don't have any ill will towards Pontius Pilate.  I think the Gospel of John presses implicitly that we should not pity Judas Iscariot, but I still wonder about this Pilate fella.  What a fascinating question to ask: what is truth? (John 18:38)  For a man in Pilate's position, that seems like a fair question to assert, no?  And who better to ask this question of, then the King of Kings!

I am reminded of my 7th grade reading of an abridged version of Beowulf.  I distinctly recall, after a follower of Beowulf betrays him and ultimately is destroyed (perhaps by Grendal's mother?), all the town's people were slamming the dead man's memory.  Beowulf is asked to say a few words, and only a few words he uses; He was a man to be pitied.  Does Pilate belong in that camp of pitiable men as well?

I often wonder what happened to Pilate after those three days.  Surely he would have heard of Jesus' undeath.  Surely.  Christ's brothers didn't believe him during his ministry, yet James the brother of Jesus ended up martyred as the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.  Perhaps Pilate's question of truth led him to the Truth.

This thought wells within me not because I question what truth is, but because I am ever so curious as to understand what the main plot of my life is/will be.  What does my plotline consist of?  What is that truth?  Consequently, this also leaves me pondering, 'What are the subplots in my life?'  How can I decipher between what shall/should be center stage, and what is sufficiently contained as a footnote?

Recently, I was asked to make a video for Avant Ministries, proclaiming in some manner what it is I am bringing to the table uniquely as a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.  I came up with this: watch here now!.
(I will pause now as you watch said video.) 

Annnnnnnnd, we're back.

But do I believe it?  Do I believe these words that slip out of my mouth?  Of the many Biblical mysteries I have struggled to bear, the compositing of James' words on faith and works with that of Paul's has never bothered me.  It seems straightforward enough to me: true faith (or belief) by necessity, bears fruit.  This fruit will be seen often by the human observer as action.

Do I believe it?  Do I hold to the words I say?  Yes.  Yes I do.  Assuredly.  Absolutely.

BUT!  I, being amongst the number of the chiefest of sinners, remain ever ready, at almost all times, to cause what must be my chief end in life, to fall to the realm of mere subplot.  My actions convict me.  I do not in earnest seek, in all moments, to worship my God and spend all my effort glorifying His good Name; that name which has been too sacred to even be uttered by the lips of us sinful mortals. Remember how Isaiah, in his great vision had his lips burned and cleansed before he could offer to serve the Lord (Isaiah 6:6-7)?  Do you remember?  Do you really?

I am a slow learner.  Daily I need to be reminded (I must remember!) to put that which must remain in focus at the center of my vision.  Nothing comes first, but Christ alone.  Oh, but how I forget!

These are pleasing words, but it paints a picture that is crisper than life.  Words can be unscrambled and set in assembly in such a way as to draw the eye towards a pristine, HD image of a perceived truth.  But life is much more like a Monet -- a later Monet -- a going blind Monet.

Each day, as I make room to accomplish certain tasks which seem good for me to fulfill, how am I to discern what avenues will lead to major plots, and which are subplots?  To put plainly, what paths are inspired with meaning, and which roads are just roads, for the sake of being roads? (All clear now, right!)

As a Christian, I strive to be earnest in my pursuit of obedience to my Father.  What does daily obedience look like?  Is obedience related to micro-managing?  Is choosing to watch one film over another a moral disposition of obedience or defiance?


Another question that has been laying eggs in my brains, is that of evil.  Google's work slogan has famously been published as, "Don't be evil".  That sounds nice, especially for an all absorbing entity like the google monster, but in practicality, how is it done?

Sister Aloysius says to her struggling sister in Doubt: "When you take a step to address wrongdoing, you are taking a step away from God, but in his service."

Is that true?  Adam and Eve, when they were still good, knew nothing of evil.  They were naive of its being.

To desire to glorify God, should I wash myself clean of all evil, so as to once more become naive to its very presence?  How am I to interact with that?  Can I touch it, see it, hear it, without being some sort of conduit?  The good Lord renews all things.  He is in the process of redeeming the whole earth.  After our lips are burned, what part do we play?

I have long felt right in viewing many films, many books, and many lives -- I felt that I could do this chiefly to mine what is still fragrant within them.  I still can hold to the conviction that this is a good, honorable task, for our Lord Jesus Christ hung out with the scum of Israel society, and yet he brought salvation.  "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good... to preserve many people alive." (Genesis 50:20)  Is this power held only with the Messiah, or can we too access it?

When speaking with conservative minds that wish only to do the Lord's biding, Philippians 4:8 is frequently quoted to me. "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  This is recited to me as some sort of proof against smutty films.  My only response is that I see the hope of beautiful things in films like Even Dwarfs Started Small.

Over the weekend I indulged my filmatic mind by intoxicating my brains with the Red Riding Trilogy.  These are three films released last year that focus on a series of crimes in Yorkshire, England in the years 1974, 1980, and 1983 (each film covers a year).  The tagline for the films:

Evil Lives Here

Catchy, no?

Primarily, the films deal with the absolute corruption of the Yorkshire police.  It's like 5 hours of insanity.  No one is kind to anyone else, ever.

I barreled through these films.  One problematic,  grim scene after another, the themes of greed and sheer evil soaking slowly through my scalp hour by hour.  And then a miracle.  In the last ten minutes of the last film, there is this thing of absolute beauty.

I won't describe it.  That would do the scene an immense injustice.  After five hours of dread, this light floods in, and a song is sung in comfort through tears.

Ah, the salvation therein!

There are no words for such moments.

Five hours of loving people followed by that scene would have produced nothing.  I would have been numb to goodness.  Only in this world of filth and sickly detestable creatures does a moment like that barrel through the body.  It pummels the heart.  You can't hold it.  The scene is but a few seconds long, but it is all I can remember now.  What bliss!

What bliss.