Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Scatterbrained II: A Nervous Wreck of a Romance

All photos taken from Bambi (1942)
My dear friend Bradley presented me with a gift on Christmas day; a book of selected poems by Rumi. Being that Rumi was a Persian fella who dwelled back in the 13th century as a Sufi mystic bandying about around the same parts of the planet that I myself have been inhabiting these past two weeks, the book was a logical and welcomed gift indeed. 

...and sometimes, from fantasy comes union.*
 *All quotes taken from Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

But there's a problem -- and I say problem in the most Quixotic manner possible. A problem I tell you. Oh please, let me tell you. Let us unite in this way, that I will tell you and you will hear. You will hear such things, and bring them to your inner mind. Be slow to interpret my problem, my dear friend! If you do that too soon, you will divorce us! And at once from whence we are departed, a river the length of the Bosphorus will divide grow and destroy the bridge between you and I. Just like that. So listen close. Listen and be found there in those words where I can find you.

Sorry about that, I got momentarily persuaded to write in the style that Coleman Barks translates Rumi. But fear not, I am back to my own likeness. Maybe.

Actually, it was in reading an unrelated playwright that I finally this evening became acutely aware of what it is precisely that is the causal form of my problem. After I inhaled enough of this very certain postmodern scramble of a play, in which all the characters seem to speak in mysteries and far off allusions, I noticed my internal dialogue was increasingly transfiguring into somesorta enigmatic, neurotic magician. I veiled all my own thoughts with remote pretenses and stunted conclusions. My sentences became finishings of other unthought lyrics. My mind desired to be a conduit of some rabid unconscious collective cacophony of diffused disorder. Even in recollecting, I am somersaulting towards that stimulant once again. That's the happening that subdued the logical, and incited a momentary riot of incisive intangibility. After all, that is the cost of counting the collective whole of blatant ink stains on a page...

If you're not here, nothing grows.
I lack clarity. My words
tangle and knot up.

Bah! Enough of that. Control. I must find control. Somewhere.

What was I talking about?

Ah yes, it was the problem; that was the thing: the problem.

It appears that being around any one perspective too long is the start of any problem for me. That being the case, this afternoon I spent a few listless hours reading that mysterious play Hellhound on My Trail by Denis Johnson, the result of which landed me in a sea of postmodern apocalyptic neurosis. Gracefully however, in eyeing the source of my sudden binge of implanted neurasthenia, I was instilled with the knowledge that I, at any one given instance, immediately want to mimic the very form, structure, and congealed wit of that written word that seems to me to be admirable. Whenever I read Shakespeare at any length whatsoever, I promptly assimilate myself to (what I imagine is) the 4-year-old son of William Shakespeare. Suddenly "thees", "thous", and, "thou spaketh" "of dreams to come" "from this" "dwarf, bead, or poppycock" ignite themselves into my outpouring stream of vocabulary.

Brother, stand the pain.
Escape the poison of your impulses.

Do you now see? Can you decipher the symbols submerged in my rhetoric? Or am I merely playing the dual role of Schizo and Self?

And what of Rumi? Oh-so glad am I that you remembered to ask! Rumi is the very centerpiece of my writing here and now! I would be shamed to forget his place amongst these ugly flowers of thought and symbol.

Do you know 
what you are to me? During the day,
you're my energy for working. At night,
you're my deepest sleep.

It's getting worse, isn't it? I can barely get a word in edgewise before the dance of the word-slipstream plunges me in. Yikes. Keep it together. Hold control of the reigns Dante. See the focus point and lean evermore towards it.

I changed my profile picture on facebook to that of an ostrich neck and head. Or maybe it's an emu. I blame Werner Herzog's My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? for that li'l obsession... such crazy looking creatures they are. Why did God make them? To laugh?

When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.

Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

Ah! Gadzooks! I can't hold a thought on point worth a darn anymore. This is intolerable, I am sure. Why read on? For the romance, maybe. I did promise that in the title. Romance. Or at least, the illusion of such therein.

The minute I heard my first love story 
I started looking for you, not knowing 
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.

Rumi. Come back to Rumi, Dante. Always come back. Be there, in that particular field. It is a pleasant one.

Then new events said to me,
"Don't move. A sublime generosity is
coming toward you."

And old love said, "Stay with me."

I said, "I will."

