Last night I visited Arthur and some of the Pangani people. They have been starting to feel a call to get involved with the Zimbabwean situation. Since Friday I’ve bee feeling the same calling, although with no idea how to actually get involved, so I do what I do: I blog, I tell the stories as I hear them, and I hope to get as many people as possible to think and talk and hopefully get actively involved with Zimbabwe.

But we talked, Andrew was there, who wrote the article I referred to on Saturday, and Jody the Canadian, who is currently working with Zimbabwean refugees, and Arthur, and Mariah, who has spent some time in the past working with refugees (in Canada I think). We talked about the big picture, but also about the small. And this is where our attention got fixed. The small problem (or rather, one of the symptoms) is the millions of refugees currently in South Africa, and on this level it seems possible to get involved.

Obviously, no one will be housing millions of refugees, but it is possible to help a few. These people face enormous problems in Zimbabwe, except for the lack of food and basic medicine, many of them now fear for violence and their lives. In South Africa they now experience some of the worst forms of xenophobia in the squatter camps where they found safety up to now, and this also result in a fear of bodily harm or death.

South Africa don’t do refugee camps, but at places people are trying to help refugees. Central Methodist in Johannesburg is the one example we talked about. There is differing of opinion on what is happening there, but you can read some of it (Ekklesia Article, News report on refugee camp linked with crime), but in spite of the troubles, I hear very positive things about this move. A few other examples were also mentioned, people housing Zimbabweans in their homes, other smaller shelters. The conversation turned so that the other members, who are working together, are now talking about doing something similar, Arthur have a short post on this. My one recommendation is that when this is done, care should be taken that we are not taking away jobs from South Africans when trying to help Zimbabweans. However, if this article is right, there seem to be some space for skilled workers. 

Anyone out there also doing this? Anyone know of anyone that is involved in helping Zimbabwe? Helping refugees? Anyone that would want to get involved but don’t know what to do?

I found a copy of Where We Have Hope last night on my shelf. Bought it at a second hand book stall last years somewhere. It was written by a journalist who worked in Zimbabwe, Andre Meldrum (google this name and you’ll find a lot of info). The end of the first chapter really caught me. It gave words for what I’m more and more realizing my own feelings towards South Africa and Africa is…

“I am seated in the middle aisle and cannot see Harare’s twinkling lights dwindle as we fly up and away. But I do not need to. Zimbabwe is indelibly etched in my memory. I am steeped in this country, it is in my pores. More than just the physical look and feel and smell of the land, I have a deep sense of what the country stands for: liberation, majority rule, democracy and human rights. This is what Zimbabwe meant when it won independence in 1980 and it is what so many are valiantly fighting to regain. This conviction of what Zimbabwe stands for cannot be erased simply by forcing me out of the country.”

Update: I’ve been thinking since Saturday, but forgetting to say this: This might be a good time to again watch Schindler’s list, or using it in church.

Yesterday I posted some thoughts that were stirred by metaphors in the diving bell and the butterfly. However, the scene that had the greatest impact was something else. Juan-Do is editor of a fashion magazine, he has three children with one woman, who is basically his wife, although they never married, and he has a mistress. Before the stroke the mistress was the reason for a breakup between him and his wife, after the stroke, however, the mistress never came to visit, although his wife went through a lot of trouble to look after him.

At one stage his wife is visiting him, when the mistress calls. The only way that Juan-Do can talk back is if his wife translates his eye movements for her, although he can hear what the mistress is saying over the speaker phone. At the request of Juan-Do his wife leave the room so that the mistress can speak on her own. The mistress tell him how she wanted to visit him, but couldn’t get herself to see him in his state.

When the wife gets back, Juan-Do tell her, with his eye movements, to say: “Every day I wanted to see you” (or something like that). The pain that the wife feel is obvious, for some reason I also felt pain that Juan-Do must feel for having to say this through his wife.

I had a number of friends who went through these kind of relationship mess-ups, two people in a relationship, and then one of them decide to end the relationship and go into another one. It’s a very painful process for everyone involved, especially for the third person, the one that gets left behind. But there is also something normal in this process, there is something normal in being in a relationship, but needing a third person that force you to end a current relationship which whichever way you look at it anyhow couldn’t have worked.

I guess there is two things we need to notice in that scene. Juan-Do the bastard: how could he do this to his wife? But on the other hand his wife, which I think portrays the image of absolute love, almost stupid love, hurting herself because of her love for her husband. Now, I don’t think what Juan-Do did was good, actually, I think the message that is never put into words is that he was absolutely stupid to go for this other woman. That even now he must be stupid to want this woman, who doesn’t care nearly as much as his wife do, but I also see this happening with friends, saw it happening with myself a few years ago (obviously not in a married relationship).

I think it would help if we learn to see not only the bad things which the Juan-Do’s are doing in situations like these, but also the amazing love of the Juan-Do’s-wives. Noticing that somewhere, silently, there is someone who care, and sometimes it’s not so obvious to notice who this is, sometimes it might take the bad times to show us who really care.

