Monday, November 29, 2010

Winter is Coming

This blog brought to via a slick stream-of-conscious...
Something feels right about the idea of winter. It makes more sense to me than summer (and really, all that really exists is summer and winter, everything else is just a byway to the two poles). What do I do with summer. People vacation, stay out late, start 'summer projects'; all the while the sun suddenly acts all friendly and warm and stuff...

There was a world, once, you punk.  

The problem with the changing of the seasons is this: it, by necessity, cannot be always congruous with the meta-narrative going on.

The Bible tells me of a great story arc. In that story, we are bumbling somewhere between the second and third act. In the monomyth, that is, Joseph Campbell's term for the hero's journey, there is a stage referred to as "The Belly of the Whale". This is the stage in which the protagonist enters a new world that seems quite dark, and even deadly, but it is the road in which he may emerged changed and ready to overcome his oncoming obstacles. This appears to be the stage of life that our planet is in.

Why, in my day, you could buy meat anywhere! Eggs they had, real butter! Fresh lettuce in the stores.

Christ has died for us, and God's Kingdom has begun already to take root... but I read about the endgame, and I hear that it's a pretty bloody affair.

Speaking of bloody affairs, what fun all this Wikileaks stuff is, eh? How is it possible in this day and age for a little website to suddenly get access to secret information that incriminates in some way and form nearly half of the world's civilized governments? It is astounding, i.e., I can't help but feel like this is one of those 'birth pains'.  Matthew 24:7-9,
   Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
   Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 

Anyway, the crisp air and the short days; it feels right. It feels like the world is heading towards an end. In a weird way, it feels like progress.

And if progress is what is happening, if the metanarrative is lurching ever so slowly forward, then a direct consequence is that we are all players currently on the scene, in the playbill. We are performing.

What role, then, are we performing?  

The best part of the X-Men movies is the relationship between Professor X and Magneto. They are great friends. They have mutual respect for one another. Unfortunately for their friendship, they are on opposing sides of the war. They don't shy away from this fact. They fight each other with everything they have. 

I will be prudent with my words now, and yield my tongue before I dig my own grave... it's Advent season, after all... the season of anticipation.

Last Holiday season I discovered a song entitled, "This Is War" by Dustin Kensrue. Listen Now! It's a Christmas song.

You tell everybody. Listen to me, Hatcher. You've gotta tell them!... We've gotta stop them somehow!   


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Let Me Feel the Lack

Children. Children.


Everyone lookin' for salvation by himself. Each like a coal thrown from the fire. 

 There's not some other world out there where everything's gonna be okay. There's just this one, just this rock. 

 Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your suffering will be any less because you loved goodness and truth? 

Look at this jungle. Look at those vines, the way they twine around, swallowing everything. Nature's cruel.

We were a family. How'd it break up and come apart, so that now we're turned against each other? Each standing in the other's light.

 This great evil. Where does it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doin' this? Who's killin' us? Robbing us of life and light. Mockin' us with the sight of what we might've known. Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? 
Is this darkness in you, too?

 What difference do you think you can make, one man in all this madness?  

Love. Where does it come from? Who lit this flame in us? No war can put it out, 
conquer it. I was a prisoner. You set me free.

We. We together. One being. Flow together like water. 
Till I can't tell you from me. I drink you. Now. Now.

 Why should I be afraid to die? I belong to you. If I go first, I'll wait for you there, 
on the other side of the dark waters. Be with me now. 

How did we lose all the good that was given us? Let it slip away. 
Scattered careless.

War don't ennoble men. It turns them into dogs... poisons the soul. 
Where's your spark now?

The tough part is, uh... Not knowing if you're doing any good. 
That's the hard part.  

 Oh, my soul, let me be in you now. Look out through my eyes, 
look out at the things you've made. All things shining. 

If I never meet you in this life, let me feel the lack; 
a glance from your eyes, and my life will be yours.


