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Getting over my outrage

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There’s a place in Through a Screen Darkly where Jeffery Overstreet writes about a reaction he had to reading someone’s poor review of a film he admired, and how he had wanted to jump online and write a biting retort.  The words of an old friend kept his fingers in check (pardon me while I paraphrase):

You’re could be a great film reviewer one day if you can just learn to get over your outrage. 

That’s good advice for writers.  It’s lingered there in my head since I read it three weeks ago, and started making some noise last night while I was trying to write up a review of my own. 

I don’t think this means I need to dismiss my outrage.  Christ was outraged when he drove the money changers out of the temple.  Outrage can serve as a great motivator, but it needs focus.  The same outrage that spurned Arthur Miller to write The Crucible has also driven men to kill. 

There’s plenty over which to feel outraged in this particular film—be it the poor storytelling, or the blatant disrespect it shows for the military in general, and the sacrifice of soldiers in specific.  But my writing needs focus.  I want to write without pretension, and God knows plenty has wormed its way into previous efforts.  When I write, I want to know I am taking part in telling my tiny portion of His great story. 

Written by taj

November 14, 2007 at 10:19 am

Posted in Movies, Quotes, Writing

As if it Matters how a Man Falls Down – Thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

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(Ed note: if you’re looking for the “As if it matters” quote, see here.)

As Harry Potter comes of age at 17, the magical protection under which he has lived at the oppressive Dursley household since arriving on their doorstep at the age of one threatens to lift.  Therefore, the Order of the Phoenix attempts to remove Harry to a safe location.  Just as they lift off, a throng of angry Death Eaters circle above, ready to pounce.  Thus begins the tumultuous final volume in the epic of The Boy Who Lived.

The conclusion of the Half-Blood Prince left Harry with the quest to seek and eliminate the remaining portions of Voldemort’s soul—those last anchors that keep the Dark Lord tethered to life.  Of the six believed created, we know two have been destroyed.   Therefore, Harry sets out to vanquish his foe forever, culminating in a final battle that threatens to leave Harry’s world in ruin.

As J.K. Rowling has touched upon various themes throughout the fifteen years she has spent writing about Harry, death and immortality, sacrifice and love have become the touchstones of his journey.  In this volume, the theme brings the narrative to its final act, resulting in a full, complete, and satisfying saga, even if we are left with some minor plot threads hanging, noticeable to only to those most ardent and committed readers.

Her narrative, while brilliant in concept, still falters somewhat in the quality of her prose.  The read suffers from an excess of adverbs, and the frequent use of an out of place colon.  But this is Jo Rowling.  She can misplace an umlaut for all I care.  The beauty of this novel lies in its content, and here at the end, her characters, always delightfully rounded, face life and death with surprising results.

The subject of how we face death has weaved its way into creative works since Eden.  One of my favorite examples (supposedly) comes from a scene in The Lion in Winter in which two men face execution.  One says to the other, “You fool!  As if it matters how a man falls down.”  To which his companion replies: “When the fall’s all that’s left, it matters a great deal.”

Watching a person (or persons) battle against the insurmountable remains one of the more stirring facets of great storytelling.  The charge of the Rorhirrim in The Return of the King, for instance, would never have read as dynamic if Théoden and his men were not outnumbered thirty-to-one, knowingly marching straight into death.

In his trials, Harry has learned how to fall well.  While many heroes prefer to battle by skill and wit, his courage and strength grow from his love for his friends, and his willingness to lay down his life for them.  Some of the greatest moments in this story come not in when characters meet their ends, but in how.

As Rowling writes it, Harry possesses power the Dark Lord knows not.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends, said Jesus Christ.  Rowling even found a way to insert more of His words into her story, as well as St. Paul’s.  (If you don’t already know, read the epitaphs on the grave stones at Godric’s Hollow)  John Granger posits that Rowling’s tales of the boy wizard resonates so well with so many because it evokes the Great Story.  Rowling used to skirt around questions about her faith, telling those who asked to let her finish the story, that we’d have our answer then.  As you turn the final page, the message rings loud and clear.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, because Jo was right.  If you knew just what she believed, you really could guess the ending.

