29 May 2008

Things never happen the same way twice. . . (again)

It's been a while since I've written thanks to several hours of rehearsal for a show every week plus school and work and other commitments of various kinds, but a response to my last post got me thinking and (after seeing Prince Caspian a ridiculous amount of times - 5 as of tomorrow) I have had a bit more time to digest some of the more major themes from the film. I've also re-listened to the book on CD (many thanks to my roommate for giving it to me for my birthday!). So here it goes.

To I.Don't.Want.To.Grow.Up:

I think you really should read the books. I say that as a future English teacher and as a lover of all things C.S. Lewis. I really think that this film complements the book quite well. They expand and elaborate on each other. That being said, here are my thoughts on the ending of the film and the kind of "downer" note:

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader we get a little more insight as to what Aslan may have told Susan and Peter because he speaks with Lucy and Edmund about why they won't be going back to Narnia again:

"Please, Lamb," said Lucy, "is this the way to Aslan's country?"
"Not for you," said the Lamb. "For you the door into Aslan's country is from your own world."
"What!" said Edmund. "Is there a way into Aslan's country from our world too?"
"There is a way into my country from all the worlds," said the Lamb; but as he spoke his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.
"Oh, Aslan," said Lucy. "Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?"
"I shall be telling you all the time," said Aslan. "But I wil not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river [...] You are too old, children," said Aslan, "and you must begin to come close to your own world now."
"It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?"
"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan. [...] "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."
In other words, yes. The ending of Caspian is rather bittersweet. I think that as you get older you appreciate it more. I really struggle with it. So much of my life is in dream-land. The thought of growing up bothers me because I have invested so much of myself into building and shaping my imagination. But Aslan isn't asking Peter and Susan to forget Narnia altogether, he is just telling them that they cannot live there any longer. Part of growing up is learning not to "dwell in dreams and forget to live."

I think another part of it rests in the growing and evolving faith of the characters. Lucy, in particular, represents the greatest amount of innocent faith. She believes everything without question. In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe she is the first to discover Narnia. She accepts that there could be such a place instantly and she continues to believe it into Prince Caspian and Dawn Treader. Of all her siblings - as the youngest - she exhibits the greatest amount of innocent faith. I think what Lewis is trying to say, though - and this is only my opinion - is that a greater more mature faith is good as well. Peter and Susan are old enough to ask questions and make decisions and learn some more complicated aspects of religion. Lucy and Edmund aren't quite that old. So their saying good-bye to Narnia is somewhat bittersweet and the movie played it excellently - they are simultaneously growing up and moving away from a kind of innocence and accepting the challenge of finding Aslan again elsewhere.

As for "Things never happen the same way twice" - I think it means exactly what it sounds like. It's sort of like how the immune system works. From my (limited) understanding of how the body functions, we don't typically get the same strain of a cold or flu or another virus because our body builds up immunity to it, right? It's the same way with life experiences. The challenges we are given are never the same from one to another. The circumstances are always a bit different. We need these tweaked circumstances because we've built up a kind of emotional/intellectual immunity to the first challenge. We have already grown from that event in one way or another and we don't need to grow in that exact same way again. Aslan is telling Lucy that things never happen the same way twice because He believes that we need to grow in many different ways - not the same way over and over again.

Of course, this is just my opinion. There are lots of interpretations.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Narnia?!

18 May 2008

Things never happen the same way twice

I saw Prince Caspian twice this weekend. I don't believe in seeing movies in theaters once if I really like them, any more than I believe in reading a book once. There's something about watching a movie in a theater with a group of people that heightens the experience more than watching something in a living room with a few friends does. There aren't as many distractions for one thing. I love going to midnight openings because everyone is so excited and so accepting of the flaws of a film and willing to laugh at the most ridiculous things. Maybe it's just because everyone is so tired! This is why I went to see the movie again a second time the next day: different audience, and I wasn't so tired. I wanted to see what I had missed the first time.

First of all, I think the movie was brilliant. Aside from the fact that there really isn't anything you can work with in the text to make a film. The action doesn't pick up until the book is 3/4ths over. Most of the book involves a lot of walking and talking and not much else. They had to make some major changes - expanding on some things and making some small changes to the plot for sake of making the book filmable.

I thought the greatest strength of the movie compared to the book was a little attention to that practical matter of how difficult it would be to go from being nearly thirty years old and the ruler of a country to being a British school kid again. For all intents and purposes, the Pevensies could all have been married when they ruled Narnia. They may well have had families. Peter especially would have suffered. As High King you get the idea that he took his job very seriously. He would have wanted to protect his Kingdom. Leaving it like that would have been awful not just on a personal level and the struggle at having to be young again, but in that frustration in being torn from his responsibility. I thought it was a brilliant move to have that frustration show in his character. It gave him depth that wasn't really there in the original book.

The transition Susan made was nice too - you start to see why she would have fallen into this obsession with 'worldly things' in The Last Battle - it's her defense. She doesn't do it because she's forgotten Narnia. She does it because she has to in order to keep her head. It wasn't easy for her to leave Narnia. So she throws herself into England to help herself move on. She just goes a bit far in the end. Speaking of Susan - how awful would it be to lose all your family in one go? I thought about that the other day when I was flipping through The Last Battle. Peter and Edmund and Lucy and her cousin Eustace, her parents, the Professor. . . they all die instantly. She's left completely alone while they all move on to Narnia v. 2.0. Horrid!