*All quotes and photos from "The Thin Red Line"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Midnight Deliberations, Diatribes and Delusions

  • The Koreas might be warring.
  • The Federal Reserve is essentially printing 600 Billion bucks out of thin air.
  • Ireland needs EU bail outs. Portugal and Spain may be close behind.
  • The Kingdom of God is expanding.
This is the news.


And yet, I am rattled and absorbed in my own little world of thoughts and conjurations.

This is from the hogwild-crazy opening of Ingmar Bergman's 1966 released Persona.
I'm about a thousand pages into Ayn Rand's epic "Atlas Shrugged". The hero of the story has just given his speech, which in essence, answers the first line of the novel; Who is John Galt? He is the consummate capitalist, a faithful follower of all that makes humans hold close to the ideal of humanness. He is the great advocate of reason, the prophet of hard work. To an extended degree, I not only sympathize with his position, but assume to myself that his position is in fact a correct and moral viewpoint. But then bad things come my way. John Galt's words wound me. Hold onto your butts; I quote:

If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. 

Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free will, but with a 'tendency' to evil. A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.

What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge -- he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil -- he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor -- he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire -- he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy -- all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of the nature as man. Whatever he was -- that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love -- he was not man. Man's fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Son. His evil, they charge, is that he's man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives. 

They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man. No, they say, they do not preach that man is evil, the evil is only that alien object: his body. No, they say, they do not wish to kill him, they only wish to make him lose his body. They seek to help him, they say, against his pain -- and they point at the torture rack to which they've tied him, the rack with two wheels that pull him in opposite directions, the rack of the doctrine that splits his soul and body. 

They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other, that his soul belongs to a supernatural realm, but his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth -- and that the good is to defeat his body, to undermine it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that glorious jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave... Do you observe what human faculty that doctrine was designed to ignore? It was man's mind that had to be negated in order to make him fall apart. Once he surrendered reason, he was left at the mercy of two monsters whom he could not fathom or control: of a body moved by unaccountable instincts and of a soul moved by mystic revelations -- he was left as the passively ravaged victim of a battle between a robot and a dictaphone.

Man's mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God... Man's standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith... The purpose of man's life... is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question. His reward... will be given to him beyond the grave. 

That was long, but I needed to show an aspect of the continuing hunger in the evangelistic tone of Miss Rand's vitriolic rhetoric. These words do not slay me (entire). They do not barrel in some mind-crucifying new truth; by no means. Nevertheless, they merely cause me to hurt. They hurt me because they raise questions I don't have answers to. They poke at the scars of my doubt. They stretch the tear marks of my reasoning. They use my earnest inquiries into the ways of Our Lord and levy them for my suffering.

Foremost among the Shrugger's (that is John Galt, who I think could reasonably be considered the paragon of the Greek titan Atlas) arguments is his contention that the idea of Original Sin/Sin Nature is unjust. This has long been revolving door of vexation for me for some years now. In my mind, when this debate really gets raging with Calvinists/Determinists, the problem comes down to 1 John 4:8... because God is love.

How can God, the auteur and very essence of love, condemn men by a legislation that damns them from birth? FORTHWITH AND PROMPTLY THEN, I get knocked about by a slew of guilt because inevitably the conversation turns to Romans chapter 9, wherein Paul hashes it out. Verses 14-16; What shall we say then? Is God unjust? By no means! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God's mercy." 

Then Paul directly calls me out, as he answers my own question; verses 19-21, You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use  and another for common use? OW! I don't know how to respond to such words.

My mind innately has the same response as the disciples, who, having heard a perplexing teaching from Jesus, said, This is a difficult statement: who can listen to it? John 6:60.

All I can do is fall prostrate and proclaim as Job did; I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted... I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know... Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:3, 6.

