Thursday, January 27, 2011

In Haste: Girl with a Pearl Earring

What does love mean? 

What the hell is it, anyway?

Tell me.

Vermeer and the Pearl Earring Girl have some sort of bond. It is at once known, and yet dually and equally ineffable. Now, the thing exists, this attraction, but the painter is betrothed to another -- somewhat happily even. What happens next? Well, Roger Ebert had this commentary to add to the situation,
"Sometimes two people will regard each other over a gulf too wide to ever be bridged, and know immediately what could have happened, and that it never will. That is essentially the message of Girl with a Pearl Earring."
 And now my hopeless-romantic side rears its ugly head in revolt to this filthy sentiment. It declares!, "But what could possibly be stronger than love! From this, the world was made over by God, and was once redeemed, and will someday be refreshed, all because the world is loved by its Maker. Surely this talk of impregnable gulfs is a monstrous display of lack of faith, says I, says I!" Unfortunately, right about as I get to that final 'says I', the voice of C.S. Lewis comes whispering in. I remember his book, Four Loves, and how it is true that we cannot love too much, but we can love disproportionately so. If we love others more than God, then we have made a demon out of this natural phenomenon. Perhaps such demons visualize themselves as gulfs...


This isn't fair, but I'm posting it anyway. I recently stumbled over this apparent love-test:

- Kiss on the Forehead: We're cute together.
- Kiss on the Cheek: We're friends.
- Kiss on the Hand: I adore you.
- Kiss on the Neck: I want you, now.
- Kiss on the Shoulder: Your perfect.
- Kiss on the Lips: I LOVE YOU...

- Holding Hands: We definitely like each other.
- Holding you tight pressed against each other: I want you.
- Looking into each other's Eyes: I like you, for who you are.
- Playing with Hair: Let's fool around.
- Arms around the Waist: I like you too much to let go.
- Laughing while Kissing: I am completely comfortable with you.

- If you were thinking about someone while reading this, you're definitely
in Love.

- Add this to ur favorites after reading!!
Or you will have a bad year of Relationships.

- and can't get them out of your head.
- then add this to ur favorites within One Minute and Whoever you are missing
will surprise you.
See!!??! It's so simple! I never knew how easy it is! Wowzer, what have I been doing my whole life without this handy-dandy guide? Oh, and thank heavens I reposted this on this blog, so now I know all my lovely dreams will come true this year. Huzzah!

To conclude on a more charitable note, I am quite fond of this quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, probably because it tells me that love is the stimulus of story, and that's a very sweet fragrance to inhale at any point in life.

I love her and it is the beginning of everything. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Psalm inspired by Lovely, Still

Give from excess. 

What is excess?

It can't be riches
for the rich man cried, 
Father Abraham, 
have mercy on me,
and send me Lazarus, 
so that he may
dip the tip of his finger 
in water and
cool off my tongue, 
for I am in 
agony in this flame. Luke 16:24

It can't be physical beauty, for
Charm is deceitful, and 
beauty is vain. Proverbs 31:30

I can't find excess in doing good works, for
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds
which we have done in righteousness,
but according to His mercy... Titus 3:5

Nor in knowledge can I have excess:
If anyoone supposes that he knows anything,
he has not yet known as he ought to know...  
1 Corinthians 8:2

Nor can I find it merely in the passion of marriage
For in the resurrection [we] 
neither marry nor are given 
in marriage, but
are like angels in heaven.
Matthew 22:30

How then, can
I give from excess?
How can I give, 
if from nothing 
I can gain excess?
Am I doomed to be only want, only need? Will I never acquire excess?

