Saturday, December 28, 2002

I think movies are a bad thing.
The mark of a good movie (that is, a movie that does well what a movie should, one that corresponds, if you will, with the Platonic form of a movie) is that it affects your sense of reality. You should leave the theatre with the line between what you have just seen and the world in which you live and breath blurred.
How perverse is that?
Think about it. We purposely seek to confuse ourselves about what is real and what is not? We consider it a GOOD thing when we are uncertain how truly real our life is?
But we do, and we succeed. Just look at the consequences.
We today live in a sterile, idealized world. We have done all we can to create for ourselves a world that is safe, that is unaffected by the constant danger and death that has been the lot of mankind for millenia. One genre of movies perpetuates this idea of the world. And of course, the intelligentsia mock these so-called "chick flicks" as unrealistic, and counter with a harsh, gritty realism that grows dirtier and gorier with each passing year as we seek to better shock ourselves out of a self-induced stupor that we somehow know is not real.
And all we manage to do is further deaden our senses, dull our sensibilities, until not even the most horrific reality can truly affect us. How many times do we look at the Pulitzer-winning pictures of starving children or mangled corpses in distant countries whose names we can't even pronounce, and roll our eyes at the "bleeding heart liberal" who is trying so hard to awaken--hmmm, what was the word? Oh yes!--sympathy in our hardened soul.
It seems it is almost universal. I would wager that almost no person reading the daily news actually understands the truth of what he reads. It seems so far away when 50 people die in Timbuctoo. It doesn't really affect us if Iraq is hiding chemical weapons. What does it matter to us if North Korea has nuclear capability?
The truth of is that if we really understood the horror of what is now everyday in this world, even in our United States, where we are ludicrously SAFE, we would probably go insane. Or at least, on a deep-seated level, we fear that it is so.
But that's only the obvious part. It runs even deeper, I fear. Certainly in my own heart it does.
Leave any American alone for even a few hours and watch what he does. He may pace back and forth for a few minutes, wondering what to do. More likely than not he won't even have to think. Before ten minutes have passed he'll have a movie in the VCR, or a CD in the stereo. Certainly something to break the silence and protect him from a confrontation with that which he fears above all else: himself.
Yes--for more than anything we fear ourselves, fear to be alone, fear the thoughts that we somehow know will come if we are free from outside stimulation for even the briefest of moments. There is a depression verging on despair that comes to a man left to himself. And heaven forbid that we should actually be forced to come to terms with the horror that lies at the depths of our own soul. It's too ugly, too dirty, too real--so we hide behind the veil of entertainment, and leave the wounds to fester.
For fester they will, only aggravated and further infected by the constant stream of drugs we pour into ourselves. We are entertaining ourselves to death, to borrow the title of a book I never read by an author I don't remember.
And that death is the death of our soul.
I recently borrowed (read "pilfered") a most fascinating book from a friend of mine. Entitled Christian Epigraphy, by Orazio Marucchi, it contains a treatise on and collection of ancient Christian inscriptions, including some of the weightiest evidence I have yet seen for the existence from the very first of such Christian doctrines as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the veneration of Mary as Birthgiver of God and the communion of the Saints. And all this in some of the most beautiful symbolic language I have ever seen, bearing testimony to an incredible faith, joy and hope among the some of the earliest Christian believers. Of particular note is the epitaph of Abercius, the Christian Bishop of Hieropolis in Phrygia during the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, written sometime around A.D. 170. Below is the translation provided by Marucchi.

"I, a citizen of an eminent city, have made a tomb for myself, while yet alive, in which my body shal lie when the time shall have come. My name is Abercius, a disciple of the chaste Shepherd who feedeth the flocks on the mountains and plains, and hath great eyes that look on all things. He instructed me in the sure Word of Life,a nd sent me to Rome, the royal city, to contemplate that queen girt with golden robe and adorned with golden shoes. There I saw a mighty people famous for their splendid Signet. And I saw the plains and all the cities of Syria and Nisibis, having crossed the Uephrates; and everywhere I found brethren in agreement (with me), having Paul...And faith was my guide through all, and everywhere gave me for food the fish (IXTHYS) mighty out of the spring, and pure, which the unsullied virgin took and gave to eat to her friends for ever, having the choicest wine, and ministering it mixed (with water) together with the bread. I, Abercius, being myself present, dictated these things at the age of seventy-two years. Let him who understandeth all this and thinketh in like manner pray for Abercius."

It's interesting to note that Abercius was born not long after 100 A.D., if not indeed before. He thus would have been catechized in the Christian faith by contemporaries of Ignatius and Polycarp, those who had learned the Christian faith directly from the Apostles. Indeed, it is not beyond belief that he might have been taught by one of the very first generation of Christians, perhaps even one of those who had seen Christ with their own eyes and heard him with their own ears. I know many that claim that such doctrines are innovations, but for myself I cannot believe that those early Christian bishops, chosen by the Apostles precisely for their faithfulness to the truth and zeal for the faith, would have abandoned orthodoxy so soon and come up with such strange and unbelievable doctrines as that of the Real Presence. It seems obvious that those must have been part and parcel of the Christian gospel from the very beginning. But then, I suppose I am biased... ;)
Hail and well met, fellow travelers. You find me in the middle of Christmas Break, left without work for the week, alone in the house I rent with five other students at Hillsdale College, lonely and bored, seeking an outlet for my energies. Hence, the birth of this Blog. I do not venture to promise that I will post with any regularity or frequency--many friends may attest that I seldom do anything with any regularity or frequency. The best of intentions seem seldom to avail towards amending this sad, sad state. Rather, I suspect that this humble corner of the web will bear the brunt of the intermittent spewing of random pseudo-intellectual blather to which I find myself frequently susceptible. Perchance one such as you who read this may occasionally encounter something of worth therein. My interests stretch from theology to philosophy to literature to current events, typically with an emphasis on love, a distrust of excessive intellectualism and a constant penchant for self-deprecation throughout. Your attention would be appreciated, of course, and your comments and criticism even more so.