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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

inception and some things already seen

row row row your boat
gently down the stream
merrily merrily merrily merrily
life is but a dream...

ever wonder if there is any significance to the fact that this song works really well as a round?

in french, deja vu means 'already seen' and often when we describe the phenomena that we have identified with this moniker, we dovetail the experience back to the whole experience of dreaming: "wait a minute- i dreamt this!"

it's not new- people have been trying to figure out what their dreams may have been telling them since before history became that which was written down for posterity and reference. the fact that people often try to write down their dreams in order to understand them, or that people like sigmund freud and carl jung have developed whole new psychological fields based on the premise that dreams are not merely the random test-firings of neurons across the synapses, but are in fact the subconsciousness mind's means of communicating important inner truths and keys to self-knowledge with the conscious mind, takes dream study beyond the realm of simple curiosity.

even much of biblical scripture would not exist without the confounding picture-shows that so many 'holy men' throughout the biblical ages had experienced and/or interpreted. jacob's ladder; pharaoh's seven skinny cows; nebuchadnezzar's statue; the ongoing guidance afforded joseph, mary's husband; the warnings to the magi; peter's unthinkable buffet blanket... on and on.

so, informed by all of this, i recently went to a movie on dreaming that reminded me of a bunch of other movies also on dreaming...

(note: there are, no doubt, thousands of small-budget indi-films and the like that explore similar themes and devices. however, because the chances of seeing them either when they were given limited release are so slim, i'm going to ignore them here! ha ha)

Inception (2010, christopher nolan) this film starring leonardo di caprio, works with the whole topic of dreams and dreaming in a way that feels fresh and new, while still prompting a fair bit of deja vu of its own. apart from some really obvious comparisons to The Matrix Trilogy and the tim robbins film Jacob's Ladder, there are some other films that i think go to similar places and tell similar stories in them...

Spellbound (1945 alfred hitchcock) ingrid bergman's character digs through the dreams of a very young and troubled gregory peck character, searching for answers that will clear him of a murder he is convinced he has committed, but can not remember. this film features a fair bit of psychobabble in its dialogue, but boasts dreamscapes designed by salvador dali and even has a frame of subliminal interest inwhich the face of the murderer is flashed over a half an hour before the murderer's identity is disclosed. this was 1945... cool.

Dreamscape (1984, joseph rubin) dennis quaid's psychic character is invited by his mentor max von sydow to engage in some rather unorthodox counter-espionage, preventing an assassin from murdering a world leader within the victim's own subconscious mind. unlike the recent film Inception, however, in this dream film, the old theory that if you die in your dream, your body believes it and follows is the modus operandi of the bad guys. otherwise, there is a lot going on that cinematic audiences would see again 26 years later.

What Dreams My Come (1998, vincent ward) is based on richard matheson's book of the same name which seems to be attempting to synthesize the main afterlife premises of every major world religion and philosophy, and doesn't deal so much with dreaming as with the rescue of robin williams' wife, annabella sciorra from hell. the hell depicted and the impact it has upon the conscious mind of not only those who are condemned to spend eternity there, but also any who might venture there to rescue another, has much in common with Inception's limbo. the fact that max von sydow is in this one as well (as a wisened, mentor-type old boatman) is just a fun bonus.

The Cell (2000, tarsem singh) is a Silence of the Lambs-type thriller with a twist: instead of a serial-killing bad guy getting into jennifer lopez' mind, she needs to get into his in order to find out where his final victim is hidden before time runs out. the answer is, of course, buried deep in his subconscious and special machinery and psychic technique is applied to crack the symbolic code. with arresting visuals and an urgent, time-sensitive plot, this film shares a fair bit with Inception as well.

and yet no one is standing up and crying 'foul.' somehow the recent nolan offering takes us somewhere we want to go and because it is of such great interest to us, we don't even mind the familiarities... they give the film a strange kind of street cred because the story is told skillfully and promises to bring us some comfort by offering some explanation for the things that we who dream find so simultaneously fascinating and frustrating.

but for real movie reviews, go somewhere else. my point isn't to review films, nor is it to endorse some with the old 'if you enjoyed this one, you may like these' deal. my reason for punching out these lines is more personal...

in this post from february, 2005 i explored some of the thoughts in this film. i guess i'm just comforted to know that i'm not sleeping alone


