In the series HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES, we have been taking a hero’s journey in search of faith through watching movies. As seen in our ordinary world, we first encountered The Fool’s Quest to Understand. Then we considered how each of us heroes is called to adventure through well-drawn questions that present a true issue: Issuing the Call to Adventure.
The issue I pose for myself as an example tries to be expansive enough to include most more narrow ones: \”Whether, since I will someday die, I want to take only those courses of action that satisfy my love of life?\” Thus, you can draw up your own more specific issue by filling in the blanks of this general format: \”Whether, since I will someday die, I want to take only those courses of action that ____________?\”
Next we addressed how each of us heroes feels reluctant once the issue is out in the open and what The Role of Reluctance is. Overcoming reluctance is achieved in general by seeing ways in which heroes encounter wise ones; hence the posts called Encountering Your Wise Ones ( Part One & Part Two). Following that encounter, we considered what it means existentially, not just essentially, for heroes to cross the first threshold in the journey to find faith by making the journey personal: Crossing Your First Threshold.
Now, in this post, I ask you, acting as the hero of your own journey in search of faith, to answer the following questions about more powerful tests and helpers than we have addressed thus far:
(6.29) HOW ARE THE CONS OF YOUR ISSUE MANIFESTING?
(6.30) What \”sickness\” is infecting your issue?
(6.31) How is your \”house\” dividing?
(6.32) How are your weaknesses dominating?
(6.33) How are your strengths dominating?
(6.34) WHAT ARE THE \”POWERS THAT BE\” SAYING ABOUT YOUR ISSUE?
The Power of Love and the Love of Power
6.29. THE LOVER: HOW ARE THE CONS OF YOUR ISSUE MANIFESTING?
When we considered the pros of the issue as depicted in Hoosiers, we left off with some questions. The questions involved something that the head coach and his alcoholic assistant coach truly share. I asked what that was. We saw how the reins of “The Chariot” you are riding are not truly held by your emotions about your issue, nor by your reason about it, nor by your will over it. I asked where is \”The Chariot\” you are riding is going and by what power does it move forward. The pros of your issue do not fully manifest the answers to these questions. The cons do when combined with the pros. How?
Take a moment to listen to Journey\’s song Girl Can\’t Help It. There is a sense in which \”The Lover\” in us can\’t help it. The power of love is so strong. What seems to be driving each of us more than emotion, reason, or will when we are handling a true issue, especially about matters of faith, is our desire to be loved. In each of us is \”The Lover\” who is driven by love and often torn apart by the way an issue splits our emotions, our reasoning, and our wills.See how these simple truths are played out in the movie Crossing Delancey.
At first we think Amy Irving\’s character \”Isabelle\” is \”The Lover,\” looking for love by crossing Delancey, a street that constitutes a boundary for the local Jewish community. But she finds herself in what baseball lovers call \”a pickle,\” caught between two bases and trying hard not to be thrown out.
The two bases are two men: one the sophisticated writer, Anton, she has found attracted to her through her work; and the other, the seemingly unsophisticated Sam, the pickle man (he sells pickles) who arrives via the efforts of her mother (\”Bubbie\”) and a flamboyant matchmaker.
Before there was \”Sex and the City,\” there was Crossing Delancey, thank God! It is an important presentation of the differences among making choices, making judgments, and making decisions. The matchmaker offers Isabelle choices. \”Bubbie\” offers her seasoned judgment. But Isabelle has to make a decision.
In matters of love, as Pascal says, the heart has reasons that reason does not know. And your heart will act. Like a magnet your deepest desires draw you out of your emotions, beyond your reason, and inform your will. Isabelle\’s heart responds at first to Anton and then to Sam. But she gradually sees who the tester is and who the helper is. In one sense, Isabelle doesn\’t really know what love is until she meets \”The Lover\” outside of herself. Her exercise of her free will only teaches her by mis-taking lust for love.
Since you may not have seen the movie, I will not spoil it for you. But I will point you in a deeper direction. Where do our deepest desires come from? Where do they want us to go?
Consider how Jesus acts in the story of the woman caught in adultery. It may seem obvious to most interpreters that the men who brought the woman to the attention of Jesus were in no way showing their love of her. Most would likely suggest they were merely doing it to lay a trap for Jesus. Yet, there may have been some men on that occasion who were acting out the expected righteousness in the face of a true sinner. Jesus clearly saw the trap.