I remember 
when you asked the Samaritan woman for water.
She tried to remind you that you had nothing to draw water with. You replied,
Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again;
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him
shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him
will become to him a well of water springing up 
to eternal life. John 4:13-14

You spoke again of this water;
If anyone is thirsty, 
let him come to me 
and drink. He who 
believes in me, 
as the Scripture 
said, From his 
innermost being 
will flow rivers 
of living water.  John 7:37-38

This living water -- I remember where it dwells, for the prophet Ezekiel was brought a vision of the Temple of the Lord:
The he brought me back to the door of the house; 
and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold
of the house toward the east...When the man went out 
toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured
a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water,
water reaching the ankles. Again he measured a 
thousand and led me through the water, water reaching
the loins. Again he measured a thousand; and it was a 
river that I could not ford, for the water had risen,
enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded... 
Then he said to me, 
"These waters go out 
toward the eastern region 
and go down into the Arabah; 
then they go toward the sea, 
being made to flow 
into the sea, and the 
waters of the sea 
become fresh. It will 
come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live... so everything will live where the river goes... By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not whither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing." Ezekiel 47:1-12

The living water is the excess, from which all things grow.

But still I wondered from whence this water began. 

And then I saw that that which brings excess, the living water, was there in the beginning with man;
Then the LORD God formed 
man of dust from 
the ground, and breathed 
into his nostrils 
the breath of life;
and man became 
a living being. 
The LORD God planted a garden towards the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden... Genesis 2:7-10

From the beginning you gave us access to the excess. It is not alone riches, beauty, good works, knowledge or even passion that excess can be found. Rather, from excess flows all these things. 

And so,
Give the excess.
It is the only thing left to give.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Let's Talk About Horror, Baby!

Effective Horror must always start like this: 'What if God...?' At least, for the Christian like myself, I can't imagine a scenario that could creep under my skin through my veins and snap my fear-strings quite as effectively as that of the 'God isn't what you think He is' genre.

During the climax of the 1978 Donald Sutherland (and Jeff Goldblum! Hooray!!) remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Sutherland looks out at his last great hope, a cargo boat leaving the city, only to find that the insolent aliens have already conquered the seas. His only reply can be, Oh God, Oh God! Yes. This is the appropriate answer. Such a thing to happen as a universal alien occupation of our planet pretty much defies the Biblical narrative that we faithfully adhere to. So, Body Snatchers becomes a particularly effective horror film when it causes me to imagine, 'What if God didn't care for us, or isn't watching, or isn't real?' Any slasher can come along, sodomize my wife, rip out my testicles, and slaughter my children. That doesn't by necessity breakdown my worldview. My hope. My reason for living. But those body duplicating aliens sure would.

Why is the end of Apocalypse Now so damn hypnotic and shiver inducing? It is so because it is telling a true message. We know it in our gut. The world is a horror; an unfathomably wicked place. Granted, most of the time, throughout our daily minutiae, we need not worry or even encounter this truth. Nevertheless, when we touch that truth, even through a passive conduit like film, it causes us to recoil with dread. Now, that being said, the Christian may indulge in a shiver at facing this knowledge, but those goosebumps are temporary. For the agnostic or atheist, the stakes are much higher. The dread should not leave so easily.

Scorsese's recent jaunt into the thriller/horror genre plays out with so much Clue(the game)-esque that we forget how morbidly devastating the whole unspooling narrative really is. A scene towards the latter end of Shutter Island has our grasping-at-reality protagonist in the car with "The Warden". This oddly smug chap gives us a strange ballad of words concerning man's carnal nature of violence and, you know, that whole man is just a creature of violence lot. And then he says a very strange thing: We know each other. Whoa Nelly! These two guys aren't supposed to know each other. What's the deal? But then he clears things up with the follow-up; We've known each other for centuries.

If The Warden is right, man is, and always has been, a beast. Just like chaotic nature. And nature, my dear friends, is a brutal, unmerciful, sudden monster.