We can get through that moment, sure enough, but then the next comes. And with that next breath, comes another thought. I am well acquainted with its drum beat by now.
It is a simple formula.
An excerpt from such an internal dialogue:

What can this other worldview offer you?
Not much.
Are you sure.
Yeah I'm sure. I cling to the cross. Desperately. There's nothing else out there that even sounds attractive. Without God, there is nothing. No purpose. Then it is all for rot. Why would I be coaxed to accept anything less?
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
Sexual intimacy is what you lack. You could have it, in many forms, if only you let go of this idea of God. Rand is right, religion keeps you in a place where all your expectations are set for the supposed next world.
To live is Christ, to die is gain.
And if you never marry? Then you'll die alone, seeking after a God who may not be there.
Jesus is my rock, my great advocate and example. He knew no woman, and yet He is the greatest of all men. The perfect one. God incarnate.
Forget it. You're closed minded, and refuse to follow the evidence.
I am not.
Just let go. Indulge yourself. 
Look at how you are struggling, even now -- over nothing. Where is your God? Where is that Helper? Isn't the Holy Spirit dwelling within you? Why does He not speak up? Call Him to action.
I don't yet understand how the Spirit works in my walk of faith. Perhaps I am not yet mature enough to hear His voice.
If a witch tells you that you will win the lottery, you could go back to her everyday and tell her, "It hasn't happened yet," and her response will just be, not yet. Be patient. It will happen. You will wait forever, and then you will be dead. Go indulge your flesh. You can repent later if this Ghost shows up. You are waiting for a Savior that will never arrive.
No. That's it, I'm going to bed (or eat, or call a friend, or anything that takes me out of the moment's endurance)!!

These personal battles seem rather absurd. I'd prefer to not encounter them. Many may propose that there is an easy answer to such problems; stay away from the things that poke at my scars of doubt. Stay away from the works of atheists. Be wary of movies made by blasphemers. Perhaps I have not taken this route serious enough.

Take, for example, Persona by Ingmar Bergman. Ol' Bergy is a friend of mine, in that much of the content of many of his films is relegated to subject matter that I find of deep personal interest. Somehow, despite my fond feelings for the Swede, I'd somehow missed Persona, one of his most famous flicks, until a couple weeks ago. I went into the viewing ever-so excited... I left it drenched in pent frustration, anger, and a bit of agony.

Mulholland Drive by David Lynch -- a film made perhaps in the same vain as Persona.
The film revolves around just two women. Almost naturally, the two people bleed into one collective soul and la-di-da, we've got confusion, jealousy, and eroticism galore! This appears to happen somewhat often in psychological dramas about two or more female protagonists. Anyway, somewhere amidst the thick of the film, the bodaciously beautiful Bibi Andersson begins to speak of a vivid memory. She recites, in excruciating detail, the moment in which she was unfaithful to her husband with a weak stranger boy who was staring at her on the beach. Bergman keeps the camera on the actress's face the whole time while she unspools the story. The story was so horrifically abrasive and infested with sickly sinful fantasy that I loathed the scene -- yet at the same time, there was that internal drum beat of eroticism welling within me. There certainly was withheld within me a deep yearning to continue in the fantasy; to take part. DAMNATION! Generally speaking these days, sex scenes in films do not bother me. I look away, think about other things, or just feel a bit of pity for the actors who don't know what they are doing (And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34)... but damn...

Despite such displeasurable experiences, I don't want to let my intake of the world around me go. I know that it is not because of the nasty things in these artworks that I long to continue to breathe in. I want to interact with God through these things. I want to wrestle. I want to have such a foundation of faith that I know that the likes of Ayn Rand or Bibi Andersson will not slay me and lead me to a path of destruction. I want to stand like Joseph, confident in the Spirit, and say to the world that doesn't know what they do, "Look, I see in you the spark of creation. I see that which God has gifted you with. You meant this thing for destruction, but the God of all Creation can see in it the very fabric of His workings." This is my desire. But I have many desires, not all of them Godly. May the Lord's will be done, not mine, if it shown to be errant of the Father's path.

