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Posts Tagged ‘Forgiveness’

To access parts one and two, click here

So we’ve just seen Mildred and Jason act rashly based on misinformation and knee jerk judgements, and we’ve reflected on the matter thus:

Anger, even when it is just, can blind us. It [can be] like smoke and vapors that fill our eyes, restricting our vision and narrowing our sphere of action, so that we are more likely to act recklessly and impulsively.

This goes to show precisely what wiser souls have said before me: (more…)

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I got a lot of enjoyment out of Terry Brooks’ novels in high school and college.  His philosophy of fantasy closely resembles (more…)

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TrueDetectiveDVDCover

NOTE: This is the third in a series of commentaries on HBO’s True Detective, season one; for the other two, click here.

You may skip the first post if you wish.  I would, however, read the second (the one focused on Marty Hart), only because I am following a pattern set by the series itself: Marty (Woody Harrelson) is the initial primary focus, and next it will shift to his partner, Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey); this current post will function as a transition of sorts.

So here goes… (more…)

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Youtuber Brett Fawcett offers some inspiring thoughts on the George Zimmerman trial and verdict.

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First of all, Happy President’s Day!

Now, to business…

Part 1 was more in-depth than this post is going to be — this time I just want to look at some basic elements of leadership that distinguish good leaders from bad, as exemplified by Ned Stark and Joffrey Baratheon.

Again, please be aware that there are some spoilers here.

JoffreyWe covered bad kingship in our look at Joffrey’s father (though not his biological father, as we soon learn), Robert.  But unlike Robert, whose bad kingship is characterized more by a sort of laziness, Joffrey is a full-on tyrant whose mode of government is cold, deliberate, calculated force.

He, too, is a figure of the entrenched ego, but carried farther in the direction of its extreme.

Ned-Stark-Sean-Bean-Traitor

Ned Stark stands out as a good leader.  He is not perfect, by any means, but the way he exercises authority is exemplary and praiseworthy.  That he is not dominated by his own ego is suggested to me by the dungeon scene, which occurs after Ned is arrested on a false accusation of treason.

Rather than betray his honor, Ned is ready to die a warrior’s death.  True, he does end up acknowledging Joffrey’s kingship in order to save his family; whether or not this was the right decision can be debated, but his interest is clearly other-oriented, not self-oriented.

In any case, Ned has no interest in betraying his conscience to save his life.  He explains to Varys the eunuch that a soldier “knows how to die.”

Christians are called to die daily to selfishness by imitating this kind of detachment:

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it (Luke 17:33).

That’s precisely why Joffrey’s rule is one of terror and force: It’s all about him.  From his perspective, his ascent to the throne is not about service to the Seven Kingdoms, the protection of his subjects, or any transcendent principle.  It’s about his own exaltation, his own glory.

Eddard_1x01

Concern for the greater good on Ned’s part is further evidenced by the quality of mercy.  Ned is just, but he is no stranger to clemency.  In this he shows the depth of his magnanimity.  A true leader will be concerned about the common good, not his own aggrandizement.

And sometimes, the best way to serve the common good and to restore order is to reach out to perpetrators with the opportunity for redemption.

JohannesPaul2-portrait

In his great book “Go in Peace,” Pope John Paul II had this to say about the relationship between mercy and societal well-being:

Forgiveness neither eliminates nor lessens the need for the reparation that justice requires, but seeks to reintegrate individuals and groups into society, and countries into the community of nations.  No punishment should suppress the inalienable dignity of those who have committed evil.  The door to repentance and rehabilitation must always remain open.

Joffrey

The ego, however, cannot take such chances.  As far as it’s concerned, the only good enemy is a dead enemy.

Meanwhile, the good leader will give his neck to his enemy rather than betray his innate sense of what is right.  So we can say that even in death, Ned Stark triumphs over Joffrey Baratheon.

Image of Pope John Paul II from Wikipedia; others obtained through a Google image search.

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Home Alone DVD

Those of you who read the first part of this pair-o’-posts remember that it dealt with “Home Alone’s” portrayal of both family tension (traceable to the Fall in Eden) and the goodness and importance of the human family, the latter being shown by what happens to Kevin McCallister when he is separated from his own family.