And then there's this: 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." 2 Peter 3:3-4

Strangely, in Body Snatchers, the character who oddly ends up living (as a non-pod person) until the end says the darndest things. But being that she's the lone survival, perhaps we should listen to her. Amidst the realization that an alien species has taken the form of some sort of plant in order to secrete human DNA that is used to create alien clones of apparently the entire human population, our survivor lady informs us of history past. She reminisces how this is just like the time when aliens came to earth to mate with apes to form the human race. What a silly thought. But from her perspective, in that world, why not?

There's a reason Job says of God,
Though HE slay me
I will hope in Him. Job 13:15

If Job suffers and God is unjust, his suffering will know no end. His torment will be as the chaos of the wind. There can be no happy ending.

No matter what you believe. Whether you are a Christian, Buddhist, or an Atheist, I would imagine we can agree on this much: stuff happens. And when stuff happens, you have time. And when you have time, you have story. The true horror film of life is if all this world, all this earth, is careening for tragedy. If the world is Godless, it can happen at any moment. Everything is pointless and can be erased with the luck of a spiraling asteroid.

So it is that the Christian Horror Film is that which seeks to undermine what we know and hope to be true; God is love and Jesus is the embodiment of that love. The Atheist Horror Film is that which tells it like it is: the world is void of meaning and full of monsters.

If you don't yet believe that this world is full of horrors, horrors of men, I dare you to do a quick wikipedia search: Unit 731.
It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror... Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! 

If the case wasn't yet fully made that this world is a horror a million times over, I present to you this, Exhibit C. 
Yes. That's right. It's Robert Duvall. As a priest. On a swing. At the beginning of Body Snatchers. He has no lines in the film. He never shows up again. He's just there. Swinging. Smiling. No words... no words. Clearly this is the epitome of evil!      Case Closed.

But there is a hope beyond all this evil. In fact, the existence of such unthinkable evil points evermore for the desperate need we have for a real Hope. A hope that there is more story yet to be told. A hope that the horror we endure, and even procreate, will be overcome. A hope for a happy ending. Thank God for that hope. Thank God.

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Inception of Love

Caution: Spoilers Abound for All Christopher Nolan Films

To begin, let me say this: 
I want to live in love. I want love to rule my life, to define my actions. 

There are very few aspects of The Dark Knight that I personally will acknowledge as possible flaws in the creation of that fantastic story. One of those few that do appear to me as legitimate is that of the lack of emotional torque in Bruce Wayne's character... or rather, the lack of time we the audience are given to invest in the emotional state of the Batman himself. In some manner, the death of Rachel Dawes feels more like a plot device to convince us that Bruce is troubled than anything else. We are told to believe that Bruce loves Rachel, but are we ever really sold on that?

Nolan's films have this odd tendency to sell us short on the love spectrum -- hmm -- perhaps that statement is not quite right. Rephrase: Nolan's films never show true love fulfilled; met.

Remember Hamlet? We never say him act out his love towards Ophelia until she rested in the grave.

I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?

A quick look back at romantic love in Nolan's films is quite revealing.

