Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Friday, July 19, 2002  

Isle of Bile

It may just be me, but I can't really see how Spain has much claim to a tiny, uninhabited mound of dirt 600 yards off the shore of Morocco when Spain is what, a hundred or so miles away.

This is clearly not a Falklands island size conflict or contention of claims. C'mon Spain, just give 'em back the little dirtbag isle. Would it kill ya? But Morocco should be polite, though, and ask first before trying to steal it away.

Heck, just build a dirt causeway to the island and claim it's part of the mainland now. That might do it.

Correction. 200 yards off shore.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:27 AM |

Thursday, July 18, 2002  

The Road to Perdition - the movie, not our colleges

I saw The Road to Perdition the other day. I believe it may be one of the greatest movies ever made. It is ten times better than The Godfather, which was an Italian mafia soap opera, revenge story. This new movie is like a Greek Tragedy with the power to arouse pity and terror just as Aristotle described in his Poetics. This movie is pure art - beautiful to the highest degree - and great story telling because of its moral dimension. It is simply awesome for a movie.

It is not as powerful as Greek drama, though, only because the characters are not heroic in the Greek sense and because it is not staged. The characters' fall is not as far as Oedipus', or Agamemnon's who were kings. Shakespeare's tragic characters were also men of importance - Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, MacBeth, Anthony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus. Shakespeare, unfortunately had to invent, for the most part, the groundwork for the stories. Thus a reliance on melodrama which weakens the power compared to the Greeks who had the legends and myths already in place and simply had to illustrate one small episode in dramatic fashion.

Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guilderstien are Dead" ( a bad play, but a good idea) is a modern example where the author assumes the entire background of Hamlet as a takeoff point. Much more of this could be done with Shakespeare if we wanted to. Take the last act of Othello and collapse it into a Greek tragedy. It would work very well.

Anyway, if you do not appreciate Greek drama, you will not love The Road to Perdition, for this movie has about it the same inevitability of character creating destiny.

Nor is it a Catholic movie as some critics say, but it is Christian with Catholic trappings. It is about Sin (harmartia, in Greek - to miss the mark) and Damnation. Where The Godfather glorified violence and gangsters, this movie illustrates the pure ugliness and wickedness of evil and violence. But there is a saving grace or hope in it at the end as Hanks' character manages to break the cycle of violence (in a way) for his son.

This movie has a gravity and weight rarely encountered in any cinema. It is profoundly serious in ways that so many other films (or examples of art) are not. It is full of so many "holy moments' that the entire movie is a holy moment of art. It is not pretty, though. It is a terrible holiness which exposes the utter falsehood which sin is and illustrates what damnation is - a choice. It is a painful story, an agony (agon - Greek for contest), and horrific. I don't know if movies can ever get more powerful than this.

Live theater is more powerful than any other medium because of its immediacy, human scale, and presence. A movie always maintains a remoteness or detachment that interferes with its complete desire. This movie, though, comes off the screen and possesses the viewer in a way most people have probably never previously experienced. It has abundant gravitas.

Greek drama was aligned with a religious festival for very intuitive and awesome reasons - it was a form of liturgy in which the participants (audience) was called upon to soberness - purgation (catharsis) and humilty in the face of Life - the importance and seriousness of human actions and fates (when character is destiny unless a true repentance and reform is made). Dramatic tragedy is funereal. Sin and Death stand at centerstage and will not let us avert our gaze until we acknowledge our nature as we are and not as we want to pretend we are.

The Road to Perdition has an inevitability like death, which is what gives it true power. Critics who complain of this, the predictability of the plot, have no aesthetic sense if they find that to be a flaw. We know we're going to die just as we know what must happen to Sullivan, but it doesn't lesson the shock to us when death occurs to us no more than when the denouement comes for Hanks in the film. (I know. I thought I was prepared for death, but when my heart attack came - I was ready for Heaven, but I was shocked at having to suffer the agony of dying. It was a severe blow and nearly mortal. I have not yet recovered and probably never will from the pure insult of grasping, painful, immediate death.)

