Monday, July 31, 2006

Big Fizzers

I was visiting family recently and came across my second copy of "Cracker Bag", a short film I have listed as one of my favourites on this blog. I like short films, because they attempt to say something, but they do it powerfully, often subtly, and succintly. Cracker Bag is actually directed and written by an old friend of mine from Tamworth, Glendyn Ivin, based on a real event of his childhood that deeply affected him (http://www.exitfilms.com/crackerbag). It's a story of disillusionment.

A little girl, Eddie, collects and sells old cans and saves all her money to buy firecrackers. She regularly plays with her cracker collection, sorting and arranging them in her bedroom, and counts down the days until firecracker night. Finally the day arrives. In great excitement Eddie heads down to the local oval with her family for the delight of setting off the treasured crackers. But after lighting the first cracker she accidentally knocks it over as she runs away. It shoots sideways into the entire bag of crackers on the ground nearby, setting them all off at once in a blur of colour and pops and whizzes. Eddies hopes of enjoying each of these specially chosen crackers one by one goes up in smoke. The night was a big fizzer.

The film ends with the Eddie driving home in the car, tears streaming down her face, watching other people's crackers out the window.

It might sound like a minor event, but it was a child's first experience of disappointed hopes. And it’s not such a rare thing. Obviously this film has resonated with many others because it won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes film festival in 2003 (seems kind of ironic doesn't it - make a film about one of your life's big disappointments and receive one of the world's greatest film accolades for it). In my tragic and romantic moments I like to say the line out of Anne of Green Gables "life is a perfect grave yard of buried hopes".
But what are we supposed to do with all these disappointments? What do people do with them? Resolve to steel themselves for the future, tell themselves not to get their hopes up, so they don't get so disappointed? (Marilla, I recall, makes some dry remark to Anne about her habit of flying and crashing through life, and an old friend and I used to tell each other to "level out", being both prone to those heights and depths.) Learn "how to shoot at someone who outdrew you" if it’s personal? Sigh and say it wasn’t meant to be?

What should a Christian do next time they have a grave to dig? The bible is loaded with references to God's control over all things and to the character building results of accepting, submitting, persevering, trusting (eg Rom 5:3-5). (And sometimes I even have to repent because I have been impatient or lacking in trust and brought the disappointment and heartache on myself.) I particularly like Lamentations 3:19-33 when I am in the middle of grave digging. Through all the small and big things I have to remember the constants and where to put my real hope.

I'm taking a leap in my spiel here, but I am currently making my way in spirts through "Religious Affections" by Jonathan Edwards. I found it on a second hand bookstore for 50 cents. Under the affection of "hope" he writes "Hope in God and in the promises of His Word is often spoken of in Scripture as a significant part of truth faith. Hope is mentioned as one of the three great things of which religion consists (1 Cor 13:13) ... Hope is viewed as so vital that the Apostle said "We are saved by hope" (Rom 8:24). Hope is that which remains sure, like the anchor of the soul (Heb 6:19). It is also described as a great fruit and benefit received by true saints because of Christ’s resurrection (1 Pet 1:3)".
So, I pray that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you (and me) a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints ..." Eph 1: 17-18.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mothers of the Disappeared

The other day my older sister, Lyndel, picked me up from the airport and then we went to collect my two nieces from school. This is quite a social time for my sister as she waits for class to finish with all the other Mum’s, and was quite fun for me. I peeked through the window of seven-year-old Lucy’s classroom while we waited, not caring that I looked like one of those silly, embarrassing, doting relatives.

Eventually Lucy and Brittany emerged and I got to hug them both and see how much they’ve grown. Brittany had athletics training (she’s quite talented - takes after her Aunt :) - would have broken the school record for high jump if nine year olds were actually allowed to do the frosby flop) and Lucy wanted to go and play with her friend Clare (on the play equipment is what she said) so asked my sister and skipped off. My sister went in to the change rooms with Brittany to put her sports gear on and I headed off after Lucy.

I was sure she swung left around the end of the building, rather than right to the play equipment, turning to look at me with smiling face as she did. But by the time I got to the end of the building she was nowhere in sight, nor was there any obvious place where she might have gone. There was only a bit of a garden along wire fence, then the sports oval. I wandered left anyway seeing no sign of her.

When my sister came out of the change rooms I asked "where did Lucy say she was going?". Lyndel responds "to the play equipment with Clare" in distracted fashion. So, we send Britty over to the oval, where she joins the runners and stand there looking at the sizeable play gym to the right and I comment "I can’t see her anywhere, can you?". My sister comes to attention and has a look around and says "no". So I then have to say "I’m sure she went that way when she ran off". Lyndel says "I hope she didn’t go to the play equipment around the other side" and heads around the building to look for her. Not there. Then she says "I hope she didn’t think I said she could go to Clare’s house to play – surely not".

No one is really panicking, YET, but I couldn’t help thinking about the eight-year-old girl murdered in Perth, recently.

Once again I wander down to the left of the building looking about and just as I come along side the garden further down I hear young voices chatting. And there I discover the two little rotters (said with concerned affection) sitting amongst the shrubbery in the garden, looking through the fence at the athletics. I go back and find my sister and tell her they’re just there IN the garden, so we sit back down to watch the athletics. Shortly afterwards along comes a harried looking woman and asks me "have you seen Clare anywhere?" (I didn’t even have to guess who this woman was). I reply rather casually, feeling rather pleased with myself that I now know, "yes, she’s just there, in the garden with Lucy". As this harried women walks off I hear her say "For God’s sake ..." in agitation.