But I sense he saw more. Did he see \”The Lover\” in her as well? I think so, because he did not simply deal with her as a pawn in the game being played. In a way, Isabelle is like her. And one of the characters in her \”life\” is like Jesus. The other one, not anywhere close.
What Jesus may have seen beneath the layers of sand on the ground before him was the desire for love that pervades the human predicament the event was actually manifesting. That deeper desire to be loved and to love is not a straight and easy crossing. Jesus, put in a \”pickle\” by his enemies, got out of it in an unexpected response: \”Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.\”
Jesus, the sinless, could have cast the first stone, I suppose. But, he decided to love \”The Lover\” in her because he knows where the desire to be loved and to love comes from. Jesus is The Lover, par excellance.
Do you know where your deepest desires come from and how long they have been there?
6.30. Predominance: What \”sickness\” is infecting your issue?
When the men brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, the inquisitors most likely saw Jesus as challenging their rule and their rules. In effect, they saw the woman and Jesus both as sinners. By turning the tables on them, Jesus helps us see not only the way in which The Lover works, but also that we are all sinners.
The relationship between the power of love and the love of power can become \”sick,\” unhealthy, imbalanced, or significantly headed in the wrong direction as a result of personal sins. But, as we Catholics hold, sin itself had an originating point. We call it Original Sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses it this way:
\”How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam \’as one body of one man\’….By this \’unity of the human race\’ all men are implicated in Adam\’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ\’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state….It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called \’sin\’ only in an analogical sense: it is a sin \’contracted\’ and not \’committed\’ – a state and not an act.\”
Given this state of human affairs, the song Everybody Wants To Rule The World provides not only a counterpoint to the argument that the power of love is the source of our deepest desires which we cannot help but pursue, but also a sense of where the love of power as flawed desire comes from. At almost all times throughout human history, the desire to rule the world, the love of power, seems to be predominant.
The movie Schindler\’s List depicts a part of World War II where the sickness of human nature was at one of its most deadly moments. It is the story of a flawed man coming to the aid of the most vulnerable under Hitler\’s attempt to rule the world: the Jews. Why Hitler chose the Jews to be exterminated is still debated. (See Explaining Hitler, for example.)
Your desires may become sickened, then, whatever they may be, and affect your decision-making, especially in matters of faith. Some only want to recognize their purest desires and repress their less ideal ones. Some only want to fess up to their impure, materialistic ones, dismissing ideals as fantasies, unreal in the extreme.
Schindler\’s List depicts how Hitler and his followers sought to do both, trying to purify the Germans by eliminating not just the Jewish culture or religion, but the Jews themselves. Doubtless, we will live and die with the consequences, intended and unintended, of those judgments for the rest of human history. The Holocaust and its numerous consequences provide us with one, but a most profound, example of how all decisions are affected by prior ones, good, bad, and ugly.
There is another way of dealing with desires and Schindler\’s List depicts that as well. It does not claim the ideal to be the only real. It does not claim the material world to be all that is real. Instead it looks at reality in both ways, but in sequence. Thus instead of Schindler weighing ideal concerns on one side of the scale and material concerns on the other, suggesting the best is merely the balance and the balance is what is \”real,\” he found the third way. He moves from the material to the ideal and pivots to a point of realism. This allows us to understand health and sickness not as simply a balance, but as a matter of repeating corrections of our decided course of actions.
To me this is why the ministry of Jesus involved repeated instances of healing of the sick. Jesus Heals the Sick not just for the physical aspects of their given sicknesses, but because his healing forgiveness went to the \”sin\” his neighbors thought they were committing as a result of the teachings of their rulers. The \”surgery\” Jesus offered, often miraculously, aimed at the very thing that was pre-dominating their lives and ours as well, especially during the time of Hitler and the aftermath of his Nazi culture: despair. Or as Soren Kierkegaard calls it The Sickness Unto Death.
6.31. The Army: How is your \”house\” dividing?
When you become more aware of the predominant \”sickness\” that affects you and the way you make decisions, especially in matters of faith, you may well find yourself becoming split by the issue you are grappling with. The song Lean On Me speaks to the feeling of this split. It is like a wedge is being driven into the center of your own armed forces, \”The Army\” within you.
