Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Lion and the Lamb Ain't Sleepin Yet

Jack London wrote two dog-centric novels: 
Call of the Wild and White Fang.

Call of the Wild is a loose telling of a dog turned wolf. White Fang is the opposite: wolf turned dog. Or we can choose to look at the stories in a rounder manner; From Tame to Wild and From Wild to Tame.

Below is a quick investigation of two prototypes representing the two Londonian story arcs.

Call of the Wild

It starts slow, the descent, that is. The blindness carries with it an initial perception that it is something that can be beaten, can be overcome.

Then the exclusion begins. And like a too-hot spa, we slowly dip ourselves into rotten despair.

Blindness is a film that plays out like the anti- Children of Men. Both films find themselves locked inside a canvas wherein a fundamental aspect of humanity has been ripped from the people. Both films appear to desire to speak of hope under miserable settings. Both films hope to achieve epiphany. Blindness distinguishes itself from its superior sister film by focusing on the shittiest aspects of a shitty world. It's eye is on the vileness of humanity.

The film looks at how quickly we feeble humans debase ourselves when our worldly pleasures are stripped from us. Blindness is an exercise in masochism. It is ugly.

Whilst enduring the 121 minute exercise, I found myself being lectured by an alien doctor. The doctor has spent years studying the insipid human specimen, and has cruelly devised plots to determine the very modes by which men are brought to become incalculably asinine.

This doctor could very well be the Devil himself. He looks at the world and dares to say to God, Does Job fear for nothing?... But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face. (Job 1:9,11) Now, a Job recreation could make for some good-time storytelling, but nay! Our doc is both prophet and king of this world.

Children of Men quietly took note of the beauty amidst chaos and death. Blindness never blinks. The film keeps its stare eternally fixated on the obscene and ugly.

Why is this picture here? Why does it exist? On whose back is it writing its message -- and for who?

I believe the answer is fairly straight-forward.

The flick is a propitiation.

If we acknowledge our own slavery to our natural instinct, if we dare to reconcile ourselves to the reality of our own repugnancy, then maybe we can move forward.

Move forward unto what, I ask. Silence. There is no answer to be found.

I never read Call of the Wild, but I watched, with much boredom drumming in my young mind, the seventies film adaptation starring Charlton Heston. If I am remembering correctly, the film ends with a stunningly visual of Heston frozen under the lake; his trusty dog, Buck, scratching hopelessly at the snow.
Without someone to watch over him, Buck turns to the wilderness. His master is dead. He becomes a wolf. But he was born a dog, not a man. If we see God as dead, if we too turn to the wild, then I'd just rather be blind then watch our descent.

White Fang

 I gleefully admit that my recent theater viewing of Rise of the Planet of the Apes amused my soul. I found myself laughing out loud frequently, not because the story was ridiculous, but because I found the film so audacious in its projections.

Do not lie to yourself! -- Unlike its predecessors, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is really about the apes. Our protagonist, our hero, is a chimpanzee. We will feel more attached to him than anyone else.

Furthermore, when the battle heats up, when the shit hits the fan, we are asked to side with the apes. We are inclined to become self-haters, to be cannibals to our own kind. And as the big gorilla sacrifices himself to save Caesar (our charismatic chimpic lead) and hurls himself at the enemy helicopter, I was giddy with monkey glee.

The anthropomorphizing of the apes was fun to watch and easy to allow myself to sink into. I've written at length on this blog as to the confusing blurriness that is the distinction between man and beast, so to make the leap of empathy for monkey over man was not hard. But here's the tricky fun of it all: in order for the filmmakers to sell us on the rise of the apes, we had to be convinced that we humanoids deserve judgment.

In essence, the ape had to be more than man; more than a mere anthropomorphization. This happens remarkably easy. Why? Because we all know we are a slimy creation. We know about our own ugliness. We know we sin.

The ape is sinless. If the ape were to become like us, he still wouldn't be under the same moralistic framework. He wouldn't be dooming himself as we do.

For Caesar and his renegade legion, the goal is to cross the golden gate bridge to get to the forest. And it's not just any forest; it just so happens to be a redwood forest, home to the tallest trees in the world. Chimps like to climb trees... apparently to look out over the world. I found this desire of the newly formed ape-nation particularly poetic. The apes want to go into nature and enjoy it. They want to enjoy the land. I think, for a creature not under the carnage of sin's shackles, this is worship.

If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, I would reckon the same must be true for the animal kingdom. And if you are an intelligent ape, the best way to glorify God is to climb the biggest tree God ever made, look out over His creation, and enjoy the view.

White Fang ends with the wolf having been made a father, and enjoying the lifestyle of a tamed and comfortable dog.

The last line of White Fang ends this way; "...and he lay with half-shut patient eyes, drowsing in the sun."
Life can be so simple, no?

1 comment:

  1. *Title borrowed from the lyrics to the Arcade Fire song, "The Well and the Lighthouse" off the album "Neon Bible".