"he knew how to read and write; therefore he had a heavy responsibility: to catch with his pen all that was about to perish and by placing it on paper, to make it immortal" (nikos kazantzakis)

in his book 'the last temptation of Christ', kazantzakis explores his own faith, telling the story of Christ as though it were his own. i think his reasoning goes this way: if Jesus' life were to be a relevent testament to the power of God, and if Jesus' death and resurrection were to have any personal significance for an everyday person, then his story would have to be somehow interchangable with ours... not in the details, obviously, but in the grand themes, trials, doubts, temptations, victories etc. in order for the gospel to be good news, its central character needs to be accessable for the everyman. although the idea is probably off a bit in the finer doctrinal points, i find the heart of the idea touching and biblical (philippians 2.5-11)

sometimes your exploration can take you in strange directions that require some reeling in... exploration and doubt are very different. please do not doubt my faith as i explore it.

"all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" (Edgar Allan Poe)

now what does this mean to me? as i open up to ideas from which i once would have turned in closed dismissal, i find options which do not necessarily contradict my faith.

am i becoming more 'liberal?' i don't think so.
am i becoming more gracious? i hope so.

what if this life is but one of many dreams experienced by an eternal soul? what if the notion of reincarnation is merely the sleep cycle of a soul in slumber- or worse: comatose?

what if the call of Jesus is the only thing that will truly rescue a soul from an eternal swoon? what if damnation begins as the pointless cycling through of life dreams which are ultimately of no consequence- each one ending more or less the same way: the soul awakens from physical life knowing that once again he or she failed in answering the call of God through the blood of his son with the voice of the Holy Spirit, and having to return to the physical dream in order to hopefully accept redemption this time through?

and what if the cycle ends with the acceptance of the redemption offered by God- at the conclusion of this somatic dream the soul is permitted to live without further physical interruption for all eternity outside of time in the presence of God?

is this road really that different- or is it simply unorthodox?
what does scripture say?

wondering again.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010


faith fills the space between believing and receiving
(related post)

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

lessons on fairness

as with pretty much everything, the challenge has come in my heart:

"i know you're having fun and everything, but what does this have to do with being a community pastor and sharing God's light?"

see, i have become involved in a community theatre project. we are doing My Fair Lady

although i've directed shows and helped out with characterisations and such, even played in the orchestra pit, i haven't actually played a part in a musical in over 30 years. (the only bit i ever did was playing a biblical character in a musical that our youth group put on when i was 15.)

over the course of this particular show, i've found that, for me, acting is much more difficult than directing because as a director you work with the raw material brought to you by others- working it, shaping it, molding into something that works with everything else you've been molding and shaping as part of your larger vision. as an actor, you bring your own raw material. way tougher- not because you don't have any but because it's so much more difficult to find it within oneself.

many of us are way better at spotting things in others than we are at spotting them within ourselves- both good things and bad things, i suppose. life is the process of self-discovery. a young friend told me that about ten years ago, back when he was probably just a little older than i was when i took that one and only musical role and discovered that i could sing a bit.

in this show, the characters i get to portray are not particularly self-aware, nor holy: one is a drunken street performer whose hero and role model is a moral-less, opportunistic garbage man; the other is a shallow, pompous, judgemental, upper class twit whose acceptance of others is based on whether or not people speak well, carry themselves with style and class in social situations, and keep unsavoury details about their lives well-hidden.

but these roles are just background colour in a larger show which has a powerful message of grace and hope and dignity to the 'others' while issuing a challenge to those of us who get distracted by outward appearances and decorum, rather than seeking the realization of God's greatest dreams for those unlike ourselves.

there is a great moment near the end of the play which drives home a valid point that we as followers of Christ can embrace. in the show, the flower girl turned debutante, eliza doolittle says that "
the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated" she goes on to say "I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to Colonel Pickering, because he always treats me as a lady, and always will"
(or something like that... i'm always lurking in the wings at this point.)

there's something powerful locked up in the word 'always.'

the desire to become better at treating people as God's beloved drives much of what i read and speak. besides all the new relationships in a pre-existing community that has embraced me warmly even though i have so much to learn about performing in live theatre, perhaps the big lesson of the show is a key to why i've found involvement in this project so satisfying.

(i've posted a
related piece on another blog)