Rumi. I wish very much to call him my friend. It's tough not to platonically fall in love with the chap. He has a crystallizing affection for just about everything around him. This is an easily transmittable disease after you sift through enough pages. As wanting to assimilate my words with his own (as I tend to do with Shakespeare, and even today, with that Johnson fellow), I have found myself focusing on the lustful aspects of love since picking up his book for inquisition. It's a hell of a thing, really.

Your loving doesn't know its majesty,
until it knows its helplessness.

Now don't get me wrong, hear what I am saying; hear what I am saying for it is very important (that you, you who are here, hear -- not the letters themselves... or even still the message laid internal to the words that are represented by the letters) that you hear precisely the tone, atmosphere and even theme that I long for you to draw forth. I mentioned 'lustful love' in the preceding paragraph. I do not mean sexual activity when I say this. By no means (specifically speaking). I mean only this: the words have stirred up a longing for love for the sake of affection itself. A remembrance of 1 Corinthians 13 informs us that love is patient, kind, and epitomizes selflessness. Slightly, embarrassed then, I admit that Rumi stirs me to love (or is it more preferable just to use the word 'affection' - 'to have intimate affection for') for the sake of my own feeling.

If you want what visible reality
can give, you're an employee.

If you want the unseen world, 
you're not living your truth.

Both wishes are foolish,
but you'll be forgiven for forgetting 
that what you really want is
love's confusing joy.

Rumi. When I write this, it makes me feel that you are seeking to harvest a field of poor motives. I should not love for the sake of myself. Yet my intrinsic, innate, intangible, immediate response to your thoughts is to do that very thing.

Perhaps it is not all bad, Rumi. Perhaps you have not stirred only all-bad. When I state 'stirs me to love', I think not only of women, but also of friends; the past and the present.

They try to say what you are, spiritual or sexual?
They wonder about Solomon and all his wives.

In the body of the world, they say, there is a soul 
and you are that.

But we have ways within each other 
that will never be said by anyone.

Nevertheless, what am I to do now, with all this you have presented me with? Must I now abstain from seeking affection, and reminisce about how you momentarily spoiled me for the chance of such adventures?

Don't ask what love can make you do!
Look at the colors of the world.

What am I saying? My words barely have any meaning at all. If I were to try and speak precisely, I would say this: the question Rumi stirs is such: how can I seek out romance when I know I am doing so, at least in part, for my own gain? John 15:13, Greater love has no than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

I should end now. Relent and end, Dante. This is how it must go. All things go this way...

Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.

But there is time still, if I hunt for it relentlessly. Now. Time now. Time can be on my side if I bend it to my will.

God is the one I want to know best, to unite with in full. But my new friend here Rumi tempts me to think of what happy tidings would come; if... If I come to my Lord with another. Hand in hand we could be. And when He asks, I could say with joy, "Lord, by sharing my blessings with another of your loved creations, I now know better how to be grateful and affectionate, and full of the fabric of the good things you've infused your creativity on. With this woman, my lover, very rib of my rib, I have found a partner in my longing to see your face." And there, at the end of time, times, and my time, I could set before the Lord all my love, all my being, resting in his dwelling place.

This is how it always is 
when I finish a poem.

A great silence overcomes me, 
and I wonder why I ever thought
to use language.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Everyone Everywhere

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I've become acquainted with many forms of transportation in Istanbul this past week. I've known all things; from buses, planes, trains, and taxis, to buses, subways, elevators, escalators, and did I mention buses? The result of such methods of continual public travel is an acute sense that there are many people in the world, and they are all busy. Who are these people? What's important to them? There are so many: too many to ever know... too many to empathize with, too many to love. 

This morning on the bus, my back was pressed against a woman's shoulder for a straight thirty minutes. She is a person I do not know, yet she touched me. The incident was a physical reminder of this moment documented in Mark's gospel: ...and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him. A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse --- after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well." Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My garments?" And His disciples said to Him, "You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, 'Who touched Me?' 5:24-30

God loves His creation. All of it, for God is love. He made man in His image -- every man. Every woman. Every person on this green Earth is made in God's image. We all bear that likeness.

