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Lost-Three ultimate endings: All is black. All is one. All is well.
|May 24th, 2010
|Jimmy Kimmel touted his three comedic alternate endings to Lost. The following may not be story arcs for a blockbuster cast reunion, but what about these slightly more realistic alternatives:
All is black
Jack closes his eyes (or eye) and breathes his last. The chemical and electrical impulses in his brain fade and stop. Rigormortis sets in. His body decays there in the bamboo arbor. Dust to dust. It is the same end as the man in black. Same end as Ben. And Hurley, Kate, Sawyer and the rest. The choices they made in this life have no ultimate meaning beyond the experience of this life. The fellowship and community that means so much is lost forever. As is each individual. All is lost.
All is one
Jack closes his eyes and breathes his last. Wakes up in the sideways reality. Oceanic flight 815 has landed safely. He reconciles with his son, heals Lock and, touching his Father’s coffin, recovers the memories of his life on the island. All the choices he made to lead and love and sacrifice flash before his eyes in scene after scene of heartache and joy. The richness of the person he became through loss and love flood back into his soul. He is so much the deeper for it. Transformed by suffering and good choices, his joy is so much greater than that of the smaller life he was living.
Ben is outside. His selfish choices have made him a poorer person. The broken trust in all his relationships separates him from the loving fellowship of the community. Forgiveness is offered, but what happened happened. How does a lifetime of choosing self over others finally dissolve into choosing a loving, sacrificial community? That’s just not the person Ben has become. He’s not ready to join the community yet. He is in limbo? Purgatory? How will he reconcile or work out the consequences of his choices made from both great wounds and self-centered choices? We don’t know.
After the grand reunion the door opens. Christian Shepherd, Jack’s Dad, steps into the light. Reminds me of the eastern leaning The Fountain with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weiss. “Death is the beginning of awe.” But in that movie as well as all Eastern thought, death is also the end of individuality as each one finally transcends individual pain, selfishness, willfullness and desire to become one with the all.
What might happen in this sideways story line as each individual steps into the light? Perhaps, as in The Fountain, if the Source of all things is impersonal, then he or she ceases to exist as a person but is transported into an impersonal oneness with all others, with everything in the Universe. All the memories they have recovered of their individual lives are poured into the ocean of collective memory. Ultimately, all individuality is lost. There is no loving community of richly different individuals. Everything is connected and the unity eventually obliterates/subsumes the individuality. For to create is to choose. To choose is to have a will. How does creation or a collective will exist without the loss of individuality?
They step through the door and become one with the light and the water at the heart of the island. Golden and glowing and ??? bubbling? Existence ends in impersonal being. All is one.
All is well
Jack closes his eyes and breathes his last. Wakes up in the loving community of friends, some who died before him, some after. As each one steps through the chapel door they step into the light that radiates, not from an impersonal wellspring, but from a Person. The greater which has created the lesser. (How can it be the other way around? How can an impersonal source of light and water create the richness of human love, life and complexity we’ve seen on the screen?
The recovered memories and the richness of their heroic acts and choices go with them. They remain the individuals we have come to know and love. Nothing of their individuality is lost. Not even their flaws. Their poor choices have been redeemed. They don’t have to work them off or be separated from the sacred circle. Forgiveness has been freely offered by the one who waits for them and loves them far more deeply than they love one another. Who became the evil and selfishness of their own lives and died in their place, but who was resurrected from the grave to offer them forgiveness and life. Even Ben. All is mercy and grace for those who choose to be reconciled with their Creator in the way he has provided. By his stripes, the scars from the whip lashes, all their wounds are healed. It is a beautiful mythology, a true myth, as CS Lewis has said. One that mirrors and yet transcends our own experience of how suffering and sacrifice and choosing others over self bring richness, life and joy. (In mho far more beautiful and meaningful than the mythology of impersonal electromagnetic light holding all things together and turning greedy, selfish people into smoke monsters.)