This movie also has elements of Kabuki theater and Kurosawa's later movies. (See Ran - a great movie, also.) It is a highly stylized presentation - which is not a detraction as I've heard some critics say, but an enhancement of the action. Kabuki drama and Greek tragedy are highly stylized forms of art and have had lasting power in our cultures precisely because the ritual aspect of it carries so much weight and meaning. To want this movie to be more 'realistic' (as if that's not an artifice, too) would be to ruin it.

This movie has so much truth, beauty, and suffering in it that this is the one they will be studying years from now as they do Citizen Kane. Not everyone will like or admire this movie, but the loss will be theirs; and it will prove how weak, shallow, and dull so many critics are.

I probably have more to say about this great film, but it will have to wait for me to remember all I've thought about it. Go see it and then tell me what you think.


If you want to read a really thoughtless and stupid review of this movie for contrast between what one person can see in a movie and what another can't, go here.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 8:37 AM |

Never Again? "Fraid Not.

After WW II, everyone said - never again! No more Holocausts!

But they all somehow assumed that the next holocaust would look exactly the same as the last one. (Some did like Pol Pot, but still nobody stopped it until the Vietnamese stepped in.) So when we say the current Slaughter of the Innocents is exactly a Holocaust of evil, we are accused of exaggeration and hyperbole. Why? Because, like Hitler's willing executioners, this holocaust is voluntary and individualistic rather than State run. As if that makes it all right. And, of course, because this time so many Jews lobbied for the legalization and promotion of abortion as the good, compassionate liberals they take themselves to be. And Jews, given their history, could never act like Nazis, could they?

Nor could all of those people who felt stricken about the Jews and WW II. It could never be possible that liberals might be confused and also act like Nazis and eugenicists.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 7:37 AM |

New Link

I got an email from Paul Cella at Cella's Review about abortion I'd blogged, so I went and looked at his site.

Talk about style, Paul is obviously of the Oxford school of prose (which would include John Milton and perhaps Samuel Johnson), while I tend toward the Cambridge compass of John Dryden.

Paul has an ornate prose which is witty, erudite (of course), and surprising. A real pleasure to read when so many tend toward journalese. Check it out.

Also, Joyful Christian is added to the list.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 7:31 AM |

Wednesday, July 17, 2002  

Gore not Al but maybe All

If you watch PBS or any network news program with a regular Health Watch segment, you will often note that there is no shortage of human gore being displayed from all types of surgeries and procedures. Any program that mentions inoculations of any kind will invariably show people getting shots from hypodermic needles. (Which just about makes me ill. Not because I'm squeamish, but because I used to regularly get shots that often made me ill. The association is simply Pavlovian for me. See a needle and feel queasy, and so I hate how de rigeur it is for them to show people getting shots.)

There is no medical procedure the TV networks will not show. Want to look up Katie Couric's rectum - you're in luck! Love to see open heart surgery or medics working on a blown up human? Stay tuned, it will come to you.

No matter how disgusting the disease or procedure - you're going to get a chance to enjoy it in living color.

All except an abortion, that is. You will never see an abortion on TV. This benign, positive, helpful medical procedure is taboo for the viewing public. In fact, the proedure is now being considered so simple and ordinary that some (NOW) are proposing that doctors no longer be necessary, but that technicians be given the task. (The real reason is that fewer and fewer doctors want to perform abortions - or even learn how - which is why NYC now wants to force all medical students regardless of religious belief to learn them.)

Also, TV shows and movies haven't the least restraint any more in illustrating the effects of violence (ER, CSI, and R films), yet are incredibly squeamish indeed in demonstrating exactly what occurs to a fetus (baby) when it is chopped, drowned, salted, or had its brain sucked out while dangling from its mother, nearly born. How many science fiction or horror movies have we seen where everything has been sucked out of a person by some monster or people torn limb from limb? Plenty. Too many to count.

If abortion is such a fair and righteous choice for some to make, how come we aren't allowed to witness this glorious constitutional right in action? Yes, well, we all know why, don't we? Because it is a horror too shocking to let people see again and again. It might just make people sick and determined to oppose it beyond lip service. It would arouse terror and pity the same as Uncle Tom's Cabin did and all the abolitionist stories, engravings and photographs of slaves and the brutality they were subjected to.