I've posited before a loosely Platonic idea that every individual is formed uniquely after God. I propose that perhaps a way to understand this is to see every individual as their own ideal form. That is to say, my soul (as well as yours) is a handcrafted thing from which no other thing was made. We are each our own molds. If that were to be true, then it could also perchance stand to reason that each person carries forth within them a specific aspect of God's character that only that person has embedded within the fabric of their soul. 

If I am seeking to know Bob Dylan -- it would be fruitful for me to connect with his creation, that being his music. Then, if my sole purpose is to know Bobby D. as best as possible, every soul has value, every note speaks to his nature unfolded. 

There are nearly 7 billion human beings. That's a hell of a portfolio. 

Knowing that the woman who was pressed against me on the bus is loved by God and formed by Him in a manner to which nothing else in the universe was created brings me to a place of awe... as if contemplating a sunset over the Grand Canyon. It also is a helpful tool in reminding me that I should never forget how much care God has crafted into all people -- that I should never tarry from being compassionate and hospitable to creation of my Wonderful Creator. How can I do anything but tirelessly aim to love my neighbor, to love the crowded bus-full of souls as I love myself. 

Concerning the photos from The Black Stallion:
A few posts back, I spoke of how The Black Stallion should be a Christmas classic. I echo that sentiment here. The story is a simple one about a boy finding passion, love, and purpose through his bond with a horse. The boy is a quiet introvert, and it takes a good while for us to see his mettle in the film, but over time, we see that he is an incredible little soul. It seemed prudent in this post to put up photos of one unique soul, rather than myriads, for I don't reckon God looks at the world as a conglomerate of masses, but as a place chock-full of soulful spirits... each reflecting a different little aspect of God's handiwork.

Glory be to God. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Next Lewis

PREVIEW: This column will include: Jesus, Mohammad, C.S. Lewis, and An Artist to be Named Later.

I am in Turkey. This is a first for me. I've never ventured to the Asian side of Eurasia before, I've never been to a predominantly Muslim nation before, and I've never stood inside the walls of a mosque. All things come to pass...

Of paramount importance to me in this experience are the conversations that can be had here that impart the sharing of both ideas & souls to one another. There are many intriguing people in this nation; so much more than I can comprehend.

And then there's Mohammad.

The question that turns and turns and turns here is this: will anything from Islam last? That is to say: what from this fourteen hundred year tradition is pleasing to the Savior of our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ?

Such questions must come to a center; a pivot point. That point is, undoubtedly, the authenticity of Mohammad himself. A man here of whom I have entitled much trust to is currently investigating a hypothesis: could it be that Mohammad was at one point meant as a prophet for the Arab world to reflect upon the majesty of Christ Jesus. That is assuredly an excruciatingly difficult premise to follow, and will involve much tiptoeing. BUT -- it appears perhaps as both a compassionate and honest approach to at first seek a place of hope for such a deep tradition, rather then to upon initial inspection degrade it and declare holy war upon its very fabric.

Sub-thoughts in the Realm:
What has longed confused me is the Islamic presumption that it was Ishmael who was nearly sacrificed by Abraham, not Isaac as the book of Genesis propounds. The prominence of Ishmael is important, for in him the Arab world claims their heritage. It is then evident to me that overtime the desire for their race to be seen as superior (particularly to the Jews), the people of Islam began to assume Ishmael as the son worthy of near sacrifice. 
Despite the Biblical discrepancy, Ishmael is given a promise in Scripture. While an everlasting covenant is promised to Isaac, Ishmael is told that he will be made into, "...a great nation." (Gen. 17:20) Furthermore, this blessing is repeated in chapter 21, and then it is said that, "God was with the lad," (Gen. 21:20) so... you know... that sounds pretty good.  What should the expectation of this blessing be? What does a great nation look like?

The hope: Mohammad was sent as a figurehead as an Arab to the Arabs, to turn the people of Ishmael to their Redeemer, Christ our Lord. Somewhere along the way that message got distorted. Mohammad's later 'revelations' extol a road to salvation that appears to be opposed to that of the God of the Bible, but maybe he just went sour. Perhaps he became an exaggerated version of Jonah -- a man who knew God, but valued his own reasoning more than God's plan for him.  Maybe.

If we allow ourselves to consider anything remotely present in a post-resurrected Jesus world akin to a prophet, suddenly, a history of questions arises. What does a modern day prophet look like? What evidences would this person illustrate to convince the flock of his position? What authority would God give to such a person? Why would we need a prophet? What is their function?