Listen to the words of Genesis 45:1-8, 14 (emphasis mine):

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, 
"Have everyone go out from me." 
So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 
He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it
and the household of Pharoah heard of it. 
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" 
But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. 
Then Joseph said to his brothers, 
"Please come closer to me."
And they came closer. And he said, 
"I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who me here, but God... 
Then he fell on his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

Did you catch the tears? How much emotion lie behind Joseph's actions! If I am remembering correctly, I believe Joseph is the only one of the Patriarchs that the Bible does not record a sin for. That's saying something. Joseph was a Godly man. And still, he bled on that battlefield. He ran the race with much sweat and struggle.

Cries and Whispers -- a later Bergman, female driven film.
It may be that various minds that are far more cunning than I will continue to strike me. Those wounds will tear my flesh and burden my soul. That's okay, right? Let it be so. 

Perhaps my answer is simply to continue on, repenting, working, humbly seeking the Lord's path through the mercy bestowed upon me by my glorious Savior, Christ Jesus my King. I serve the King. There will be blood. There will be hard times, both physically and mentally, nevertheless, my life for the King. My all.

But gosh, Romans, you slay me. It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God's mercy. Nights of Columbus, that hurts! I don't understand!

I serve the King, even while I don't understand. I serve the King. I serve the King. I serve the King. Say it again and again and again and again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Coming Soonness

My bed broke. 

It was the middle of the night. I was sleeping. I'm suddenly relocated from happy dreamland to not-so-happy head thirty degrees lower than the rest of my body... land. Rather than dealing with my problems, I forced my being to submit to awkward sleep. The consequence of this was a somewhat severe and annoying headache come morning's call. 

Since my head accrued the added weight of a bowling ball through the evening, I felt not up to the prospect of leaving my apartment. The result then was that I watched movies throughout the day. 

I watched good films all, but nothing that inspired me; nothing that fed my soul.

Perhaps Wages of Fear summed it up for me. A man lay dying, desperately striving to remember what was on the otherside of the fence back in his home town, Paris. He dies as his memory unlocks the key. Nothing, he says. Nothing.  

The other film, though not a classic like Henri-Georges Clouzot's Wages, was pretty darn well contrived as well. Big Fan. It follows the emotional roller coaster life of a really big New York Giants fan. It was a swell picture, I tell ya. But then it ended. It ended and I still was here. 

Back in July, whilst meeting my dear friend Justin Botz for breakfast at an IHOP restaurant in my hometown of Oceanside, California, we talked of our artistic hopes. Not the hopes we have for our own personal potentials, but rather, the potential of art to move and uplift the soul towards God. Transcendence. 
There's a greatness to the feeling of eagerness and anticipation. When that first trailer comes out and knocks you out cold -- it leaves you wondering what height its potential will reach. For me, coming into the last season of "Lost" was this almost soul-crushing feeling that there was no way the show could live up to the hype my soul required of it. And inevitably it did fall short. But still, there was that chance, that hidden expectation that this new art will be so phenomenal it will change us. 

Watching classics like The Wages of Fear can be exhilarating in that I am intaking, for the first time, a piece of work that has for fifty years spoken and affected hearts and minds around the world. Watching classic films allows me to participate in that great tradition. The problem here, however, is that traditions are static. There is no surprise at the end of the tunnel.

New art is different... or perhaps I should say, coming soon art is different.
Mr. Botz and I agreed on one thing that morning at IHOP. We both had faith in the musician Sufjan Stevens. We had faith that he could single handedly bring forth a new definition as to what "Christian Music" can be. Since that day, Mr. Stevens has released both a new EP and LP. Both are fantastic works of genius. His new album rewards repeat listenings, and I believe upon my third listen-through I did feel my soul jump within me for a brief bit. It was glorious.

God has allowed us to continue to discover and create more and more. This is an obvious observation when we recount such inventions as the internet and the moon landing and all the myriads of gizmos we utilize to hasten ourselves towards pleasurable experiences everyday. So, if God has given us these physical means of 'progress', has He not also given us the freedom to excel in the realms of the metaphysical? 

This is a good hope, no?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Why is the whole world staring at me?

