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Posts Tagged ‘ocarina of time’

It’s a hard knock life for us. And I’m not just talking about lame movies. However much Solomon Kane bordered on the lame when I watched it not too long ago, I was half-overjoyed by the profundity of insight it offered on the human condition: Solomon Kane is a bit of a treasure hunter in the early 17th Century, violently and mercilessly making his mark on the world and receiving some decent bounty. One misadventure in Africa takes him into a fortress; notably, his enemies that were guarding it refuse to follow him in. As he ascends, his men slowly disappear, until he eventually reaches the throne room, entering in alone with the doors closing behind him. A short introduction and Solomon Kane is before the Devil’s Reaper, who has appeared to claim his soul after his life of violence. Solomon quickly displays some sophistic sword action, managing to elude the supernatural and later return home to England. I apologise for the necessity of recalling the opening of the film in it’s almost entirety, but let me continue. Clearly affected by this experience, Solomon commits to being a man of peace by spending the rest of his life in isolation at a monastery. Later on in the film he meets a small party of pacifist Puritans. One of them, Mr Crowthorn, reveals his military past:

“I fought in the Queen’s Army once, before I found my faith. Taking another man’s life, that’s not an easy thing to do, don’t you agree?”

Solomon replies:

“I must confess Mr Crowthorn, I was never more at home than I was in battle. Killing came easily to me”.

Solomon Kane in the film

That’s it right there. Mr Crowthorn and Solomon Kane approach Christian lifestyle completely differently. For Mr Crowthorn, his conversion and subsequent faith provide the necessary out and over, the new standpoint of meaning from which he can now view his old life of violence as completely without meaning. His faith is not a means to an end but an end in itself. If we take Mr Crowthorn for a type and read the entirety of his faith in this sense then even any hope beyond the grave is completely subordinated to the present, a live lived in the footsteps of Jesus. For Solomon, however, he does not know violence as empty and meaningless, but it remains to be the highest point of meaning he has yet experienced in his life, as the words at home indicate. His faith does not come naturally as a result of his conversion, but his faith and non-violence are the burdens he bears to withhold his damnation. He would much rather be exercising his bloodlust than living out the peaceful remainder of his life waiting for death, yet he knows he will be vindicated by maintaining this peace. Solomon’s lifestyle, if typified, is a more primitive, milk-and-honey faith, one that is only the means to an end and sacrifices the present for the future.

* * *

How does one make the move from the Solomon Kane faith of unwillful self-denial to the Mr Crowthorn faith of willful obedience? To realise and seek to overcome this disconnect is a part of the Christian tradition. One example is of Francis Xavier, a 16th Century Jesuit missionary, who challenges his own motivations:

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Shall I not love thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Or of escaping hell;
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward–
But as thyself hast loved me,
O everlasting Lord!

To love for love’s sake is a higher expression and truer definition of love than one that gives thought to the self. I cannot discount this beautiful prayer. But what must be asked of all of these movements is, where ethically are they situated? With what motivations does Francis seek to change his motivations? Once Francis discerns the selfish nature of his faith, what dark-between must he enter into to complete it? In other words, why exactly does Francis desire to love for love’s sake (or for God’s sake)? If he desires to do so without thought of heaven and hell, and this includes in an implicit sense where he gives thought to any kind of reward, for example, more of God’s presence, then he need not desire to have a complete love because his desire is already an expression of selfless desire. If, however, he unwittingly seeks to be justified by moving from selfish love to complete love then he must necessarily arrive at this through incomplete love, his selfish love. In either case his primary desire annuls the destination desire. To put the words of Paul in another context, “Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!” (Romans 3:8 NIV).

* * *

If we ourselves cannot legitimately make the move from selfish to selfless faith (and I cannot talk of these in absolute terms, of course; each progressive move is from a less so to a more so, rather than a no to a yes), then the obvious prophetic answer must be that the cause must lay outside of ourselves. In one of the best games of all time, Ocarina of time, Link the protagonist must symbolically face himself half way through the game. Up until now he has slain various forces of evil that have been reclaiming his homeland, Hyrule. Half way through the water temple, Link finds himself in a seemingly endless, desolate, mirror-like room, with a tree and a pond in center. After looking around, a figure appears beside the tree. On approaching, the figure appears as Dark Link, a shadowy version of himself. Before Link proceeds any further, before he can confront Ganondorf, the source of evil who has been oppressing Hyrule, he must confront and overcome an entirely different opposition, himself. Naturally, this is impossible. We are ourselves; how then can we overcome ourselves? Link nonetheless proceeds… only to find that each strike is countered with equal force, and each raising of shield is mockingly mirrored. Could it be that Link cannot land a hit on his other self because he is in actuality aiming at nothing at all? Is suicide his only out?