One thing is certain: a prophet's purpose will never extend beyond calling the chosen to Jesus.

If we consider the door open for a new age of prophets -- then surely there would be evidences of other prophets in the last two millennia. And if a prophet is now not elucidating new intel -- that is to say, the canon of revelation is closed, then it is a simply logical step for me to hypothesize that any prophet would perchance by nature be an artist.

An artist expresses the ephemeral, presents the unutterable, crystallizes that which has no language -- in essence, I see the function of the artist as being one of personalizing the world into tangible bits of empathy.

The Artist as Prophet:
Take The Chronicles of Narnia: C.S. Lewis distills Bible into an allegory strong enough to entertain and recalibrate the mind in how it comprehends our relationship with God. God as a friendly, yet fierce lion was an indelible insight for 20th century Christians, but it by no means is a mode of revelation. Take The Screwtape Letters: Lewis gratuitously and precisely depicts the assault on a man's soul by a conniving adversary -- with that thrust Lewis makes both the spiritual and the moral conflict of living amidst a greater world war then we know personal and tangible. The Great Divorce: Lewis paints a Heaven and Hell that has significance and much more weight than a portrait of mere pearly gates. The lists extends and extends -- the course of the man's life.

If you know C.S. Lewis then surely you know his wit and wisdom. He is indispensable.  Let's just go ahead and call him a prophet. If he is that, if we can make claim to his position as such, who is his replacement? Who among the myriad bears righteous Psalms to the Lord in his or her bosom in such a way that through their work I may portend to draw nearer to the Almighty? Who? Who will speak to our age? Who has the nerve to inch that close to the searing light of the Father?

Sub-thoughts in the Realm:
A step in Joseph Campbell's distillation of classical narrative structure includes 'Refusal of the Call'. This is the point at which the protagonist is called to action and knows what obstacles stand in front of him, but for personal reasons shows great reluctance to take up his cross. Moses certainly expressed this step in spades when being in the presence of an un-consuming flaming bush, he still tried to waddle out of his duty. Even in the presence of the Angel of the Lord, Moses was 'bold' enough to show reluctance to his calling. Jonah takes the whole refusal business to an even greater extent by absolutely sprinting away from his duty. It seems appropriate to me to think that any called prophet should not be too quick to jump into the cockpit. The call comes with a price. Spiderman told us correctly when he stated solemnly, "With great power comes great duty."


I have a hope. I have an idea. I have a wish.
I suggest this name to you: Sufjan Stevens.
What if?
What next?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Desperate Search: You Are...

Part IX.b
'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house -- for I have five brothers -- in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'
Luke 16:26-29

--Imagine you come home at dawn tomorrow--

You've been out throughout the night partying or working (whichever you prefer). Glimpses of that special dawn blue seeps through the windows, silhouetting various pieces of furniture in your dwelling place. You surmise that no one is home. Exhausted, you strip while in the bathroom, so as to collapse upon immediately entering the bedroom. 

Enter your bedroom. 
You open the bedroom door. At once you fall to your knees. You then lie prostrate on the cold floor. You are in the presence of the Angel of the LORD.

Out of fear, you dare not look at Him. The initial glimpse you saw of Him was enough. You saw only a deep red (maroon, even) light, but the light was not light as we commonly know it. This light seemed to have dimension... and mass. 

The Angel of the LORD tells you to not be afraid. In your left hand He places a key. You are only to hold the key with your left hand, never your right. He tells you that with this key you may see the hearts of men. 

He is gone. You are alone.
You clothe yourself. Now is the time to leave. You put the key in your pocket and head out into the world.

You meet a friend for coffee. You expect to unleash the story of your encounter with your dear friend, but when she arrives, you note her tear stained face. She is a wreck. She tells you her story. It's an awful story. You try to help, but you feel useless. She begins to weep anew. Through her tears, she apologizes for her behavior and states as a belief, "Some pains have no answer."

With your right hand you instinctively grab for the key. It burns. You recoil at once. Your right hand is scolded horribly. Remember the instructions: only the left hand. Timidly, you pick the key up with your left hand. No burn. Acting on instinct, you raise the key and push it into your dear friend's chest. Turn the key.

