Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine Movie

I am so glad I took my wife to the movies for Valentine’s Day. We had a great drive to Texarkana, a wonderful movie I want to tell you about and a great dinner. Red meat is a must for me on such occasions and I got a big old steak and brought part of it home. I had a piece of it for breakfast with an egg on top, just like in the cowboy movies. But, as to that movie we saw:

Most of us like “coming of age” or “initiation” stories because we have all been there so to speak. Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are such timeless tales as they convey a sense of innocence amid the sophisticated. We like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Goodman Brown because his naiveté bumps up against absolute evil—even in people he thought were moral leaders.

Maybe this fascination with initiation stories is what made me like the Australian-made film called Lion so much. Based upon a true story, this movie depicts the plight of a small rural boy in Northern India who gets lost, gets locked into a train and ends up on the streets of Calcutta. As he associates with other street children there, we see the terrible plight of homeless children.  At the end of the story, there is projected on the screen information showing that 80,000 children go missing in India annually. This movie individualizes the devastating problem in a deeply gripping way.

Once the child is “rescued” he is placed in a shabby and ill-administered orphanage for a while before he is adopted by a nice couple in Tasmania. Nicole Kidman deserves every acting award out there for her penetrating performance as the child’s adoptive mother. In her reserved Australian way, she conveys the heights of joy, the depths of disappointment and the quintessence of anger. I have never seen such credible acting in a movie.

Not to spoil the movie for you, I will convey that it ends happily—well, in a bittersweet way. I think the fact that it is a true story made it more poignant, but it was the initiation factor, the coming of age factor that drew me into the action and kept me there. Also, it is the first movie ever to make Google Maps a hero.

It is a story about brotherly love and about compassion triumphing over poverty. It is about the will and hardihood to survive in the face of seeming insurmountable odds. For that reason alone, it is worth far more than the price of a ticket. I was struck by the fact that Hollywood did not have much to do with this film, if anything. It was Australian made. There was no crudity, no nudity, no lasciviousness and no bad language. Hallelujah.

Monday, February 6, 2017

How Did the Magi Know?

Where did the Magi come from and how did they know to search for the Christ? To speculatively answer that question, let me take you back some 2,500 years to a time when young Daniel and three friends were torn away from their homes after the siege of Jerusalem. They were taken to Babylon and forced to undergo a series of physical and mental evaluations. All four boys proved quite superior and were consequently enrolled in a royal finishing school to learn Chaldean language, literature, geography and worldview. They were reportedly 10 times better students than any of the other enrollees.

They excelled in all their classes. After successful completion of their training they were named junior wise men in the Province of Babylon. As such, they were soon called to a somber convocation where they learned that the irrational king had assigned the wise men of the kingdom a humanly impossible task: to interpret a dream he would not reveal to them. The royal decree proclaimed that if the wise ones could not tell him both the dream and its interpretation, all their houses would be burned with them and their families within.

Daniel and his friends were thus motivated to crack the ominous enigma. Not neglectful of their former lives and their Judaic worldview, they prayed all night and, at length, God revealed the dream to Daniel as well as its meaning. He bowed before the king humbly and with the respectful decorum learned in the royal academy. “Your Highness,” he said, “no man alive can accomplish what you require in the edict. However, there is a God in heaven who can and he has revealed the mystery to me.”

To the king’s astonishment, Daniel went on to relate the dream exactly and in detail as well as the interpretation thereof. It involved a great statue with a head of gold and other body parts of lesser metals all the way down to feet of iron and clay. Daniel told the king that these parts of the statue represented future kingdoms, himself being the head of gold. The king liked what he heard and consequently, Daniel received a very high and respected position in Babylon. In turn, he saw to it that his three friends got promoted, too. They were, of course, the Hebrew children who were cast into the fiery furnace because they would not bow to an idol of gold erected by the king. The monolith was probably created because of the dream’s head of gold representing the king himself. All the sycophantic subjects were to bow to it, but the Hebrew boys would not do it, as you recall. Fortunately for them, a fourth man showed up in the fire and the boys came out unscathed.

I conclude by noting that Daniel’s divine revelation saved the lives of all the wise men and their families. Perhaps Daniel’s supernatural feat also resulted in Hebraic influence in Babylon for 500 hears through history, even to the Magi.