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HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES: Seizing the Sword

September 9, AD2013 6 Comments

In this series of posts HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES, John invites readers to take a hero’s journey in search of faith through watching movies.

As seen in our ordinary world, John has us first encounter The Fool’s Quest to Understand and asks “Where are you coming from?” Next we consider how each of us is called to adventure through well-drawn questions that present true issues: Issuing the Call to Adventure (“How are you stating your issue?”).

The issue John first posed for himself  (\”Whether, since I will someday die, do I want to take only those actions that satisfy my love of life?\”) was revised after addressing The Role of Reluctance (“Who is authorizing the decision? Whose ‘Why?’ questions are you wanting to respond to?”); Encountering Your Wise Ones ( Part One & Part Two) (“What is your ‘Pope’ advising? What action is your ‘Popess’ taking?”); Crossing Your First Threshold (“Where is your sufficient proof found? What are the pros of your issue?”); and The Power of Love and the Love of Power (“How are the cons of your issue manifesting? “What are the ‘Powers That Be’ saying?”).

Following those considerations, John has us come face-to-face with Your Real Agenda in the hero’s inner sanctum where we are asked: “Who is your worst enemy? How is your real agenda being revealed?”

Last time he asks “How are the facts and reasons of your issue becoming known?” in his post called Your Supreme Ordeal.

Seizing Your Sword

During one’s decision-making process, one’s issue hangs over like the Sword of Damocles.

 \"Damocles

 

The sword the decision-maker seizes has two edges: (1) insight and (2) insight into oversight, as Bernard Lonergan explains in his monumental book, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. Learning about both kinds of insight is the key to practicality. Answering one’s issue can be, indeed must be, should be and wants to be, practical; otherwise, the answer is only theoretical.

 

 \"INSIGHT:

To approach answering one’s issue in a practical way, then, we have had to deal with many preliminary matters in the prior posts. But, especially given the realizations arrived at in the post entitled Your Supreme Ordeal, where we discovered the limits of what we can know, we now face the prospect of having to decide even as we understand our own ignorance. We are stepping beyond what we know.

This stepping into the unknown is a form of experiencing faith. Some want to call it a leap. I see it more as a step. How does this work? Remember the revised statement of my issue and let’s see:

Issue:

\”Whether, since I will someday die,
do I want to take only those actions that satisfy
a life of love?\”


 

9.46.   Revolution or Counter-Revolution: Is your issue leading to fitting changes?

Please listen to the song by Peter, Paul & Mary (an appropriately named group in the context of the Catholic Stand, don’t you think?) called Blowin’ in the Wind. Truth-filled answers blow in the wind of the Holy Spirit, I want to say.

To catch the wind and its Truth, we may be called on to make changes.

Revolutionary changes? Not necessarily. Counter-revolutionary changes? Not necessarily. Rather, fitting changes. What are fitting changes?

Changes that revolve around the Truth.

Consider the movie Field of Dreams wherein Kevin Costner’s character “Ray” seems called on to bet the family farm after listening deeply to the Voice he hears.

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Over the course of the movie, “Ray” encounters: first, that he hears something; second, what it is, a “Voice”; third, the ways in which or how this form of attempted communication works (not everyone hears the Voice); fourth, why the Voice is giving the various instructions; and finally, fifth, who is involved.

The Voice tells “Ray”: “If you build it, he will come….” And later, “Ease his pain….” And finally, “Go the distance…..” With each new instruction, “Ray” acts, not because he knows what’s going on, but because he places his faith in the Voice he truly hears, rather than doubt it like his brother-in-law does until near the end.

In the heart-land of America, then, “Ray” builds it, a baseball field by plowing up part of his farm’s cornfield, where “people will come” and where his deceased father returns to him (easing his father’s pain and “Ray’s”). By going the distance others are led to see the light “Ray” has incorporated into his life by listening to the Voice of Truth.

“Ray’s” actions may seem revolutionary to some, counter-revolutionary to others, but this tale of redemption is spot on to those who count most, his family, and I dare say ours as well. Why? Because the fitting change is the change to follow the Voice of Truth, revolving around the Truth, like ascending a spiral staircase that seemingly has no visible means of support.

 \"St.

This image helps me see that by taking only those actions that satisfy my desire to love, each action, like each step, helps me climb to my goal.

And, before we dismiss dreams of the day (Visions or Voices) or the night as mere figments of our imagination related to what we ate last night, or to what we desire in terms of sex or death (Freud), or the emergence of  symbols from our collective unconscious (Jung), it is helpful to consider how best they may be understood in terms of God\’s forgotten language of responsive communication. In John Sanford\’s book with that title, he reminds us of how dreams are dealt with in the Old and New Testaments. While we, of course, hold St. Mary\’s encounter with Gabriel at the Annunciation as most significant, it is also important to recall St. Joseph\’s dreams as well.

