Monthly Archives: March 2011
I think I may have found a new favorite film. The Adjustment Bureau is much less depressing than most of my favorite movies. I am sure that says something about who I am and who I am becoming.
There is a lot that can be said about the religious, spiritual and philosophical questions this movie explores. But tonight I was more interested in a potential psychological illustration I believe the movie subtly offers.
The agents – the powers that be in the world of The Adjustment Bureau (see it for yourself to find out more) – they do not want David and Elise to be together. The agents do everything they can to keep them apart. When their various meddling efforts go awry, they try a different approach. One agent tells David that neither he nor Elise will reach the great heights they are destined for if they have each other: the chemistry between them brings out David’s free and impulsive side and will cost them both greatness.
Later another agent played superbly by Anthony Mackie (who played a mentally ill version of Tupac in Notorious) tells David that was a lie. He insist that the problem is not that Elise brings out the worst in David; rather the problem is that she will be enough for him. He will stop reaching for greatness.
I am not a big fan of Sigmund Freud. But I think he was on to something with the whole id, ego and super-ego thing. The agents’ lines of reasoning on why David and Elise should not be together sound a lot like a super-ego out of control: fear your impulses; fear your heart; they will lead you astray. If some brand of asceticism doesn’t work, the out of control super-ego then attacks happiness and contentment: there are more lofty aspirations to be considered. Sacrifice for some greater good.
I do not mean to downplay self-giving. It sort of plays an important role in my religion. And of course setting aside one’s desires and privileges for the sake of another can be the most profound of human experiences. But the unbridled super-ego is so vulnerable to self destruction and outside exploitation:
Churches use Jesus’ words “sell all you have and give it to the poor” to get the poor to forsake all they have and give it to the rich.
National war machines use “For god and country” to enlist the masses in protecting national interests by desecrating the god and country of another nation.
But this is not meant primarily a critique of religious exploitation. Neither is this an anti-military rant. Every institution – the girls scouts selling cookies at my door, the investment firm trying to strong arm employees to give a few more hours to the company, the makers of brand name cheese, clothing and SUV’s trying to tell sell us products they insist our children need to be happy – they all prey on (and pray for) super-egos that are out-of-whack.
But the one we have to worry most about is the voice we hear when we look in the mirror. The one that says you’re better off not great, your better off less than happy, discontentment will give you an edge, reaching for the stars will not leave you grounded in reality.
I often wonder if it is the super-ego, not the id, that tells us to have one more beer, a second cheese burger or an extramarital affair. If it can’t drive us into a desert of self imposed saintly isolation, it will offer a hungry id opportunity to exploit food, fun and community, anything to ensure we don’t use and give thanks for these gifts properly. Lest we become great.
And this is what we do. People with insatiable super-egos form id adjustment bureaus in the form of economic, political, religious and even artistic structures, to make sure some pockets and bellies stay empty while others stay fat – as long as all are unhappy. Because that is what we believe we deserve.
The Rodney King beating at the hands of LAPD officers was 20 years ago this night.
A little over a year later, officers Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were acquitted of assault charges.
That was on was April 29, 1992. That day the LA Riots began in protest to the verdict. For six days the city burned. There were 53 casualties of the riots and thousands of injuries.
In November of that year Ice Cube released The Predator. It was a brilliant, violent and frightening summery of the American Zeitgeist. The album references, King the trial and the riots repeatedly.
It was the first hip hop album I really devoured. I listened to it on my headphones into the wee hours of the night. I fell asleep listening to it.
I once told my brother that I discovered God under the lilac tree just outside our bedroom window listening to Ice Cube. While there is a lot more to my story than that. The statement is only partially hyperbolic.
I am not kidding whatsoever when I say this was the birth for my awareness and concern for justice, equality and race relations. It is at least part of the reason I ended up in seminary. It is definitely directly related to why I found myself taking electives in the Hebrew Prophets when I could in undergrad and seminary.
God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).
I just got done being an apologist for Eternia again on a friend’s blog (to the point where I feel like a spammer). I just got the link to this youtube video today. It features several live highlights from her “Ladies First” show in Brooklyn with Rah Digga (who also shows up in this vid). Check it out. If you’re interested in more, check out this recent interview. She talks about the difference between being a woman on stage and a woman walking down the street. Here is another great interview with her from about a year back where she talks about her Christian faith among a lot of other things. Okay. I think that’s enough for tonight. Enjoy