Saturday, June 23, 2012

sociological and theological reflections on 'Cabin in the Woods',(beware of spoilers!)

I went to see 'Cabin in the Woods' again tonight.  I am constantly fascinated by the work of Joss Whedon.  He uses such common genres to make truly interesting statements about us and the world in which we live.  But it can be easily missed; the themes he explores can be easily missed or confused.  It is not that what he does necessarily has a particular message, but rather it poses questions about how we view ourselves and our relationship to each other and to the world. 

One of the themes that is present in all of his work, but in a real significant way is our relationship to the powers, whatever they may be, and how we let those who are in authority control us.  So in 'Buffy', it was the watchers council, and later the system that created and maintained the single slayer lineage.  In 'Angel' it was the ‘Senior Partners’ who controlled all the evil in the world.  In Firefly it was the Alliance and in 'Dollhouse' it was the Dollhouse itself.  In 'Cabin in the Woods' (spoiler alert!) it’s the evil gods who used to rule the world and now are placated by the horror story that is acted out by the unwitting campers. 

In every instance the protagonists rebel against the status quo.  The idea of doing something because that is the way it has always been done is never an option for the characters in Joss Whedon’s stories.  Now this is not unusual for movies, standing up against an evil regime or unjust system is common theme.  But where Joss approaches it differently is the idea that the system should be questioned always.  In ‘Cabin in the Woods’ the purpose of placating these evil gods in this way is to keep them from destroying the world in a gruesome and terrifying way.  Basically the small evil is done in order to prevent the larger evil from taking place.  The main characters refuse to participate and the end is world annihilation.
Of course Whedon doesn’t offer any solution to the problem, he never does.  There will always be systems that are in place to maintain order, and those systems will always sacrifice little goods for a so called larger good.  But he begs the question, is that larger good really good at all if it has to be upheld by the allowance of evil?

I have a lot to say about how Christianity has failed to step up and fight against the status quo(most of which I will not be saying here).  The lives of most Christians are no different than the lives of most secular persons.  We are just as entrenched in the system that is constantly upheld by little evils.  We each like to think that our lives are not tainted by such things, but they are.  Look at your clothes, where were they made?  Or your Apple product?  Or your food, who picked it?  Christians, look at your house and tell me that Christ wouldn’t tell you to sell all you have and give it to the poor.  We live within a system that perpetuates haves and have nots, and we always think that we are among the have nots, but if you are reading this blog it just isn’t so.

Now of course I am among the worst offenders I enjoy the benefits of a first world lifestyle and generally don’t think about the system that always has me worrying about superficial crap.  And I would really like to say that I don’t know what the answer is, but of course I do know, every Christian knows.  Joss Whedon knows, and that is why his protagonists chose not to placate the great evil by performing a ‘small evil’ because of course there really is no such thing as a ‘small evil.’

Friday, June 22, 2012

As I went down to the river...

We drove down to the river, my father and I.  It was muggy outside and there were people milling around, a couple of tents set up and some booths selling food.  A group of people were sitting together playing Irish music.  We started to walk down to the shore, only two bateaus had come in so far.  As we go down to the river’s edge we saw some people from church sitting on the lawn waiting.  My mother was on one of the bateaus, The Lady Slipper.  They were late coming in and we had time to kill.  As I sat there with my Dad, sharing my skittles with the women of my mother’s church I looked out over the river.  There was a large bridge that crossed the river, but right next to that bridge, a little lower down were the remnants of an old bridge.  It no longer went across but it was beautiful, just sitting there on either side of the river covered over in ivy. 
I asked my Dad if there was a way to get up onto the old bridge, he told me where to go, and then said that I should be careful because the bridge has a bunch of rotting boards across it and there is the potential to fall through.  I thought about it for a second.  I would hate to fall through and be the person to ruin everyone’s evening by getting hurt or dying, but I would also hate to deny myself the experience of seeing this old bridge up close and personal.  So I decided to go.  There is something magical about manmade structures that have been reclaimed by the natural world.  The bridge looked secure enough so carefully and slowly I walked out onto the bridge.  The red rust cross beams contrasted the surrounding greenery nicely.  There were a few holes in the wood floor, and it was certainly rotting, but overall it seemed pretty sound structurally.
I walked out to where the bridge fell away, just over the edge of the river and I sat down.  I must have sat there for over 2 hours.  One by one the bateaus started to come in, they each had their different ways of announcing their arrival as they came around the river bend.  A couple of them blew horns, one blew a conch shell, another fired a flare gun.  I watched and in between boats  I examined the bridge.  I looked at the rusted nuts and bolts; I examined the pealing metal and green wood underneath.  I marveled at the crossbeams up above me  and I stared across at the matching ruins on the other side of the river and I wondered what the world looked like from that angle. 
At one point I was joined by two ‘bubbas’.  They walked up loudly smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.  These guys were the epitome of the southern white trash stereotype, it was as if they fell straight out of a B movie.  There was Bruce the loud joker, whose accent sounded like an imitation of itself, and there was his friend, I honestly don’t remember his name, but he had a more serious quality about him.  At first he seemed to be less of a caricature than his loud friend, but then I saw the “white power” tattoo on his forearm and I realized that he too was a B movie character but instead of the drunk uneducated bubba, he was playing the part of the angry white supremacist. 
Needless to say I did not feel entirely safe sitting with them on that quiet bridge, but I decided it would make more sense if I were to stay there and let them leave first.  I did make sure to point out, when they asked if I was there alone, that my Dad was right down there by the side of river, not very far away at all.  And when they asked my name, and upon hearing it exclaimed “Shireen! That’s a weird name.”  I decided it would not be a good idea to tell them where it comes from (Iran).  When Bruce remarked that it sounded like “Charlene and Irene mixed together” I said “Yes, it’s a combination of both those names.”
Eventually they decided to leave.  My only regret is that I didn’t get their picture, but being up their alone I did not want to encourage them in any way.  I know, I know, they probably didn’t mean any harm. 
After my two new friends left I continued my river reverie until finally I could hear the voices of women in the distance.  It was The lady Slipper.  They came in singing Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz”.   