Americans can read the history of the Civil War and begin to understand how such a split can be writ large. Here are Lincoln\’s famous word\’s depicting the split:
\”A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.\”
The movie \”Manhunter\” depicts the stages of such a split in the life of a detective on the hunt for a serial killer.
I would not recommend this movie to everyone. My senior in high-school daughter saw it and was not scared. I, on the other hand, was only willing to watch it during the day. She is on her way to becoming either a criminologist or an interior designer. They are not that far apart in some respects. But, thank God, she is leaning toward the latter more now that the former.
Manhunter, released well before series like Criminal Minds, shows how, when faced with evil taking on all the forces you can muster in your army, you begin dealing with the situation \”objectively,\” applying your skills of selection of evidence and theories to concentrate on. Then, you move to a stage of interactivity with the \”person\” whose presence is only available via the clues left behind. You call on your talents of perception and reasoning as carefully and comprehensively as you can. Finally, you find yourself in a very personal battle with a personification of Evil itself.
Consider again the issue I have been using as an example. Do you see the \”evil\” we are all up against, you are up against, I am up against: Death? Is not \”Death\” a serial killer? Thinking on this can drive you crazy, right? Now take another look at the story of when Jesus Heals the Demoniac. Those opposed to Jesus were none too happy with this move. They thought he was aligned with such demonic powers. But remember what Jesus said (and Lincoln clearly drew upon in his remarks):
\”Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute. He cured the mute person so that he could speak and see. All the crowd was astounded, and said, “Could this perhaps be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man drives out demons only by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons.” But he knew what they were thinking and said to them,* “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.\”
In the end, the integrating power of love is stronger than the disintegrating love of power. But until you make your decision, especially in matters of faith, the forces of disintegration still have openings and you are vulnerable.
Moreover, Jesus effectively warns us against doubting the power of the Holy Spirit, discouraging others from relying on the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, despairing of relating to the Holy Spirit, denying the existence of the Holy Spirit, or deceiving others about the power of the love available from the Holy Spirit. To do so is to invite the worst: being unforgiven and suffering the personal consequences of such a situation.
6.32. Domination by Weakness: How are your weaknesses dominating?
What would such a personal consequence be like? Curiously, we get glimpses of the consequences when we are dominated by our weaknesses and our strengths.
First domination by our weaknesses. Listen to the words and watch the images provided with Robert Palmer\’s song Simply Irresistible. Clearly male viewers will likely get the feeling of weakness intended by Palmer. Women, more likely will understand it, maybe even laugh at the presentation, but also understand how they may work their strengths to their advantage. But my point is not to start a war between the sexes, but rather is to notice how we can become dominated or lorded over by what or whom we are weakened.
Take a look at Hitchcock\’s Vertigo and you will see how easy it is to be sucked in by the vortex of a hero\’s weakness.
This movie I recommend highly, for it is most important to have an example of weakness to look back to when you are under the influence of, if not domination by, your own weakness. While the whole plot is telling, you may find yourself especially drawn to the eventual feeling of shame that the hero, Jimmy Stewart\’s character, feels.
What shames you may be your most vulnerable opening to the sense of falling deeper and deeper into the grasp of what or whom needs to dominate you and thereby interfere with your making your own decision, especially in matters of faith.
When I read the story of how Jesus Raises the Daughter of Jairus, I meditate on what was dominating her so strongly that she was virtually dead.
Do you sense how gentle Jesus most likely was in dealing with her? So she would not fall any deeper into the vortex?
6.33. Domination by Strength: How are your strengths dominating?
Of course, we can be dominated by our strengths as well.
The daughter of Jairus is not what I imagine when I listen to the Hall & Oates song called Rich Girl. The singers complain about the rich girl who gets all her money from her dad and dominates others with it.
But, as noted above, one can be strong and dominate others with more powerful things than money: emotions, rationality, will.
What about dominating others with the strength of our desires?
Re-view It\’s A Wonderful Life in this context. See how Jimmy Stewart\’s \”George Bailey\” in this story acts, not out of weakness as Stewart portrayed in Vertigo, but out of the strength of his character.
