Saturday, August 14, 2004

I mentioned in my first post, that I went to see the movie Collateral this week on my day off, and that one line from the movie has caused me to do a bit of reflection. Roger Ebert certainly has a better review than I could write, and I refer you to his review (I guess I need to consult with tech-monkey Dave or Fr. Tharp as to how to put a link in a blog; I am new to blogging) which I agree with completely. A brief summary, without giving away any surprises, is that Max is a cabbie who picks up Vincent, a guy who has 5 business stops to make. Sadly Vincent's business is killing people (read on and you will see that Vincent might disagree with that description of what he does). The movie is very strong in character development, and Jamie Foxx, who plays Max the Cabbie, gets bonus points in my book for I never knew he could really act. Tom Cruise, who plays Vincent, does a good job too (it was more difficult to type that than you know), except he has cheesy make-up to make him look like he could grow "5 o'clock shadow" and to give him grey hair. I am not sure why the director wanted Vincent to look older, it actually does not fit in with other aspects of Vincent's history (sorry, you got to see the movie to see why I think that), but the more I ponder it, I think it was make Vincent look like a fake person (fake hair and beard will do that), which would be a further sign of the director's depth of vision and commentary.

OK, I am getting to the point of this blog. At the first stop, Max finds out what Vincent's business is (his hint was a bloody body falling out of a 4th story window onto his cab; not subtle). When Max says to Vincent, "you killed him," Vincent answers, and here is the line, "No, I didn't kill him. I shot him. The bullet and the fall killed him."

WOW! What a statement of most of post-modern/modern/Generation-X thinking that is. I am only responsible for my most immediate actions, but none of the consequences. Yes, I had sex with that person, but I am not responsible for the life that results from that. Yes, I voted for that bill that made it legal to grow "embryos" for their parts (e.g., stem cells), but I am not responsible for killing babies. Yes, I have been promoting the killing of babies through abortion, the cheapening of human sexuality by promoting contraception & homosexuality, but I am not responsible for the degradation of the family, and the turning of people into objects to be used. Sick, sick, sick thinking people.

However, this type of thinking is very common in modern society. I guess we can trace much of it back to DesCartes with his famous "I think therefore I am". Of course the problem with such a philosophy is that it traps a person within their own mind; ultimately it gets pushed to not being able to know if anything exists outside of my mind, my perception. Berkeley, the English philosopher, tried to keep God in the equation but saying that while a chair ceases to exist when it is no longer in mind, he believed that since God keeps everything in mind, everything can stay in existence. However, Berkeley (or at least in my limited background in philosophy I never discovered it) by starting from the human mind, seems to unwittingly say that God exists BECAUSE people believe. So what would happen if no one is keeping God in existence by keeping Him in their mind? Does not cease to exists? If God, who b/c He has a bigger mind can keep more things in existence, ceases to exist because no human mind is keeping Him in it, then it seems like an aweful lot of things will just wink out of existence. Of course philosophers after Berkeley just dispensed with the whole idea of God, and ultimately concluded that we can know nothing accept one's own perceptions, so we don't know if anything outside ourselves exists.

In psychology this idea was basically taken up by Carl Rogers. Everybody seems to like Rogers; he is soft and cuddly. Roger's basic idea was that mental illness, in whatever form it takes, results from a discrepency between how I see myself and how others see me. However, if you read him more closely you will find that he does not believe that we can actually know what other people think, or even know that other people are, we can only know our own perceptions. So the real problem, according to Rogers, is the incongruence between my "real self" and my "ideal self." While Rogers ended up calling his school of thought Person-Centered Theory, it can also be described as Self-Centered theory. With all that navel gazing it does not take long for one's world of "reality" to collapse inward, getting smaller and smaller. So only one's most immediate actions is one responsible for. Since I can't really know that other people exist, I cannot really care for or love them. In fact, this "others" really are just defined by me, my perceptions, thus are not really subjects or persons, but just objects, extensions of myself.

Of course Christ calls us to view the world very differently. First, reality and existence does not begin within myself. Rather existence comes from Other-ness. Not that we are made from the substance of God (panetheism, or is it pantheism, I get those two things confused, but both are WRONG), rather God is so utterly Other than creation. He is Creator. Creation is an act of love, which by its essence is a gift being given outward; not the inward navel gazing of modern philosophy and psychology. So no Vincent, you are responsible for more than just shooting the fat guy. You, Vincent, not the bullet, is the principle cause of the fat guy's death.

Sorry for another long post. I guess I have been holding the inner rage monkey in too long.

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