This picture should give an indication of Link’s predicament. Note the player’s excellently good choice of having the war hammer equipped on c-down, which will make sense as you read on.

Yet self-overcoming depends on this: that our two selves are not identical. A chess master who plays the most honest game with himself can only finish in a stalemate, a technical non-event. Yet if the player had access on one side of the game to an extra couple of queens, this would throw out of balance the identicality of his selves and allow for greater variance in the outcomes of the game (as also does the turns-based element of chess, but for a master this would make little difference). Thus in Ocarina of Time, Link is matched with sword and shield but not fire or a war hammer. When Link wields the war hammer, Dark Link cannot counter with the same, engendering immediately non-identicality, and consolidating the partition of the self.

In Christian theology, grace is God’s way of giving us a war hammer. As before shown, it is impossible to legitimately love selflessly, as it must be arrived at through selfish love, or it is already arrived at. If the latter is the case it is because the Holy Spirit has reoriented my desire.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”

(Ezekiel 36:25-26 NIV; cf Jeremiah 31:33-34).

Back to the example of Solomon Kane, he cannot legitimately make the move from salvation-oriented self-denial to contentment and meaning in peace, as his desire for the latter is an expression of the former. His completed faith must arise independently of his struggle for it, as he will only eternally lock swords with his selfish desires. The Holy Spirit must take his own initiative and act as a war hammer upon Solomon’s desires, thus redefining and redeeming them. From a Calvinist perspective, even Solomon’s asking for the help of the Holy Spirit is mediated by the Holy Spirit, so that God can complete Solomon’s salvation without flawed human involvement.

* * *

Yet what if Solomon is not blessed enough to receive this providence? What if he remains, to use the proper Calvinist terminology, truly reprobate? Must we depend entirely on divine caprice for the redeeming of our desires? Is there a way, in Jesus’ words, to enter the sheep pen without going through the gate (John 10:1,9)? Speaking of Jesus, what are all these conveniently passed over mentions, just a few examples from Matthew’s gospel alone, of reward (Matthew 5:12, 46; 6:1-18; 10:42; 16:27; 25:14-30)  and punishment (Matthew 8:12; 14:32; 22:13)? Is Solomon justified in missing half the point of the Gospel message just so he can secure his own salvation? Opportunistic hecklers of the Gospel miss the wisdom in Jesus’ admonishments based on reward and punishment: It is impossible to freely break from this orientation without the intervention of an external cause. If we remain selfish, let us continue in it and strive against it to eventually become selfless.

While causality blesses some, it is not yet impossible to attain the selfless orientation on your own means; it only requires a kind of coup d’état with selfish means. Further, this is only completely seen as selfish with a strictly prospective view of desire. Actions judged by their motivations through self-reflection may often be discounted, “I have been giving a lot of my time to that volunteer group, but originally only because I knew I needed to look beyond myself and that girl was pretty sexy too”. This requires some slaughtering of the literal meaning of motivation, but consider if motivations can not just be prospective (anticipating) but retrospective (reflecting). The previous example is one of prospective motivation. The volunteer group could have at the outset appeared unappealing, so the subject appeals to his responsibility and relationship opportunities to engage in something that requires self-sacrifice. These are the rewards. Retrospective motivation in this case is where reflection on completing the activity supersedes the original motivations, “I honestly had no interest in making soup for homeless people but after doing so I feel it’s more important than justifying my middle-class indifference and engaging casual flirting”.

