Monday, 20 October 2014

All the world's....

'The world now consumes films, novels, theatre, and television in such quantities and with such ravenous hunger that the story arts have become humanity’s prime source of inspiration, as it seeks to order chaos and gain insight into life. Our appetite for story is a reflection of the profound human need to grasp patterns of living... Story isn’t a flight from reality but a vehicle that carries us on our search for reality, our best effort to make sense out of the anarchy of existence'.
Robert Mckee -Story: Style, Structure, Substance,and the Principles of Screenwriting

It's an amazing time to be living if you love the arts - so many films and books and films of books, and then there's the explosion in the last decade of TV drama. It's estimated you could now spend your entire week just watching all the new material that's being made available in this genre alone.

We love stories, especially those which in some measure marry to our need to find something, often amidst the mundane and the downright troublesome, that gives us at least a hint that there's something worthwhile, even meaningful, going on amidst the madness. As noted above, for most of us, it's become a principal means of making that search.

I've been reflecting some this past week on just how these stories have impacted upon me - from the things I read and saw in my childhood, firing my imagination and leading easily to my passion for science fiction in my teens, as well as more gritty and therefore perhaps  more realistic material in recent times. What links them all, however, is the sense that it's all worthwhile - there's a 'bigger picture' behind all the struggle.

I also went to see Matthew Hurt's play 'The Man Jesus'. Based on an interpretation of the Gospel of Mark (which Hurt believes was written 'decades after the events' themselves), it allows Simon Callow to adapt some of the familiar people in the gospel (Mary, James, John the Baptist, Simon,Judas, Herod and Pilate) into characters identifiable in modern British culture, which, when fused with the politics of the times, gives an immediacy to the material and the reactions of this company to the person of Jesus Himself. Making Jesus someone so real is indeed welcome, and certainly at the heart of Mark's gospel, but the telling premise that Hurt employs informs us where we are going to conclude this new study of this person. For the people who met and knew Him, He can only be an enigma, someone miss-understood (and, in terms of Christianity itself, probably miss-used). Because this Jesus refused the roads of power that most of those encountered in the play have to handle, He can only be, finally, rejected, to become no more than a symbol Himself - a man dying on a cross.

That's, sadly, where our own humanity has to put Him, because if we seek to engage with the clarity that Mark (and the other Gospel writers) actually provide about this story, then we're going to find ourselves facing someone deeply challenging and disturbing (that's where the play does score some points!), and we certainly cannot avoid what that is saying about the 'big picture' regarding who we are and what life is really all about.

Picking up the gospel of Mark itself, what strikes you immediately is how the words of Jesus are sprinkled amidst His actions - miracles in pretty much in every other passage as, after being defined as 'the beloved Son' of God at His baptism (1:11), He focuses entirely on the fact that the Kingdom of God has come amongst us... the man becomes not a symbol, but a vehicle for a greater reality. The impact of this is palpable - crowds so large that being crushed is a real danger rush to Him, and the turning-point truly comes when the Pharisees 'begin to argue with Him' and Jesus begins to speak of His own death and resurrection (8:31).

We can look at Jesus and 'the story' which so clearly is at the heart of who and what He is in any number of ways, but what matters is coming truly to grips with the story and the person found in what's recorded by Mark and the other gospel writers, who are not recording 'tales' generated decades later, but the very record of those, like Peter, who were there at the time and witnessed first-hand what was said and done.

Story, when presented well, puts us squarely before what matters.
Take a look at Mark's record, and see what it means to face the real Jesus.

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