The Invention of Truth

I’ve been catching various fragments of the Invention of Lying

My brother has been watching it on the hard drive recorded off the television. It is a relatively old movie and was released quite a while ago, but I haven’t mustered up the inspiration to sit down and view the entire movie.

The premise of the show is set in a world where no one knows how to lie, and this is fraught with philosophical impossibilities that I don’t really understand. The idea of the movie is that “telling the truth” is limited to speaking frankly, and without restraint. This limits the idea of truth to an impossibly small circle, whereas people are not allowed to be genuinely mistaken. Moreover, what if people know the truth, but are not compelled to voice the truths? Is that not considered lying, unless we are all naturally gossipers and to not gossip is to lie to our human nature (I could live with that).

Anyway, Ricky Gervais lives in a world where everyone tells the truth, no one has discovered how to lie yet.  Read more of this post

Building Contentedness Every Day

“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

These words came from King David in the Psalms, it speaks of the thankfulness he has toward God, because He is the source of all things (Psalms 118:24). And whether, this thankfulness is arising from the circumstances at the time that he found himself in, or in the greater goodness and grace that God bestows on us continually. David shows how there are a great many things we can be thankful for. It is this thankfulness that arises from answered prayers and knowledge of the saving hand of God.

Through the notion that God is the source of all things, he proclaims that we should rejoice. The context speaks of a cornerstone that was rejected and the builder tossed aside. While this could apply to his own situation, that it seemed to him that he was the stone that was ignored and set for destruction, God saw him and lifted him out of his sin. Read more of this post

The Princess And The Frog: What Is Your Dream?

I just finished watching The Princess and The Frog.

In many ways it matches what I’ve been blogging about the past few weeks — and I have been going on the same vein for the past few weeks with what I have been saying, but not that anyone has been following. In many ways it was summated in the rejection of the American Dream, and a search for meaning in the Gospel in my last blog. Though, at first “The Princess and the Frog” may not on the surface be a ideal movie for demonstrating this. I am reading that Christianity Today, in their review of the film they criticized its sexual undertones, and moreover they said that, “it’s the use of voodoo that ultimately reveals the movie’s hollow, thoughtless core.”

I find that somewhat untrue, in the light of the greater message which is question what we put our value in. The voodoo and the “magic” used made me somewhat uncomfortable in light of the children I imagine would watch this movie. But to assert your own narrative on the film, while not commenting on the larger film as a whole is dishonest.

“You know the thing about good food? It brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up and it puts little smiles on their faces.”

Indeed, the movie is the reclaimation of the idea of community. In an individualised world, we are often disconnected from one another, and alone we can only bring ourselves so far. This movie upholds the principles of a classic Disney movie, assembling together the most diverse of characters together in a team to conquer one common evil. In the Lion King, there was Timon and Pumbaa. In Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, the emotional capacity of man is demonstrated through each of the 7 dwarves. In Dumbo, he is befriended by crowes which teach him to fly. In Cinderella, she has two mice and various animals to aid her in her fight. I’m not going to keep on reading the Wikipedia entry on the List of Disney Theatrical Films because I realise I’m only up to the 1950’s and another 60 years to the present. It is never a theme within a Disney movie to keep on a single character, but a myriad of diverse characters bring an irreplaceable dynamic to the main character.

This is something I have never realised, and something that is absent from the movies today. The warmness of the animation brings this back — it is an oft forgotten concept, the importance of community.

The question of the film essentially is what is your dream?

It’s a modernised Disney hand drawn animated feature, modernised in the sense that it re-evaluates the message of all the previous films. Where in countless Disney films, the subject and aim of the film was the concept of “true love” – this film deals with the idea of success, the main character Tiana works at two jobs to pay for the down payment of her own restaurant.

There is a scene late in the movie where a voodoo doctor asks her, what is her dream? She is presented inside of her dream restaurant, she looks at the guitar player, and he is unfamiliar to her. The splendour of the establishment was sure; she is undoubtedly inside the place which she had dreamed about since she was little.

“Just look at this place! Gonna be the crown jewel of the City.”

In many ways, this is what we set our eyes upon. Our dreams are earthly things, and things that would fade. The prize as Christians should be one of the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3) The movement from the horizontal view of life, to acknowledging the larger context–namely the vertical acknowledgment of God in the operations of the world, is a total paradigm change that should be the first step of a young Christian. This movie demonstrates this as both of the main characters develop through the movie — the realization strikes them that they cannot change the situation without the community around them. I’m not saying that we should seek answers in jazz-playing alligators or talking fireflies though.

I cannot tell of the end of the movie, for that would ruin it and people would be displeased with me. But the movie represents a rejection of old Disney film ideals to a degree. Whether intentionally or not, Disney movies of old, were a reaction against the simplicity of menial existence, presenting the transcendentalism of both love and wealth. Yet this film rejects that mold and further refines the ideal — not only with an African-American protagonist in this film — the film presents a critique of the American Dream, and how that is not enough either, but purely love.

Of course, the question will never be answered in the medium of film because Jesus is the fulfillment of life. Though, the Princess and the Frog speaks of a love on a horizontal level, with the love between a princess and a frog. It speaks also of love being greater than any earthly principle. It is a paradigm change, with the rejection of material for immaterial — specifically love. “[Our] citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20 (English Standard Version)

There are a multitude of themes that “The Princess and The Frog” brings up, some less palatable, as evidenced with the great criticism that has arisen from the release of the film. The French even accused the movie of racism because of the working title: The Frog Princess. I don’t know what complaints there can be, where there is a children’s film that continues to promote an undying love. Moreover, the utter sufficiency of love in life that can weather any storm, mirroring the love that Christ has for His church.

 “My Dad never did get what he wanted, but he had what he needed. He had love.”