And that was a small experience of one of the terrors of motherhood.

Ever since the release of the Joshua Tree when I was in highschool I have liked that U2 song 'Mothers of the Disappeared' but it always sends shivers down my spine and leaves me wet at the back of the eyes - "in the wind we hear their laughter, in the rain we see their tears ...". I think that having a child that just vanished and left you wondering has to be right up there with the worst things that could happen to a person. That smiling glance as Lucy rounded the end of the building might have haunted me forever ...

So, I went with Lucy to admire the loungeroom of the house in the garden, where they watch "TV", that being the events through the fence on the athletics oval, then left Lyndel with Brittany at the high jump, took Lucy firmly by the hand and walked her home.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cinema as religion?

I don’t know how I got started into this, because I am by no means any sort of movie buff, but something I re-read the other day intrigued me:

"I believe cinema is the most powerful secular religion, and people gather in cinemas to experience things collectively, as they once did in church. Cinema storytellers have become the new priests ... I don’t think we fully understand yet the need of people to gather together to listen to a story, and the power of that act".
George Miller, film writer/director

I am not so sure I can whole-heartedly agree with that. Are people really seeking a "together" experience when they go to the cinema? Would it be the same if the rest of the cinema was empty? Just last weekend a friend of mine said she was going to see a movie on her own, because she wanted to do something non-social and just sit back and enjoy some input. Maybe George Miller has a point ... (and maybe he also has a vested interest in the film industry).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eternal Sunshine

It's actually rather hard to write a definitive list of your favourites somethings. Every day I think of something else, and my favourites remain in a fluid state. And one of you has commented that one of the dangers of blogging is that people will disagree with you. True, true. But what is that saying that "if we always agree only one of us is needed" ... So, why do I like Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, the movie, when many people don't? Well, I did actually go to a film and discussion night on this movie, which got me to thinking more about it, and apart from the fact that it is a novel story and some of the photography is amazing (all the special effects are actually done through the camera) and Clementine's hair changes colour to match the mood, I think it alludes to some interesting things. Aside also from the fact that the technology used in the movie is totally unrealistic, the love story is a lot more realistic than some (I really like romantic comedies, and period romances, but a cursory look around tells me that maybe life is not like that).

If you don't want me to spoil the plot read no further but essentially the movie is about going through a process to rid your mind of certain painful memories. One of the characters who works for the company that performs this process says "... To let people begin again. It's beautiful. You look at a baby and it's so pure, so free, so clean. Adults ... they're like this mess of sadness and phobias. And Howard just makes it all go away". Nietzsche is also quoted as saying "Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders". The movie hints at the peace of mind that comes from being free of these painful reminders of past hurts and even sin - "How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot, The world forgetting, by the world forgot: The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each prayer accepted, and each wish resign'd".

There's an obvious lead in to the truth of the grace and forgiveness of God in there somewhere ...
And as for the love story, well Joel and Clementine certainly have their moments (some of the biggest when Clementine wants an explanation of rather off-hand comments made by Joel). But in the end they come to this:

Clementine: I'm not perfect.

Joel: I can't think of anything I don't like about you right now.

Clementine: But you will. You will think of things. And I'll get bored with you and feel trapped because that's what happens with me.

Joel: Okay.

Clementine: Okay.

And they agree to give it another go. For some reason, even though it dashes romantic notions of uninterrupted bliss forever, I like that.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Why blog?

Why write a blog? Do I have anything to say in a blog that could be remotely interesting to anyone else? God forbid that this become some sort of public diary because, humiliations aside, does anybody really want to read someone else's diary online...?

At first I would say absolutely not, but then I have to stop and think of the burgeoning blog sites written by ordinary individuals, read by many just as ordinary individuals, and of the plethora of reality TV programs featuring people I hope aren't so ordinary (surely some of them are a bit left of "normal" aren’t they?).

Why is that?

I recently read an interesting article on "Learning from Reality TV" written by Jock McGregor from L’Abri in Rochester. He speculates that reality TV is tapping into the deep hunger for authenticity, honesty and reality (that lies behind a post-modern questioning of the motives behind any communication) and a longing for intimacy (claiming that with the "breakdown of community and family, the incidence of individuals finding themselves isolated, lonely and emotionally starved is greater than it has ever been"). And so we spy on the raw vulnerability and emotions of others, which we would normally not get to see outside the privacy of real, close relationships.

I think you could translate a lot of that to blog sites. Are we all really blogging because we want to share something with others, and hope someone out there will listen, respond maybe, and connect with us somehow...? (I just thought it was high-time I learnt to operate a website, but I could all too easily get sucked in.)

Jock McGregor’s article goes on to discuss some of the problems with this modern approach, not the least of which is "are we finding a vicarious intimacy in Reality TV, rather than breaking through the isolation of our culture and building relationships? Are we taking the quick and easy, cost-free, commitment-free, emotional kick rather than looking for that legitimate desire to be met in relationships which ask for effort?".

Well, maybe. It’s an idea worth remembering as I sit in front of my computer, 1,000 kilometres from the nearest immediate family member, missing good friends, and write a blog to no-one in particular...
(That gave me something to write about anyway.)