"There are no principles, just circumstances".
Tonio - Knight of Cups.
I was listening to an interview today with Carrie Fisher. Recorded some years ago, it spoke of her struggle with family, drink, drugs and personal mental health trials. There were certainly aspects that many, if not most of us can understand or relate to, particularly how the "sins" that are 'natural' to us in our early life darken our lives as we grow older. It was a stark juxtaposition to the 'virtual' representation of her most famed on-screen character which is currently pouring the currency into the box offices in the latest franchise offering.
Of course, she isn't the only star who finds herself so defined.
Peter Cushing, who died over twenty years ago, has also been rendered for the same movie, allowing a narrative continuity to Lucas' original 1977 chapter that may cause fans to tingle with a measure of delight - something, perhaps, that was shared at the 2014 Billboard Awards when the sudden loss of the music and dance skills of Michael Jackson were "resurrected" by a holographic performance that certainly stunned many who watched.
The image is power.
It certainly tells us all something. We don't want death to end us.
The image, even in the twisted "seed" of our present lives, needs, cries to be more.
"If you pretend something long enough", noted Carrie in her interview "it comes true".
Of course, pretending you're good (ok), as she suggests, or conjuring up someone as photons (or, perhaps in future, as comprehensive data patterns) only gets you to... a pretense. It doesn't truly eradicate or even genuinely ease the grief of what's really going on, and the danger comes if we think that the image, the illusion, is all.
As someone who relishes the opportunity to create and play with imagery, especially as a way to seek to see more in our world, I'm all too aware of the allure to so fall in love with the mirage that we can miss the actual purpose in what we're involved in here. Like Carrie, I can say I'm doing fine to the world, but it won't stop the degeneration in my frame as I age, or remedy the spiritual cancer in my soul because I'm a child of a profane, pagan (meaning alien to what is pure) race. There is great light in our lives here, but so often, we're asleep, dreaming garish illusions we think are real, so we miss what counts and, as a consequence (to borrow from Umberto Eco) put our faith in fakes.
We may think that pretense can do something good - take away our anxiety or worries for a moment... help us keep some disturbing truth at arms length so we don't have to really grapple with the genuine "messiness" of what's involved, and that can be true whatever our status. Christians, perhaps, will speak of a field like art as something which allows us to "enjoy God's beauty in the world" - so where does the Crucifixion, if depicted in church or art, fit in that definition?*
There is much, much more to unpack.
The Cross tells us how beauty comes into the pain, into the grief, into the darkness of us, and creates the true way back to a health that deals with our sin and our severance. That's where we need to start - the rescue isn't in our power.
Fans of Carrie Fisher still have another opportunity to see her inhabiting her favored role, as she completed her part for the next screen installment before her death. If we're hungry for what her character and so many others have truly longed for, however, we need to look beyond what such myths and tales aspire to.
Malick's latest movie really seeks to tap-in to the deep places on this.
"Once the soul was perfect and had wings, it could soar into that heaven that only creatures with wings can know. But the soul lost its wings and fell to earth where it took an earthly body. Now, while it lives in this body no outward sign of wings can be seen, yet the roots of its wings are still there... when we see a beautiful woman or a man, the soul remembers the beauty it used to know and begins to yearn to spout those wings once more. That makes the soul want to fly but it cannot - it is still too weak. So that person keeps staring up to the sky, longing, at a young bird, or he or she has lost all interest in the world around them".
Christ has come to allow us to become found once again.
So, the 'message' for 2017 is by all means allow the illusions to remind of what was, but don't get lost within them - look further, harder, and allow what truly counts to enfold you, overwhelm you, and turn you from misery to grace.
*(Michelangelo makes a great argument on that, by the way, in the movie The Agony and the Ecstasy, when he's charged with profanity).