The initiation of the Holy Spirit is not exclusive to Calvinist thinking but may be implicit in other evangelical/Protestant theologies. These theologies may allow for the movement Solomon makes with his selfishness into selflessness, but the assumption is also that Solomon makes the movement from asking help of the Holy Spirit to being moved by/moving with the Holy Spirit. This is to view conversion, as with Mr Crowthorn, as something drastically life-changing, a redefinition of all desires of the heart and patterns of the mind, in accordance with New Testament theology (eg. John 3:5-6; Romans 8:5, 12:2; 2Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24; Hebrews 8:10-11). The full conversion of Solomon would retroactively annul his original selfish desires with which he enters into it.

What is missing in this account of the Gospel is the progressive nature of faith. A few weeks ago somebody asked me to grow my hair. To grow my hair means I must decide every day to maintain my commitment, but to cut my hair I can decide on a whim. Not for everyone is faith like cutting your hair, which is once-off and can account for large changes; faith may also be like growing your hair. Therefore sometimes a life lived always asking for the help of the Holy Spirit is more of a reality than a life lived with the help of the Holy Spirit. And without the Holy Spirit, the constancy of always having to ask for his help and the commitment required to live out faith in his absence make faith more reminiscent of works-based salvation than Paul probably intended. But what out is there? Contrariwise to the film, if Solomon had maintained his unwillful life of self-denial, possibly he would have come to a point where his legalism would have been usurped by his greatest yet experience of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. The eventual meaning arising from the call to peace would act as a retrospective motivation upon the call, replacing his prospective motivation of self-preservation. Or maybe he would have continued to suppress his desire for violence until he died, without the real inner change testified to in the Gospel, and hoped that the Lord would look gracefully upon his self-righteousness.

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Through some USB travels, I’ve further re-found two poems written in 2010. Thistles for you, mind the cheese, written after about a five hour trip (if you know Christchurch) across the hills from Sumner to Halswell Quarry, raising the question of why thistles aren’t considered beautiful. Pieces of heart, after an Ocarina of Time renaissance, in which not just me but my whole being experienced again the best game of all time, exploring the possibility that Link and Saria were really into each other but kind of put that aside to take part in something larger.

* * *

Thistles for you

The generations have disdained
you and counted you
among weeds. Do you stab at us
in anger? But
your bite

is not
without beauty. Perhaps
you protect it fiercely. And still
the beholder pierces your heart,
your every intent.

Is that light-hearted
purple the sound of
your laughter? Have I
all this time missed
the bright celebrations on a hillside

of gorse? No midsummer
lavender or joyous yellow ran down
when the spear entered
your side, but a bleeding scarlet
and colourless

water, both more full, more empty; more
deep, more faint. My soul
descried a
“This is for you.” And this all,
your misery, your slaying,

is the highest image of beauty:
The best of us are lost
and the worst of us are
perfect, as a withering thistle
testifies.

* * *

Pieces of Heart

Saria, the woodland peace is here
only by virtue of us;
each fresh shrub, each aged
oak bears our friendship.

And the mist is the breath of
your prayers, and your tears
for the ashen pine humbly drop like
dewdrops. Hope,

Saria, for though the bloodied
kindle under furious flambeaux, hear,
even now in the distance, our rain
song surges

the skies before dawn. On the tip
of this blade I balance all
that is pure, and pommel
time’s shortcomings for us

and freedom, Saria. The heart
is soft and vulnerable, yet it beats
hardest; I am only the air of
a warm exhale, only

a herald for renewal.
When the wind ensuing
my deathstroke reveals to
the world

salvation, I will have glory
but not your love. Your love
for a moment is more
difficult than the gamut

of pallid swords and chilled skin-bags
that afflict our
reality. Yet, I will strive
against fate, though it shatters
our hearts, though we fight

hell.

Link and Saria

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Thinking of leaving church? Do so in style! You have probably already considered:

-Taking up work on a Sunday and whichever other day one of those church groups wants you to attend some group to do something churchy;

-‘Forgetting’ to turn up and hoping that others will return the favour by ‘forgetting’ to ask you to do so;

-Issuing a semi-formal and, over time, rehearsed statement of why going to church is unbiblical or just hasn’t worked for you, etc;

-Relocating to the mountains, or some pagan country;

-Telling former-fellow churchgoers you don’t speak their language (any more), in a thick heathen accent;

– Or, seeking out a new church where everyone spends their time playing Nintendo instead;

* * *

The thoughtful apostate of the church (no! not necessarily of their faith) considers all of these options and more. I can very honestly¹ tell you that I have scraped the bottom of the ecclesiastical barrel looking for a church that spends their time playing Nintendo.