Who doesn't love a little bit of Sam Jackson? You are undoubtedly forced to admire the majesty of ol' Sammy L's rendition of Lieutenant Danny Roman's shout out of a skyscraper window to the stalking helicopters, You want my blood? Take my blood! That's badass! This cannot be denied. 1998's The Negotiator is a solid romp of stand-off madness as we follow crazy-ass Samuel L. Jackson evade evil greedy government men long enough to prove his own innocence. The unraveling twists alone suffice as joyous entertainment, but add Kevin Spacey with a touch of intellectual bravura, and you've got yourself a bona fide evening of blissful action watchery. Spoiler: Sam wins. The bad guys lose. 

So, after you've nestled down with the soothing warm glow of pre-CGI-fest action, I shall thrust this bit of sand in your eyes; behold, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?!

The crux of each film's plot is a standoff. In both instances we are given background intel on our standees. In both cases our protagonist is suspected of murder. In each situation he takes hostages. Both involve local cops in conflict with the fiesty SWAT folk on scene. See! They're practically the same film!

I don't think the director of My Son, the magnanimous Werner Herzog, would mind me offering this spoiler: the good guys don't win. This is possible not necessarily because the film is a tragedy (though much of our time is spent in flashbacks obsessing over the content of greek tragedies) per se, but because the film doesn't really offer any good guys. Or bad guys.

But we do get ostriches.

The Negotiator sets up its reality as usual. Man is happy. Man has a good job, a loving wife, and a great best friend. Then life changes. Best friend is dead. Job is taken away. Man is suspected in his friend's murder. And so it goes.

A hundred minutes later, we push through the final action set piece, and our protagonist wins the day. Hooray! Sammy Jackson is free! His wife loves him! He has his job back. And he's made a new best friend (and clearly Kevin Spacey is a far awesomer dude to have as a friend then that last guy).

So, what does it add up to? Generally speaking, our two hour adventure lands us back to where we began. Everything is happily ever after just as it began happily ever beforeture.

That is the whole of The Negotiator. Okay. It is what it is.

Now, sign up for 91 minutes of My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? and it might appear that you come out with less than you began. We start with unhappy people and we end with unhappy people. Worse still, we didn't get to watch shit get blown up. Nope. Nothing.

So, what does Herzog film give us that is of benefit? Here is the answer: ostriches. Ostriches. Do not doubt me. Ostriches.

In January, I will be launching a website in conjunction with about ten other souls. The theme for the website for its first three months is from Peter's letter:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation"... But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:3-4, 10

The world will burn. Everything will turn to ash. Only that which is good, holy, and beautiful will endure.

Ostriches, people, ostriches. Just look at them!

Note: This post was not written to deject all the merits of The Negotiator. I in fact, do find it to be a fun, well-acted jaunt. My point was only to suggest that movies like Herzog's cause us to dwell on those things which are more likely to have eternal significance. Ostriches.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Duality Part Two

Once was a time,
I can't remember when...

There was a white car.
It was to me the notion of a present future.
And it would be wherever I found it.
For a time, and times a half.
Then it was to be the face of a dreamscape.
All I could do then was escape that vehicle's presence,
but I never wanted to. I clung to such dreams
not to hope, but to remember so as to believe.
Memory is belief.

White cars come and go.

They are temptations, distractions, and loves.
I've yet to figure out how to balance such things.
Even so, that alone is but a merely tender and small question,
for I know its answer.
Love the Lord thy God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind.
So when I see that white car now,
I can smile and nod at self-recognition 
for the stories I've been blessed to bear,
And I can walk beyond the shadow it casts,
by clinging to my answer;
to my love for the Purposeful Creator.

But He is too big for me, 
and our relationship
So you see then,
the answer is the greater question:
How Lord?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Duality Part One

A hippie lives on the other side of my window.

An older man with an obnoxiously loud generator that runs several times a day dwells often on his 2nd story terrace that directly faces my kitchen window. Today, as I moved into my kitchen to fix dinner, I caught this man staring at me from his outdoor siesta center. He sports a long gray beard and a ponytail of equally substantial length.

