Sunday, December 19, 2004
C.S. Lewis on the "Real Presence" in the Eucharist
From Mere Christianity
"There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it."
C.S. Lewis and Confession
From Joseph Pearce's book C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, page 139:
C.S. Lewis on Purgatory
Lewis defines his personal belief:
I believe in Purgatory...
Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would in not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' - 'Even so, sir.'
I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don't think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. . . . The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.
My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist's chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am 'coming round',' a voice will say, 'Rinse your mouth out with this.' This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure. But . . . it will [not] be disgusting and unhallowed."
- From Letters to Malcolm
In a letter shortly before his death, written to Sister Penelope, a member of an Anglican religious order, Lewis wrote:
"When you die, and if 'prison visiting' is allowed, come down and look me up in Purgatory."
-As quoted in C.S.Lewis and the Catholic Church, page 148, by Joseph Pearce.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
War of the Worlds Review, An Addendum
(I am intentionally burying this post at my blog. It is not intended to stand on it’s own, but as an addendum to my review of The War Of The Worlds at film geeks. This addendum discusses the possible political elements of the movie, and contains MAJOR SPOILERS.)
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
(This is the second half of my review of The War of the Worlds)
By and large, The War of the Worlds seems to be mildly pro-US and pro-military. I was a little surprised by that. Steven Spielberg is an open liberal, and I was afraid that he might weave a left wing agenda into the film. I should have known better. Steven Spielberg is a liberal, true… but I think he’s also a patriot and an optimist.
Spielberg’s masterful Saving Private Ryan is certainly an optimistic and patriotic film. I’ve read that Spielberg made that movie, at least in part, as a tribute to his war veteran father. If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan, I’m sure that comes as no surprise. The movie presents US soldiers as honest, brave, and heroic. And, it was made before 9/11 rather than during the 15 minutes afterward when mainstream Hollywood at least feigned some love of country. Spielberg made Saving Private Ryan with genuine affection and respect. I appreciate that, and I appreciate that The War of the Worlds seems to treat the military affectionately and respectfully, as well.
In The War of the Worlds, America’s fighting men and women aren’t a major element, but when they do show up, they are there to defend the nation from attack. There are no Abu Ghraib references, no images of brutal soldiers torturing a vulnerable alien, no references to how America “brought it on itself.” In The War of the Worlds, American soldiers are simply there to do what they’ve always done: All they can do.
The Tom Cruise character has a teenage son played by Justin Chatwin, and that son makes it known early in the film that he wants to go with the military and fight the aliens who’ve invaded the country. He doesn’t make any empty ID4 style speeches, he simply makes his intentions clear. He wants to do what he sees as his duty. It seems to be a given to him. Another movie maker might have done a film wherein the boy is naïve, or desperate to escape a bad economy, or even presented as a victim of a brainwashing government. In The War of the Worlds, however, the teen is simply presented as brave and admirable. In one scene, he risks his own life to save the lives of people who are about to fall from a ferry. The Cruise character watches his son with pride, and I suspect that the scene conveys something of the pride Spielberg might feel for the men and women in the US military.
Later in the movie, the son breaks away and leaves to join in the fray. At the end of the film, the father and son are reunited. You might argue that, by reuniting them, Spielberg took the easy way out and gave a cheap, happy ending. You might also argue that he simply expressed optimism with the ending.
The Tim Robbins character is the movie’s most oblique, the most open to interpretation. When we first see him, he’s ready to go underground and then come to the surface and fight the aliens when they least expect it. Later, after an encounter with the aliens themselves, he literally ends up with blood on his hands and his position changes. He starts ranting and raving, talking about how “occupying armies always fail,” and literally starts trying to tunnel away from the action, chanting “Not my blood! Not my blood! Not my blood!” In order to keep his panicked frenzy from endangering others, the Cruise character apparently kills him off screen.
Spielberg had to know that this character’s story would be open to interpretation, and that there is at least one obviously conservative way to view the character. It’s obvious to me, anyway. After the 9/11, many liberal Americans were ready to fight back. Once they saw, though, that war isn’t tidy and neat and controllable… once they got a glimpse of the reality we face in the world… they turned tail as quickly as the Tim Robbins character did. Leftist mantras about spilling blood (“No blood for oil!”) really all come down to the same thing: A cowardly, shrill shriek… “Not my blood! Not my blood! Not my blood!”. They’re cowardly, they hate their own country, and in a real fight, they’ll turn and run every time.
To the degree that the movie has political undercurrents at all, The War of the Worlds is subtle and vague. Spielberg intentionally left things open to interpretation, rather than ramming his own opinion down the moviegoer’s throat. Your interpretation is as valid as mine. That’s refreshing. It’s nice to see that, in an age where propagandists like Michael Moore make millions and even hacks like George Lucas can’t resist the soap box, even the weakest of Steven Spielberg movies still allows for shades of gray.
"I was hoping it would be more like a prism: everyone can see in a facet of the prism what they choose to take from the experience of seeing War of The Worlds. I tried to make it as open for interpretation as possible, without having anybody come out with a huge political polemic in the second act of the movie. I think there are certainly politics underneath some of the scares and adventure and fear, but I really wanted to make it suggestive enough for everyone to have their own opinion. But I certainly gave you enough rope to hang me with." -- Stephen Spielberg
Spielberg made his first film about aliens almost 30 years ago. In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he hypothesized that aliens could be so attractive they could seduce a man, played by Richard Dreyfuss, into joining them in their voyage through space. He admits that his life has changed so much since then that it has affected his filmmaking. He says that the difference between this film and his alien debut is not just in the character of the aliens; the changes in his own life have affected the way the characters react toward each other.
“Close Encounters was about a man whose insatiable curiosity developed into this obsession with alien beings to the point where he only looked back once before he walked onto the mother ship. But that was back in 1977, before I had kids. I took that kind of thing [family responsibility] very lightly, but now I would never have a guy leaving his family. I would have him doing everything he could to protect his family, which reflects my own maturity and the fact that I have seven children.” -- From straight.com
"This is my first foray into looking up at the sky and not seeing beauty but, instead, seeing things that frighten me. Maybe I've been looking up in the sky, like you and other people around the world, and perceiving that there's more tension in the air. It just seems like we live in a more nervous universe; I think I'm just being reactive to my own environment. Today, in the shadow of 9/11, I think this film has found a place in society....
...I wanted this to be a cousin of Saving Private Ryan, in a strange way, in the genre of science fiction. It's told from a first-person point of view, and all of the characters had to be as realistic and normal as we are." -- Stephen Spielberg
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