As Jack and Kate, Sun and Jen, Sawyer and Juliette step into the light of eternity, not simply one person awaits, rather a loving community of three persons, whose individuality and community are mirrored in these lives. The end of all things is co-participation—with each other and with the Father, Son and Spirit who protect and make good on promises and yet offer real choices with real consequences that ripple out into eternity. And if Ben remains on the outside, never ready to go in, that is Ben’s choice to be truly and deeply lost.
Those who enter find themselves in a new story. An unfolding plot far more exciting than mere existence. They continue to live individual lives of challenge and choices, service and leadership in a community of ever-deepening love. Life together becomes richer, deeper, higher and above all, more joyful. Nothing is lost but pain and separation. All is well.
Posted by @ 6:55
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September 24th, 2009
In A Faith and Culture Devotional Dr. J.P. Moreland describes how Harvard professor Julie Reuben (The Making of the Modern University) has chronicled the drift in teaching knowledge and values in our Universities: “From 1880-1910, colleges took themselves to have two mandates: the impartation of wisdom and knowledge and the tools needed to discover them, and the development of spiritually, morally and politically virtuous graduates who could serve God, the state, and the church well….”
But the abandonment of Christianity has ultimately resulted in a loss of confidence that a unified curriculum could be based on knowledge of God or even shared moral values. The moral and spiritual wisdom of Plato, Aristotle, Moses, Solomon, and Jesus has, for the most part been excluded from the curriculum.
Some concerned faculty and citizens have led initiatives to restore teaching the foundations of democracy and the moral and spiritual wisdom of the ages into the curriculum. Their efforts have resulted in a number of beachheads such as The Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy at the University of Virginia, The Center for the Foundations of Free Societies at Cornell and Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. But World magazine reports that a similar program has been shut down at the University of Texas. The fledgling Center for Western Civilization and American Institutions was to have readings that included Plato and Aristotle but also selections from the Bible, Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin; Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography but also Whittaker Chambers’ Witness, which tells of his move from faith in Marx to faith in Christ.
Although it was funded by outside sources the program met intense faculty opposition and has been renamed, restaffed and redirected. The dismissed founder of the program who still teaches his philosophy classes, professor Rob Koons, has finally broken his silence to explain what happened to the program in a post on the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy website:
“Our program was rightly perceived as a threat to the monopoly of what I call the Uncurriculum, which prevails at UT and at most universities today. It is the absence of required courses and of any structure or order to liberal studies. The Uncurriculum dictates that students accumulate courses that meet a ‘distribution’ standard–a smattering of courses scattered among many categories. Even within majors, the trend has been to eliminate required sequences. . . .
“The Uncurriculum free-for-all gives undergraduates only the illusion of choice. In reality, the Uncurriculum model is entwined with the interests of the professoriate. If there are no courses students are required to take, there are no courses that professors are required to teach.
“Professors at research universities focus on the accumulation of prestige through publication, the indispensable means for acquiring tenure and increasing one’s salary (through the leverage of outside offers). By allowing students to pick what they want to study, the Uncurriculum model eliminates a potentially great distraction from the quest for publications: the burden of teaching a required curriculum, unrelated to one’s ow narrow research agenda. . . .
“Rather than admit this self-interest, liberal arts professors at UT use postmodern and multicultural ideas to defend the Uncurriculum. These fashionable ideas form an ‘ideology’ in Marx’s sense: a system of ideas designed to cloak, rationalize, and defend an unjust set of relationships, namely, the exploitation of undergraduates and their underwriters (parents, taxpayers, and donors). . . .
“Our program was a sound alternative to the Uncurriculum. It was privately funded and offered students a coherent way of satisfying many of their general education requirements. Unfortunately, the faculty saw our program as foreign and threatening, and therefore attacked it, much as the human body automatically attacks transplanted organs. We need to prevent that from happening in the future.
“One idea, which state legislators could implement, is the creation of charter colleges’ within existing state universities. The state could authorize groups of three or more professors, together with a private foundation or even a for-profit sponsor, to propose charters for innovative programs like ours. If its charter were approved by an outside board, a charter college would be authorized to offer specific courses to satisfy designated components of the state’s core, as well as certificates, minors, and majors. Faculty in the rest of the university would not control the decisions of the charter college.
