1.11.2010

One Coat of Primer



This last weekend Jessica and I primed and painted our kitchen, and did a pretty good job of it too. Naturally we had a Lord of the Rings marathon playing off the lap top in the background, and naturally that led us to a lengthy conversation on philosophy, aesthetics, metaphysics, literature, and culture; which will be the basis of the following.
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A.G. Walker

We love the Lord of the Rings movies. We love the scenery. We love the music. We love the thunder of thousands of charging horse hooves. We love making fun of Orlando Bloom. It's a great twelve hours. Obviously there are differences between these three mega movies and the hallowed epics of J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination. A list of these differences would be lengthy and pointless. Books are books and talk in the special language of books. So too with movies. (So too with trees but that's for the Ents to teach you.) What caught our attention however was the overall message the different mediums present.

I have a friend who once told me outright that he preferred the Aragorn of the movies to the Aragorn of the books. (He also once said he preferred Berlioz over Bach. If he doesn't feel silly now, it's only a matter of time. :)) The Aragorn of the books, he said, was too lofty and perfect, while Viggo presented a human Aragorn, filled with human doubts and fears, yet possessing the strength to do near impossible feats when it mattered. I'm not wanting to put words in his mouth, but it seems he wanted someone to relate to, a friend rather than a demi-god. I believe this was foremost in the mind of the director and writers when they made their decisions about this movie. They did not want heroes in the mythological sense. They wanted closeness and relation and comfort and human (or dwarf or elf) vulnerability. What's more I see this as a greater trend throughout our culture. There are, for instance, many hundreds of books written every year that use as their material nothing more than real life situations. Don't get me wrong; when Chaucer painted his character portraits and Shakespeare gave out his lines it was a victory to common humanity. Yet some books do nothing more than paint a bleak and violent portrait of human suffering and miscommunication. It's easy to relate to these stories, these existential tableaux without beginning, middle, or end, just high emotions and useless conclusions. Yeah, I can relate to that just fine. Personally I'd rather turn on the world news.

That's why I believe the Aragorn of the books is so important. It's the same with the mythology of the Greeks and Norse, the folk tales of Grimm, MacDonald's "fairy-tales for adults", Narnia and Potter and Spencer and Bunyan and even the Bible. They are stories of a different world! I cannot totally relate to Aragorn of the books, but I can do something more: I can let the unearthly beauty of his character inspire me and invite me into a different realm. There is majesty there! It is something that demands music, beautiful and mysterious and powerful music! There a chord is struck within the deepest part of me and a hunger is stirred. It is Abraham gazing upon the land of his birthright. It is the voice of the decayed Sybil. It is the rustle of the North Wind. Who knows what it is!? It is beyond; beyond present sight or hearing or understanding. Yet it is important; important to heed and to follow and to wait for.
That's what I look for in movies and books and music and in the eyes of my true love. A real embrace.

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