Following: Our protagonist seems to fall for a young blonde that he recently robbed. As it turns out, the protagonist's friend (whose name happens to be Cobb, the very name our lead in Inception claims for himself) and the blonde manipulated this 'love' so as to frame our protagonist for murder. The end, of course, is slightly more complex, as Cobb kills the blonde and frames our main dude for that murder. 
Conclusion: Love is a shame/Love is manipulation.
Memento: Leonard had a wife. He had a love. But she was raped (murdered?), and ol' Lenny is blessed with the inability to love anyone new (due to the whole memory making problems situation, you see). We are led through most of the film to believe that love was killed by force, by death, but the interpretation that I think answers the most questions has Leonard's wife surviving the rape. In this scenario, it would be Leonard's mind that in the end killed the marriage. We are also served a good deal of betrayal in Memento. Both Leonard's copfriend and his ladyfriend turn out to be utilitarians in the sense that they abuse Leonard's memory to work towards their own gains. Finally, let us recall that we never see Leonard happy in this film. All the thoughts of loved are trapped as unlivable memories.
Conclusion: Love ends/Love is too fragile/Compassion is manipulation.
Insomnia: There is no love story here. There is, however, a death of love. After Detective Will Dormer shoots (on accident?) his partner to death, he is burdened with the heavy task of informing his fallen comrade's wife about the death. This is done over the phone. We never see the wife's face. We only ever hear her sorrow. There is, of course, one other potential pair of lovers. Our main murderer, played disturbingly instinctual by Robin Williams, tells Dormer that he loved the girl he killed. It was some form of embarrassment and/or jealousy that led him to do the brutal thing he did. 
Conclusion: Love is fragile/Love ends/Love is a conduit to extreme anger or sadness.
Batman Begins: Bruce loves Rachel. Bruce happens to be a vigilante. We get one kiss at the end of the film. Hooray! But then Rachel has to go and spoil it seconds later by saying: Your real face is the one that criminals now fear. The man I loved - the man who vanished - he never came back at all. But maybe he's still out there, somewhere. Maybe some day, when Gotham no longer needs Batman, I'll see him again. Loved? Past-tense -- so again it happens that we still never see our protagonist in a state of love. It was in the past, and, according to the denouement of Batman Begins, maybe in the future. Great. I happen to know how that one turns out. Oh, and let us not be too hasty to forget Batty's ol' pop. He and Mama presumably loved each other, and Daddy was renown for his compassionate character. Yep, they get popped. Dead via murder. 
Conclusion: Love ends/Love is fragile/Compassion is manipulation/Love is a conduit to extreme anger or sadness.
The Prestige: This one gets us from moment one! We have a happy couple! Look, Hugh just kissed her ankle! Oh they love each other so! And then our inciting incident occurs. She's dead. Great. That happiness lasted what, a good six, maybe seven minutes. Yep, and then, 90 minutes later, Christian Bale's girl goes and kills herself. Oh joy!  And Scarlett Johannson is mostly just leveraged as a manner of manipulation by our dueling illusionists. Jee-whiz! What fun we have with love!
Conclusion: Love is fragile/Love ends/Love is manipulation/Love is a conduit to extreme anger or sadness.
The Dark Knight: Well, in one of the Joker's infancy stories, he tells us he had a wife. She was physically mutilated. Our dear Joker tried to make her feel better, so she abandoned him. More tangible is the love-triangle of Dent-Dawes-Wayne. As it turns out, Dent wins. Rachel Dawes agrees that she'll marry District Attorney Harvey Dent because ol' Bruce will never be able to hang up his cape. Sucks to be Batman! And then she dies that very instant. Murdered. As soon as she speaks her love into existence, she is taken from us. The result for Bruce is one depressed scene. For Harvey Dent, the destruction of his love creates a new madness. His love eradicated, Harvey becomes the antithesis of love; a becomes a super-villain. Then he dies. The end.
Conclusion: Love is fragile/Love ends/Love is a conduit to extreme anger or sadness.

And with that we are brought to Inception, the most romance infused entry in the Nolan-verse. We have a love story that extends over five decades. This feature really is the consummate Hamlet-sode. We have illusions and the effects of a deep love unfathomable, but we are never able to experience it in action. We have only its memory, made wretched by guilt and Poe's raven, flapping about madly with his lamentation of 'Nevermores'. 

And, also like Hamlet, we have our ladylover end herself. 

What does it mean? 

After being stabbed in the dreamscape by Cobb's ghostly reminiscence, Ariadne storms out of Cobb's presence. He then comforts his coworker in her absence: Reality won't be enough for her now.

Nolan's films are heavy on beliefs. Leonard's conviction that he still needs to seek revenge on John G. gives him solace through meaning. Will Dormer's belief as to whether he purposefully killed his partner or not will define him for the rest of his life. 