And that was that, my James River Experience.
Day Three.

The bridge 
This is one of the Bateaus coming in to port

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Annoyed is an emotion, right?

So I am in the middle of CPE right now.  This is making for a very very long summer.  I am getting used to the patient visits, and I actually enjoy them to a certain degree, but the days are long and I am exhausted easily.  But the work in the hospital is nothing compared to the ever increasing hell that is the ‘group’ work.  Two days a week I sit in a tiny room with 7 other women where we analyze patient encounters that we have had.  If that is all the group work was, everything would be fine, but it seems that we spend much more time doing exercises that require us to analyze our feelings.  One of the things that has been pointed out about me on several occasions is that I don’t approach things emotionally enough.  Okay, I may be more analytical than your stereotypical female, and I am sure that there is something to gain in me learning to share my emotions, but I can’t but help to notice that those who are all emotion are not being pushed to think a little more logically. 
Why is that?  Is it because we are all women and despite the best efforts of feminism we are still stuck in these stereotypes that require women to feel deeply about every little thing?  Do we think that the emotional response is the final response?  I mean, I often have an emotional response, but it is my initial response, I move on from that point.  I wonder if the problem is that I have already done the processing of my issues long before I came to CPE. 
I have been sick this week and that is making me tired and defenseless.  Which means I now feel free to be emotional about my CPE experience and the emotion I am feeling is irritation. 
Of course that irritation might be gone by tomorrow, as I will have processed it and learned to think more logically about my situation.  That is, what good is it to be irritated by something that I have no control over and really, in the end, just need to get through?

Day Two

(Not the most inspired writing, but it is writing all the same, and at this point that is all that matters)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Could we start again, please?

So, I haven’t written in a long while, and even when I did it was sporadic.  But I thought about it almost every day, I suppose that doesn’t count.  I am going to give it another try, writing every day.  This is harder than it sounds, for someone like me who has no capacity for self motivation.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the things I want to do, and very little time actually doing them.  So this is an attempt to overcome that in myself, and believe me it is hard.  Right now even I have this feeling of dread inside of me.  I wonder if there is a word for a phobia of truly accomplishing something…
One of the problems is that I don’t really feel like I have anything interesting to say.  Sometimes I have stories and I can always write in a sort of memoir kind of way, but I don’t want this to be just a journal, this is a different sort of writing exercise that should cover a wider range of writing styles.  Prompts would be nice, some sort of outside source that would give me prompts that I could use as inspiration.  But outside prompts kinda feel like cheating.  At times like these I feel like I am desperately trying to hold in my crazy.  Usually I can throw the focus off of myself so that no one notices how strange and insecure I really am, but if I am writing in a blog, it is bound to come out. 
This may be one of the reasons I should write, both at my field education parish and in CPE I have been asked to allow myself to be more vulnerable, more emotionally available.  Part of me finds this offensive and a total intrusion of my privacy, but I also know that I have created some pretty amazing walls over the years and perhaps it might be useful to create some doorways as well.
So, here I go again, day one.