When I found his eyes watching mine, I reacted. I averted the stare. I was embarrassed and instantly felt judged.

Why? Why should I suspect the worst from the aged stranger?

In this particular case, my thoughts were built off my guilt, for you see, I have been very lazy with my kitchen over the last few weeks. I rarely have guests in my li'l cavern, so the tendency has been to let dishes build up and take care of business only when I feel overtly compelled to do so. But this comes at a cost. When Mr. Slovenian-Hippie-Man stares in at my kitchen, I experience emotions that are built on fear and inner judgment of my messiness.
I'm currently 62% of the way through Ayn Rand's great philosophical outing, Atlas Shrugged. For a great length of the novel, Rand slings character after character at us that are based off of the ideals that she despises. These people demand much, offer little, and always speak of blame. The end goal for a Randian antagonist is that the individual do enough work and/or weaseling to be free of blame. The insinuation then is that they are escaping their own self-directed demons of self-esteem. Rand would say that true, passionate work frees us from the chains of personal condemnation. It's an epic love letter to the workaholic.

When we arrive at the answer of who John Galt is, we discover that those of whom Ayn Rand praises are those who show no pain of guilt. No regret. No sin.

What is clearly depicted in the novel is the two-casted world: those who can be free of guilt, and those who blame others to escape their own guilty soulness. It's a two-party system.

Why do we move towards dichotomies so quickly? Because we see it in nature. Perhaps the most primitive of these is the alive/dead thing. You are either alive or dead. You gotta sign up for one party or another...

And then we come to the offer of eternal life. Many religions, and most certainly Christianity, speak of two options for man. Heaven or hell. There are vessels of wrath and jars of clay. The innocent and the guilty. You are in or your out.

I should not be embarrassed when the Bearded Aged Hipster stares at me. If I'm doing good, then I have no need to fear or resent him. All my actions should have that freedom to be discovered; everything for the light.

How often I have thought to myself, "No one would blame me if I called in sick tomorrow."

Postscript: The last act of Shopgirl is a wad of bullocks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Boldly Go Boldly

I'm the type of soul that is only ever really able to keep one clear thought in his mind at a time. The result of living then, is a library of kept thoughts, little schticks that I have coveted from past time spent in labor. The following harkens to the schtick that tends to bear itself as one of the issues most center to my core m.o. in striving forward through the days:

This week, two scientists in Washington came out to propose a plan for a manned Mars mission.* The catch that makes their proposal so bold and perhaps obscene, is that the mission calls only for a one-way ticket. Whoever makes the voyage would have to stay there. Forever. Conceivably then, this would usher in the era of not only the first person to step foot on another planet, but additionally the first soul to die on alien ground. 

So far, it appears the proposition is not accumulating many encouraging remarks. This should be expected. As Americans, we have long held the human life as the that thing with which chief importance is carried. We would never let one of our own die out there. 

Now, as a Christian, I lament what I perceive in much of the popular Christian movement particularly in the last hundred years as being anti-scientific. It is true that God has revealed Himself in many ways, and surely He does so by creation itself. Jesus said that if the people stopped praising His name the rocks would cry out. All the universe speaks to God's majesty. If then, we seek to discover the secrets of the rules of the universe, as long as we do so humbly, we have another glimmer of seeing God's character at work. We call this general revelation. 

I would go so far as to say that as Christians, we have a duty to seek God through discovery of the cosmos. Granted, I understand that through science alone we will never reach God's touch. Nevertheless, if we seek out the knowledge of the universe in humility and with an eye to please God by being enamored at His great handiwork, then is it not a magnificent form of worship. 

Please accept my premise of discovery as indicative to the Christian life. If so, we can move on...

We can't send our best astronauts to Mars to live and die. It's not feasible. It's not reasonable. It's just not going to happen. 

 BUT! What if we send our worst?  