“The experience of the Western Civilization and American Institutions program underscores a sad truth about higher education in America- it is mostly run by and for the faculty. What it likes and dislikes trumps what would be best for students. Our system will never fully achieve its promise as long as that remains true.”
Posted by larrington @ 22:37
July 11th, 2009
By Lael Arrington
In his op-ed piece, “Lessons from Michael Jackson,” Faith and Culture Devotional contributor Mark Joseph invites us to step back from both the man and his work and remind ourselves of our values. Mark is a music producer (The Passion of the Christ rock CD) editor of entertainment and culture news Bullypulpit.com, and author of Faith, God & Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Two more lessons from Michael Jackson: Like many of us over forty, Michael Jackson, with his modern penchant for hyper-performance, spectacle, and artifice connected less and less with a new generation that values just the opposite. (See F&CD p.276 “The Purpose of History”). As many postmoderns lose confidence in discovering revealed or objective Truth they see the big shiny machine of progress and don’t believe it any more. Rather than seeing progress they see only motion. People who live with integrity and humanity provide a small but trustworthy point of reference in the shifting sands.
It’s the same lesson that UnChristian author and Barna Group president David Kinnaman urged our listeners to consider when we pre-recorded a Things that Matter Most interview with him this week on what a new generation really thinks about Christians. The research shows that today’s 16-29 year olds have an aversion to artifice, masks and hypocrisy. They long for authenticity and transparency. Outsiders respect Christians who acknowledge their insecurities and failings and who don’t pretend (see F&CD John Eldredge’s “Major and Minor Themes” p. 151) that following Jesus is all happy-clappy and “Victory in Jesus.”
On January 11,1992, in a telling snapshot of this cultural shift from artifice to authenticity, Jackson’s album Dangerous was displaced from its number one spot atop the charts by Nirvana’s Nevermind. To many in the younger generation Jackson’s cover art on the modern, lushly produced successor to Thriller and Bad attained new heights of artifice, featuring Jackson’s eyes peering out from behind the Sargent Pepperesque artwork, as if the entire album cover were another of the masks of which Michael was so fond.
The cover art of the more postmodern Nevermind evoked the antithesis of Jackson’s Neverland world of pretence and grandiose self-reference, over-production and over-the-top videos. The iconic Jackson cover was toppled by the ironic Nirvana cover—the bright-eyed water baby swimming for the lure of the buck, a not so subtle rejection of the fame and success Jackson relentlessly pursued. The deeply hopeful master of a modern utopian universe gave way to a garage band from Seattle who took their postmodern nihilism straight up.
Stripped down and raw, Nirvana’s music and videos helped reset the button of cultural relevance. Rolling Stone magazine celebrated the band’s “brutal roar and soothing melodies,” the “cryptic beauty of Cobain’s lyrics and the howling intimacy of his singing.” “We are the world/we are the children/we are the ones to make a brighter day so let’s start giving” was written on a different planet, in a different age than “Here we are now/Entertain us/I feel stupid and contagious/I’m worse at what I do best/And for this gift I feel blessed/Our little group has always been/And always will until the end.” The younger generation still enjoys partying with Michael’s grooves, but their unfulfilled longings for a North Star and real hope still ripple through music (and politics).
As it turned out, Jackson’s attempts to manage the physical demands of one last run at meaning and purpose in megasuccess may have been just as deadly as Cobain’s despair of finding it there (or anywhere else).
Lesson number two from Jackson’s memorial service and UnChristian. Kinnaman’s research also showed that young people are weary of Christians’ judgmental, condemning ways. They long to see followers of Jesus Christ reflect his grace. So, as I ponder how some of Michael’s lyrics are in conflict w/ Christian values, how he really never “got it” that having kids sleep in his bed was “Dangerous,” even the stories of his drug abuse and possible injury to children, I take caution to not fall in step with either the idol worship of the fans or the snotty, judgmentalism of the tabloid press.
