1. As I say, last weekend was a silent, Ignatian retreat for me; an intense few days of prayer and meditation, with no conversation, no media, nothing to distract me. Long days of talk, prayer, meditation, talk, prayer, sacrament. It was a wonderful experience that I feel brought some much needed clarity and a greater sense of closeness with my Lord than I have experienced before.
2. On of my reflections from that experience: I think one of the big problems with modern Christianity is how we present Jesus. We tend to emphasize His loving kindness and mercy, which is fine, except that’s not really very attractive to most men. Men don’t usually want to be told “it doesn’t matter what you’ve done; you’re welcome here.” They want a challenge, a purpose, a cause that will demand something of them. Even when they’re conscious of their own failures, their chief desire is to be told that there is something to be done about it, not that it’s all okay. Warm, welcoming kindness and security simply doesn’t have much long-term appeal to the masculine spirit.
What we should do is emphasize Christ the King and what St. Ignatius calls “the two standards:” one the hosts of the Devil with his lies and promises of comfort and liberty in this world, the other the host of Christ, with the promise of tribulations here, but eternal life afterwards. We should present the Faith as a cause, not a shelter; are you man enough to raise your standard under His, knowing that you’ll probably have to face your worst fears and suffer the contempt of the world in the process? Just how much can you endure in terms of sacrifice, humiliation, and so on? Or do you want the cheap, comfortable lies that’ll let you sit soft and safe in this world, with nothing to look forward to afterwards?
3. This past week has been a matter of slowly and fitfully trying to apply my takeaways from that retreat while also trying to get work and Christmas shopping done (every year I resolve that I won’t leave Christmas shopping to the last minute. Every year I realize abruptly that we’re only a week away with half my list left). I’m slowly working out a viable approach for that.
4. Another of my takeaways from the retreat is this: do not let yourself think of possible consequences, or even outcomes. Don’t attach yourself to imagined visions of the future. Instead, focus on doing what you set out to do, and that’s it. Don’t think how it might be received, don’t wonder what effect it will have, just fixate on doing what is in front of you. To put it another way, focus on what you want to do, not on what you don’t want to do. Don’t think “I want to avoid this mistake,” think, “I want to do this thing.”
5. Apparently, Avatar 2 is coming out. The original is really a fascinating piece of work, not because of what it is, but because of what it did. Which is to say, it made more money than any other film in history up to that point and left almost no cultural impact whatsoever. Everyone went to see it, then everyone forgot about it. Today if you say Avatar to most people, they think of the cartoon, and you have to clarify “Jim Cameron’s Avatar.” I have never once seen anyone cosplaying as a blue cat-alien, or making clever allusions to the film, or quoting the dialogue. Heck, a lot of people compare it to Ferngully: Ferngully left more of an impact than this movie. I look back and recall scenes from that film, and see allusions to it in the culture around me, far more often than I do this one. That’s a really bad movie, but it’s got Tim Curry as not-Hedorah, Robin Williams, that giant tree-eating machine, and a vorephillic musical lizard, which is much more than Cameron’s billion-dollar cinematic tofu has.
As I say, it’s a remarkable phenomenon how a film can be at once enormously popular and completely devoid of impact. It’s like the story equivalent of flash powder; it makes a spectacular show, but does nothing else.
6. Speaking of bad films, apparently the DCEU is officially done. Frustratingly, this means that we will not be getting a proper Superman film with Henry Cavill. Which is really disappointing, because he truly was the best person to play that role in films today; he looks the part, he can act, and he has a very good reputation as a down-to-earth, comparatively normal guy who respects audiences and source material. Which means that the few scenes he has in Joss Whedon’s Justice League where he isn’t mindlessly trying to kill everyone will be the only times he actually plays Superman. What a waste.
The entire DCEU is going to go down as one of the great franchise disasters in cinematic history, as a schizophrenic fever dream of self-important directors, panicking studios, psychotic cast members, squandered opportunities, and ridiculously bad storytelling. It’s like Frankenheimer’s Island of Dr. Moreau spread out across a whole decade (albeit with fewer jungle orgies…at least as far as I know).
7. So, I started off talking about spiritual insights and a sense of strong devotion to Christ. I end by making jokes about jungle orgies. Welcome to my mind.