The spiritual aspect of the film wasn't quite so strong as the book, perhaps. In the book they make a bit of a fuss about when each of the Pevensies start to see Aslan again. The movie focussed a little more on the development and growth of the characters, which works better for a film. The messages they did keep, though, were strong. I was particularly happy with the chats that Lucy had with both Susan and Peter - both of whom come to her asking for advice on why they didn't get to see Aslan. Lucy tells Susan it's because she doesn't think that Susan wants to see Aslan, and she tells Peter that she thinks Peter isn't looking for him. How many times do we do that? We get so caught up in proving ourselves (Peter) or worry about what will happen because of our mistakes (Susan) that we stop looking for God and try to do everything on our own, or we don't want to find him in case he tells us what we already know. Wonderful.

I thought the movie did a particularly good job with the growth in Edmund. His character literally takes a 180 from the last film to this one. Now he is Peter's rock - he's the one with his head on. He saves the day more than once. Skandar did an excellent job with him. I suppose that might be another reason why Peter is able to maintain his hold on Narnia and Su isn't - Peter has Edmund. Edmund knows what it is to doubt. He relates to it. Lucy doesn't because she is so solid. Other than that, Edmund and Peter also fought in battles together as Kings. That's a kind of bond and trust that doesn't die. Susan doesn't have anyone to relate to. She goes to school away from the boys and Lucy doesn't understand - no wonder she has a harder time than the rest.

I admire Lucy, though. It isn't easy to be strong when those around you - particularly those you are closest to - don't believe you. That kind of innocent faith that she has is a real strength. She is also very forgiving - something I struggle with. As soon as Peter and Susan come to her for help - even though they've been awful to her - she stretches out that hand of forgiveness without question. What a wonderful lesson.

In the end, my favorite part is that idea of the restoration and the last days. The battle at the end is severely outnumbered. The Narnian's do everything they can and in the end they win because they have Aslan on their side, in spite of their lack of size and experience compared to the Telemarines.

Of course, being me, leaving the movie was the worst part. Aslan telling Susan and Peter that they were too old for Narnia and that they wouldn't be coming back hit a personal note with me since I turned 21 last week. Not that I am old by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm certainly not a child any more. I have this awful feeling that my days of living in my own kind of dream-land - my personal Narnia - will have to come to an end sooner rather than later as I enter the work force and start teaching in the next year. It's sad. I'm not so sure that I like it at all. It's very bittersweet this growing up business. Can't I be young and obsessed with literature and imagination forever? Where's that well of immortal water when you need it?

07 May 2008

Why no, I'm not one of the Children of Israel, thank you very much

I moved into a new ward a few weeks ago and - because luck is finally in my favor - I'm going to be teaching Sunday School! I'm so excited. No, seriously. I've wanted this calling for ages. It's good practice for me as a future teacher and then I don't have to sit through boring lessons.

I do have one small concern, though.

If there's one thing I've learned about how strange people can be, it's that we're really good at analyzing and judging things that are removed from us, but not so good at seeing those flaws (or accepting those flaws) in ourselves. I find it interesting, then, how many people want to make the gospel black and white in one way or another. Take the people who want to know how far they can go before they need to see the bishop, for example. Or the people who mistake the "culture" of the church for the "gospel" of the church and shun those who drink Dr. Pepper/watch PG-13 movies/how they spend Sunday/who they spend Sunday with/whatever. These are the kinds of people who subconsciously seem to want the church to follow a kind of "Law of Moses" but don't think that's what they want.

These are extremes. I don't know that I've seen too much of that around here. What I wonder about is something I've been thinking more about recently than almost anything else. I'm still not sure how to express it, but writing helps me work my mind around things so here it goes:

The church is more flexible than people give it credit for. I don't think there are very many absolute truths in the gospel, really. Or at least not many absolute truths that will mean the same thing for everyone. Everyone brings their own baggage to the table.

One of my new favorite sections in the D&C is the one about the Apocrypha. Essentially, the Lord tells Joseph that the Apocrypha does have some value and that if it is read with the right spirit, it can be uplifting. This is why I don't apologize for finding spiritual insight when I listen to good music or read a book. Does that mean it applies to everyone? No. But all things testify of Christ.

This, then, is what makes me somewhat nervous about this teaching of Sunday School thing - because the idea that the gospel can be personal and universal is a hard one to accept for some people, especially in the practices and applications of that gospel.

I think this is especially difficult in Utah where some people assume that the exception is the rule. Honestly, I think that the deeper fabric of the church in Utah is a little more difficult to deal with than it is elsewhere because the culture of the church and the culture of every day life entwine so tightly together. We had a talk today in one of my classes about teens who experiment with homosexuality and the girl who was discussing the topic just shut it down. Homosexuality is bad. It's never "right." Whatever. I don't think it's that simple. I really don't. And I think this tight-lipped taboo we have on "touchy" subjects like homosexuality or sexuality in general within the church is a dangerous thing. Where else are boys supposed to go, for example, when they have questions about sexuality but they don't feel like they can talk about it with people in the church/their parents? Of course they're going to go to their friends. Of course they're going to experiment with pornography. And naturally the girls who don't buy the "you are beautiful because you are a child of God" argument are going to develop eating disorders.

You think I'm being extreme? The porn industry makes more than Yahoo/MSN/Hotmail and G-mail combined every year. It boils down to about $3000/second in the US alone.

Ok, so I don't really know what this post is about anymore, but there it is. There are conflicts in the culture around me that I'm not sure I have the ability to confront intelligently right now. But writing helps and. . . hey. So does discussion.