The Dark Knight begins with a (when you think about it) strange declaration by a shotgun wielding bank manager:
Oh, criminals in this town used to believe in things. 
Honor. Respect. Look at you! 
What do you believe in, huh? 
Nolan extols belief as that which leads to action. And though we never see love in action, we see its consequences relentlessly poured out. Love, and perhaps as well its destruction, is the most dynamic force in all of Nolan's creation. It fuels movement. It is the life-force behind our greatest actions.

Hmm... that makes me think... Remember Christ's words:
There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13 NLT).

But there's more! 
Why is love never realized in Nolan's world? 
Answer: It can't be.
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Not only is love fragile, but it is rationally, actually, workably: impossible. 
Answer: The world's not enough. Put it another way: Reality won't be enough for [us] now.

Nolan's characters yearn for a world that can't really be... not in this generation, not on this damaged soil.  Many have presumed, probably correctly, that Christopher Nolan is an atheist. Whether that is true or not may just turn out to be irrelevant, for his films are desperately seeking an answer to life's most enigmatic question: why are we never fully satisfied?

There's gotta be more to life than this. 
It's never enough. I say again, it's never enough.
When will it be?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Genesis 1:26  

The the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good... Genesis 1:31

Once upon my time I worked as a furniture mover at my University. It was a good job. Good work. Moving large things is good for a man's soul. 

One day, my boss proposed a question, "Can the true masterpiece come from a soul who doesn't acknowledge Christ as the Redeemer of all creation?" My initial response was an obvious no. It seemed a dumb question from a wise man. My dubious nature gave him a chance to explain himself. A true masterpiece must be that which is beautiful; that which exudes beauty. Beauty is that which speaks deeply and effectively about the truth of this world. With these definitions of 'beauty' and 'masterpiece' in place, it is easy to then see how one could conceive that the Author of Truth must be dwelling within the artist for a work of masterful beauty to come into being. 

I would still wager that anyone on this planet can (and does) produce that which is masterful. 

Perhaps the question to wrestle with is whether or not mankind has remained in God's image after the curse of sin entered into our fabric. 

Paul fiercely condemns the ways of the Gentiles in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, but nevertheless that the capacity for men to know truth did not immediately vanquish with Adam's first sin. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse... and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things [unrighteous deeds] are worthy of death, they do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:20,32

Notice Paul uses the present tense at the end, they know the ordinance of God. See! That's goodnews, yes? Though fallen, all men know truth in their heart of hearts. The masterpiece can be outpoured from their soul. 

I think this revelation should encourage us towards love. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. It seems an easier task to turn the cheek if I have in mind that this creation in front of me, this man or woman, will bring glory to God. They are to be masterpieces; a unique expression of truth in the world. Surely, all men are corrupt. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 Nevertheless, all will bring glory to God. 

Now, let's take this initial "Who can create masterpieces?" to a ridiculous level. Once upon a time on youtube, I saw an elephant paint a picture (of an elephant offering a flower in its trunk). Click here for the crazy elephanting link. This video speared me in the chest. It was clearly a trained procedure. That elephant surely was unaware of what it was drawing -- merely mimicking that which it was trained to form for reward -- but the idea burdened my heart. Can animals create art?

One day someone will write a Theology of Animals particularly for my hurting heart. Until that day or the day that God illuminates my mind to such answers, questions of morality, justice, and the animal way will continue to plague my being. Luckily, in these days of myriad deceptions, I have a mysterious friend who has come to my aid.

Soonly, a website will be launched that I have been working to assemble for nearly six months. This website, vikingjesus has had many different iterations of slogans in these last few months. Currently, the website is functioning under a lens of Seasons. If we decide to move forward and launch a second season, I would like for the slogan to be: "Use Everything".


Use Everything - meaning, everything that is, can be used to desperately seek the Lord. Remember the Lord's words at the final moments of Scripture: Behold, I am making all things new. Revelation 21:5 He will renew everything. All things are born for redemption. Everything.

