Sunday, June 8, 2008

Without God, there is no Magic, no Wonder, no Awe, and no Mystery

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite musical of all time is Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. For over a decade I hoped it would be made into a film. In 2004 a film version was finally released and yet it wasn't what I had hoped it would be and one of my greatest irritations has come to be a recurring irritation with Hollywood. They couldn't just show the Phantom appearing here and there without explanation. They had to show you how he did everything he did, even though in the show the mystery surrounding the phantom is what made him so scary and amazing all at once.

I always liked Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka but was excited to hear a remake was in the works but striving to be closer to the book. And I was thrilled to see Johnny Depp portraying a different version of Willy Wonka but still basically an ecentric, odd but extremely creative man. And yet it couldn't be left there. Heaven forbid an audience member need to know how Wonka got the way he is. Hollywood had to put in a whole backstory explaining why Wonka was the way he was and how he got that way (no one could just be that way right? It has to be because of some extreme parent or something! It just isn't normal and no audience member could be expected to cope with just accepting a character! Especially a primary character who could make ice cream that doesn't melt or gobstoppers that are everlasting!)

There are other examples, but these come to mind to me immediately. For a while I just thought that Hollywood had a phobia of mystery. Hollywood couldn't leave any stone unturned or anything considered unusual or impossible lacking explanation, even when it wasn't their own story or when it was a story of fantasy. Everything and anything had to be able to be explained (at least if it was a movie they invested significant money in and could, in any way whatsoever, explain it) to the "average" viewer. I didn't understand Hollywood's hatred of mystery and weariness of wonder. But my dense head finally put two and two together and saw it as symptomatic of a much bigger problem.

It is the same for a scientist who refuses to accept that some things simply are and the doctor who insists a miraculous cure can be explained under a microscope and the woman who uses every technology available to force a human being to be conceived and grow in her womb and every politician who insists that an unwanted pregnancy is simply a problem to be "terminated" or a mistake of a broken condom or failed chemical of a pill to simply be dealt with.

Wonder and awe are rewards of faith. Magic and mystery are recognition of humility. Knowing that we are not God is the first step to seeing magic in flowers that were closed little buds one day and testimonies to God's glory the next. The world is a magical place for anyone who recognizes that not everything can be captured in a test tube or petri dish nor recreated in a lab and the universe holds endless mystery to the one who knows that the human body itself is a mystery and not to be trifled with to meet our own wants. It is for them one of the greatest wonders when a baby is born. From this humility and acknowledgment of mystery and magic in the world that we reach for God with awe and wonder. With faith we revel in the God's glory of a beautiful sunset or his beauty in a peaceful death.

So it is not just a distaste for mystery and magic evidenced in recent films, but, much deeper, atheism. And we, as viewers, owe it to God and ourselves to recognize this mentality for what it is. Can we see the films? Certainly. (We own Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but not Phantom as it was just too tragic, to me, what they did to it.) But we must not fall into the trap of thinking everything can or should be completely understood, known or explained.

1 comment:

  1. I think that's one reason we like the tv show Lost so much. It's all about the mystery. And it's pretty clear that the show's creators feel that some things are meant to remain mysteries.

    I like the connection you make between mystery in movies and belief in God. I think you're right on the money.