Sure enough, your friend's chest is opened to you. You see her beating heart. There it is. It seems, however, that a black tar wrapped around the heart and rib cage is slowly squeezing the pumping heart. Look at your scolded right hand: you know what to do. With the right hand, you grab at the black tar, to pull it out of her. It unravels slowly, but with promise. Like a knotted yo-yo string, the work is tedious, but the closer you get to the end, the easier it unspools. It is finished. No more tar. You turn the key. Lock it tight.

Your friend grabs at her heart for a brief instant, as if in cardiac arrest, but the moment passes. She then smiles at you. The smile broadens. She thanks you, and soon leaves your presence. 

Did she know? Did she understand what you just did? All you can think about is that smile of hers.

You think to yourself you have the secret to happiness. Who needs it? Full of excited energy, you rustle through your list of phone contacts. Who needs this gift? Who is hurting the most?

You decide on a name. You call him. You meet him an hour later. He too is a wreck. No tears from him, he has been long-suffering in his torment. He asks you why you called him to meet. Embarrassed, rather than answer, you open his chest with your magic key. There is so much tar; so much work to do. You smile. You are honored to accomplish such work. Honored.

It feels like hours. The world is motionless as you rip the blood soaked black tar from your fellow man's chest. You sweat profusely. Finally, you reach the end. The heart is free. The heart is free. Free.

Locked tight, your good friend looks at you with stun. His eyes grow. He grabs at his chest. He can't breathe. He stands up violently from the table. He writhes his body from left to right, clawing at some unknown assailant. He trips into the street. He gasps for air. He gasps for air. Gasps.

He is dead. 

You still hold the key in your left hand. What was freedom for one soul was murder to another. You look down at your own chest. Do you dare look?

But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'
Luke 16:30-31

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Desperate Search: I Am...

Part IX.a

 -- Imagine you were born yesterday --

Moments before you began, a large tablet appeared in front of you. On the tablet was 7 columns. Each column had 5 Left or Right switches. You took your time. You chose.

Column 1

L Male Female R
L Young Old R
L Beautiful Ugly R
L Short Tall R
L Slow Fast R

Column 2

L Quiet Loud R
L Excited Calm R
L Bubbly Solemn R
L Intense Mellow R
L Introverted Extroverted R

Column 3

L Witty Honest R
L Wise Forgiving R
L Diplomatic Competitive R
L Problem Solver Reliable R
L Studious Carefree R

Column 4

L Good Right R
L Smart Accepted R
L Contemplative Spontaneous R
L Brave Sexual R
L Nostalgic Skeptical R

Column 5

L Offensive Inarticulate R
L Lazy Inefficient
L Damaged Desensitized R
L Trite Selfish R
L Impersonal Aloof R

Column 6

L Undervalued Scrutinized R
L Lonely Overcrowded R
L Stressed Unsatisfied R
L Betrayed Sacrificed R
L Physically Beaten Emotionally Battered R

Column 7

L Saved Unsaved R
L Redeemed Unredeemed R
L Repentant Unrepentant R
L Predestined Self-Prepared R
L Loved R

-- Look at yourself --
Are you the person you were yesterday?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Scatterbrained I

Worry not: the Summation of all things is at the bottom of the page. Go there now and save yourself the time. Go.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? Okay, so it turns out the Sirens didn't turn Pete into a horny toad. I'm glad about that... but what about the Sirens themselves? Were they just three women out doing there laundry, looking for three wandering fellows to seduce while singing, "You and me and the Devil makes three..."? That seems a bit strange, no? And why is that one lady carrying around a big ol' jug of what I assume is some form of liquor? In the middle of the day? Is that how people act when there's a depression on? Strange. 

2012. Dude, if you want worldwide havoc, just read the last half of the book of Judges. That shit is crazy -- even though everyone did what they thought was good. The last sentence of Judges, In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 

Falling Down. We open on a man stuck in traffic on a hot Los Angeles morning. The world is mean and angry. He alone seems to understand this fact. With this realization in mind, he acts as any man should in such circumstances; he boils down his quest to one thing: he must get home to his child. This is could be a very stereotypical beginning to a hero's journey, but this corky of a film had me from its very first frame, for we are not watching the hero's journey, but the villain's. This our protagonist's last revelation. "I'm the bad guy?" He asks incredulously. How many of us will come to realize the same thing on judgment day?