\"DREAMS

 

Seen from Sanford\’s perspective, the figures in our dreams are functionally equivalent to Angels. Dr. Mortimer Adler makes a good case for a philosophical understanding of Angels in two of his books. In the appendix to one,  he suggests that the attempt by computer scientists to develop artificial intelligence is nothing more than trying to re-invent Angels. In his book The Angels and Us, Adler relies heavily on St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, for a philosophical account that is not inconsistent with Thomas\’ theological account. (One of Sanford\’s friends, Robert Johnson, wrote the book Inner Work that provides a beginner with practical advice about working with dreams, if only on a psychological level.)

The Truth is exactly what Jesus and Pilate faced together in their final conversation. But as demonstrated in the Mobius strip, there is only one side to Truth, even though there appears to be more than one..  

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Jesus put his claim on being the Truth. Pilate failed to get that claim or get Jesus.

Jesus shows us his insight into Truth and provides the opportunity for us to see his  insight into Pilate’s oversight about it. Pilate was left with only his oversight. (I will be addressing oversight more directly in my next post.)

9.47.   Sacrifice: Are you willing to sacrifice anything?     

When we are searching to find fitting change in Truth concerning an issue, especially of faith, where are we to find Truth?

Take a listen to Higher Love by Steve Winwood. We have within us a sense of a higher love. It enables us to yearn for more in life than we currently know, even more than the knowledge of ignorance ironists too easily settle for.

The higher love is brought to us when we want it but do not know where it may come from. To my way of thinking, the higher love we are drawn to is the Truth and it may not come from the places we may usually expect it to come from.

This is shown in more ways than one in the movie Gran Torino.

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Though the movie seems to pit a counter-revolutionary, if not reactionary, hero against a modern gang of revolutionary anarchists, if not just thugs, in the end it is the condition placed on the gift of the Gran Torino car that tells the tale for me.

As part of his last will and testament, Clint Eastwood’s character “Walt Kowalski” requires “Thao” (Theo?) not ever to modify the car which he had earlier been urged to steal as part of “Thao’s” gang initiation.

For us decision-makers, though we may be pulled to the left or to the right in our present-day political decision-making (understandably so as we climb the spiral staircase that surrounds Truth), there is a sense in which the most fitting change to make in our decision is not to modify what is given to us under this message. How can this be accomplished?

Curiously, “Walt’s” self-sacrifice points to the way. “Walt” knows the truth of the situation as a whole, and especially his own terminal condition, and uses the latter to play against the villains of the piece. Rather than become dizzied by the constant change about us, maintaining our balance comes from focusing on the center, the Truth, and not on ourselves.

While for some “Walt’s” terminal condition may seem to lessen the heroism of his action, we may want to remember, as I have in the statement of my issue, that we are all in a terminal condition from the moment of conception.

When Jesus is Scourged, he accepts the sacrifice of his body and blood and the attachment of his self to them. For others he may be seen as chained to the pillar set up by the Romans for the scourging. I see him holding on to the pillar of Truth as an example to all of us as we grapple with our issues.

9.48.   Turning Point: What is disclosing the turning point for others?

As others see us struggling to answer our issues, something interesting happens. Our souls become more transparent, especially to others. Often, people who are closely connected may be found to have dreams meant for each other. (See Sanford\’s The Invisible Partners: How the Male and Female in Each of Us Affects Our Relationships. ) 

Take a listen to Soul Man again and feel the vitality of the music that The Blues Brothers, John Belushi and Dan Aykryod, give voice to.

In the movie Enchanted April, you will find an even more compelling case for the way in which the turning point for others may well happen about the same time as it is happening to you.

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I highly recommend this movie, especially for those whose issue may involve an unhappy marriage. Four similarly situated women find rejuvenation through a most unlikely process that involves learning from the turning points of others.

At the same time, when one looks that “marriage” as a metaphor for being attached to ideas or beliefs, especially those that may be called into question by your issue, this movie provides some telling analogies that may help in revealing the answer to the issue being posed.

Interestingly, a similar turning point occurs in the marriage of Pilate and his wife about the time Pilate Presents Jesus to the people.

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Look closely at the women depicted on the right in the shadows in this painting, “Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man !”).

Pilate’s wife had a dream (probably a nightmare, right?) that caused her to warn Pilate against being involved in the execution of Jesus, the holy man. In the painting she seems to be telling that to her female friend.