Before I condemn him for his artifice, his naïve utopianism or his attempt to live in a fantasy land of his own making, I wonder what I would do if I couldn’t go to a movie or a bookstore without things grinding to a halt, crowds pressing in for a look-see or an autograph. I wonder, if I could rarely go out to play as a child or hang w/ acquaintances or associates who didn’t want a piece of me as an adult, if I might cherish the company of animals and children. If I had a pile of money and couldn’t leave the ranch, what would I have built? (Something with a book store, coffee shop and literary lights?)
This Jackson quote from Mark Joseph’s post last week at bullypulpit.com has haunted me:
“I am going to say something I have never said before and this is the truth. I have no reason to lie to you and God knows I am telling the truth. I think all my success and fame, and I have wanted it, I have wanted it because I wanted to be loved. That’s all. That’s the real truth. I wanted people to love me, truly love me, because I never really felt loved. I said I know I have an ability. Maybe if I sharpened my craft, maybe people will love me more. I just wanted to be loved because I think it is very important to be loved and to tell people that you love them and to look in their eyes and say it.”
Many Christians were moved by the closing prayer of Pastor Lucious Smith at Michael’s memorial. A call to responsibility to God and others, yet full of grace, I think the outsiders quoted in UnChristian may have appreciated it as well:
“Our Heavenly Father, we thank you this day for the memory of Michael Jackson that means so much to us, even right now. Thank you for the gift of music he gave us. Thank you for the man that he was and what he sought to do with his life. We pray that you would remind us that we truly can make a difference if we make up our minds to do so. Help us to take a message of love and peace and healing with us as we go. Let us demonstrate that love when we go to school. Let us demonstrate that love when we go to work. Let us demonstrate that love as we walk the streets of our city, and let us no longer turn a blind eye to the needs that we walk by every day. Let us stop judging people by the color of their skin and the accent of their voice. Let us rather look in the heart of every man, woman, boy and girl and try to reach them with the love that Michael Jackson showed us in his music.
“But even now the King of Pop must bow his knee to the King of Kings. And we pray that you would remind us Lord, that our lives are but dust. We are here for a moment and then we are gone. Thank you, Lord, for how Michael impacted us and how we might impact others. For we pray that this moment will not be forgotten as an event to have been enjoyed but as a reminder that we too can make a change. Bless us and keep us with the love by which you kept Michael. And we offer this prayer in the glorious name of Jesus our Lord, that all who agree say…Amen.”
Posted by larrington @ 05:03
May 7th, 2009
Ben Wiker comments on an intellectually fulfilled atheist’s and famous British novelist’s gradual recovery of the richness and simplicity of the gospel. This article, as well as additional commentary, may be found at To the Source. Dr. Wiker is the author of F&CD entry on the deep design on the Periodic Table of Elements:
I still remember the taste of ashes in my soul reading A. N. Wilson’s biography of C. S. Lewis. It was filled with the kind of meticulous spite that can only be mustered by someone entirely bent on chipping away at a larger-than-life figure until he is largely unrecognizable, riddled with pock marks and imperfections. I sensed that I was not getting a representation of Lewis, but rather, a glimpse of the atheist Wilson himself and his thinly disguised contempt for so great a Christian apologist.
Looking back on it, I would dare to suggest that what animated Wilson’s spiteful treatment was a deep anger and frustration that Lewis, his intellectual superior, could waste his talents on something so infantile and obviously inferior as Christianity. If he was that evidently smart, why couldn’t Lewis—like Wilson—see that the whole God thing was a sham?
Wilson just couldn’t understand, and so in writing about Lewis, he searched under every psychological rock to find evidence that Lewis’s great intellect had been deformed by some hidden twist in his soul, and bent unnaturally to the defense of Christianity.
