January 18, 2004

Williams on Church, Gandalf on New Age, and Wheeler on Crack

From War in Heaven by Charles Williams concerning church attendance:

"It is a means, one of the means. But perhaps the best for most, and for some almost the only one. I do not say that it matters greatly, but the means cannot both be and not be. If you do not use it, it is a pity to bother about it; if you do, it is a pity not to use it."

I liked that as soon as I read it, and I think that it is true. So, first of all, it's time to quit bothering about it. And by that I don't at all mean "quit bothering about church." I mean it's time to quit bothering about it, and not using it. It must either be used, and so not be bothered about, or not be used and not worried about. So, which is it going to be for the time being, and why? I don't know right this very second and I'm not getting into it right this second. It's too important, one way or the other. Oh, and if you have any pertinent thoughts on the quote, please weigh in with your opinion, by all means. Moving on . . .

Meanwhile, I've been arguing with Uncle Doug again. Of course, we both attended the LeTourneau-sponsored showing of Return of the King Friday night. It was my 6th time, and it started at 11:45, but I went, even though I had only slept four and a half hours the night before. More on all that later. Anyway, we picked it apart on the way home, randomly airing out a few complaints. And I picked it apart again with Wilson and Jenny after we got back before going up to bed. Ummm . . .

Quick, sort of side-track, note: One of Doug's big complaints was Sam. And he didn't confine his complaint to the movie version. He thinks it is utterly ridiculous and stupid for Sam to cry as much as he does and over what he cries about. He basically says, among other things, that after all Sam has been through, he would (or should) be a crusty, hardened person who can take pretty much anything. I find his machismo-laden, emotionless, cold idea of what a "real male" should be like utterly revolting. Sam is a sweet, innocent, emotional character, this is integral to who and what he is and how he acts throughout the trilogy.

Doug says that because he still cries at the drop of a hat by the end of the story, he has failed to grow as a character. Quite the contrary . . . He fairly reeks of character development. His travels bring him the insights of experience and the skills of battle, but throughout it all he manages to keep a hold on his vicious loyalty to Frodo, his self-sacrificing, giving, serving personality, and, yes, his tender-hearted emotion. This is what makes Sam so special, and totally different from any of the other three Hobbits. To retain one's innocence in the midst of all of this darkness and adversity is a wonderful thing, and says much about the stuff Sam is made of. Bah. Anyway . . . Back on track.

The subject came up again at supper last night, with Martinez. I asked then if Doug had even listened to what Gandalf says at the Grey Havens: "Not all tears are an evil," (or something like that . . . I have a hard time remembering because it's slightly different in the Spanish version I saw three times!!!). And that sent us in another direction entirely.

Doug claims he thought Gandalf was really annoying after the first movie. When I questioned this, he said that, for one, he walks around spouting New Age every which way. "What?!" says I. So, (and I almost knew that this was what was coming), he cites the afterlife speech to Pippin from RotK. Naturally, my hackles went up because that's one of my favorite speeches in the movie, and he couldn't have picked a worse line to accuse of New Age in front of me.

Rough paraphrase of the line: Death is but another path we all must take. The gray rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all is turned to silver glass. And then you see it . . . White shores. And beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

This speaks to me in the same way as the song during the end credits (duh, they use a lot of the same words). Note what I wrote about that in my first post of December (still over at the old blog for the time being). What he's saying here, as I see it, is that this world kinda sucks. No matter how good or bad you think it is, once you die, the curtain is rolled back and what you see then compares to the world in which you were alive in the same way that gray rain compares to silver glass . . . There is no comparison. And then comes something even better. Gandalf describes Valinor, and to all intents and purposes, he's talking about Heaven. I think it's great, especially as that little hint of the music from that last song enters at that point. It's the perfect touch, and it strikes just the right note.

I think that very first sentence, about death being just another path, sends up a red flag in a lot of people's minds. Don't be stupid. That's not anywhere near as potentially wrong-headed as Dumbledore's "To the well-ordered mind, death is but the next great adventure," from Harry Potter. (And even that . . . but nevermind).

So . . . there aren't a lot of people that get out of dying. And it sure isn't the same thing as life. And it is the general direction you tend to move once you're dead. Hence, death is another (i.e. different, not the same) path (i.e. direction, way) we all (i.e. everybody experiences it) must take. Metaphorical observation, or deep, dark New Age? You decide. And be sure you pick the first one unless you really want to be an idiot. ;)

As for the description of what comes next, Doug said that first, Gandalf can't know what he is talking about because no one knows what Heaven is like . . . it's a faulty image at best, and just flat out anti-(or at least extra-)biblical theology at worst. Okay, duh. So Gandalf doesn't actually exist in our world and therefore is not describing the Christian Heaven. So sue him. That's why it's a parallel. Does he have to quote scripture about the afterlife for it to be a Christian sentiment? Second, Doug questioned the idea that Heaven is a place, saying it is just as likely to be more of a state of mind. I'm not sure what he meant by that, entirely, or if he was speculating, or if he was even saying that Heaven is a state of mind, or even if it actually is, however, I do know that that's what Buddhists and a lot of New Agers think, essentially.

Anyway, the whole conversation was extremely frustrating, and once we got beyond that, the only other thing he could think of as an example of how Gandalf is supposedly annoying throughout two entire movies was something he apparently said in "Fang-horn" forest. And Doug couldn't remember what it was . . . at all. *sigh*

Anyway, a series of unfortunate causes and effects:

Since there were six of us going to the movie that night, I drove.

And since I had actually been to Carmike 10 before, I led.

And since I therefore wanted to be sure that I made the correct turns, Doug navigated.

And since he wasn't giving me the information I really needed, I questioned him further.

And since I really can't drive and talk at the same time unless someone else in the car is watching out for me, I blew right through a red light and didn't even notice until I was almost directly under it.

If I'd stayed oblivious any longer I never would have known about it, and neither would Doug.

Except, of course, for the fact that there were four people right behind me who were perfectly willing to inform me of it once we arrived at our destination.

So, do I have any chance at all of them ever forgetting about it? Ummm . . . no. Not really. Because of this, I figure I might as well be the one to record it for posterity before someone else does.

And finally, what I consider to be a rather amusing side note: In Guatemala, as in many places in the world, a red light outside a door means that you can go there to "get some." However, in Guatemala, unlike many places, you're actually getting some tamales . . . What? What were you thinking it meant? I had just explained this to the Shadow Council a few days earlier, and as we all stepped out of the cars once we were at the theater, Moore was quick to note: "The red light doesn't mean tamales, Wheeler."

Posted by Jared at January 18, 2004 03:14 AM | TrackBack