Upon my own spouting out of ruminations to 'Use Everything' this aforementioned mysterious friend chose to share an article with me by a one, Dr. Abraham Kuyper (Abraham Kuijper). 

This Dutch Abraham is a strange gent for me to be bedfellows with, as a cursory read through his wikipedia page informs us that Dr. Kuyper is one of the fathers of Neo-Calvinism, aka The Really Scary Calvinists. Despite my fears of such men and their doctrines, within his article, The Renewal (Rebirth) of Creation I find nothing but a slew of awesomnity. *Awesomnity - that which bears much awesomeness.  

The article begins: Rebirth is an event that concerns not only man, but also the entire creation. He
who loses sight of this, does not understand the mystery of rebirth.

Everything rebirthed... I dig it... and he seems to be adding an extra emphasis on the entire creation, of which I assume includes artistic elephants.

The good Abraham continues: Man was not created outside this world and then brought into the world from the outside. He was formed from the dust of the earth, that is, from matter and its organization, which had already come into being in the various kingdoms of nature. There is thus a most intimate relation between man and the creation. Both together form one whole. Even as man is not complete without his body, so he cannot be considered apart from his second body--which we call the world...

This bit makes me feel like Kuyper is actually the lovechild of John Calvin and Jane Goodall. This is an intriguing idea, this innate unity between man and earth. I wonder what Kuyper would have thought of the Apollo missions.

Kuyper goes onto explain the effects of sin, and how through one curse man and all creation suffer death. Then, in speaking of rebirth, Kuyper makes reference to the Apostle Peter's monologue in Acts 3:19-21 which reads, Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 

There's that silly connection again: restoration/redeem/refresh/rebirth of all things. Hmm...

Moving forward, when speaking of Christ's work on the cross, Kuyper exclaims that all of creation is bound to submit to Christ's authority and physical conquering of the grave. Kuyper describes it as something done of force; But the creation with all its energies and powers, however much they resist, must be subject to Christ. In his resurrection He has in fact won over them. They must become what He wills them to be...

Okay, all this is well and good, but what is my gorilla loving Abe's point. Perhaps this: Even as our curse was completed only through the curse upon the creation, so also our rebirth will find its completion only in the rebirth or the restoration of the creation.

Kuyper has made the case for the compulsory renewal of all creation. His point includes the belief that man cannot simply find the regenerated kingdom in a state of simple soulness. By no means! We were birthed from the dust of this earth, and from that reborn dust we shall remain forever.

Calvin-Goodall Man concludes: The rebirth of our inner man is only the beginning of our complete regeneration. It will be completed only in the renewal of all things. In between lies the contest of faith.

Now it is clear to me.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Movie Bible Study: Amadeus

Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. Philippians 4:11

About a year ago, I was chatting about the idea of shooting a short horror film with my Slovenian neighbors. We came together to collectively brainstorm the question; what scares people? I posed the question in a more personal context, "What are Slovenians fearful of?" Without blinking, without hesitation, the response came. "Ljubosumje." Jealousy.

It is wise to be afraid of an infiltration of jealousy. It pollutes, and it does so horribly and immeasurably.

Galatians chapter 5 is known for containing what is commonly referred to as 'The Fruit of the Spirit', those qualities which the soul made alive by Christ executes. Right before that moment in Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia, he writes, But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these of which I forewarn you... And here's the rub! ...just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16-21

What does Paul mean? Do these specific sins overbear God's mercy? No. No they do not. But they are treacherous sins, for they lead to paths of misery. One is not simply jealous. One becomes consumed with jealousy. It seethes through the individual. One becomes indwelt with its abundance. Then, I ask you, where can the Spirit be, if your heart is already filled with this foreign filth? Jealousy fills us. To the brim. There is no room for God's Spirit where jealousy claims a home.

