Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When A Good Movie is a Bad Thing (or is it?)

It has become something of a joke between me and my closest friends that whenever I watch a movie, I tend to relate in the most bizarre ways to the characters onscreen. 

In fact, my favorite films of the past year have all spoken to me because deep down, my spirit resounded with the people I shared two hours with on screen. I relate to the deep need of the titular character of Inside Llewyn Davis to make meaning of his life in the wake of tragedy. I relate to the craving for intimacy felt by Joaquin Phoenix's Theodore in Her. On a dark note, I felt the frustration and anger of Cate Blanchett's Jasmine in Blue Jasmine. Heck, I even related to Emmett in The Lego Movie.

Let's face it, we all love a movie that we can relate to. Isn't that why Spider-man is considered a more "relatable" hero than Iron Man? There's an element of real world struggle inherent in the Peter Parker plight that just isn't there for Tony Stark.
(For the handful of billionaire inventor playboys who loved The Iron Man trilogy- I apologize.)

In a fantastical world such as that seen in Marvel or DC films, or in Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth, this relatability helps to ground us in a world that is otherwise completely unbelievable. Finding myself relating to Frodo or Sam in The Lord of the Rings gives gravitas to the plot, putting real stakes into the story to create a reason to watch to the end. Relating to these types of characters helps the audience to actually care what happens to them.

And this is a good thing.
(Well done, screenplay scribes!)

What do you do, though, when you find yourself relating to those whom you are not intended to? How do you deal with relating to the misfits, the tortured souls, the lonely, the searching, the insecure, the jacked up?

While fictitious in nature, most real-world films are completely plausible in one way or another. If it hasn't happened to you yet, just wait. 

In a movie with emotional depth, I find it dangerous (almost) to identify too deeply with the characters presented on screen, lest I allow it to painfully expose all of my own flaws - those both real and those projected - onto myself. 

When I viewed Inside Llewyn Davis, I wasn't merely sharing in the experience. For two hours I felt I was Llewyn Davis. It was I, and not a mere character who had lost his way. I felt in a raw way that I knew exactly what his character was experiencing (and to a degree I have).

When I saw Her, I was the man who desired above all else to be close to someone. I found my own solitude shoved into my face, an almost painful truth to confront. Yet it is only a film. 

Even in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, I found a way to extract my flaws from the deepest parts of my insecurity, and fling them on screen for the entire theater to examine. 

A good movie can be a bad thing when you don't know how to filter your emotions.

And then I realized the gift. 

Rather than analyze my flaws and insecurities to an unhealthy level of obsession, what if I analyzed what this emotional connection said about me as a human? What if instead of showing what an insecure person I am, this relation issue is actually pointing out my strengths?

I am a people person. I care deeply for those around me, especially those whom I share life with. I care about their struggles, their emotions, their passions, their careers, their loves, their pain, their lives.

When I connect then to Llewyn, or Theodore, or Jasmine, I am actually desiring to help share the load. To share the burden is to be blessed indeed. In my previous posts I have discussed the necessity of sharing life to experience God, and the immense blessing of getting to share in others' sorrows. I believe that connecting to film characters is merely a way in which God is allowing my view of him, and my view of self to permeate other areas of my life.

Sharing life spiritually isn't merely a Sunday thing. It is a day by day living out.

I don't mean to brag by this post, I certainly don't have it all figured out. But I want to share the experience as I do learn and grow. I truly and deeply hope you are encouraged somehow by my writings. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Problem with Prayer

I'm excited to announce that my latest article, "The Problem with Prayer", was written as a guest post for my friend Ryan Sidhom. Ryan and his wife Clarissa are both wonderful people, and Ryan has an excellent blog as well... http://ryansidhom.com. Check it out!

Check out the link to my new article by clicking the photo below!

 The Problem With Prayer
The Real Bowman

Monday, March 3, 2014

Thoughts about Heaven

If there's no music up in heaven, then what is it for?
- Arcade Fire, "Here Comes the Night Time"

Heaven is one of those mysterious aspects of the afterlife of which we honestly know very little.
Yes, scripture gives some imagery of streets of gold, pearly gates, no more tears, etc.. But when it's all said and done, we don't really know exactly what Heaven will be like.

I'm going to be honest. I have never found the classic view of Heaven all that appealing. It seems stale, stiff, and devoid of life. And unfortunately, I feel that much of Christendom has devoted its energy into selling the idea of Heaven rather than sharing life in Christ.

I once heard a preacher say "If you don't like singing, then you had better get used to it, because in Heaven that is all you will be doing."

I don't know that I can believe this. It seems rather dreadful for God to create such complex, multiple-dimensional beings in his own image, yet restrict them to singing for all of eternity. While yes, we do see endless worship in heaven depicted in scripture, are we really to be stuck in an endless loop of song? This begs the questions: what constitutes worship? Scripture, after all, tell us that in "whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God."

While there is no definitive argument for this, I can't help but feel that in heaven we will be free from limitations to create. Being made in the image of a Creator God, would we not have an innate need to create things ourselves? And is it not worship to live up to our potential by God's ability? On earth we have severe limitations regarding this, such as failing health, the need to work and make a living, limit to our abilities, etc. What will the new heaven and earth be like though? Can you imagine a place unlimited with possibilities, an open canvas if you will to paint new and beautiful images of the character of God?

I think that we will build, we will create, we will invent; but without limitation.
I finally will be free to create music unlike anything else without pain that holds me back today.
And God will be glorified, since He is the originator if it all.

This is not self centered! No. By living and creating with the ability that God gave us, we will be worshipping him by using the many dimensions of our being that He himself created! By delighting ourselves in The Lord through our creativity and skills, He is glorified and pleased.

At the core to my issue with the traditional Heaven, however, is the emphasis on the place itself.

Why do we try to sell a destination rather than a perfect relationship? Yes, I am one of those "it's the journey, not the destination" guys, but I can't help but wonder- Why would ANYONE choose wealth alone over meaningful relationships. If the core to Christianity is a relationship, then the end goal is complete restoration and fulfillment of this.

I would rather Heaven be a trash heap, but have Jesus there with me; rather than be in the most perfect of places without Him. What is heaven, even if it is all we ever dreamed, if we don't have Christ there to share in that life?

It has been said that the reward of following Jesus is Jesus. Yes we get heaven, we get eternal life, and we get a big family. But what gain is that apart from having the deepest of relationships with the God that knows my innermost being?
I look forward to heaven.
I do.

But only because of the restoration of a relationship with God, only because I will get to enjoy and worship Him forever by expressing the pure form of the nature he gave me.