Silent Light. This Mexican film (though filmed within a Mennonite community that speak a weird hybrid of German/Spanish, I think) ended up as the favorite film of several of my more filmish friends a few years back. I think it's about forgiveness. Or salvation. Or guilt. Come to think of it, I'm not too sure. The method of filmmaking was a series of very long shots. Generally speaking, this is a pleasing format for me, as it allows characters the space to roam about and act human. Such styles can also be characterized and critiqued for being slowwww. Again, this doesn't bother me. That being said, what did bother me in this particular experience, is that the characters underacted. Incredible things happen, and yet people barely move. This was hard to believe, wherein if I were sitting amongst their numbers I'd be banging my drum hollerin' through the countryside making as much noise as possible due to the sights I'd had seen.  I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve. The fact that these people did not created a dissonance between me and them.  

Thor. The trailer just came out. I know nothing about this franchise comic book story, but I am already frustrated by it. I don't mind that Thor is an exiled extra-terrestrial. No, it's his weapon of choice that annoys me. He has this giant hammer thing. Let me be clear, as Old Boy taught us, the hammer is indeed a badass piece of armament. However, did you see Thor's hammer? It's so short. I keep looking at it thinking to myself, 'It would be so much more effective if the handle was a good foot longer. You can't get any leverage out of that thing!' Also, apparently Natalie Portman is the heroine in the flick -- see the proceeding paragraph for why that's troublesome.

Black Swan. I have yet to see this film. I do not believe I will see it. I believe I shouldn't see it. This is a point of discouragement for me, as it is being lauded as a potential frontrunner in the Oscar race this year. My friends are singing its praises. I have seen and intimately appreciated every single previous film by the director Darren Aronofsky. The film contains erotic lesbian behavior. Those images will stay with me if I let them in. Images can kill. They will leak into my thought life. And there, in that place, that's where my soul lies! Such thoughts lead to obsessions. And an obsession is a god. I will be burned by such a fire as that. A venomous, sinful fire. 

Pi. Darren Aronofsky's first film was about a guy who discovers God's true name. This code was like some sort of bite from the tree of knowledge, for it gave this little man the capacity to know all sorts of bits of data. In the end he can't handle such greatness. He can't handle it. He can't deal. He can't...  Good times!

White Christmas. This is my parents' traditional Christmas viewing. I reckon it is good for everyone to have such a tradition. But I don't much care for White Christmas. Bing Crosby - eh. I don't trust the man. 

It's a Wonderful Life. This is a superior choice, and a common one at that, for the annual Christmas viewing. But it's so emotionally exhausting. We get, what, 2 hours of poor ol' George Bailey just getting the snot stolen out from underneath him, until we finally have that cathartic, maybe 5 minute happy ending. That's a lot of turmoil for such a quick resolution. Plus, I reckon an annual Christmas film should have more to do with Jesus than just a hapless, wingless angel. 

The Black Stallion. Now there's a flick I could watch every year. It's a bit tropic for wintertime, but hang with me. Animals. The Stallion. Animals have that same sense of innocence about them that we equate with babies. So it is easy to transfer the innocence of the Black Stallion to Baby Jesus, yes? Sound like a plan? Plus, animals are far more intriguing to watch on screen than babies. Babies just kinda sit there most of the time. Granted, most animals don't do a whole lot more than sit and graze either, but they do it with a bit more style than babies. Camels got it going on. Monkeys too. And Ant-eaters... crazy lookin' piece of creation right there, I tell ya. 

Summation of Terror! (and other hyperboles):
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?  - Where can I find one of these Sirens?
  •  2012 - Been there done that... in like 1500BC
  • Falling Down - One badass descent!
  •  Silent Light - Emote dagnamit, emote!
  •  Thor - For Pete's sake, get a longer handle!
  • Black Swan - Sigh (sad)...
  • Pi - Sigh (happy)...
  • White Christmas - Never trust the Bing.
  • It's a Wonderful Life - Too much work.
  • The Black Stallion - A Christmas Classic?
And that is that! Yes, that's -- that is to say... that's what I have to say about those things to which I have spoken. Now. Maybe tomorrow I'll think differently. Now. Go.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Tradition of Age

The story of Absalom, David's son, is a sickly one. Told in 2 Samuel 13-18, it reads as a predecessor to Romeo and Juliet, with tragedy telegraphed from afar. The villain dies in the first act of this play, and henceforth the story proceeds slowly splitting our two protagonists. There is Absalom, the handsome son who seeks vengeance upon his brother for Amnon's incestual rape of their sister Tamar. And there is King David, the father who suffered the loss of one son at the hands of another. The story ends with the death of the young.