Ocarina of Time is a genuinely spiritual experience

Now pose I a question to the thoughtful apostate: Is it indeed possible to leave church while remaining physically there?

Returns the Querdenker: Yes, in the same way somebody who attends a lecture elects to absent their mind in favour of sleep, yet why sleep in a lecture if you can sleep in a bed?

Pose I another question: What if this kind of leaving church is an active leaving rather than a passive?

Concludes the apostate: I think you’re just trying to trick me into going back to church through your linguistic manipulation, fool.

* * *

How, then, could it be that the most styly way to leave church is to actually remain there? The Old Testament prophet Elijah exemplifies this.

Firstly the Spirit calls him away from his community to live in Zarephath, north of Israel in Sidon (1Kings 17:9). This is a physical departure, and I am sure people before have felt the call to leave their community physically for reasons such as being of better Kingdom use in another community, taking some time to look at the world through different lens or just finding it important to move on from any hurt they experienced in their former community. In Elijah’s new community he ministers to a widow by restoring her dead son to life. While he is gone, God is doubtless working in the hearts of his former community, as God also worked in the heart of the widow before Elijah met her.

After three years of being away from his community, the Lord calls Elijah back there (1Kings 18:1). The situation is dire: There is a three-year-long drought throughout the land, causing animals, people and crops to suffer, and much of the nation has turned to Baal, a foreign god. Prophets of Yaweh (the God of Israel), of which Elijah is one, are enthusiastically persecuted as the monarchy encourages Baal worship. Elijah’s community is fundamentally different to him in both ideology and practice. He can leave again to avoid persecution² or assimilate a large portion of himself to the new community identity. Instead, he chooses to do both and neither. He leaves the community by remaining with them and assimilates himself by retaining his prophet-hood. His value to his community is not as someone who contributes positively to their focus, but as a thorn in their side, an attendee who contributes to his community by steering it in a direction against that in which it is already heading.

Elijah leaves his community in a mini cooper

The story goes that Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a divine showdown: Both are to prepare a sacrifice to their g/God and call upon him to burn it up³, a way of acknowledging and receiving the sacrifice. You may know that the prophets of Baal recite their prayers and do a little dance, etc, of which Elijah later makes light after they get no response. He then soaks his sacrifice in water and prays to Yaweh, who licks it up with fire from heaven, along with wood, stones and water that made up the altar. Thus begins among the people a return to their Lord.

* * *

You may not find the faith to call fire down from heaven to prove your point, but the Spirit can still call people to ‘leave’ a church by remaining there. Your value is in insisting on more prayer when the congregation spends too much time in their heads. Conversely, you may bring to the light the glaring inconsistencies in the faith your community professes. If everyone feels alone, don’t leave because you feel lonely, but be the point of contention in your community. And if you’re among Calvinists, well…

This is not to say that you are the only wedge in a bowl of chips, but that your heterodoxy or counterspirituality may make you mindful of what others at work among your friends have been doing for a long time before you. Moreover, you may reignite some celestial fire in another’s heart or kindle in another a new one. You are not going to lecture because you are required to and then electing to fall asleep; rather you are going to the lecture and electing to be the only one who doesn’t fall asleep. It is better to leave church than remain there.

A further point is not to outline that all gatherings have faults and that you can better remedy those faults by leaving intellectually/spiritually instead of physically, but that departing a church is necessary to its heterogeneity, its life! Although some may be called to specific prophet-hood and steer the church in a particular direction, this departure for all to attend. Each of us is one of the many. Just as Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29).

* * *

¹Au contraire dear reader, I am lying for the sake of poetry and possibly irony.

²Later on in the story Elijah does leave, a mix of no results and fear of persecution, but this time his leaving is not initiated by the Spirit.

³This is especially significant as my annotated bible notes that Baal was a god of fire and lightening. The story may therefore be akin to some retired politician (who no-doubt worked out and attended the gym regularly) wiping the floor with David Tua in a boxing match. Tua and the politician switch places and we find that Tua was all talk in the first place.

