Guess I’ve learned something new, or at least new to me, from an old and beloved source. That source is a tight little expressionist movie from 1960 entitled Horror Hotel. It featured Christopher Lee and Patricia Jessel, and was written by George Baxt. Horror Hotel, which was made in England about Americans, understands the phenomenon it is talking about, acutely. Horror Hotel understands the phenomenon it is talking about to be the drive to prolong physical life. The “heroine” and her husband, played by the sinister Valentine Dyall, are all about prolonging life. They are taking extreme measures to do it.
In a way, all of these movies, all these ‘Draculas’, and ‘Frankensteins’, and ‘Mummys’, depict characters in search of prolonged physical life. We’re doing it ourselves, by the way — which is why physical death takes many unawares. They simply aren’t aware, or don’t wish to be aware, of what’s coming.
You’ll like Horror Hotel. It is easy to find and watch, and has an astounding Christian ending. Note, too, the character ‘Mr. Russell’. He’s supposed to be a New England Congregationalist minister, but the makers of the movie only knew Church of England ones. ‘Mr. Russell’ is “Protestant Anglicanism in Supermarionation”. Look sharply for a quick view of the notice board outside his church. Is ‘Mr. Russell’ High Church, Low Church, or Broad? (You should get a prize if you can tell.)
This is intended to be the opposite of a rant. Even if it were a rant, it could not come ten thousand light years close to Antoine’s celebrated one, which probably affected French history (and delightfully so) in the Summer of ’66.
Here is kind of positive elucubratory reading list — some books that light a candle, at least for me, plus a dismantling but exquisite little movie that is actually a study in scarlet.
To think that ‘Roderick Usher’ was the pure ‘mindful’ man! He heard it all, saw it all, and understood it all. He just didn’t expect anything good to happen. (Don’t you ever want to interpolate yourself into a movie like that, and offer a word of hope to the suffering figure? I always do, but never can.)
Long ago one was in a theater that was showing 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the conclusion of the movie, a dear hippie who was not quite himself ran down the aisle and threw himself through the screen, shouting, “It’s God! It’s God!”. Ever since that night, I’ve wanted to do that. (It really happened.)
This is a personal narrative, a kind of “pilgrim’s progress” that actually happened. It uses some old Gospel music and a funny English singer named George Melly. It is also a kind of “swan-song” — you’ll see — or maybe a kind of “final tour”. (Remember ‘The Who’?)
The podcast envisions the human being as in the grip of an alien face-hugger, like in the movie: a diastolic and menacing entity that one could easily term the ego. The face-hugger is not so much malignant — tho’ it is malignant — as it is threatened and fearful. It is constantly “circling the wagons” — but on my face!
This is a two-parter. “We two are one” (Eurythmics). And on that note, Podcast 119 is dedicated to Mary Cappleman Zahl.
Listen to the Rev. James Cleveland’s meditation on Good Friday. It is in a class by itself.
Then consider a train of thought that declares a way out of one impossible war, the war on our face-hugger. It’s a war we can’t win. “There’s got to be a better way” (Frankie Goes to Hollywood).
To wind things up, there’s the question: Did PZ get across? His religious psychologist thinks PZ has “a toe on the road”. Will the world “hear from me again” (Fu Manchu)? Dunno.
Of the Famous Three (Theological Virtues) — Faith, Hope, and Love — only Love outlasts death. Or according to First Corinthians 13 it does.
Faith will be fulfilled when we “see God with our own eyes” (Job 19:27) — we won’t need it any more. Hope will see the hoped-for thing accomplished (I Corinthians 13:10) once we’re “in the clear” from this foggy night. Love, on the other hand, will be the same thing then, after death, that it is now, before death. Love is the thing we take with us when we go.
My talk in Charlottesville is on hope. Hope is something for now, something to exercise now. Given the repetition of what we’re dealing with in ourselves and in the world around us, especially the repetition inherent in our “clay”, there’s not much actual change going on in people. I see a lot of “tweaking”, but little change in the pH levels of our human nature.
The change agent comes in defeat. Defeat is the thing that makes you stop, at least for a minute, and ask yourself, How come this isn’t working? Something went wrong. Can we stop by the side of the road for a sec and try to find out what it was? (I realize the moments of life-stoppage are short. They go by fast. People would rather “move on”. But sometimes things get so bad that you can’t bounce back. Or not as fast as you’d like. Those are the most important times in your life.)
Hope comes through death. What I mean is, when you’re forced to die to what you thought you were all about, something can happen that’s not you. Then hope for the future gets born.
Here are two quotations I will use Saturday in Charlottesville. The first is by Goethe:
“Until you know of this, how to grow through death, you are just another troubled guest walking the gloomy earth.”
The second is from a recent interview with Bob Dylan:
“So when you ask some of your questions, you’re asking them to a person who’s long dead. You’re asking them to a person that doesn’t exist.”
My talk will be practical, intended for “you the living” (Monster Mash). (If you’re already dead, you don’t need to come.) It will also reference a movie from 1921, an oddly naturalistic silent movie about death in life that is called The Phantom Carriage. This movie depends for its effect on super-imposition, literal super-imposition of one image over another. It proves to be a basic tool in the creation of hope.