[David] was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" 2 Samuel 18:33

This story is reminiscent of the scene depicted in The Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers when the old king speaks of how fathers should not live to see the funerals of their children. There is a sincere wrongness to that image. It is a sad thing that contains no resolution.

My Grandmother is 91. She has lost two husbands in the last three years (one died, she quickly remarried, and then the next died). I am told that this past Thanksgiving, as my family came together, a discussion arose as to when Christmas would be collectively celebrated this year. My sister and her family (husband and son) would be visiting the family from Germany until the 24th of December. It made sense then, that the date of Christmas should be changed. This made my dear old Grandmother angry to hear of such rumblings. She has only ever known Christmas to be on the 25th. This is her tradition, this is her life. It is not to be changed. In arguing for her position of the non-movement of Christmas, she appealed first that no one in our family knows what it's like to lose two husbands so quickly. This is obviously a true fact. No one in our family can relate to her suffering, but then again, what does that have to do with the date of Christmas? As a second weapon, my grandmother waged this battle cry; 'I think this might be my last Christmas'. What a blow! Ouch.

I've been trying to understand why my grandmother would say such words. I've been trying to understand. To feel it.

As I struggled for empathy, my mind moved to The Green Mile. Paul Edgecomb, as played earnestly by Tom Hanks, is a man that is cursed with the gift of life. After telling his friend the story of the end of John Coffey, the healer, Edgecomb confesses,
I'm a hundred and eight years old, Elaine. 
I was forty-four the year that John Coffey walked the Green Mile. 
You mustn't blame John. 
He couldn't help what happened to him... he was just a force of nature. 
Oh I've lived to see some amazing things Elly. 
Another century come to past, but I've... 
I've had to see my friends and loved ones die off through the years... 
Hal and Melinda... Brutus Howell... my wife... my boy. And you Elaine... 
you'll die too, and my curse is knowing that I'll be there to see it. 
It's my attonement you see; it's my punishment, for letting John Coffey ride the lightning; 
for killing a miracle of God. 
You'll be gone like all the others. 
I'll have to stay. 
Oh, I'll die eventually, that I'm sure. I have no illusions of immortality, but I will wished for death... long before death finds me. In truth, I wish for it already...
We each owe a death - there are no exceptions - 
but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.
We fight so hard to live. That impulse is very strong. The urge to live is surely the most primal of all of our instincts, our desires. But somewhere, somewhere in time it appears that we begin to yearn for the end. This desire is then accented horrendously by the passing of our loved ones. With my Grandmother, I think when she heard the news of Christmas changing dates, she imagined herself alone in her house on the morning of December 25th. Old and alone. This is her fear -- that the pattern of her love ones physically leaving her will continue. She fears she will be left alone.

A divergent thought hits me as very interesting. We tend to, rightly, associate innocence with children. Why is that? Surely it is because we see children as of yet not branded by the cruelty and vileness of the world. They are too young to have yet been intoxicated by the dirty underbelly of existence. If that's true at one end of being; if it is true that children are the most innocent among us, then is it not reasonable to see our elders as the least innocent? I say this not to condemn the elderly, but to admit a simple truth: the longer I live, the more sins I will have committed.

It only took one sin to separate us from the glory of the Lord, but do we not move further away from Him with every additional sin? Perhaps it can be said with irony (and oh, sweet mercy! How great is grace!) that at the moment of death is when we are least worthy of Heaven.

Umberto D. -- An old man has only his dog for hope in the world.

Amidst the story of David and Absalom, there is a queer little moment regarding an old follower of Saul, David's predecessor. Whilst David and company are on the run from Absalom, some old dude comes out of the little woodwork to throw stones at David and curse him. The man shouts, Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow... And behold, you are taken in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed! 2 Samuel 17:7-8. David's men immediately surround the stone thrower and ask David if they should cut off the sad sack's head. King David had easily the power to have this man killed, but he simply tells his men to leave the man alone. And so all day long this old dude keeps lobbing rocks at the army and spewing venom out of his mouth. David just took it. I think this is an accurate foreshadow of David's life. God does not allow David to see the building of the tabernacle for approximately the same reason. David has lived long and sinned much.