Unsuccessful when it was first released, and a career ender for its direct Frank Capra, It\’s A Wonderful Life is now a perennial favorite, with countless showings around Christmas time. Ironically, the plot deals with suicide, but in an unexpected way for those who haven\’t seen it or haven\’t focused on that aspect of the plot.
The power of love clearly goes up against the love of power. Since \”George\” judges himself a failure in the way he treats his wife and children emotionally; since he judges himself a failure in how he handled the loss of the savings and loan deposit; since he handles himself like a failure by willfully intoxicating himself to the point suicide attracts him, his desire to end his life at the bridge nearly overcomes all other desires. With the love of power in the form of \”George\” taking his own life to overcome the problems facing him front and center, enter the power of love in the form of \”George\” rescuing another person named \”Clarence Odbody\” who just then falls into the water below the bridge.
For philosophers, the ensuing \”what-if\” solutions provided \”George\” to help him gain the insight and not submit to the oversight may be useful, even necessary. But for Catholics, there is the added dimension of the angelic framework of the entire story. \”Clarence Odbody\” is an angel and brings the saving insight. He shows \”George\” what would have happened if he had succeeded in killing himself.
Meditating on the depiction of how Mary Magdalene Repents, I can\’t help but think that Jesus presented his followers with even better, even keener analyses of the purposes of our lives. Jesus changes hearts in the process by revealing to your real desires that can be fulfilled and satisfied.
Who or what dominates you and your decision-making process with your own strength?
6.34. THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE: WHAT ARE THE \”POWERS THAT BE\” SAYING ABOUT YOUR ISSUE?
The confluence of the above-described elements of the power of love and the love of power would not be complete without recognizing \”The Wheel of Fortune\” within each of us.
While \”The Lover\” drives us, our sin predominates within us, our internal armies divide us, and we are susceptible to being dominated by our weaknesses and our strengths, we look for our center point, the axles of our wheels, into which all of these spokes can be linked. Why? Because, when the center does not hold, we collapse.
What to do? Take a listen to the Doobie Brothers\’ song Takin\’ It to the Streets. By evangelizing our Catholic Stand, we are effectively taking it to the streets.
But what do we want to take to the people in the streets? A renewed center? Yes. Why? Because some, if not most, will claim that at their true center point is nothing more really than luck (chance) and money, the ultimate representation of power.
The movie A Man for All Seasons presents a diametrically opposing view of how the world actually works in practice. It certainly is a must-see movie for Catholics. Because, rather than suggest that history is a series of events based on accidents, it depicts how people do indeed conspire themselves to change the course of history and their lives in it.
In the movie, \”Thomas More\” holds to the center point of Roman Catholicism and sets a stellar example for us. He dies \”the King\’s good servant\” as he says on the scaffold, \”but God\’s first.\”
Of the many explanations available for the struggle between Henry VIII and Thomas More, in this movie it is portrayed as a very personal matter. And clearly it got to that point. But, given the aftermath of Henry VIII\’s reign, alluded to in another of my posts concerning William Shakespeare penning his plays with hidden messages for his fellow Catholics who faced martyrdom for taking stands against the \”Powers That Be,\” the actual struggle for power going on was much more earth-shaking than the movie can address. Why?
Because what was at stake was not merely the problem of producing an heir as sometimes suggested. Nor was it only a power struggle between Henry VIII and Pope Clement VII over divorce. You can go in depth and read, for example, The Stripping of the Altars, The Pilgrimage of Grace, The English Reformation From Tragic Reality to Dramatic Presentation, and The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism to discover the underlying economic issues and outcomes that were involved. Or you can read the excellent summary provided by John Medaille in his book The Vocation of Business: Social Justice in the Marketplace. He present compelling evidence supporting the conclusion that our modern economic problems can be traced back, believe it or not, to Henry VIII.
The upshot of Henry VIII\’s love of power was not only eight wives, a schism with the Roman Catholic Church (which is only now almost 500 years later being healed by former Pope Benedict XVI\’s efforts through his Personal Ordinariate ); but also, and perhaps most significantly, his takeover of over 800 English monasteries (listen to a BBC production about this) and the resulting handing over of a great portion of the Roman Catholic Church\’s material wealth to the king\’s nobles.