The letter written by James doesn't make jealousy sound cozy either: But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. James 3:14-16

Remember the first murderer. Remember Cain. What drove him to kill his brother? Jealousy. Even before he committed the deed, God warned him, saying, Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it. Genesis 4:6-7 Jealousy is an old villain. Perhaps the oldest...

Was it not a sting of jealousy that led Satan to commit his will to opposition? He desired to be himself God. He thought himself more worthy than God himself. This is his great undoing.

Hate jealousy! You must. We cannot let it crouch in. We must overcome it. We must rule over that evil.

Remember also that it was through jealousy that Joseph's brothers sought to kill him.

Jealousy is not a dormant sin. It leads to action. Awful action. And the soul reaps its reward.

An explicitly pungent odor of jealousy is on display through the lens of Antonio Salieri, our dreadful protagonist of Amadeus. As he recalls his story through the movie, we are given a valuable insight into the destructive cause and pathway of jealousy.

*Note: Amadeus is much more complex and thrilling than being a mere symposium for discussions on jealousy. In using this film, I am simplifying the film's complex movements and narrative, so that I can better explore jealousy in action.

Let us proceed.

Salieri was a pious man. He prayed prayers to God. He stayed clear of lusts of the flesh. He did what he could to steer towards his own goal. He wanted, above all else, to make glorious music that would in return cause his name to be heard forever. Even here, before there was a creature to envy, Salieri's intentions are slightly warped. To live for gain is foolishness. We must live for Christ alone. In this way we can overcome the attacks of sinful thoughts and ways.

But why! Why would God chose an obscene child to be his instrument? It was not to be believed. This piece had to be an accident; it had to be. It better be.

Mozart comes to town. When at first Salieri sees the man, he is dismayed. Mozart is a fiend of a man -- and yet, his music is divine. Salieri cannot believe it. Jealousy begins in him from this moment.

All I ever wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing, and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn't want me to praise Him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body, and then deny me the talent!

Now comes the rationalizing. Salieri convinces himself that he is more worthy of good things than Mozart. What is meant as a gift from God (Mozart's ability to harvest marvelous melodies) is viewed as a form of injustice in the mind of Salieri.

At that moment I knew. He'd had her. The creature had had my darling girl. It was incomprehensible. What was God up to? Was it possible I was being tested? Was God expecting me to offer forgiveness in the face of every offense, no matter how painful? It's very possible. But why him? Why choose Mozart to teach me lessons in humility? My heart was filling up with such hatred for that little man. For the first time in my life I began to know really violent thoughts. Everyday, sometimes for hours I would pray, 'Lord, please, send him away. Back to Salzburg. For his sake, as well as mine.'

The storm in his mind is coming. The envy/jealousy has taken a stern root within Salieri's heart. It won't go silently. Already it is leading him to think pernicious and destructive thoughts. These thoughts will not stay as mere inventions of the mind. They will seek out action.

There is no God of mercy, Father, just a God of torture.

Why how can Salieri say this? How can he come to such a conclusion. Mozart's musical ability is profound, and yet he is a smutty little figure of a character. So what? What does that have to do with Salieri? We as human creatures are prone to compare. And so in comparing, Salieri damns God, because God chooses to give what He desires to Mozart. Remember Jesus' parable of the workers who got paid equal wages. Many workers worked all day, some worked part of the day, and a few worked only an hour, yet they all are paid the same. The workers become furious; When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, "These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day." But he answered and said to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?" Matthew 20:11-14

I prayed as I had never prayed before. 'Dear God, enter me now. Fill me with one piece of true music. One piece with Your breath in it, so I know that You love me. Show me one sign of Your favor, and I will show mine to Mozart. I will get him the royal position. Enter me, please. Please.

How can God enter Him? There is no room in Salieri's soul. Salieri makes the grave error of praying not for healing, not for the removal of his jealousy, not for grace --- rather, he prays for the destruction of one of God's good gifts to the world.

From now on, we are enemies, You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy, and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block you. I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able. 

