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Archive for October, 2013

Leg-ceilingWe had a fake leg dangling from the ceiling at work today.  Couldn’t resist taking/sharing a pic.

Here’s another view up close:

Leg-ceiling2

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Halloween PumpkinJust carved it tonight…scared?  Anybody?

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Looks like a nice little family flick for the holidays…

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Another video from Brett Fawcett.  It starts as a sort of commentary on the 2010 remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” but after a couple minutes it segues pretty quickly into reflections on the horror genre in general.

Enjoy!

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jack-o-lanternA couple days ago I ran across a great article on Catholic Lane called — well, I won’t repeat the title.  Just look up above.  But I did not provide the name of the author, which is Rod Bennet.

It’s a little on the longish side (about two and a half Word document pages), but I think you’d find it worth your time.

Here it is!

Photo from Wikipedia

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Let’s start with a quickie trailer of “Cloverfield,” the 2008 indie film shot as a handheld documentary of a monster attacking New York City:

The King Kongs, the Godzillas, and all the “Its” from beneath the sea or outer space join Dracula, Frankenstein, zombies and ghouls as fan favorites for the Halloween season.

What I love about “Cloverfield” in particular, though, is that it is shot so realistically.  Unlike most mainstream Hollywood films, it achieves the feat of actually putting people into the incredible situation it portrays.  The characters behave as people would behave if they actually were in the middle of New York City as it was being attacked by a huge monster.

I think being confronted with realism in the context of the unbelievable — or vice versa, depending on how you look at it — has a way of getting us to think about the greater meaning of the unbelievable from a gut level, rather than in a cerebral and detached fashion.

It_Came_From_Beneath_The_Sea_poster

I happen to think guilt and fear have something to do with this and other narrative preoccupations.  So what does it mean when we see giant monsters attacking big cities, exactly?

In some sense, it might be intended as a commentary on nature’s resurgence against the hubris of a hyper-technological society.  But at bottom, I wonder if there is not something deeper at work here.

Elsewhere, I have written about the fact that

(h)uman beings have sinned.  The animals, the trees, and the rest of nature have not.  But when we turned away from God, we dragged the whole of creation down the road to destruction with us (“Wolves and Whales: Man and Nature in ‘The Grey’ and ‘Big Miracle’ — Part Two”).

But there’s something else we have to keep in mind as well.  In the second century, St. Irenaeus of Lyons made a key observation when reflecting on God’s determination that mankind should not be lost in spite of Original Sin:

It was for this reason, too, that immediately after Adam had transgressed, as the Scripture relates, He pronounced no curse against Adam personally, but against the ground, in reference to his works, as a certain person among the ancients has observed: God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man. Genesis 3:16, etc. (“Adversus Haereses,” III:xxii — bold added)

FullMetalJacketDeluxe_1I am reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film “Full Metal Jacket,” in which an inept private named Leonard Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio) brings the wrath of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) upon his fellow basic trainees.  A little ways into the film, Sergeant Hartman announces to everyone that from that point on, whenever Private Lawrence messes up, they — not he — will be punished.

And what do Private Lawrence’s comrades do eventually?  They gather around him as he sleeps and pelt him with rolled-up socks.

Obviously, this is an imperfect analogy in many ways.  But being in a sense the carrier of our curse, nature — whether in the form of natural disasters, animals (fictional or real), or otherwise — is not one to cry “(p)eace, peace … though there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

But St. Irenaeus did not stop there…

But man received, as the punishment of his transgression, the toilsome task of tilling the earth, and to eat bread in the sweat of his face, and to return to the dust from whence he was taken. (Adversus Haereses, III:xxii — bold added)

Our task of stewardship over the earth was never abrogated (though it was made more difficult).  And especially now that Jesus Christ has Himself borne our curse upon the Cross…well, just as we led creation into darkness, we must now lead it into redemption.

To the extent that we are fulfilling our task, we have nothing to fear.  But the more we are leading lives dedicated to worldliness, self-indulgence, luxury and greed, the more of a “wake-up call” we need.

“It Came from Beneath the Sea” still from Wikipedia; “Full Metal Jacket” still obtained through a Google image search.

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A couple movie trailers I recently saw drew my attention to an ever popular trend in cinema: The “revenge movie.”

Two movies in particular have caught my attention — the above-advertised “Escape Plan” and Spike Lee’s “Oldboy,” a “Count of Monte Cristo” type thriller about a man (Josh Brolin) who embarks upon a quest of vengeance against the people who imprisoned him for 20 years.

On television, we have the ongoing and very popular series with the very name “Revenge.”  So I think we can say that this is by no means a fringe trend.

