(Imagine a dark room with a single light and tobacco smoke slinking its way to the ceiling…)
Paul Newman as
I guess it’s the end of the line. Another year been and gone. Movies seen, books read, reflections had; inquiries made through all the rough streets of our broken world. And what do I have to show for my investigations? No Maltese falcon, that’s for sure.
I look back over my cases for the year and a theme emerges. There’s a lot about detectives that I’ve been scribbling, and, if I’m not writing about detectives, I’m treating my topic like a detective story.
Looking back further, the pattern keeps appearing. It’s as if I think that a bit of snooping work will reveal answers. Instead, I keep finding more questions:
How should we deal with Valentine’s Day? How should we deal with the challenges posed by the Other Side, without losing our souls in the process?
What of Noah? Is it a blasphemy, or propaganda, or a Jewish exercise in subcreation? What does it mean for The Lord of the Rings?
Why are kids’ movies so AWESOME?! And why is The Lego Movie particularly awesome? And are there any kids’ shows that are so awesome that grown-ups should watch them, too?
Why would a man sacrifice himself, and by implication his politics, for his company?
Can J.K. Rowling write well?
What use are blockbusters and science-fiction?
How ought we respond to the horror of what some clergy have done, and other clergy have covered up?
What’s the story with Apple?
What’s the point of marketing?
I think we’d be better off if we stood up for day-dreaming and made close observations and deep reflections before making decisions.
I think we’d be better off if we recognised the intricacy of the problems that the Other Side throws our way.
What did the Medievals say? They said that “All that is, is One, True, Good and Beautiful”.
This is to say, that everything has a beauty, a goodness, a truth, an identity — even those things of the Other Side. The Other Side push their agenda because they believe it, in some fashion. They don’t see where it’s lacking, or else their experiences have been such that they can’t see that the problems they seek to solve won’t be solved by their solutions.
Evil is the lack of a due good, as the philosophers remark. This lack distorts how those who seek to do good act and think, and makes their solutions ever more complicating, until they wipe the Earth clean in their bid to achieve perfection.
The response to such things is rarely aided by half-truths, deceptions and further distortions — by Noble Lies and compromises that solve the short-term problem, without touching upon its deeper causes.
Maybe we need all become detectives, or even inquisitors, relentlessly seeking the truth of who has done what, where and, crucially, why.
Fittingly, we are nearing Christmas. Regardless of one’s personal take on the Christ-child, the story alone has the power to change hearts and minds. That which is Existence became a human child to show those who exist that they matter, but that their solutions to their problems are not the solution.
The only solution the little God-nipper proposed was that we must follow Him, that we must become like Him — that we must love, and so we must understand, and then we may have some way of convincing others that their own solutions do not work, and indeed make things even worse.
Like the world-weary knight-errant in battered fedora, we must seek the truth, because only then can we do something about it.
With Lew Archer we must have a passion for mercy, for justice is what happens, even if we don’t see it happen.
With Sherlock Holmes we must investigate the mystery of life, and with Father Brown we must see that this mystery is one to live through and love through.
And then we must express this, this wonderful mystery of the everyday, and take it to others, and help them see it as well.
The Other Side has many things. It has money, and power, and influence. It has staked out high ground in the media and academia, either in the form of left-leaning libertinism or greed-driven neo-liberal capitalism, and has set up its idols in the temple of Reality.
But they are still idols, and when the idols don’t answer their prayers, their sorrow increases with their emptiness.
We all have a part to play in filling that gaping chasm. Christmas reminds us that God Himself thought it a worthy idea, so worthy He sent His only son.
Let us, everyone of us, don our fedoras and help our fallen fellows back on the path to True Beauty.
Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).