This Easter found that same Mr. Wilson in church among the faithful, singing the praises of the Risen Christ, a believer once again, a man who had experienced the heady thrill of casting away all belief in God thereby freeing himself from all ultimate claims, and then gradually, humbly recognized how small-minded and trendy his whole anti-God phase had been. Looking back on it all, Wilson wondered, “Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity?”
“Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.
To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.
This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.
It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.”
What ultimately changed Wilson’s mind? There was no dramatic, sudden conversion experience; just a slow, sure recognition that atheism rang hollow. Life was too deep, too rich for mere materialism.
“My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.
Rather than being cowed by them [the anti-religious smart-set], I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis; foul-mouthed, self-satisfied TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architects of so much television output.
But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known—not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.
The Easter story answers their questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people’s lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born as spiritual beings.
Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love—whether of physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends—and every experience of bereavement, reminds us of this fact about ourselves.”
And what of all the atheists he left behind, all his fellow comrades in the struggle against belief? Wilson accuses them, not of dishonesty, but a certain woodenness of soul.
“When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.
Posted by larrington @ 03:54
April 13th, 2009
Commentary on Contemporary Culture-Week 1 by Lael Arrington
Jesus said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” And then he offered his hands to the spikes to show what it looks like to be “of the truth.” Truth by its nature draws a line between what is true and what is not. Love unites. Surely one of the hardest things we are called to do is to speak the truth that draws a line with the love that unites, something Erwin has done so well.
And yet that is exactly what is happening today in the Mideast. In his book Breakthrough: The Return of Hope to the Middle East, author Tom Doyle, Middle East Director of e3, who works to encourage Christian pastors and churches, states that millions of Jews and Arabs have come to Christ in the past ten years. And like Erwin, he points to the compelling message and lives of Christians living the truth in sacrificial love as essential.
Doyle and others are reporting that this message of love is confirmed to many Jews and Muslims who are receiving personal visions of Jesus asking them to turn and follow him. A missionary tells how Jesus’ love reached an Iranian Muslim who dreamed he was trapped in a racing fire. Flames engulfed him. Smoke burned his eyes and filled his lungs. Suddenly two strong arms reached down and snatched him out of the inferno. Night after night he dreamed the same dream. Each time the same arms, the same man delivered him.
One day as he walked down the street in his radically Muslim village he saw a crowd gathered. Drawing near he followed their gaze to a video projected on the side of a building. The movie showed a man was stumbling down a street shouldering heavy crossbeams. The man looked up. The Muslim’s jaw dropped. The bloody face under the crown of thorns was the face of the deliverer in his dreams. One man loved his village enough to show the film at great personal risk. Now the Muslim man who saw in it the face of his dreams plants churches in his radically Muslim country.
In matters of love, Jesus goes personally to invite others to become people “of the truth.” May we follow his example and fully grasp how being “of the truth” means being a man or woman who loves extravagantly.
Posted by larrington @ 17:05
March 7th, 2009
Painter and author Makoto Fujimura (mentioned in Chuck Colson’s Faith & Culture Devotional entry on 911 in Week 15) recently spoke at the IAM (International Arts Movement) in New York City. To me the talk felt prophetically important.
In the midst of fear. In the midst of material and emotional scarcity. In the midst of the world’s collapsing idols, Mako encouraged the Church to draw on the Giver / Artist, and to let His creative Spirit spill over into a hurting world. Creating living art, out of love, in the form of kindnesses (whether friendship, food, hospitality, music, dance, painting, flower-arranging, whatever our gifts…).
Spiritual, emotional and material generosity is surprising in an age of perceived scarcity; therefore, we, the Church, can rise to the occasion. We create art not as commodity, but as a gift. Just as the Gospel is not commodity, but Gift.
Here’s the link in the hopes that it will soon to available. (The recording improves toward the 2nd half which you’ll not want to miss). http://internationalartsmovement.org/encounter2009
In such a times as this, the Church has a great opportunity to shine. To remain hopeful, cheerful and creative.
Every blessing as your faith paints, with light and warmth, our hurting culture,
Kelly Monroe Kullberg
Posted by larrington @ 21:01