Pilate’s concession to her advice is only superficial. He tries to symbolically wash his hands of his involvement in the matter, as if that political gesture is enough to rid him of any ultimate guilt in the execution of Jesus.

While Pilate’s wife was offered was a view of the Truth in her dream, Pilate’s nightmare was happening during his waking hours. Only the goal of Jesus, his dream, was coming true. Jesus was satisfying what his Heavenly Father wanted from him and in an indirect way Pilate’s wife got it, even when Pilate didn’t.

(It is interesting to note that eventually the Romans would fall to Christianity, despite Pilate’s hand-washing. See Dr. Taylor Marshall’s book The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholic Christianity wherein the author suggests the real significance of the center of the Catholic Church being in Rome and not elsewhere.)

9.49.   Breakthrough: Are you willing to accept help from others?

At this critical moment for the decision-maker, especially in matters of faith, it is important to realize that you are not completely alone like most modern philosophers and some of the ancients would have us think. (Compare Ludwig Wittgenstein’s approach of solipsism  to the approach of sophistry described in Plato’s The Sophist.)

Give a listen to Stand by Me and hear the plaintiff calls of our desires not to be alone.

The breakthrough sought is depicted fairly well in the movie Children of a lesser god.

 

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The struggles to achieve the breakthrough are not one-sided. For the decision-maker to come out of isolation, he or she does not simply reach out for a helping hand, nor does the helping hand simply grab hold of the decision-maker and pull them out of his or her isolation.

In this movie, William Hurt’s character “James Leeds” meets Marlee Matlin’s “Sarah Norman” while he is teaching at a school for the deaf. While at first this love story seems like a Norman conquest, it looks to be resolved in a mutual surrender.

When I meditate on images where Jesus Falls Beneath the Cross, I am struck by the way in which even Jesus needed help in carrying his cross. Even Jesus accepted the help of another human being.

Jesus was not, is not, and will never be any sort of archetypal Superman for me. Rather, I find in this one scene on his way to Calvary a sense of why I think of Jesus was the prototypical Human, on his way to being recognized as the fully Human God. (See John S. Dunne, C.S.C., \”The Human God: Jesus\”, in Commonweal Magazine, February 1967.)

9.50.   THE SUN: WHAT INSIGHTS ARE EMERGING?

At this juncture, the issue finally reveals its purpose.

As noted above when I discussed Field of Dreams, that I have an issue, what it is, how it comes to me, why it does so, and who is behind it with me, all come out of the shadows into the light of day. Time to seize the issue’s sword.

Take a moment to listen to This Is It by Kenny Loggins.  Though the song was originally intended to describe a situation involving a failing love affair, it was converted to a song for his father who was having to decide about undergoing a surgery that could save his life or kill him. In the midst of the finality of the moment of decision, the song helps us feel the cross-currents of emotion, reasoning, and desires that arise. The lyrics, linked here, express the insights that emerged for Loggins and his father.

In general, the types of insights (not oversights) that are likely to emerge fall into four categories if I am correctly interpreting, and appropriately applying, Josef Pieper’s book \”Divine Madness\”: Plato\’s Case Against Secular Humanism. Therein he discusses four ways in which Plato observed people \”being beside oneself\”: (1) when doing creative writing; (2) when in love (Eros); (3) when experiencing catharsis; and (4) when prophesizing.

When I combine Pieper\’s analysis of Plato’s dialogues with Lonergan\’s understanding of insight, I came to realize that these four “mania” Plato described in various dialogues were actually four dimensions of insights received by human beings throughout the ages when they were in the throes of a decision-making process.

The movie I have selected to show this complete revelation of insights is The Passion of the Christ.

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When I first saw this movie, I was at a local multiplex theater on a Saturday night. As my wife and I went into the theater showing the movie, I detected a strange awareness. Unlike other movie-goers that night wanting and expecting entertainment, we were going to what was feeling like a public execution.

When we were married, my wife and I honeymooned in the Holy Land (“of all places?” some questioned) for 11 days. Of all the places we visited, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was most unexpected; most surprising; and, when we climbed to The Golgotha Altar, most shocking. The reason for the shock? To think that it actually happened. That Jesus was actually crucified on a spot we were standing nearby.

When we later saw this movie, the fictional aspects of it yielded to the reality of what took place. This movie is highly recommended, but not for small children. The violence of it may be beyond what some adults can handle as well. Even the strongest among us may well find tears flowing.

It is my plan to describe more about the insights I have been given in meditating on this film, and the life of Jesus as the prototypical decision-maker, at the conclusion to this series of posts. But for now, for purposes of this stage of decision-making, especially about the issue one brings with them to this point, let me refer to when Jesus Arrives at Calvary.

