God, Guilt, and Aronofsky’s Noah, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the film Noah and the believing soul’s ambivalence to God. Today I want to quickly note that in his book God, Guilt and Death, Merold Westphal describes how there is actually ambivalence to God on the part of the unbelieving soul as well.

“I don’t believe,” the unbeliever says with real reason—she doesn’t see enough evidence to believe, or the problem of evil and the unearned suffering of children make an all-good and all-powerful god, to her view, untenable—“but wouldn’t it be great if I could believe, if there were a God to give ultimate meaning to existence.”

This category does not apply to Aronofsky’s Noah. There are no unbelievers in this film as far as I could tell. The villainous Tubal-Cain was just as devout a believer as Noah was. As a matter of fact, he embodies one aspect of the believing soul’s ambivalence to God: resentment.

According to Westphal, resentment toward the Holy niggles at the mind of even the most devout believer. He observes that Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart Is To Will One Thing is not a prescription for doing things right, but a meditation on the fundamental double-mindedness in even the most pious soul. [Read more...]

God, Guilt, and Aronofsky’s Noah, Part 1

As it has become too expensive for our family of five to go to the theater together often, we usually wait to see movies until they reach the dollar theater here in town. This means that we usually do not see a movie until the flurry of reviews has passed. Not many people were still writing about Darren Aronofsky’s Noah when we saw it a couple of weeks ago. I come late to the conversation, but I still want to share some thoughts on the film.

I do not want to weigh in on the controversy surrounding it. Having grown up in a church in which every new artistic or pop-culture offering was a cause for protest—Jesus Christ Superstar, Smurfs, He Man, The Lion King, Teletubbies—I had little trouble ignoring those rants. I did join one discussion with a boycotter who countered my suggestion that he take Aronofsky at his word when he says he wanted the movie to be a midrash with a remark about “adult diaper rash.” I was reminded why I try to stay out of discussions with certain of my Facebook friends.

Since there was no worry about spoilers, I read the reviews. A concise observation by Matt Zoller Seitz gave support to what I suspected: “This is…an immense, weird, ungainly, often laughably overwrought and silly movie, an amalgamation of elements from various literary and cinematic forebears.” After seeing the movie, I disagree. Overwrought maybe. Laughable and silly? No. [Read more...]

Cheers to the World Cup

I met a friend in the local hipster bar to watch what was to be the U.S. team’s final game of the World Cup. An exciting game, we left with a loss that felt like a win. I was at the beach when the U.S. played Portugal and Germany.

I was a serious soccer player in high school, planned to play in college until a senior-year leg injury (not on the field) took me out, so I was ready to watch some soccer no matter who was playing; I didn’t know about my family. They caught the excitement. We had not cheered this way for a sports team as a family ever before—even my kids who don’t watch sports on television and don’t particularly care for soccer.

But what I felt this time around watching the World Cup most strongly is a sense of pride in being American that I haven’t felt for a long time. It appears that we are having dealings with the rest of the world on equal and friendly terms. Americans on the field are simply men on the field, just like the ones from Ghana and Portugal and Germany, and every other nation. There is competition, but it is (mostly) friendly, and filled with admiration for a well-played ball no matter who makes the play. (My wife has complained that it is still a world of men, and I can’t disagree with that.) [Read more...]

Can We Bridge the Racial Divide?

Recently, after I’d just watched the documentary about food deserts called A Place at the Table, I was being taxi dad, driving kids around town. I discovered that a kid I know and see relatively often is not only poor, but experiences every day what is now euphemistically called “food insecurity.” Also, not incidentally, the kid is African American.

All three of my kids are musicians, the circles in which they move at school are integrated, and they have formed close friendships with their black peers. It is heartening to see what appears to be Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of “little black boys and black girls…able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Outside of school however, things can get awkward fast. The disparity is undeniable—even if it is uncomfortable to talk about. These kids are on a path that will likely split along racial lines as they grow into adulthood. Not only is it not likely they will remain friends, it is not likely that their life trajectories will be anything alike.

First, in this group of close friends the line between the haves and the have-nots is drawn on racial lines. Second, while they are reaching an age at which they are noticing and showing discomfort with these inequalities, they are also encoding poisonous systemic notions about race, wealth, merit, and opportunity.

[Read more...]

Can’t a Dad Hug His Boy?

When I sat down to work at my computer yesterday morning, I checked my email and saw the stories on the news feed: another madman shoots random people; global warming disaster almost certain; radical politicians calling for rebellion, secession; the rich hoarding everything, the poor getting more desperate. I got off the Internet and clicked open the piece I am working on, and I stared at four pictures pinned to the cabinets in front of my writing desk.

One picture is a charcoal drawing of a human skull, my memento mori every morning as I sit down to work. The other three are curling snapshots from years ago hanging by a single thumb tack each.

The bottom one is of my boys at a cookout when Evan was not yet three and Asher was so young he could still delight himself to laughter just by running, happily unconcerned about his diaper-full of poop. The boys are in front of a picnic shelter in Kanawha Forest, and they are smudged and smeared face to bare feet with the grime of hard outdoor play. They are both squatting at a dog’s metal water bowl, splashing in it with sticks.

The middle photo is of Evan on my sister Alma’s lap. They both face the camera, her arms are wrapped around his chest and their faces are side by side—that they are related is clear by their sharp Sizemore chins.

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X