The consequences of the nobles becoming enriched led to Mercantilism and colonization. This included the fact that the British Navy captured New Amsterdam (New York) in 1664. The colonies were captive markets for British industry, and the goal was to enrich the mother country.While the colonists, in America for sure, were able to gain their political freedom through Revolution, it is not so easy to conclude that the United States has ever been able to become free of English financial domination, given London\’s historic number one ranking as the financial centers of the world, even though the British Empire \”ended\” in 1997.
Now we read that Pope Francis has attacked \”the \’dictatorship\’ of the global financial system and warned that the \’cult of money\’ is making life a misery for millions…. free market capitalism [has] created a \’tyranny\’ and … people [are] being judged purely by their ability to consume goods. Money should be made to \’serve\’ people, not to \’rule\’ them…\” He is reported to be calling for \”a more ethical banking system and curbs on financial speculation. Countries should impose more control over their economies and not allow \’absolute autonomy\’, in order to provide \’for the common good\’.\”
As might have been expected, Pope Francis is now being called a socialist, even a communist. But we Catholics know that the Church\’s Social Teaching going at least as far back as Pope Leo XIII\’s Rerum Novarum have advocated forms of Distributism and condemned both Capitalism and Socialism.
The \”Powers That Be\” seem to be saying many things to us about our economic situations, some of which we get and some of which we don\’t yet understand. This is why it\’s prudent to have keep our axles well maintained. So when we take a Catholic Stand with Pope Francis, we want listen to him deeply when he is saying:
\”…Today, the news is scandals, that is news, but the many children who don\’t have food – that\’s not news. This is grave. We can\’t rest easy while things are this way…This is happening today. If investments in banks fall, it is a tragedy and people say \’what are we going to do?\’ but if people die of hunger, have nothing to eat or suffer from poor health, that\’s nothing. This is our crisis today. A Church that is poor and for the poor has to fight this mentality…\”
Pope Francis is moving the debate closer and closer to the seemingly age-old center point, offered to us by Jesus: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.\”
When seen in this context, the image of Jesus feeding the multitudes takes on a different perspective. Rather than having to look primarily to the existing economic structure (centered religiously at the Second Temple of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus), Jesus appeared to be turning things upside down.
When I meditate on the above considerations regarding my own issue, I begin to see how this examination of the power of love and the love of power turns my issue inside out. Watching Crossing Delancey, Schindler\’s List, Manhunter, Vertigo, It\’s A Wonderful Life, and A Man for All Seasons makes me wonder if my previously stated issue of faith \”Whether, since I will someday die, I want to take only those courses of action that satisfy my love of life?\” would be more fittingly be stated as:
\”Whether, since I will someday die,
I want to take only those courses of action that satisfy
a life of love?\”
Whose life of love? Mine or someone else\’s?
Do you understand the power of your love?
Do you understand your love of power?
Do you love life more than live a life of love?
Whose love is it? Just yours?
Next time we will reach the inner sanctum of your hero\’s journey. But for now, please concentrate on your issue and the powerful tests and helpers that you are meeting. Thanks in advance for your participation.
HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES
The Decision-Maker’s Path ™
By John Darrouzet
|6.29.||THE LOVER||HOW ARE THE CONS OF YOUR ISSUE MANIFESTING?||Girl Can\’t Help It||Crossing Delancey||Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery|
|6.30.||Predominance||What \”sickness\” is infecting your issue?||Everybody Wants To Rule The World||Schindler\’s List||Jesus Heals the Sick|
|6.31.||The Army||How is your \”house\” dividing?||Lean On Me||Manhunter||Jesus Heals the Demoniac|
|6.32.||Domination by Weakness||How are your weaknesses dominating?||Simply Irresistible||Vertigo||Jesus Raises the Daughter of Jairus|
|6.33.||Domination by Strength||How are your strengths dominating?||Rich Girl||It\’s A Wonderful Life||Mary Magdalene Repents|
|6.34.||THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE||WHAT ARE THE \”POWERS THAT BE\” SAYING ABOUT YOUR ISSUE?||Takin\’ It to the Streets||A Man for All Seasons||Jesus Feeds the Multitudes|
© 2013 John Darrouzet. All Rights Reserved.