What I see in Dore’s famous still depiction and in Gibson’s film is the way in which the Sun is shining on Jesus when he reaches the place of the skull, Calvary, Golgotha. The light of the Sun drives out the darkness, just as insights do.

The light shown is like an abundance of grace, I want to say. Dore and Gibson, both working of course with the Gospel writers and Gibson relying heavily on the writings of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, recognize the importance and significance of this visual clue to the Aha! moment when it arrives.

What is the \”Aha! moment\” for Jesus, and thus the prototypical example for me as I am deciding my issue? Was it not in the Garden when he sweat blood? A case can be made for such an interpretation.

But, first, let me now recall how I initially stated my issue:

Whether, since I will someday die,
I want to take only those courses of action that
satisfy my love of life?

Subsequently, I revised it along the way of these posts to read as follows:

Whether, since I will someday die,
do I want to take only those actions that
satisfy a life of love?

For me, seeing Jesus bathed in the Sun’s light helps me understand that he, as the prototypical decision-maker, was finally and fully accomplishing what Our Father wanted him to do by acting out, indeed demonstrating, his assent, his “yes,” his “all in.”

Jesus in effect satisfies his love of life by showing his desire to love Our Father to the complete satisfaction of both. This is why, when we speak of the crucifixion of Jesus, we speak most highly of it, not as of his death or even of his execution, but rather as of his Passion. For there is in the actions of Jesus a passionate embrace of his cross.

Thus in the decision-making process I am describing, I see how the passionate embrace of one\’s issue, seen as one\’s cross, not just on an intellectual level, but on a full, existential level, demanding everything we have, becomes crucial. Otherwise, what follows in the process, as we will see, can not be addressed completely.

When Pope John Paul II was Karol Wojtyla, he wrote a book about Jesus for a retreat. The 22 addresses contained therein were combined under the book’s title: Sign of Contradiction. While the retreat addresses are packed with insights about Jesus and how he can be seen as embodying signs of contradicting the world in which he lived, I understand this not as signs of a revolutionary nor signs of a counter-revolutionary. Rather I see in Jesus the Truth that comes out of deep awareness of the most profound, indeed signaling, paradoxes found in our lives as human beings. Sure we live by what we know, even to the point of acknowledging our ignorance. But before we know something or someone in any way, we are first  in a state of belief.

Belief is the first step. It is not a leap. We may have crawled our way up until then. But when we stand, we are taking a step. It may be a baby step. An, since all step-taking involves falling in one way another, each step has the potential for discomfort. But whether we are going up or down the spiral staircase, we are stepping into states of belief that proceed knowledge which we can and may build on. How paradoxical steps are!

Against this background of Truth in paradoxes, I see not only that my issue’s answer becomes my that when I say my “yes,” but a what when I express it, a how by completing my decision-making process, a why in its finality, and the way, the truth, and the life I take up behind the who I join with, no longer alone, by following him and her in faith.

Yet, as powerful as these insights that emerge are at this juncture, seizing the sword is not the end of the decision-making process, though. Being cut in the moment of seizing it, the arrival of oversights comes quickly to the fore. Seizing one\’s sword is seizing one\’s cross.

*******

Next time we will learn more about the road back and the problem of oversight on the hero’s journey. But for now, please concentrate on your issue and seizing the sword presented by your issue of faith. Thanks in advance for your participation.

 

HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES

Using

The Decision-Maker’s Path ™

By John Darrouzet

(Cumulative Ordered List of Themes, Questions,

Musical Warm-Ups, Movie Links, and Meditations)

 

 

HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES: Seizing Your Sword

9.46. Revolution or Counter-Revolution Is your issue leading to fitting changes? Blowin’ in the Wind Field of Dreams Jesus and Pilate
9.47. Sacrifice Are you willing to sacrifice anything? Higher Love Gran Torino Jesus is Scourged
9.48. Turning Point What is disclosing the turning point for others? Soul Man Enchanted April Pilate Presents Jesus
9.49. Breakthrough Are you willing to accept help from others? Stand by Me Children of a lesser god Jesus Falls Beneath the Cross
9.50. THE SUN WHAT INSIGHTS ARE EMERGING? This Is It The Passion of the Christ Jesus Arrives at Calvary

 

© 2013 John Darrouzet. All Rights Reserved.

Filed in: Art, Faith

About the Author:

John Darrouzet is a successful Hollywood screenwriter, an accomplished lawyer, a student of decision-making, and a deeply committed Roman Catholic layman who is FINDING FAITH AT THE MOVIES. Read more about John here.

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