What about redemption?  Is the rift that opens up between Kevin and the rest of his family healed?  If so, how?

As I said in the first post, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” on both sides.  Let’s look at how this works for each in turn.

Kate McCallister

Any parent could relate to Kate McCallister’s anguish as, while flying over international waters, she learns that she and her family mistakenly left her 8-year-old son home by himself.  Furthermore, any parent could feel Kate and her husband’s (John Heard) frustration when the family repeatedly attempts to contact the neighbors to inform them of their emergency, only to find that they have all left for the holidays.

As the movie progresses, we follow Kate’s frantic and seemingly hopeless quest to get back home to Kevin.  She is looking for a flight to Chicago right in the middle of the Christmas rush, when there are very nearly no flights available to…well, anywhere.

The rest of the family, in the words of Megan McCallister (Hillary Wolf), is “rotting” in a Parisian apartment worried about the helpless little brother they left behind.  Certainly, a situation like this would be enough to change one’s mind about even the brattiest younger sibling.

Kate McCallister 2

But it is Kate’s journey that should intrigue us most.  In the mother’s search for her son, we see the breadth and depth of human love…particularly within the family.  We cannot help but feel the extent of her motherly devotion when we see her travelling from Europe back to America and then all over the States, bartering her way from airport to airport, tirelessly and adamantly arguing with anyone who tries to tell her she cannot catch a flight home, and going without sleep for nearly sixty hours in the process.

If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that this level of dedication and self-exertion is necessary (even if not always to that extent) whenever there has been a major falling-out between two parties (family, close friends, a romantically involved couple, etc).  Whenever something has happened to upset the relationship, someone must go out of his or her way to restore harmony.

We could think of it as being like a substance that has been stretched too far in a certain direction.  Sometimes, the only way to put it back to normal is to stretch it a bit farther than normal in the opposite direction.

Kevin Alone

As for Kevin, we notice that the redemptive process works quite a bit more slowly in him.  At first, he is feverishly excited over his newfound “freedom” and wowed that he “made (his) family disappear.”

But before long, he starts to realize that fundamental truth of human existence:

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

Kevin learns about the value of belonging through aloneness, of interdependence through isolation, of family through solitude.

In his childhood innocence, Kevin even connects his separation from the rest of the family with his own guilt.  Fans will recall the heartbreaking scene in which, lying in his parents’ master bed, he looks at a family portrait and says: “If you come back, I’ll never be a pain in the butt again.  I promise.”

homealone_church

Almost immediately afterwards, he experiences what I would call “mutual metanoia*” in an encounter with his neighbor, “old man Marley” (see my December 5 post at https://intothedance.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/home-alone-a-great-work-of-art/ for more information on that).  Upon learning that Marley has long been estranged from his son – and, by extension, from his young granddaughter – because of a heated argument they had years before, Kevin strongly encourages him to give his son a call and see if reconciliation might be possible.

Through the encouragement of an 8-year-old, Marley overcomes his fear of the possibility that his son won’t speak to him, and reconciliation does indeed ensue.

Kevin vs Burglars

Finally, I think it’s fair to say that Kevin’s appreciation of his home and the family to whom it belongs sharpens when he has to defend it against the invasion of Harry and Marv, the “wet bandits.” Bravely and ingeniously confronting the burglars from whom he had fled in terror earlier, Kevin learns selfless love through the exercise of courage.

It is interesting that this stage of Kevin’s journey comes immediately after the conversation with Marley.  It’s as if the hope he gains (namely, for family reconciliation) from this exchange strengthens his resolve.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the events of “Home Alone” were factual.  All things considered, the accidental separation of Kevin and his family could be seen as providential.  Through this unhappy circumstance, God brought about healing for a family in need of it.

Christ Crucified by Velazquez

Such things are reflections of the ultimate Unhappy Circumstance – the immolation of God’s only Son upon the Cross – whereby the rift between God and man (and, by extension, the rift within each human person and among the whole human family) was healed.  That is what Christ’s Coming (Christ’s Mass) was all about.

And I think it is fundamentally for that reason that “Home Alone” is such an endearing Christmas movie.

*”Metanoia” means “repentance.”  This signifies a change of direction – we could think of it also as a change of heart and mind.

All images obtained through a Google image search.

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