Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “The Matrix”

Entering the Struggle

In his book, “In Sunlight and in Shadow”, Mark Helprin discusses the need for something to struggle against for life to have purpose, to have meaning and to have value. His main character Harry , refuses to remove himself from conflict, either immediate or in the larger scale of life, feeling that the struggle is needed to grow. It is needed to find happiness if it causes turmoil and distress for the time being.

This feels reminiscent of The Matrix. Agent Smith tells Morpheus that the original matrix made everything perfect but the humans rejected it. We needed suffering to make our lives make sense. That created a purpose and acceptance that the fake reality was real. It’s like humans need something bad to enjoy the good.

There are days that I agree with this and days when I don’t. then there are the days I live in blatant denial that there is any struggle anywhere near me and my life. Then there is the factor of how much of my struggle is First World Trouble: I had to throw out a bag of spinach because it spoiled before I could eat it all.

I agree that some struggle, some conflict is necessary for us to grow, to be our best. To achieve more. Without it, we float at whatever level of convenience I have recently found. And I want to be sharp. I want to grow. I am ready to face some difficulty to do so. SOME. Not much, but some. A few of my recent posts have explored this theme a bit, both my awareness of the need and my general ambivalence toward approaching it.

This is the concept of muscles needing stress to grow. As we exercise them, they get stronger but that only happens through stressing them a little to catalyze that growth. Struggle, as uncomfortable as it may be, can bring good.

Someplace in my heart, in the depths of my mind, I know that I need to embrace the struggle, perhaps even pursue it to make my life better. But my couch is comfortable. And inertia is powerful.

My daughters had a teacher that pushed engaging the struggle, that being the point where true learning happens. I like to learn. I truly do. I even enjoy the challenge a new subject offers. But challenge feels less threatening than struggle. Maybe that is just one of the oddities of the swamp of my mind, but the words mean significantly different things to me. Point is, I don’t know if I like learning enough to truly struggle for it.

But I hate stagnating too.

Todd Henry, author of Die Empty discusses that our definition of passion may be askew. We often think of passion as that which brings us joy or excitement. But the truer definition of passion leans toward suffering. A passion therefore would be something we are willing to suffer for. Or, perhaps, to struggle for. In In Sunlight and in Shadow that something is life and living. For me it occasionally is. I used to think that I would struggle for my art, my writing but lately I find it a struggle to want to struggle for that. But I do want to want to.

Just deciding whether to struggle feels like too much of a struggle some days.

Advertisements

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 10

St. Patrick has been inundating my life lately. The last two books that I read and a recent sermon all looked at his life as an example of someone taking risks, changing their life and serving God. The most intriguing part of this to me is the story where as a slave in Ireland, god tells him to walk away form his slavery and he does, knowing full well that he most likely will be killed if caught and he has a long, long way to travel before he gets anywhere close to being safe.
What an odd thought, that being a slave can be or at least feel safer than not being a slave. That walking away from slavery is scary and dangerous. Being a slave sucks because, well, it’s being a slave. So is being safe and in bondage better than being dangerously free? The Matrix argues that uncomfortable truth is preferable to a comfortable lie.
So what does that mean? What is my slavery? My lack of a career? My half-assed attempts at being a risk taker? Is living life a move away form slavery? Or is it just a new lie that is more comfortable than my old lie by virtue of being novel?
It feels like St. Patrick’s call resonates with me somewhere deep in my heart. I need to move away from slavery. I just don’t know what that means yet.

Defining Faith

So, I’ve been pondering this one for awhile and I feel like I’m a long way from figuring it out. Chime in if you have insight.
When I first watched The Matrix, the fact that Neo’s understanding of his world within the Matrix was shaped by what he believed about the Matrix. Or more bluntly, as he truly believed he could manipulate his world he actually began to.
The Last Airbender brought this back to mind for me. Not that Airbender is anywhere as good a movie as The Matrix, but they play with some common themes. The scene toward the end where Ang shows the “might of water” especially made that connection. A couple scenes before, the fact that the waterbenders weren’t fighting that way disturbed me. They let the battle become worse than it needed to be.
This moments always bring me back to spirituality and the way faith interacts with our experience of the world and God. Jesus tells us that we can move mountains by telling them to get out of the way. Even metaphorically that is bigger than most of us can ever grasp. We are so far from Neo, from Ang.

So how do we get there? How do we find that kind of faith?