Still, relationships end, and sometimes end in bad ways. The question we might wanna ask ourselves is rather what our role should be. Should we move on, should we still care, care simply for the sake of caring, sometimes knowing that even caring won’t fix a relationships, sometimes even being messanger for a new relationship, because this is what it would mean to care?

I think this is a clip that can be used with some success to point to the reality of relationships. To help those with pain because of situations like these to put there pain into words, to see the different roles that could be played.

The French movie with English subtitles, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of those movies that I think you need to let ripen slowly inside of you. On first sight it’s just another very boring, quite depressing movie, with a few moments of humor. But as time goes by, you realize that you’ll remember this movie for quite some time. Well, maybe I’m wrong, cause it’s only been 24 hours since I saw it, but the more time pass, the more the metaphors and scenes seem to be impressed upon my mind.

The movie beautifully portrays not only locked-in syndrome (the result of a certain stroke which leave you paralyzed form head to toe, but with full function of your brain and ears), but also the experience of being locked-in in life. This become obvious with the people who claim to understand, the guy Juan-Do gave his plain ticket to, that compare Juan-Do’s locked-in syndrome with his own experience of being locked-in while being held hostage for a number of years, and his dad, that compare his own being locked up in his flat on the fourth level with Juan-Do’s locked-in syndrome. The images of the diving bell are also a constant reminder that this is more than a mere portrayal of locked-in syndrome, but a metaphor for life.

And I find myself grabbing back onto this metaphor again and again, being locked-in, dependent on others for every move you make, this seem to be both our blessing and our curse. The curse part seem to be the obvious part, it is possible for Juan-Do to do anything without others. It is obviously painful to have to rely on others to switch the channels of the TV, even worse, to rely on others simply to ask someone for help! He cannot even ask someone else’s help without someone first taking the trouble to look at him and find out if he would like to ask something. I’m not sure yet whether the movie attempts to show the freedom others possess, or the experience of being locked-in.

I guess Reformed theology would tell us that we are freed from our diving bells, that we are no longer locked-in. And then reality over and over seems to reply that people still have to ability to lock others up. Lock them up in stigmatization, in poverty, in mistrusting humanity. Lock them up in their own worlds of nightmares, of fear, of uncertainty. If we have to use the categories of sin and forgiveness in the way that make sense today, maybe this would be it: that we are free from all forms of being locked-in. But this would remind us of the tension which Reformed theology seemed to have lost, because constantly we are reminded that still we are being locked in, the “wonders” doesn’t seem to work. Silently in faith we belief that freedom from all forms of being locked-in is possible, but not necessarily triumphantly proclaiming that the battle has been won.

In comes people… and imagination. It is in his imagination that Juan-Do finds freedom. But also, maybe not that obvious, it is in his dependency on people that freedom is found. Being locked-in locks out people, those who nevertheless take the trouble to become part of his world, help to free him. And in the end freedom is not to be found by being totally independent. It is relations that bound him that Juan-Do now miss; being taken from these relations is what locked him in. So the dependency on people becomes a blessing. Slowly but surely, between people and imagination, Juan-Do again finds the butterfly. And Reformed theology? I guess it’s the difference between triumphantly claiming that: “through Christ victory is ours, we must just take it”, and humbly believing that being free is possible, but that this is a road together with people and imagination, a road of spirituality. This is the answer of a theology that replies to our reality in faith, rather than a theology that triumphantly shouts out the reality of lives locked-ins.

Tuesdays is half-price day at Sterkinekor, which mean Tuesday is movie day. Last night we went to see Grace is Gone, I found a whole number of people in the theatre who I know, guess great minds think alike, cause this was the first half price day it was showing.

The movie consists of mainly dialogue, showing the road trip that a dad take his two daugthers on as he tries to get away from the reality that his wife has been killed in the war in Iraq, and tries to hide this from his daughters, because he doesn’t know how to talk about this to them.

This guy really isn’t a good father. He doesn’t let his kids have any own opinions, have rules so strict it really gets the kids down, and then make the absolutely horrible mistake of deciding not to tell the kids about the death of their own mother. The movie then portrays how this guy start doing all the right things in the midst of doing this absolute horrible thing.

While taking the girls on the trip he relax his rules a bit, although the reason is that he tries to hide what is going on from them. He actually start talking to his two daugthers, listening to them. Possibly the most beautiful part is where he buy two packets of sigarettes after cathcing the oldest smoking, and then start smoking a sigarette with her. Although he seems to be a trained smoker, he then start coughing even more than the kid, and in the end she is so worried about him, she actually forget about smoking. Or maybe the most beautiful part was where he got into the little toy house in the store with the smaller one and just started talking to her.

Does the name of the movie only talk about the wife, “Grace”, or does the movie also show relationships where “grace is gone”? I think the latter even more than the former. But then the movie also show relationships where grace has been found, it show that grace can be found in the midst of the most horrible places.

Is this possible? Can we actually do the right things for all the wrong reasons? I guess so. Maybe this is the grace given to parents, that sometimes in the midst of making the worst mistakes you can think of, although maybe with the best intentions, you do the most right things. Sometimes we just need to sit down with kids, just listen to them, and that might be more important than all the fancy tricks about how to raise kids, what to do, what not to do, and doing everything right.

