Sunday, September 5, 2010

Methods of Power

Things go up, things go down, but at least the Lord is always around.

I had this idea.  On Wednesday I moved into a new apartment (adjacent to my old apartment).  Relying on the hope that I will be abiding amidst these new walls for some time, I wanted to make the place my own.  I wanted to make this place, 'my laboratory'.  I'm smitten with the concept of my residence being a sanctuary for my thought life.  This could be 'my bunker' wherein I return back not only for physical nourishment day-to-day, but also mental enrichment.  So, along that line of judgment I came up with a plan that sounded advantageous on three fronts.  I decided to print out in large font the whole of the book of Ephesians in Slovenian, and glue it to my wall.  Ideally, this would

1) Give some color and expression of art-idea to one wall.
2) Give me a very tangible opportunity to work on my language acquisition skills.
3) Offer up a wall of daily meditation in the Word.

First photo with my new camera: thank you Mother and Father!
Yep... ten plus hours of work; can you see it?
Yesterday, I sought to turn this idea into action (though I planned to only paste up the first chapter at this time -- thank the Good Lord).  The consequence of this decision has been much greater than I anticipated.  What I thought would be maybe a two-hour endeavor, somersaulted into an two-day, ten hour manifesto.  I have no idea why it took that long, and even after all that work, it still looks pretty unimpressive (though, I do think once I get around to plopping the whole of Ephesians up there it will look substantial).  At any rate, another consequence of this project was that I got to have on (and mostly just listen to) many of my movies during the course of this work.  And this brings us to our subject matter of the day: There will be Blood.

I did what your brother couldn't. I broke you and I beat you. 

I've read many-a thing about the film, and am quite confident that there exist many eschelons of reads as to what the film represents.  Great films tend to be as such; multi-layered and accustomed to wide ranging interpretations.  Perhaps the most prominent metaphor-as-story interpretation is that Daniel Plainview is greed incarnate.  Or maybe capitalism.  There's another somewhat prominent theory out there that posits that Daniel and H.W. Plainview represent the first two members of the Godhead.  These aberrations are amusing, and certainly worthy of some degree of meditation, but I never really bought into any of them.  I just saw a man struggling to become his own champion.  Salvation by personal exaltation.

While I splotted those Slovenian words on my walls and Daniel's pumps gushed with rich oil down upon Little Boston on my television screen, I recalled a conversation I had the other week.  In this previous discussion, my pal and I had stumbled upon the Greek gods.  They were so pitiful in many ways.  I, throughout the conversation, tried heroically (perhaps beyond the point of my insight) to make known how the Greeks manifested their personal struggles onto the gods themselves.  The subsequent fallout is that the gods become object lessons.  They become the nature of the characteristics they struggle with.  Yesterday, I began to see this in the world that P.T. Anderson (the director) painted.

Daniel Plainview is not greed incarnate.  Nope.  Anderson's universe is located in a world which is built on the backbone of greed.  All men feel greed.  All men envy.  This is the biological fabric of the planet.  Let us suppose for an instant that the universe in which There will be Blood lives within, is one of gods and humans, living amongst one another.  Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday are gods.  Everyone else is human. Subnote: this could explain why it is so darn important to Daniel that H.W. and his fake brother are not his blood family -- they are proven to be not of the same god-substance that Daniel springs from.  The plot of the film, then, the thick of it, is a battle between two gods.

Greed is their driving force, but they utilize separate methods.  Eli Sunday's method of power is the method that has been in place -- who knows how long.  His is the way the people know.  Eli Sunday's power play is religion.  He will use it with excruciating hostility when he needs it, but let us remember that he is never really married to the idea-ism.  He simply has chosen this vehicle as the best route to reach his pulsating greed.  When Plainview comes strolling into Little Boston, he wields a different weapon: commercialism (or perhaps we can call it capitalism, though that word is plagued with so many latent meanings, I am chagrin to use it).

Under this lens, the capstone of the film is not the death of religion, as some have elucidated.  It is simply the conquering of one god over another.  To say that Capitalism defeats Religion is a false dichotomy.  That is to say that swords beat spears; the battle is over how these weapons are wielded, not whether one is superior to the other.  Perhaps a more charismatic god than Eli could have used religion to ostracize Plainview entirely from Little Boston.

What then is the point?  If we only watched a brutal ballet of empires, then what is to be our take-away from this malignant bonfire of the gods?  I would say this: beliefs lay us subject to vulnerability.  We the people (as opposed to 'we the gods') will always serve that which we believe.  It may be religion, it may be the power of a free market economy... but the point is there will come men that use these beliefs as a means of satisfying their inner beasts, their innermost greeds.

This is surely not the best breakdown of There will be Blood, nor the tidiest, but it left me satiated.

To close, let us pray, ...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to [us] a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. Ephesians 1:17

1 comment:

  1. Yippee for Bible on the wall!! When I first moved to Italy, I bought two IKEA lack tables from the scratch and dent section (as if 5euro a piece wasn't already cheap) and have been meaning to do something with them. When I got back from the States I went to work... I'm decoupaging pages of the Good Book all over top of them. And then painting a light sheen over top for color. Functional table. Language tool. Conversation starter. Bible review. Personal decor. I've very excited about finishing it =) (Don't worry, I've been working on it for hours since I got here last month and only just started gluing onto the table!) Make sure to post up pictures of your finished project! (Which may not be till next year at this pace?)