September 15, 2013

’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.” –William Chalmers Smith


Thoughts on Jane Eyre

September 14, 2013

I watched the 2011 version of the movie Jane Eyre yesterday. I’ve read the book twice. The movie is necessarily more visually evocative than the book, and it has much less dialogue, but I think the director did a good job of leaving in enough of the original dialogue to get across Jane’s unflinchingly honest manner. Thankfully the screenwriter did not insult the viewer by abridging the dialogue into that of a 21st century romance. Therefore, the movie helped me see the same themes as the book in a more compact form. These are my thoughts on that theme:

A passion, in itself, is not wrong. God must have given it to us to do something with.

Jane Eyre is a good picture of passion gone right. Of course, it’s refined and edited to make art, but still, the basic idea isn’t wrong.

There is a lot of religious hypocrisy, religious legalism and religious dryness in Jane Eyre, and Charlotte Brontë sets all that over against a passion (Jane’s) that doesn’t quite know what it is yet, but is above all honest, truthful and has integrity. As for those who conquer their feelings just for the sake of doing so, like St. John, who would want to marry as a matter of religious business? One might enjoy doing business (religious or otherwise) with one’s husband as one aspect of life together, but it wouldn’t be the reason for the marriage in the first place.

Yet, though passionate, Jane is principled. She has strong feelings, yet she doesn’t give in to temptation, or even invite it (well, maybe she occasionally gives a slight appearance of doing so in the movie). She knows what she feels, yet she holds back for the thing those feelings were meant for.

That is, of course, marriage, but more than that, it’s a reflection of Christ’s love. Charlotte Brontë never says this, but when you contrast Jane’s passion with the religious hypocrisy in the book, the idea stands. Christ went through hell for us. It’s right passion, even though I doubt we ever really understand it in this life. Marriage, as intended by God, is some kind of reflection of it.

(You don’t get this in Wuthering Heights, by the way. That’s more a picture of idolatry, with all its miseries.)

Much of life on earth doesn’t live up to the art of Jane Eyre, of course. But Jane’s intensity, in itself and rightly used, is good. In fact, embodied in a well-written novel (and a well-made movie), it gets across a certain point about our souls’ deep need for communion better than a more theological sort of book might.

Anyway, that was just my thought this evening and I wanted to share it with someone.

The lover’s gift

September 1, 2013

“It is, of course, the most familiar, the most often-told story in the world. Yet it is also the strangest, and it has never lost its strangeness, its awe, and will not even in eternity, where angels tremble to gaze at things we yawn at. And however strange, it is the only key that fits the lock of our tortured lives and needs. We needed a surgeon, and he came and reached into our wounds with bloody hands. He didn’t give us a placebo or a pill or good advice. He gave us himself.

He came. He entered space and time and suffering. He came, like a lover. Love seeks above all intimacy, presence, togetherness. Not happiness. “Better unhappy with her than happy without her”—that is the word of a lover. He came. That is the salient fact, the towering truth, that alone keeps us from putting a bullet through our heads. He came. Job is satisfied even though the God who came gave him absolutely no answers at all to his thousand tortured questions. He did the most important thing and he gave the most important gift: himself. It is a lover’s gift. Out of our tears, our waiting, our darkness, our agonized aloneness, out of our weeping and wondering, out of our cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” he came, all the way, right into that cry.”

–Peter Kreeft, “God’s Answer to Suffering”

Death and the Maiden

September 1, 2013

"Death and the Maiden," 1st movement, Schubert

“Death and the Maiden,” 1st movement, Schubert, image Wikipedia Commons

As played by Guarneri String Quartet


July 24, 2013

“But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,” said Frodo.

Sam looked at him unhappily. “It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin–to the bitter end.  And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–closer than you keep it yourself.  But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word.  We are your friends, Frodo.”

The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien

Wise words

July 15, 2013

“I told Bilbo that such rings were better left unused; but he resented it, and soon got angry. There was little else that I could do. I could not take it from him without doing greater harm; and I had no right to do so anyway. I could only watch and wait.”

–Gandalf, from The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Exclusion and Embrace

June 3, 2013

“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion — without transposing the enemy from the sphere of the monstrous… into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.”

–Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

Thinking about this quote, which I have seen many times, in regards to a situation close to my heart.