Archive for June, 2013

Saw this a couple years ago — absolutely breathtaking…

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Another plug for the movie “Copperhead,” which opens in theaters today.  See the link below to find showtimes in your area.

I would strongly urge people to see this film — especially with the 4th of July coming up.  History buffs will be most drawn to it, but anyone who can appreciate a good story and is, perhaps, a little tired of seeing our movie theaters dominated by repetitive superhero franchises, vulgar comedies, and action spectacles void of substance should be pleased.

Showtimes by region: http://www.copperheadthemovie.com/see-the-film

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For part 1, click here: https://intothedance.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/man-of-steel-and-human-destiny-part-12/

The evolutionary history of the world in general gives us a clue as to what the birth of a legitimate, good “Übermensch” might entail.  From the Big Bang until now, we see a steady series of submissions.

RockOur world started out with the mineral kingdom…

Plant Kingdom…which ultimately had to “submit” itself to the role of supporting the emerging plant kingdom…

Animal_diversity…which eventually had to surrender itself to support the animal kingdom…

Adam and Eve…which, finally, along with everything else, was to become subject to humanity.

God blessed (humankind), saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

So I think we could agree with Nietzsche and like-minded people that humankind is meant, in its turn, to become submissive to something else.  But if that submission is consistent with what we know about world and evolutionary history, it must be to someone or something other than itself, not to some “super race” that seeks to dominate its own kind.

The Christian answer is that man must submit to God, and in so doing find his greatest purpose, meaning, peace, and exaltation.  As St. John the Baptist said of Jesus Christ:

He must increase; I must decrease. (John 3:30)

And in and through Him, we “submit” to one another in service.

To be a true “superman” is, in short, to become a saint.  And just like the sign on Superman’s chest, this “s-word” is humanity’s greatest hope.

henry-cavill-man-of-steel-trailerObviously, Clark Kent/Superman comes much closer to this ideal than General Zod, insofar as he uses his powers for good rather than evil, protection rather than domination.

But I don’t feel that “Man of Steel” delves as deeply into this as it could.  I don’t mean to suggest that it should be moralistic or didactic, but it would have helped in terms of supplying the raw material for a more profound story and greater character development.

As impressive as it is visually, and as deep and substantial as the theatrical preview made it look, “Man of Steel” is primarily an action and visual effects spectacle.  It’s not as strong on the “with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility” philosophy of the 2002 film “Spider-Man” (www.imdb.com/title/tt0145487/?ref_=sr_3), nor is it as strong as Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies in giving audiences time to really get to know the characters.

Nonetheless, it does give us some food for thought.

“Man of Steel” images obtained through a Google image search; others from Wikipedia

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So here is my promised take on Zack Snyder’s latest flick, a reboot of the “Superman” epic.

I enjoyed Fr. Barron’s observation of the conflict between external control and personal autonomy in the film.  I must confess, however, that this never occurred to me.

While watching the film, I was more drawn to the contrasting images of what it means to be a super-man.

movies-man-of-steel-henry-cavillOn the one hand, we have Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) — alias “Superman.”

General ZodBut then we also have General Zod (Michael Shannon), the arch-nemesis seeking to rebuild the lost empire of Krypton on the bones of vanquished humankind.

I’m not going to go into a routine exposition of how one uses his superpowers for good, and the other for evil.  There’s nothing new in that, nor does it take a summa cum laude doctoral graduate in quantum physics to see it.  But I do want to take that general split as it appears in “Man of Steel” and look a little deeper into it.

Actually, it is from one of Zod’s soldiers, Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) that the audience gets a good summation of his brand of super-humanity.  While engaged in one of the film’s many slam-bam action sequences, she tells Kent that she and her companions possess an “evolutionary advantage” over him in that he has a sense of morality, and they do not.

She then caps off her assertion with the chilling phrase: “…and evolution always wins.”

NietzscheMany people are unaware that the term “Superman” was coined by the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.  An unapologetic nihilist, Nietzsche believed that such things as religion and morality were relics of a bygone phase of human evolution.

What is more, he believed that humanity was progressing beyond that childish phase — “beyond good and evil” — and was only meant to progress further from then on.

Eventually, this evolutionary progression would produce a new race of man: The Übermensch, or “Superman.”  Free from the restraints of religion and morality, this master race would rule the mindless rabble of humanity by virtue of their power and ability to exercise dominion.

Nietzschean philosophy would seem to be in some sense the height of Social Darwinism, of the “survival of the fittest” philosophy.  General Zod and his cronies are clearly super-humans of the Nietzschean Übermensch variety.


But there is another aspect of the evolution question that is useful here, and that is the general notion that our current state — that is, as far as the physical aspect of our being is concerned — is the result of progression from one state to another, and that perhaps man is still meant to progress to another, more exalted stage.

What might that next stage be, and do we see it reflected in Clark Kent?  We’ll tackle that in part 2.

Movie images obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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A design some of my co-workers have been working on, using ceiling tiles as their canvasses (I helped a little bit).


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Here’s post #2 in the lead-up to my commentary on “Man of Steel.”  Fr. Barron just posted his today.  I must admit that I came away from the film with a slightly different take, which I do intend to share.  But Fr. Barron’s reflections are always worthwhile.

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Catholic movie critic Steven Greydanus offers his take on the latest Superman flick.  I just saw this movie tonight myself, and intend to offer my own thoughts soon.  They differ somewhat from Greydanus’, but basically I came away from the film with similar disappointments (mainly with regard to there being too much action and too little character development).