August Rush of Music

February 12, 2008

The Music… Oh, the Music!!!
Annelie phoned Handre earlier tonight, asking him if he’d like to join her for a movie. He was feeling like sleeping, I wasn’t feeling like working, so I phoned her, said I’d join her. Wanted to know what she wanted to watch, she wanted to know what I wanted to watch. I said I don’t even know what is showing at the normal cinemas at the moment, there is so few movies I consider worth the time to see, but I’ll join her if we watch a good movie, she said she won’t know if it would be good, even if she had seen it, she won’t know if I’d think it’s good (I’m real hard on movies), I said I’d come in any case, I’ll read through the info on what is showing so long.

I decided in August Rush, really was the only movie currently showing at Kolonade which I considered worth the time. We got the 22:15 slot, and were the only two in the theatre (can that we profitable?). And the music… oh, the music! Every minute of music was worth the listen. The story was OK, a bit fairy tallish, just too good to be true kind of thing. I hated Robin Williams as a bad character, but I guess then he played his role good. But the music!

Everyone made a scene about the music in As it is in Heaven, and probably it is of a “higher quality”, I won’t know, all I know it that the raw music from August Rush I experienced so much more intense than As it is in Heaven. It was everything I want in music. Mixing of genre’s, classical and rock, in the most amazing way. I’ve always known that I would like this mix, but I’ve never really heard it. Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra never really did it for me, but this, this was amazing. The Rock band and the Cello coming together to form the most amazing music, making your heart beat. It’s intense, stirs emotion, build up, make you wanna cry, make you wanna jump and then… then… loadsharing!!!!!

Yes, 17 minutes before the end of the movie, the power went of! Jou beurt is jou beurt, maar jislaaik, moes hulle nou regtig dit TOE doen?!?!? Funny enough, I didn’t care for the end of the story, but I have a feeling that I missed the best part of the movie, the best part of the music, the climax of it all.

Yes, others with more knowledge of music, a more refined taste or something, might think otherwise of the movie. But if you just love the raw sounds of music, from different genres, different styles, love music for the sake of music, go see this movie. I’d recommend the 10 o’clock slot at Kolonade, then you might get the theatre for yourself.

OK, on life and theology it says, so any theology in this movie? Maybe just the theology of art. Of listening to sounds, really listening. Listening for the sake of the beauty of music, of sound. And if there aint beauty in theology, is it theology worth theologizing?

So, I actually for once saw a movie before most of my friends. This is a first for me, usually I’m one of the last to actually get around to seeing things. In all honesty, I didn’t expect much from the film. “The last man on earth is not alone”? What the heck? I read it was about this guy immune to a virus with mutants that want to eat him bla bla bla. I expected just another action movie. But is was sci-fi, and everybody seems to be making a big fuss about it, so when a friend asked if we could go see a movie (which ended in a 9 hour conversation, which is a blog post on it’s own, but I’ll skip that part), we ended up seeing “I am Legend”.

And I was surprised. Yes, you’ll find the fair share of screaming, shooting and fighting. But there is also the brilliant depiction of a guy living in solitude, and, although a genius, and basically doing all the “right” things when living in solitude, he is getting a little crazy, which will nearly cost him his life.

The film also ask the question of what humans are capable of. And the band played on starts out with the idea that the Cholera fever was a prediction for what was to come, which is then portrayed as AIDS. With I am Legend, I got the idea that AIDS was a prediction of what could come, and then this came, a virus that was airborne, and killed the majority of the people, mutated the rest into nothing but vicious animals, and left the rest fighting for their lives.

What are humans capable of? How bad can we mess things up? Some take the story of Noah, and believe that we will exist for ever, earth will not be destroyed, except for the day when God would then come down and destroy it with fire in order to set up a new earth, to separate the “saved” from the “lost”. This obviously goes hand in hand with a literal interpretation of Revelation, and can be seen in a lot of popular apocalyptic ideas. Others take the fact that God is in control to mean that in the end things will work out fine, no matter what.

What are humans capable of? Can we really mess things up so bad that it’s irreversible? At least for the human race? Was it possible with the nuclear crisis of the seventies? Is it possible that we can create a virus so bad that it kill everyone? Scientifically, is it possible? Won’t humans just always find a way to survive? How about theologically? Can our theological categories fit the idea that humans mess things up so bad and God don’t fix it? How would our answer affect how we think about issues like global warming and genetic manipulation?

On another note, the way God is portrayed in the movie is very interesting. It’s not the typical comical God of Hollywood. You know, with the old priest marrying people while he is being rushed, or the priest behind the curtain taking confessions and then suddenly jumping out mad at the confessor. No, this God was personal, and real. It’s about a family praying before going into a crisis. It’s about a guy losing faith in the face of life getting as bad as it can get. It’s about someone confessing that God is speaking when we listen. But it’s not the charismatic God, it’s the silent mystical God. And maybe it’s about someone who again gains faith, we never know, which happens through people. So, actually a very positive, balanced, view on spirituality from Hollywood for once.