Poverty or Riches: Deconstruction of the American Dream

I wonder if it is a possibility that anyone is worse off than us now.
Dare I compare our sorry plight to the “children in Africa”? My references to the “children of Africa” are not out of pettiness, but, of which I will refer to frequently in this post is a reference to anyone who is financially poorer than me. But is financial need not one of many of life’s problems of which we have to solve?

In many ways we are different: I live on a different continent. I live in a country that is comfortably defined as First World, compared to their Third World developing countries. I am receiving a college education, while they are likely to have never attended elementary school. Yet, in some ways we are similar, like how I have spent the past hour sorting through a carton of feijoas searching and eating the rotten ones, they likely do this daily and have been for everyday of their lives. Yet at the same time, we are essentially different because at the same time I was typing an essay on the role of the B.N.Z building in the development of New Zealand architectural history on a laptop with sticky fingers.

Here is the fundamental difference between these: they have no incline of the American Dream. 

They don’t seek to become successful in this world. It is a total paradigm change when you are transformed from hunter-gatherer to business man. The disappearance of the worry of surviving through to the next day, turn to seeking to create something of yourself. Almost at once, it seems that anything in the world is able to be accomplished and within our reach. We know that only a few reach the top of this pyramid, but somehow we think we are one of those. There is something really emotive about helping the children in Africa on television, but I wonder if it is all worth it. Smiling constantly while we are glued to our television screens, I wonder who the poor ones are. I wonder if the children in Africa are ever seeking fame and riches when they are suffering to feed their families. But no, their entire mindset is built around surviving, and if sponsorship money would survive them to the next day easier then perhaps that is worthy to them.
There is a moment in 30 Rock, where Jack Donaghy takes his baseball team that he is coaching into his office at 30 Rockfeller Place. Tracy Morgan as part of his community service for one of his crimes is assigned to coaching this team, but Jack soons takes over.

127 Hours in Overcoming Adversity

The first time I saw it was when it first opened in the movies, I am a huge fan of Danny Boyle and what themes he explores in his movies. This one was not entirely a departure with his favouring toward close-up shots and stylised sound effects. The DVD was released the other day and on a second watch, I totally remember why I totally loved it. The story is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, an avid hiker, on one of his expeditions into Blue John Canyon. He walks through a narrow passage and an overhead loose boulder is jarred loose. Coming down from above him, the rock falls down and pins his arm against the canyon wall, trapping him. The movie focuses on his act of survival for 127 hours as the title suggests, showing every inch of pain and suffering that he perseveres through.

“You know, I’ve been thinking. Everything is… just comes together. It’s me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock… this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It’s entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It’s been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I’ve taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface.”

I think the power of the movie lies in the bleak simplicity. Where James Franco is the sole actor in front of the screen for most, if not all of the 94 minute film, every emotion is able to be seen in his every movement. Truth be told, I’m still slightly sad he didn’t win an Oscar for his performance. But I do understand that Oscars don’t work on one single performance, but more of a career of acting. That and Colin Firth didn’t win for his performance in “A Single Man” the year before. But James Franco puts out a truly gut-wrenching performance, that lifts the movie above mediocrity. He truly acts from the heart, and I think it is one of the best performances I have seen in film for a long time.

Sitting through the somewhat short but action-packed movie, my mind was just continually being ingrained with this Bible verse penned by Simon Peter:

“For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”  “So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” 1 Peter 2:6-8 (English Standard Version)

You see, how I viewed 127 Hours was that Christ is the rock, he is either the cornerstone of our faith, or he is a rock of offense in our lives. In 127 Hours, there is something hopeful in amidst all the pain and suffering he is experiencing. Though, his hand is wedged between the rock and the cliffside, he is still hopeful. Even near the end of the film, he is just thinking about his life and how he has been an isolationist individual removing himself from the world.

There are two ways to approach adversity when we are approached with it. One is to crumble under the pressure and give up, or on the other hand, persevere and become stronger in the Lord. I am reminded of the story of Job, he lost everything he trusted in, his wealth, his family and his friends surrounding him were poisonous to him. He did not speak against God once, but he remained faithful and he persisted.

Throughout the course of the movie, everything James Franco tries free himself fails, as he tries to wrest himself out of this rock that has been predestined to fall on his arm. Human effort failed as a multitude of different tactics, all of which involved trying to rescue his hand. He begins to show despair in his situation, and he scratches on the walls: “RIP ARON RALSTON” crudely with his blunt pocket knife. In some ways it is wonderfully ironic of the rebirth that subsequently happens: He starts thinking of all the regrets that he had in his life, documenting all his thoughts on his handheld camcorder.

He thinks how much more he would have invested in his relationships, especially replying to his mother’s voicemail. In the time of utmost helplessness, 127 Hours reminds us that sometimes, God removes everything we trust in, to know how futile we are in His presence. How something so small and insignificant as a carpenter from Nazareth could change the course of history. So too, does faith come in a small mustard seed into our hearts, but when God waters it, it flourishes larger than imaginable. The more we give up of ourselves, the more skill and freedom God will work with in our hearts.

The ending of the movie I won’t discuss, but all through the movie, it feels like an inevitable conclusion if you have read the story of Aron Ralston elsewhere, I won’t ruin it for you. But from what comes from the movie at the end, I thought that Aron Ralston came out of that ordeal a better man, certainly more determined than before. The movie characterizes the human struggle in life, and I think it does have a good discussion point in what the rock means. The question is of whether the adversity that God brings in our lives is a stumbling block for us, or the beginnings of a deeper faith.

also, i must say, this movie is probably the closest i have ever come to fainting or throwing up. my head was really light at some parts. i am thinking that the R rating is somewhat deserved.