Our fascination with revenge comes from our primordial sense of justice — that is, of right order, of the setting-right of what has gone wrong.  That sense of justice is God-given and good.

But like much that is God-given, our sense of justice has become corrupted.  Revenge is a perversion of justice born of our fallen nature, which is the result of Adam and Eve’s Original Sin.

The essence of Original Sin (and all sin, in the final analysis) is that man has turned away from God, and as a result humankind’s relationship not only with God, but also with one another and with all creation is adversely affected.  Man turned in on himself,* becoming ego-centered, defensive, self-seeking, and hostile to any perceived intrusions on his own interests.

And so when he is legitimately wronged, it will be like a light punch on a badly bruised arm.  He will amplify it manifold.  If someone breaks his arm, he will want to break both of his opponent’s arms.  If his opponent steals his car and crashes it, he will want to steal his opponent’s car and crash it into the latter’s house.  If his opponent punches him, he will want to kill his opponent.

You get where I’m going with this.  When the fallen ego has found itself dominated by another, it will not only want to “even the score,” but then also go further to assert its dominance over the other.

By the way, this is what the Old Testament is getting at when it calls for “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  Many of the nations surrounding Biblical Israel were in the habit of punishing offenders excessively.  The purpose of the aforementioned law was to curb these draconian practices, limiting punishments so that they were proportionate to the offenses, and no more.

SermonOnTheMountOf course, this was but preparation for the coming of Christ, who has given us a much more radical law:

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)

True justice is restored through humble witness to the truth and through mercy.  As for vengeance…well, Gandhi said it well: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Christians should always remember the words of St. Paul:

…you have approached…Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel (Hebrews 12: 22-24)

For the blood of Abel cries out for vengeance, but the Blood of Christ cries out for mercy.  Only in that Blood does mankind have hope.

*As I’ve noted before, here the term “mankind” and the accompanying male pronouns are used in the generic, unisex sense.

Image from Wikipedia

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casper_1995_therapy_session_with_ghosts_part_2Ghost movies are popular this time of year.  And not just “ghost movies” per se, but really anything that deals with a spirit world and its “lines of communication” with the everyday world.

Films such as the 1995 family yarn “Casper,” in which ghosts continue to haunt people and places because of “unfinished business,” come to mind.

HereafterBut films such as Clint Eastwood’s 2010 supernatural thriller “Hereafter,” which involves characters who seek the aid of a psychic (Matt Damon) in order to get in touch with their deceased loved ones, are also pertinent.

I could go on, of course.  From “Ghost” (1990) to “The Sixth Sense” (1999), similarly themed tales abound.

What I gather from these is the central and age-old human question: What is the relationship between the living and the dead?

This is, of course, a matter that tugs quite forcefully at the heartstrings.  It lies pretty near the roots of our deepest longings.  The desire for life in us — not just for ourselves, but for those we love and for the continuation of our relationships beyond the narrow confines of natural life — is very strong; so strong is it, in fact, that death makes us sad, frightened, and alone.

I won’t go into the many expressions this has taken from culture to culture throughout human history.  That information is widely available.  But since I’m writing from a Catholic perspective, I do want to share the doctrine of the Communion of Saints with those unfamiliar with it.

“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified (in purgatory), and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers” (CCC 962) (parentheses mine)

Our merciful, compassionate, loving God knows the communal needs of the human heart — in fact, he created them.

It is not good for … man to be alone (Genesis 2:18)

Jesus Raises Lazarus

In the book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Pope John Paul II made the comment that to believe in the Communion of Saints is to believe in Christ.  Why?  Because Christ is the source of the Communion of Saints, the One in whom it holds together.  He has made it possible just as He has made eternal life possible.

I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live (John 11:25)

What is more, Christ is the very reason both for the Communion of Saints and the desire it meets.  Why do we want eternal life if we don’t have some desire that will take an eternity to be fulfilled?  Similarly, why do we want our relationships with loved ones to continue if not to share in something (namely, singing the praises of the Most Holy Trinity)?

In the midst of our (not always healthy) fascination with the afterlife and the otherworldly, I hope we don’t forget where our hope comes from.

Top image obtained from a Google image search; “Hereafter” image from Wikipedia

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PearceBannerAbout a week ago I shared an interview with Joseph Pearce, former Neo-Nazi and current literary biographer, on his recent book “Race With the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love.”

Well, now blogger Brandon Vogt is giving away a free copy of the book through Rafflecopter.  Check it out:

http://brandonvogt.com/race-with-the-devil-giveaway/

Image from http://www.brandonvogt.com/blog

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