Through the wretched game of comparison, Salieri has made a firmament for himself. He has made a pact, so that he can move forward without intentional hypocrisy. He wants his own way, and the only way to get that is by deciding that God is unjust. An unjust God does not deserve service, but rather, an adversary. Salieri's jealous thoughts have manifested into jealous conclusions. A pact built on envy. So be it. What follows is inevitable from here on out.

Go on. Mock me. Laugh! That was not Mozart laughing, Father, that was God. That was God laughing at me through that, though that obscene giggle. Go on senor, laugh, laugh. Show my mediocrity for all to see. One day I will laugh at you. Before I leave this earth, I will laugh at you.

Salieri, after coming forward against God and Mozart, keeps losing battles. At a party, Mozart mocks Salieri's music. It is true, Salieri is no Mozart. He is not a worthy adversary. He never had a chance. Neither did Satan. Yet, the inequality does not bring Salieri to a place of humility. Rather, his pride is bloated. He begins to connive to erect a plot to undermine Mozart's beauty. He must twist God's gift. Salieri will take something marvelous, and seduce it to something that honors only Salieri. 

I heard the music of true forgiveness filling the theater, conferring on all who sat there perfect absolution. God was singing through this little man. To all the world. Unstoppable. Making my defeat more bitter with every passing bar.

In this remarkable scene, Salieri is privileged to hear Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. He hears the immeasurable beauty of forgiveness, and tastes it as poison. That which is good is now rotten. The world over is ruined for Salieri. He can only take pleasure in dark things now.

And now; the madness began in me. The madness of a man splitting in half... I began to see a way, a terrible way, I could finally pry up over God. 

It never ends. There will be no happiness. There may be victory, but there will be no pleasure in it.

Imagine it. The Cathedral, all vienna sitting there. His coffin, Mozart's little coffin in the middle. And then, in that silence; music. A divine music bursts out over them all; a great mass of death, "Requiem Mass for Wolfgang Mozart, composed by his devouted friend Antonio Salieri. Oh, what sublimity! What Depth! What passion in the music! Salieri has been touched by God at last. And God forced to listen! Powerless to stop it! I for once, in the end, laughing at Him!

Remember: Friend, I am doing you no wrong...

Even after the grumbling and envy, the landowner still called the worker 'Friend'. Turn back Salieri. Why do you seek to crucify that which is good? Take what you have and go! Please.  

The jealous pact of Salieri's heart has now moved into action.

Mozart's last words. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart says to Antonio Salieri on his deathbed: Forgive me.

Remember: And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it. The text goes on, Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Genesis 4:7-8 Cain talked to Abel before he killed him. I wonder, what exactly did he say? For Salieri and Mozart, our wicked protagonist takes a seducing role. He plays the part of best friend. As Mozart is dying, he accompanies the lad, pretending to care for his soul, even though it is Salieri who has in fact murdered Wolfgang. Mozart is played the fool. For Salieri, this final bout is another method of obtaining power and 'justice'. Sin perverts all things, and in this case, Salieri's jealous mind has contorted justice to mean something awful -- to mean the martyrdom of a great artist for the fury of a weaker mind. 

Your merciful God, He destroyed His own beloved rather than let a mediocrity share in the smallest part of His glory. He killed Mozart, and kept me alive to torture! Thirty-two years of torture! Thirty-two years of slowly watching myself become extinct. My music growing fainter; all the time fainter, until no one plays it at all. But his! 

Salieri won. He defeated Mozart. Mozart died broke, unappreciated, and buried in an mass grave. Even in victory, Salieri has found failure. There is no end to jealousy. It goes on and on.

I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint. Mediocrity is everywhere. I absolve you. I absolve you. I absolve. I absolve you. I absolve you all.

The heartcrushing end of the film brings us a man who now eagerly spreads the gospel of jealousy. Is it not sickening?

Remember: ...just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In conclusion, let us allow Paul to finish his thought; But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:21-24