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potato on a stickIn case you’re wondering, this is a potato on a stick.

I work with adults with developmental disabilities.  One of the individuals I work with happens to be artistically oriented.  He made this for me to take home a few days back.

Just thought I’d share!

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les-miserables-dawnTom Hooper’s adaptation of “Les Misérables” ends with a re-gathering of all the characters — including those who have died — in some mysterious “new dawn” accompanied by the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?”

I have two things to say about this:

1) We notice that the song is reconfigured a bit from its performance earlier in the film, going from an anthem to an earthly utopia to a testament to man’s greater hope.

2) This moment is in some sense prefigured not only by the earlier performance of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” but also in the general use of music throughout the film.

We notice at various times that different characters in different physical locations are singing the same song, or else singing different songs with a very similar thematic structure…


…whether it is Marius and Cosette pining for one another…


…the rebels seeking a new order…


…Fantine weeping for her lost innocence…

Javert…Javert seeking justice…


…or Jean Valjean seeking redemption.

However different our circumstances in this world, however different our roles and goals, whatever our worldly destinies, and however different our paths through life, we are all ordered to the same destiny.  We are all meant to form the family of God eternally, to the crowning glory of the New Heavens and New Earth — or the summation of all things in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:10).

This is God’s desire for all humanity. It is for this reason that He sent His only Begotten Son to become a man, like us human beings in all things except sin, to bear our sins in His own body, to die for us, and to restore our life by His Resurrection.

There are none left out of this destiny except those who are excluded by their own choice, by their refusal of God’s call to repentance and conversion.  In the case of “Les Misérables,” this includes Javert (see my post “Act II, Scene 2/3” — https://intothedance.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/les-miserables-dvd-review-act-ii-scene-23-the-small-stuff/) and Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, the devious innkeeping couple who use poverty as an excuse for behavior that is inimical to community.

On that Final Day, we will know all we need to know.  We will finally see how and in what ways our actions, our sufferings, our prayers, and our very presence in this world affected others.  We will learn why some had to suffer more than others.  We will see the whole of history and creation fulfilled, its meaning disclosed.  Made to share by grace in the very life of God, we “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of (God the) Father” (Matthew 13:43).

Until then, we must strive to help one another reach this sublime destiny.  As C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “The Weight of Glory”:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

Such is the song — the “dance,” if you will — of daily life.  So let us be people of hope, not despair; virtue, not vice; kindness, not cruelty; moderation, not self-indulgence; generosity, not possessiveness…

…Let us sing.


In closing, here is a video that in some way bears witness to the higher hope I have touched on.  Most of you have probably already seen Minnesota teenager Zach Sobiech’s moving music video, which he made after learning that he had only months to live — nevertheless, here it is:

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There is a practice in traditional Hindu weddings where the groom says to his bride, “I am heaven, you are earth;” and the bride responds, “I am earth, you are heaven.”

As I have said before, femininity has traditionally symbolized immanence, while masculinity has symbolized transcendence.  In marriage, the complementarity of the sexes reaches its peak.

Does this awareness of manhood and womanhood carry over into our experience of fatherhood and motherhood?  If so, what does it mean for fatherhood?

Father_and_sonLet’s take the structure of a house as an analogy.  The mother is like the ground portion; she is the upholder, the secure base, the living cradle of the child’s life.

The father is more like the roof; he is the protector, the shelterer, the trustworthy “custodian” of the family.

Linking the roof and the floor are the walls, which we can imagine to be the arms of the mother and the father joined together, enfolding the child in a protective and nurturing embrace.

As I said in my post on motherhood last month:

All human beings are made in the image of God, Who is love itself.  Therefore, all human beings are free agents who, paradoxically, find their true fulfillment only in the sincere gift of themselves to another.  All human beings are called to that kind of love.

But parents live out that love in a special way.

By the total gift of each to the other, a married man and woman are able to generate new life; together, as parents, they make a sincere gift of themselves to their children to see that they are brought up well, that they are well formed as healthy and unique persons, and that they have good lives.  Mothers and fathers are both called to this singular form of love.

In the past several decades, we have put a lot of focus on womanhood.  And there’s certainly nothing the matter with that in and of itself.  But an unfortunate side effect is that manhood has, in many ways, gotten the short shrift.  Consequently, we really don’t have a whole lot in our culture that informs men of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a father.

The long and short of it is that if a mother gives the child a secure base whereby to explore the world, the father is the loving guardian who inspires the child to step beyond his/her comfort zone to explore the world and him/herself.


Consider the example of learning to ride a bicycle.  Who is it that is typically there to encourage a child to begin riding without training wheels?  Dad.

What kind of support, then, can a child expect from his/her father?  It goes something like this: “I know this is tough.  I know you’re venturing outside the confines of what you’re used to, what you know, what you’re sure of.  But I know you can do it.  You have more potential than you realize.  And if you try your best and fail, don’t be discouraged.  Whatever happens, I will be there to support you all the way.”

In this sense, our dads reflect the Fatherhood of God.  Our Father in Heaven is constantly calling us to become the best-version-of-ourselves (again, to appropriate Matthew Kelly’s phrase).  He is ever provident, seeing to our bodily and spiritual needs.  Yet He gives us free will; he allows us to make mistakes and learn from them.  He invites us to use the gifts He has given us in order to do good in the world and, ultimately, to cooperate in His very work.

Let us celebrate our fathers.  They are among the many gems we wrongly take for granted.

Images from Wikipedia

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