The Miracle of Prayer

So often I approach prayer as a discipline. I need to do it each day, preferably on schedule. I allot time for it. Usually in the morning before the day has begun. And then I try to fulfill my obligation to actually do it.
More frequently I forget to as it falls prey to other urgent priorities. Sometimes apathy is just greater than the obligation to pray. And, depending on the reason for not praying, I feel guilty about it and vow to do better next time. Or just continue to not do it because it is always easier to not do something than it is to do it.
Then I hear tales of people that pray beyond any sense of what I consider reasonable, great preachers or saints that prayed large portions of their days or prayed extensively before making any decision. Again, this either heaps guilt because there is some intrinsic implication that I have failed because I don’t pray like that. Or I consider those guys freaks and write them off and discredit their experiences. I can’t deliver those kinds of obligations
But how did it end up being an obligation?
The God of all creation, the wonderful and almighty God himself has offered us the chance to pray and somehow we have reduced it to an obligation.
Now, the hard part of writing this is to do so in a way not to heap a new kind of guilt on everybody. The Church has too much of that already. Think how much shorter the road to heaven would be without all the side guilt trips.
What I’m hoping I can do here is change how we think about prayer.
Rather than an obligation, prayer should be approached as a privilege. And this is why.
How many songs have been written about the amazing fact that God loves us and cares for us? How often have we been asked to ponder the fact that Jesus cared enough about us as sinners that he would die to redeem us and set us free from the curse of sin? A holy God called us holy because he restored us through the sacrifice of his son, and by the very proclamation of holiness made us holy.
This is truly the most boggling part of Christian faith. God loves us. Jesus loves us. The Holy Spirit loves. They want to be in relationship with us. They want to be part of our lives and express their love to us. And all the miraculous events of history have been expressions of that from the first second of creation to the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. To even the fact that I am breathing at this very moment and so are you. Expressions of mercy and grace and love of the great and glorious God we worship and serve are boundless.
And he did all that, and continues to do all that for us. He did it for the generations before us and will continue to do it for the generations to come. He does all this for those we love and those we hate. God’s love is abundant. Illogical, perhaps, from a human perspective, but is all the more amazing for that.
And this astounding fact needs to pervade our theology. It needs to seep into practice of faith. It needs to mold our relationship with God and our following of Jesus. It needs to redefine how we relate to the people around us.
The more I grow to understand the depths of God’s love for us, the more I realize that this is truly the greatest miracle of all. I find it far too easy to disdain people I think are below me. Sometimes, I treat them as less than human.
I am truly, significantly less than God, yet he pursues me as a person of great value to him. He does the same for all of us, even those I disdain.
So, in light of this miracle of God desiring to connect with us, to be part of our lives, I want to look at the privilege of prayer. This is our chance to communicate with God. He wants to hear from us. He wants to talk with us, to know what we’re feeling and to speak to us. Everyone of us.
Recall some point in your life when you have been madly in love with someone. Remember that craving to speak with them? To hear their voice? That is God’s perspective on prayer. He’s eager to talk to us. He craves to hear us speak to him. He longs to share his heart with us. Just the very act of raising our voice to speak with him and sharing our heart with him gives him joy. When we pray, we cause God to smile.
God delights in us. And we forget it all the time. He constantly reminds us. As we spend time in prayer we can know this in a deeper way. Spend time with him and you can experience this joy and delight.
And how does that knowledge change us? Not just acknowledging that this is a theological fact, I mean knowing it. To quote the oracle form the film The Matrix, “It’s like being in love. You know it, from balls to bones.” Once this truth moves from a concept and into the reality of our lives, we will live very differently.
We most certainly will pray very differently.
So, I ask, why aren’t we diving into prayer as boldly and passionately as we can? I pray as you ponder that question that guilt will stay far from you and that you can see what really is in the way. The lover of your soul wants to whisper in your ear; run to meet him as if you were smitten with him, longing to spend time with him, aching to hear his voice.
Just like he is pining for you.

Christ Figures

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my discovery of the Incarnation Figure as an archetype in storytelling. There are obvious connections between this and the Christ Figure that w are so familiar with given that the Christ that the figures tend to emulate began being Christ through incarnation, the embodiment of something greater in than our world in our world. But the difference that I pointed out is that Christ Figures tend to have death and resurrection or sacrificial element to them and Incarnation Figures don’t always express that.
As intriguing and powerful as Christ Figures can be, I find them troublesome at times. I have seen too many Christians try to grade a story’s value on the presence or lack of Christ Figure. If it has one, it’s a good story, if not it fails. And this is whether the story is told well or the characters are believable or if there is any suspense to make us care what happens.
The other problem I frequently see is when a Christ figure is imposed in attempts to co-opt a story and make it a Christian tale. Take “The Matrix” for example. Certainly there is the element of sacrifice on Neo’s part as he stays behind to let the others escape. And there is something of death and resurrection. But did he really die? OR did he simply, finally understand the Matrix well enough to know that he didn’t have to die there? To me this story is more about faith and finding out what can happen when you truly believe more than it is about a Christ figure and the redemption that follows.
People often describe Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings as a Christ figure. Again there is a certain validity to that in terms of his death and resurrection. But as much as he is a Christ Figure, he is also an Odin Figure, at least up until the resurrection point. It’s almost as if Gandalf starts as Odin and finishes as Christ. And that’s not much a of a stretch given that Odin is a bit of Christ Figure himself, sacrificing himself unto himself.
But my favorite example of the failings of the overstressed Christ Figure is Hell Boy. In the second Hell Boy movie, the story follows the typical Christ Figure arch, as he sacrifices himself to save another, descends into the pits to eradicate the forces of evil and save all the Earth. Powerful stuff. But how many Christians stumble on this because he is a demon – and not just any demon, Satan’s son who’s true destiny is to bring ultimate destruction on the Earth? Is such a character an acceptable Christ Figure?
I think this is one of those examples that parallels the story of the Bronze Snake from scripture. God commanded Moses to make a bonze statue of a snake. This statue heals anyone that looks at it. The odd part is that most times that snakes appear in scripture, they are symbols of evil, demons or Satan himself. Jesus later tells us that the snake was an image of him. The image of evil expresses the ultimate good. Perhaps Hell Boy falls in this same category.

Post Navigation