*I should make a quick point here to note that I am not trying to exert any theological truths here. As believers, I acknowledge that as we accept Christ as our Savior, our sins are counted as rubbish, and that such things as running tallies do not exist within the reign of God's love for his children. However, perhaps I can still make this question: does not sinful behavior have physical consequences as well as spiritual? If I killed a man, yes, the Lord will have forgiven me for such a horrific deed, but I must still reap a physical consequence for my action (in this case, jail or the death penalty). Does not a life of sin slowly weigh on the body of us as sinners? All the more we should await the Day of Paradise.

My reading of the Absalom story was brought about by the listening of a song; The Angel of Death Came to David's Room by mewithoutyou. Listen Here! Check out the lyrics.

the angel of death came to david's room...
he said, "friend, it's time to go"'  angel, no, i think you've come too soon
it's not my time to go

i'm sorry friend, now put your hand in mine 
but good angel, don't i get a warning sign
before it's my time to go?

come now david, where's your grandma gone?
come now david, where's your grandpa gone?...
their time came to go

but i slew goliath with the sling and stone...
it's not my time to go

he'll be waiting for you when we get back home...
it's time, it's time to go

come now david, where's your momma gone?
come now david, where've your uncles gone?
come now david, where've your aunts all gone?
their time came to go

can i tell solomon the things i've learned?
i'm sorry, friend, that's none of my concern
it's time, it's time to go

come now david where's uriah gone?
stranded on the battlefield,
the troops withdrawn
come now david, where's uriah gone?
his time came to go

come now david, where's bathsheba gone?
and where've your binoculars and rooftop gone?
the unexpected baby from the bath night gone?
their time came to go

come now david, where's everybody goin'?

It's a brutal song. Just brutal. And it is right to be as such.

Of Mice and Men - Another old man puts his hope in his dog.
Everything will be ripped from us. We get to keep nothing. Even our best friends, our closest family -- everything in this life has its end. For this reason we must hold tightly only to that which will remain. And what will remain? Only this: our relationship with the Lord. That scene in Of Mice and Men with the old man is devastating because its characters don't know that truth. Remember: there is an old man with only one hand. He has but one friend in the world; an old smelly mutt. Eventually, the mutt is taken out and shot. It might as well been the old man who was shot. It breaks the heart. Do you remember? It will happen to us too. Everything we love will be taken out back and shot. Dead. So then we must take heart and shine our hearts on God, because only He has seen death and come back to us. Remember. Remember. Remember and take heart.

Goodbye, Mr. Jingles.
Hear the words of our Lord!
Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:37-39

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In Haste: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I like to talk about dragons in Slovenia. There are three reasons for this.

1) The word 'Dragon' is a popular name in Slovenia. I wish I was named Dragon.
2) The Slovene word for dragon is 'Zmaj' (pronounced Zmai - 'ai' as in aisle), which sounds pretty cool to say, and is also the same word used for kite.
3) Jason and the Argonauts apparently found a dragon on the Soča river in ancient times here in Slovenian soil. The capital city, Ljubljana, has the dragon as its symbol.

There is a dragon in the third Narnia film. It is quite nice.

Nicer still than any dragon business, is that the third installment of the series lives up to its reputation (at least, the reputation that breathes in my mind's eye). It does so by being a children's story that exists as an adventurous allegory for Christian living. Whereas The Lord of the Rings never quite makes the leap to conceivable elf = sinless man, ring = temptation type correlations, in Narnia, the comparisons are simple and true.

Aslan is the lion that we worship. He even says, "In other worlds I go by other names." He is the good, awesome conqueror who is worthy of our love forever. He is Jesus.

Aslan is Jesus. There's something refreshing about saying that.

As for the plot of the Dawn Treader, it focuses on a disembodied evil. We see the evil as a green fog. Our protagonist, Lucy, is even tempted by its power to envy her sister. She wants to be beautiful like her, and with this desire, nearly incants a spell to make her become wholly as her own sister. Aslan comforts her by saying that to envy is to rob yourself of your own individuality. Of your soul.

Narnia is created for children, but I do remember what Christ once said, Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3-4