Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Faithless

I watched a well made film today about, of all things, vampires. I dislike everything about the subject of vampires for the most part and avoid books and movies about them like I avoid taxes. I happened onto it by accident really. It was called Let the Right One In. It’s a Swedish film directed by Tomas Alfredson (who also directed last year’s box office and critical success, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and written by fellow Swede John Ajvide Lindqvist. Let the Right One In is about a boy, Oskar, and a girl, Eli, both 12-years of age. The boy is bullied in school and an outcast. When the girl moves in next door, he finally has a friend, but he has no idea that she’s a vampire or that her father has to go out at night to procure victims for her, bringing home their blood in a jug. In one scene, after her father fails to bring home provisions, she has to go out and do it herself. After lying under a bridge pretending to need help, a man comes to her rescue and she kills him, draining his blood. Then she sits over him and weeps for having done it. She almost seems to have a conscience at times. Later, however, she thinks nothing of taking the blood of her dying father after he tries to commit suicide. She then lets his body fall from his hospital window and watches with no emotion as he hits the ground several floors below. Eli is as hot and cold as it gets.


I routinely rate movies and other artwork by content and style. I’m now realizing that this is a flawed rating system. This film has plenty of style. The cinematography is quite good though dark and brooding, and the acting is pretty good considering how young most of the talent is. The content is strange and otherworldly, certainly unlike any other vampire film. Most people would say it’s not a vampire film at all. It’s a movie about the love between a boy and a girl who just happens to be a vampire. But style and content aside, something is missing.

While we’re still children, our lives are all about emotion, not so different from a dog or a cat except we express it differently. We generally don’t give too much thought to God or metaphysical ideas as children even if we go to church regularly. Kids are too busy having fun, or trying to have it. They live to make themselves happy and darn little else. A child mostly alternates between being very happy, very sad, very angry, or very afraid. Those are the four chief emotions of childhood. Even love is just something to make us happy. There’s seldom any real altruism in children. They only give in order to get. If we have someone to teach us about Jesus, then hopefully we’ll grow-up to be altruistic people with well balanced emotions of nearly every kind (at least every kind worth having). A child can get very sad, but seldom do they get extremely depressed to the point of hopelessness because they know they still have their whole lives in front of them and anything can happen. But if we don’t get any kind of spiritual training as children, we run the risk of having severe bouts of depression during our adult years. Life can at times seem very bleak to someone without a God, especially as he/she gets older. They no longer have the bulk of their lives in front of them, and soon they run out of hope.

This is what I see in so many Swedish films. So many Russian films. And the past couple of decades in British films. There’s very little belief in God in those countries. And there’s an undeniable bleakness in most of their art. This is not a coincidence. We were born to seek out the face and favor of God just as a tree stretches higher and higher to the sun all its days. A tree knows there’s nourishment in the suns rays. All it’s hope is in that sun, balanced of course with small amounts of rain and earth. Likewise there’s a nourishment to a human’s existence that only comes from fellowship with God. Christians talk about spiritual growth. God’s spirit flows to us and through us like the sun’s rays to a tree. Without it life is very bleak indeed. Man does not live by bread alone. He needs something to nourish his spirit as well as his body.

In watching Swedish films or listening to Swedish music, not only do I see that bleakness, I see people acting like automatons. Their musicians just go through the motions as though they’re painting by numbers. There’s no heart in their songs because there’s no God in their hearts.

We who live in nations that are primarily Christian produce most of the world’s greatest art and always have. Again, this is no coincidence. We know the purpose of life and live to fulfill it. That extreme happiness, sadness, anger, and fear we wallowed in as children becomes tempered as we grow-up by faith, hope, and love as St. Paul says. But there’s also a fourth item just as important, and that’s forgiveness. To forgive and to be forgiven is the key ingredient in all spiritual growth. Sometimes when people say they forgive someone, they may still look askance at them as if to say, “I forgive you, but I’ll never trust you.” That’s not real forgiveness. God’s eyes are not leery. Neither should ours be. But I don’t want to turn this into a sermon on forgiveness.

I want to end this little sermonette with a song from Ireland—one of the few remaining countries in Europe that still has a large amount of Christian believers. It was written by Francis McPeake around 1950 and is called properly “Wild Mountain Thyme.” (It sometimes goes by other names like “Will Ye Go Lassie Go” or “Bloomin’ Heather.”) McPeak’s song was largely inspired by a much earlier poem from Robert Tannahill, but McPeake took it to a different place. (He was Presbyterian I believe.) It may look merely like a song about romantic love, and that’s no doubt what Francis meant it to be. But like so much that comes from the art of the Irish, you can’t help but feel something of God in it too. And isn’t that as it should be? Shouldn’t the spirit of God permeate everything we do, even without us thinking about it? I often find myself singing this song at work when no one’s around, and I re-imagine it as God singing it to us the way the “Song of Solomon” is so often said to be a poem about the love of God for the church. Can you not see the Lord with his hand extended saying, “Will ye go?”



Wild Mountain Thyme

O the summer time is comein'
And the trees are sweetly bloomin'
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the bloomin' heather.
Will ye go, lassie, go?

And we'll all go together,
To pull wild mountain thyme,
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?

I will build my love a tower
By yon clear crystal fountain,
Aye an' on it I will build
All the flowers of the mountain.
Will ye go, lassie, go?

And we'll all go together,
To pull wild mountain thyme,
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?

If my true love she were gone,
I would surely find another,
To pull wild mountain thyme,
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?

And we'll all go together,
To pull wild mountain thyme,
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?

1 comment:

AJA said...

Wonderful post, Bill! Wondering where you have been.