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“You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding” — Francis Church, in Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

* * *

About fifteen years ago when I was in primary school, a mate joyously revealed to me the secret ‘fact’ that Father Christmas was not real. This was about two weeks before Christmas. These last fifteen years have been a battle, but after much perseverance in research and truth I have come to these shocking conclusions. Here I present to you the real facts. This is my story.

I want to start with some commonly asked questions by skeptics. Firstly, how does Santa Claus get around everyone in the world in one night? It’s simple. What you’ve got to realise, guys, is that not everyone in the world celebrates Christmas. It’s mainly just the West, and even then it isn’t as widespread as you’d think. What is more, in a country such as Germany, they don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th, but on the 24th instead so Santa has some time to go back and forth between continents. You’ll also find that the timezone differences add to the ease of this so that, for example, Santa has a twelve hour gap between Auckland and London. That’s a lot of time for a man in a red suit.

http://i337.photobucket.com/albums/n380/Dame-Bird/Santa_Cat.jpg

Now you ask how he gets presents down the chimney? This appears to be especially difficult concerning the man’s weight. But Father Christmas never used to be so fat. You could say that in his prime he had the build of a ninja/cat burglar, which was ideal for sneaking down people’s chimneys. But due to a plethora of milk, cookies and expensive spirits, Santa thinking it only right and polite to partake in, our gift provider has had to accomodate for an increasing belly. Thanks to modern technology though, this has meant little trouble for our bearded friend, further helped by the fact that most modern developments in science do not come from say NASA, China or eccentric German scientists, but the North Pole itself, where the elves are hard at work 24/7. If you have ever seen those movies where some CIA dude has a gun with a camera that can point round corners, you might be interested to know that the CIA embezzled the technology from elves hard at work developing technology to deposit presents down chimneys, allowing Santa to see inside the house and drop off the giftboxes where best suitable, all on the end of a remote control.

How, then, does a reindeer, a blatantly terrestrial creature, fly? Likewise with advances in technology, reindeers use a similar contraption to hover boots, which allows them to get off the ground with a good run up. When they are in the air, an amazing miracle of nature occurs, as if reindeers were always meant to fly in the first place. Their antlers creates a complex aerodynamic system that catches wind and air and then propels it along the backs of the reindeer like a jet engine. This not only allows for amazing speed and acceleration, but also means that the reindeer can stay in the air without relying on the boots to hold them there. You may not know this, but before the elves came up with hover boots, Old Nick used to ride a Pegasus named Blizzard, who could fly naturally. But when the North Pole went through a financial crisis with the rise of communism in the early 20th Century, Santa sold Blizzard on the black market for her meat.

http://www.thatcutesite.com/uploads/2010/12/cats_dressed_as_santa_elf_02-600x399.jpg

Many people have mentioned the fact to me that no great explorer or citizen of the North Pole has ever given any reference to a Claus residence big enough to accommodate all the Christmas gifts in the world. To them I answer this: How do you think a compass works? If you listened in class, you would know that a compass works because it is magnetically drawn to the North Pole. And why is that? Because there is so much metal up there! This is clearly used for the construction of toys. But how come there is no visible evidence of elvely activity? Then, I ask you, how come you never see Santa drop off the presents? He’s just that good, my friend; he’s just that good.

I understand that the reader may have many more questions for which the scope of this post is unable to attend. Why not try writing to the man himself? Received letters and phone calls to the North Pole are an often overlooked proof for Father Christmas. Before closing I must make one note on the etymology of ‘Christmas’. A quick check on Wikipedia will tell you that it literally mean’s ‘Christ’s mass’, as a mass to celebrate the the birth of Christ. But that’s actually a separate celebration. The word ‘Christmas’ comes from an expression that people used when in days of old they met the man who gave them their presents. When Kris Kringle started operating centuries ago, he had so little people to get around that he actually came in for some tea before leaving a present (this is the origin of leaving milk and cookies for Santa). But as his influence spread, he had more people to get around and the children, remembering him from last year would say, “Kris must come this year; Kris must!” When they woke up in the morning to find that they had not gotten to see him, they were nonetheless delighted to find evidence of his earlier presence: presents. It became then embedded in folk culture to refer to these visits as “Kris must come!”, later shortened to “Kris must”, in hope that Santa would arrive that night. The modern spelling and misplacement of the ‘t’ is due to confusion with the Christian celebration, and an entirely different hero.

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