Sunday, January 22, 2012

Beauty in the Midst of Darkness

I'm deviating from GERMFASK, obviously.  I'm not sure if anyone is reading it anyway. But before I take a more complex turn in that story, I wanted to take this detour into my thoughts of the week.

Two things have put me in is frame of mind, the book Lolitha by Valdimir Nabokov and the movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I'm almost to the end of the book . . . and I just saw the movie.

There's several issues at stake here . . . so many I don't know where to begin.

The first question to raise, is there a limit to art?  Is there a boundary line over which Christians should not pass when it comes to art?  I think there probably is, but it is more of a dotted line than a solid one, meaning the line is in one place for one individual and somewhere else for someone else. No one can judge what is good or not good for someone else, not unless they know that person very well.

In my Evangelical days, we had a solid line. It was not only solid, but thick, 27 pt, line that was universal.  In my Navigator days, our rep had the view that we shouldn't (nor anyone for that matter) watch a movie that is not rated G, nor read a book that has any sex in it period and certainly not sex between unmarried (and Godly) people.

But that's on the extreme edge of self-censorship.  It also reflects a very poor understanding of art and the belief in a Satan that is more powerful than God.  I say that last part because we literally believed that if someone saw The Exorcist, they would immediately be demon oppressed.

I don't want waste anymore time on that issue, although it deserves it. I want to talk about the specific art that I mentioned.

If you don't know, Lolitha is a very graphic story about a man in his forties obsessed, sexually, with teenybopper girls . . . ages 12-14.  Indeed his obsession leads him on a narcissistic journey to marry a women, in order to get his hands on her 12-year-old daughter.  Fortunately (for him) his wife dies and the girl is all his to manipulate, rape and possess to his dark heart's content. Could this book be edifying?

So why am I reading it?  I've mentioned before, since being turned on to good fiction by my sons, I've been reading the top 100 English novels and Lolitha is number four.  I hesitated at first.  I didn't really know the subject matter for sure. Here are my thoughts why it is a good read.

First of all, the reason it is number four, because Nabokov is a literary genius. The book is written with incredible layers of meaning and richness . . . despite the dark content.  Yes, you can admire the beauty of an artist, who is created in God's imagine, and reflects God's creativity, even though the content is dark. But Nabokov didn't just pull the story from some dark place in his evil mind.  I'm known hundreds of people (if you include my patients) who have lived the life of Lolitha. They were sexually molested, raped and possessed by their fathers, stepfathers, mom's boyfriends or, in some cases, complete strangers.  Nabokov enters that world and more than that, the deep chambers of the mind of the perpetrator.

I could write 20 posts about that book, but the thing that sticks out to me the most is the complex rationalization that we all are capable of.  The perpetrator weaves this mental narrative that makes himself out to be the victim. But it is an insight to the human condition that is worth exploring. It comes back to the parable of the log and the speck.  Mentally, we judge others more harshly than they deserve and ourselves more lightly.  The thinking goes like this, "Yes, I did bad thing X, but you have to  understand why.  I'm not a bad person, but I did X because of these circumstances."  Then we look at the other person who did X and we have the notion that they did it simply because they are evil.

Reading the book did not tempt me to become obsessed with teeny boppers.  Now, if that was a weakness in someone, then maybe that's where the dotted line falls down. Maybe they shouldn't read it.  Maybe I shouldn't read books that try to convince me to stop working and to sit in a coffee shop all day reading and writing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can be appreciated as well for its artistry.  If I were to pick the highlight of the art, it would be in the acting ability of Rooney Mara, who plays the key role Lisbeth Salander.  I don't have any clue what Rooney is like in her real life, but unless she is really like Lisbeth, she is a remarkable actress.

It is a dark movie. My wife, who is an addict of Hallmark movies, hated it. She closed her eyes during much of it. It does though teach us about the human condition and that fine line between brilliance and insanity.  I don't have time to say much more, but that I was swept away by the talent.  It was so intense that I would only want to see a movie like that no more than once a month.


Anonymous said...

In my Evangelical days, we had a solid line.

From what I've seen, more like a Berlin Wall.

Anonymous said...

Just FWIW, I really like the Germfask story, and have been reading it with interest. I even read most of the Bible verses!

PRS & ALS said...

I've been reading Germfask too. Keep writing.

Regarding books and movies like the ones you mentioned...I can't read them or watch them because of what happened to me when i was younger. It brings back too many memories and can actually bring back flashbacks. I agree that the line needs to be a dotted one, but I think people need to know the subject matter before they read a book or watch a movie. If you don't you can be blindsided.

jmj said...

Sorry PRS for even bringing it up.

Eagle said... some ways I agree with you in others ways I am not so sure. I do believe people can be evil. Anyone can mostly do anything. Under the right cirucmstances you, I or others are capable of:

1. Murder, DUI, bank robbery, extortion, elderly abuse, and even rape.

2. I struggle with the topic of molestation because it seems as if people need to be in the right postion to do it. I think of the RC Church scandal, Penn State situation, Teachers, etc... Pedophiles use their position of trust to recruit the victim and exploit them. Correct me if I an wrong as you work in the mental health field but arn't most pedophiles sexually attracted to kids anyways? That would exclude a lot of people.

But the other points up top I can see I mean I can easily imagine the following scenerios.

1. Going to a bar after work, having one beer too many and driving home and killing a pedestrian. Anyone can easily make that mistake.

2. You think you are in a happy marriage and come home and discover your wife of 20 years in bed with your best freind. I can easily see how a person can go into a rage and murder someone.

So I think a lot of people are capable of a lot of evil. But I am not so sure of molestation. If I am wrong please correct me.

Eagle said...

BTW...the problem of evil is still kicking my ass. I don't see how a Christian can not be troubled by it.

Later this week I am getting together with a freind and his wife who is a social worker. She struggles with evil and I wanted to talk to her as how she has reonciled it.

jmj said...

Eagle, usually I follow you closely but you lost me here, or maybe I wasn't clear and because of that, I lost you. Certainly I believe in evil.

Eagle said...

JMJ..what I am saying is that I can see most acts of evil being committed such as murder, bank robbery, etc... But when you mention molestation and pedophilia. Aren't those crimes different? Does that make sense?

Jaimie said...

TGWTDT was great. So uncomfortable in parts, but it needed to be so we could understand the characters and feel vindicated at the necessary places.

*spoiler alert*

The part where the dude was gonna torture Blomquist at the end; that was the one part that made me truly upset. I was literally thinking, "I cannot watch this. I will have to leave the theater." It was blowing my mind. I have never wanted to leave the theater over anything, and in this case it wasn't even sexual! (...which is the straw that breaks the camel's back for so many evangelicals.) Just the idea of evil winning in that moment was repulsive to me... made me want to vomit. So when Lisbeth came in and saved the day before any of Blomquist's skin was cut, I was so RELIEVED. I can't remember the last time a movie has made me feel that emotion so intensely. So, bravo to that movie. I was very impressed.

The rape scene was hard to watch. But I'm glad I saw it because it broke my heart. My sympathy/empathy has grown.

jmj said...

I guess I see evil as evil, murder, rape and molestation in the same sphere, or type. Rape murders the soul . . . in a type. I'm interested in how you Eagle see them differently.

Jamie, I heard this morning that Rooney Mara was nominated for an Oscar for best actress. She does have some stiff competition.

PRS & ALS said...

JMJ, It's OK that you brought it up. I'm OK discussing these things in a general way, but watching movies or reading books that duplicate details is what can send me over the edge so to speak.