Such viewings would humanize the unborn which have now been turned into an abstraction about 'reproductive rights'.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:08 AM |

Tuesday, July 16, 2002  

Amen to that

JoyfulChristian has a brief manifesto in support of freedom for Iranians which I would add my Amen to.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:42 AM |

Monday, July 15, 2002  

Who Knew? The Hokie Pundit knows.

Hokie Pundit has a marvelous little blog on who has aircraft carriers in the world. Thailand? One, who would've guessed? But the state of the French one is precious. Serves 'em right.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:31 PM |

Human Sacrifice and Magical Thinking Redux

Human beings once practiced the rite of human sacrifice for one reason - they believed it was an effective form of prayer. That is, it caused answered prayers to happen for their benefit. People got this notion because they considered human life the most valuable of all possible offerings one or a group could make to God or the gods.

The magical thinking was caused (in essence by God's impassability to a large extent) through the agency of Fortune or luck. Sometimes when people made petitions to a god and performed some ritual or sacrifice - good things happened. It rained and the ground was made fertile. It stopped raining and the ground was made solid enough for planting. And so on.

When there was a crisis of truly monumental proportion, you pull out the heavy guns - kill a person for a god. Then, after awhile, you realize every occasion for prayer is rather serious and deserves the best ammunition. Thus Carthage regularly burned infants, and the Canaanites ritually murdered their firstborn and buried him under the threshold of the house. The Aztecs had the further motive of cannibalism to their ritual. Human flesh added protein to their diet.

Even the Greeks had sacrifice of children as alluded to in the story of Agamemnon and his daughter, Iphigenia. If I recall correctly, in the Illiad, doesn't Achilles sacrifice a number of women on Patroclus' bier?

Today we are so enlightened that contemporary Western Men and Women would never consider the use of human sacrifice as a means of self-improvement (petitionary prayer) would they?

Yet even Hollywood's most enlightened celebrities have taken up the practice or encourage it to the highest degree. How so? Consider these forms of magical thinking.

Once a woman's right to choose abortion is made legal society will be immeasurably improved. How? Poor people will not have to burden themselves and others with children they are ill-equipped to take care of. Deformed babies can be screened and eliminated. Sex of offspring can be chosen by process of elimination. Life will be made convenient, hopeful, and unburdened by "accidents" of nature and "mistakes" of desire.

Yet, the magical thinking did not bring us to the Promised Land and so we need to wage war on other areas such as on the old and sick or miserable. Let's give them a good death. It's good for them and good for us, isn't it? Again, life magically improved by the careful administration of death to people.

One of the benefits of human sacrifice of the unborn was going to be fetal stem cell research. That magic elixir of miracle cures right around the next bend. How could we refuse the future its brightest new hope? Did it work? No. Too bad. Now we can't further justify killing unborn children. We waste those little bodies on the garbage heap when we could certainly create some sort of new gourmet dish out of 'em if only we tried.

Now, of course, the celebs and media are hot to trot on an even better, more therapeutic form of human sacrifice (so small it all takes place in a little petri dish).

This tiny murder of a clump of cells promises to reward our most grandiose prayers because from cloning and killing even greater, more staggering goods will flow - cloned stem cell research is absolutely certain to cure everything you can imagine.

Meanwhile, adult stem cell research is not just promising but showing many remarkable and various results to the good. Is this being held up as our answer to every prayer? No, of course not. Why not? It is not connected with death.

What other conclusion can one draw except that among faithless people, there is an atavistic, unconscious drive that insists that human sacrifice is always efficacious when done as ritual and prayer toward a worthy end. It is truly a Culture of Death among the heathens as JPII described in his book, The Gospel of Life. It is a pagan response to crisis and suffering only in this age it's called the great god SCIENCE.

But it is religous and magical practice of human sacrifice no less, and no matter how many obscuring incantations of relativity the pagan code requires to be said in conjunction with such sacrifices.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:03 PM |