The narrow and caustic perspective of those in the church intent on branding this series as a tool for Wiccan practice and recruitment have missed an extraordinary opportunity to share in the joys of epic storytelling; have missed the chance to share the Great Story with young readers.  The story of a heavenly creature that sought power over all, and the One who took the curse of death in our place, so that we might not have to endure it ourselves.

Written by taj

July 31, 2007 at 10:26 am

Thoughts on “The Beginning is Near”

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I have a friend who, in a greater display of boldness than I am capable of, tries to share his faith with at least one person on the bus each say.  That’s quite a feat.  When I ride the bus, I keep to myself—I read, I stare out the window, and I will not speak until spoken to. 

My friend told me this week that he had an encounter with one of these people with whom he shared his faith, and that it changed his entire perspective.  The man told him that he could understand what my friend was offering; he could see that Jesus loved him and that he needed that kind of love.  What drove him away was that he did not believe my friend really loved him.  He said that he could not believe it unless he could see how it had changed my friend’s life first. 

Evangelism sits in tension between two ideals: conviction and relationship.   In the videoThe Beginning is Near—we see both ends of the dichotomy placed side by side, and we are given a clear victor. 

The church spends much of its time fostering a sense of imminent doom.  You won’t find many pastors on street corners condemning people as they walk by, but the desperate plea for the reversal of our immoral culture hits many of the same notes.  “Just look at this,” we say, “it’s getting worse all the time.”  We react much like the first fellow does in the video.  And we shake our heads when people return to the bottle. 

In my very limited experience, a desire for real change finds strong rooting in a firm sense of hope.  For instance, I used to struggle with severe depression.  The motivation to seek healing came during a seminar I attended where one of the men stood to give a testimony of how his life had changed in recent years.  He talked about how he always felt oppressed and uncertain; he had alienated his wife and his kids, and lived in a constant state of deep morose.  Then he told us about the healing that had taken place in his life; he had become a good husband, at home with himself, and secure in his sense of worth and calling.  And I found myself wishing I was as lucky as he. 

I am reminded of that scene in The Shawshank Redemption just after Andy Dufresne is released from solitary for playing Mozart over the prison PA system.  What do you need with Mozart in a place like this? one of the inmates asks.  Here is where you need it the most, Andy says.  You need it to remind yourself that there are places in the world that aren’t made of stone. 

Many of our efforts of evangelism have left people trapped inside the stone walls of their inner prison cells with our message that The End is Near.  We have neglected to deliver the message of rescue, and forgotten to allow the space for that hope to prove evident within ourselves. 

Much of this, I suppose, depends on perspective.  Yes, the culture is awash in the exploitation and glamorization of various sordid affairs, and this is not, by any means, a good thing.  Our first instinct is to react rather than relate. 

Yet, within all this mess, if you look close enough, you can find a piece reaching out, aware of some unnamable need.  Tyler Durden even gave it a voice—“We’re the middle children of history, man.  No purpose or place.  We have no Great War.  No Great Depression.  Our Great War’s a spiritual war…our Great Depression is our lives.” 

People want hope.  Hope is something Christ offers in limitless provision, and if we were a true testament to this hope, the world would look much different. 

Written by taj

June 29, 2007 at 12:00 pm

On This Day…

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twenty years ago

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Depending on whom you ask, President Reagan can inspire courage and decisiveness, or he can inspire vitriolic frustration.  A couple weeks ago, my bus driver spent most of the trip home lamenting the years of the Reagan administration.  And it is so easy to remember Iran-Contra, point fingers and enjoy a healthy dose of American guilt.  It makes it easier to sit back and, well, do nothing. 

Blame always conceals inaction – it’s won elections for years.   Bold leadership, like what we saw that day, can change the world. 

HT: The Point

Written by taj

June 12, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Politics, Quotes

A Word from Jack

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“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” 

–C. S. Lewis

Written by taj

April 16, 2007 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Quotes