Friday, July 13, 2007

Simone Weil and Blaise Pascal: Entry into "The Moment"

As mentioned before, the writings of both Simone Weil and Blaise Pascal have been very important to me of late. I think it fascinating to look here at the words they use to describe their initial and profound encounters with God--mystical experiences, "the fullness of the moment" as Kierkegaard says. Both of their accounts indicate instances of passivity on their part, testifying to the weight and glory of the experience, the Presence being forced upon them.
Simone Weil even claims that she was "possessed by Christ" while reading George Herbert's "Love". Weil, a thinker and activist who had no interest and perhaps little previous exposure to Christianity, was struck by the strange, unexpected reality of this "possession". She claims that:
"God in his mercy had prevented me from reading the mystics, so that it should be evident to me that I had not invented this absolutely unexpected contact."

Then she goes onto say some beautiful, fascinating, challenging, important things:

"Yet I still half refused, not my love but my intelligence. For it seemed to me certain, and I still think so today, that one can never wrestle enough with God if one does so out of pure regard for the truth. Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms."
To read Weil's full account look here.
Pascal's famous close call with death/conversion moment beautifully coloured his life, writing, perspective until his death, when a piece of cloth detailing his encounter was found sewn onto the inside of his jacket. It said this:

"From about half past ten in the evening to about half an hour after midnight.
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob.
Not the God of philosophers and scholars.
Absolute Certainty: Beyond reason. Joy. Peace.
Forgetfulness of the world and everything but God.
The world has not known Thee, but I have known Thee.
Joy! Joy! Joy! Tears of Joy!"

I wish I could say that the above photos were my own--they aren't. Kurt Simonson, professor of photography from Biola Univeristy, was just visiting L'abri and took many beautiful photos--these are a small sampling. To see more of his wonderful work look here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It Makes Me Feel Schizometric

I am up in Newcastle for the week and watched Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep last night. Brilliant. For the first hour of the film I was delighted--it was was whimsical, creative, fresh--then the saturation of delight, fantasy, whimsy began to take its toll. The film became prfound, frightening, even tragic. I don't even know how to speak about it without giving too much away. But I can say that this is a rare film which enters the world of dreams in a very poignant, beautiful, yet frightening way--its creativity is astounding. But its accuracy is even more so. The main character, Stehane, lives inside his head--constantly between the moments of waking and sleeping. His dream world continually merges with "real" life, and he lives according to his most base, subconscious impulses, hs primal, childlike desires. This iability to edit the self, to tame one's deepest urges proves to be tragically isolating. Watch this film--let me know what you think.

Friday, July 6, 2007

It's a Sad, Beautiful World

We watched Jim Jarmusch's wonderful Down By Law this Tuesday night at L'abri (L'abri worker Jim Paul is a big Jarmusch fan). I like Jarmusch, but often feel impatient with his slow, rich, minimalism; because of this, I think I have passed over this film in the past. I am so glad that I finally watched it--it was much more rich than slow. Roberto Benigni's frenetic energy (hiccup, hiccup) alongside Waits' smooth coolness was a consistent treat. The sleek, stylized black and white photography, especially in the opening shots of gritty (yet somehow romanticized) New Orleans life, are wonderful. We had an excellent discussion after the film (I was surprised--how do you discuss a Jarmusch film?!). My favorite line of discussion concerned Jim's comments about Benigni's character (Bob!) playing the role of the Shakespearian "holy fool" who brings a reality of sorts (through communication, childishness, joy in life, true statements about life) to the other fumbling characters. This is quite evident after thinking through his relationship with Zach and Jack, his prison cellmates, who are lost, whose characters are, in some ways, interchangeable. Bob is the only one truly guilty of the crime he has been convicted for (murder) while the other two have been framed. Ironically, the story of this most "real" of characters, the jester who infuses playful reality into the lives of the other two men, ends like a fairy tale. His story is complete, romantic, both true and untrue--while the other two are left to wander. Anyway, the film is hilarious and beautiful--well worth watching.
Other films that have been shown this term at L'abri:
1) Heaven--Tykwer's beautiful realization of Kieslowski's vision
2) As It is in Heaven-(notice a theme here?!) fascinating, yet extremely and annoyingly melodramatic Swedish film about a famous musician returning to the town of his youth and becoming the choir director in the local church.
3) The Return--Breathtaking cinematography, heartwrenching story. It was beautiful but a bit too much for me--very hard to watch.
4) Jesus of Montreal--did not actually watch this one but have been curious for ages. Lots of negative comments from folks about it.
5) Blue--one of my very favorite films of all time--never loses its beauty or emotional impact. I do want to mention that only last year, after rewatching it in a British cinema, did I realize that the text of the film score is I Corinthians 13. The American film version does NOT subtitle the music text for the final montage sequence, but European versions do. This changed my entire reading/experience of the film--absolutely stunning.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

For Once, Little to Say

The intensity of life (conversations, readings, thought processes) here is so great that it is hard to write anything at the moment. But these photos do provide a small taste of life here.
1) A beautiful surprise--my dear friend David appeared at L'abri this week. What a gift it was to spend time with him. (David and Naomi pictured)
2) Little Sam (workers Jim and Merran's son)
3) Another lovely surprise--my friend Liz from London (in the foreground here) came for a few days. Good conversations followed. She is fantastic. (Liz, Marta and Cara pictured)
4) Dinner outside behind the Pauls' house.