Embrace it for a second. The murderers, the rapists; they deserve suffering, death, and the eternal torment of hell. But what if we collectively offered those most condemned among us a chance at redemption?  

We take men and women sentenced with the death penalty, and we say, "Here, you can serve our nation by means of sacrificing your days in pursuit of this great conquest." 

In the book of Deuteronomy, we read about the Cities of Refuge. These were towns established strictly for manslaughterers. They could claim a sort of sanctuary in these towns. We can do the same thing with Mars! Mars becomes the great city of refuge! 

So, whaddaya think? Sound like a plan?

Let's start tomorrow! No, today! Even now. Now.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mindshot: The Sixth Sense

When asked which film of M. Night Shyamalan is greatest, my answer is consistently Unbreakable. I give that answer because The Sixth Sense has too easy an answer to the deep questions it asks.

Little Cole, who plays with latin speaking icons is in trouble. Dr. Malcolm Crowe has seen it before.

Vincent, the man-boy that shot Malcolm only a year prior was tormented by the same demons.

Before he clicked the gun at Malcolm and before he blew open his own head in the white light of the bedroom, Vincent offered a horrendous epitaph for himself:

You don't know so many things.
Do you know why you're afraid when you're alone?
I do, I do.

Vincent dies in the blinding wealth of his knowledge of the source of our lonely fears. This is the thrust of The Sixth Sense, this is its universal principle of discussion.

When we meet Cole, we hope for the redemption from our terror. Another great little moment comes from Cole's mother, when she admits to her son in a moment of candor; I don't know if you've noticed, but our little family isn't doing so well. For Cole, his secret fears have many consequences, the worst of all being that they may have the power to alienate him from his mother's love. Cole's deepest fear is that he'll be left alone, with no one to understand him.

I'm a sucker for the common line, Don't give up on me. I often want to make this plea with others that I respect and yearn for intimacy with. The fear is that if they can't understand me, if they decide to give up on me, then so will everyone. I will be left with only myself.


 Can I be left alone?

The Bible tells me no. The Holy Spirit is with me always. Fears of betrayal and loneliness should never be in my mind, for I am never away from the One who truly understands me. Need for fellow humans to fill some loneliness void shouldn't be necessary.

Regretfully, at this point two thoughts of devilry arise when I think of the Spirit's impact on my goings.
1) He does not talk to me. He does not commune with me like I can commune with my fellow brothers and sisters in the flesh. Therefore, He is not here. 

2) He knows me better than I know myself, so He also can stand and judge me in a way that I have not myself the capability to do. You see, I struggle often to know my own motivations. Despite my desires to seek my Lord in obedience, I often am plagued with doubts that I am seeking this path of Godliness for repulsive hidden objectives. I fear I betray myself. This would then explain why He is not with me in the manner of which I want, for my inner self proves then itself to be too beastly and too proud to truly embrace the faith necessary to welcome the Spirit into my heart's abode. I fear I've secretly banished the Spirit from my presence, and hidden this knowledge from my thinking, walking self. I fear I have no faith, only the desire to have faith.

These are cruel thoughts with cruel, twisted consequences. It is good to not dwell on them.


On the show In Treatment, an Indian man mourns his recently departed wife. He writes in a journal thoughts directed at her. His psychiatrist asks him what he writes about. The man answers simply that he writes normal things. Good morning...It was rainy today...I forgot to water my plant...Good night. These were, obviously, not profound reflections of his life without her. No, this was the longing to share the mundane, to keep his love invested in every aspect of his life for no other reason than to share it with her.

I want this intimacy with my Lord. I desire to have the desire to share every moment with Him.
I want.


The Sixth Sense ends with Cole's realized gameplan. He'll just help the screaming, angry ghosts out! That'll solve the problem. It's too damn easy, I say. He'll end up just like ol' Vincent. Perhaps he's dealt with the practical concerns of seeing dead people, but he's got one hell of an existential crisis barreling towards him. 


Please, do not let me go. Don't give up on me.