When my brother James saw the movie in theaters last week, he had a thoughtful response. His reaction is similar to what I read and think about these days: self-control and the desire to be entertained.
Here are some introductory notes that I hope to flesh out over and over again in future columns.
The film is Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’ and it’s about not only current culture, but the human instinct to turn everything into entertainment.
In his review, James cites two sources, Plato’s Republic and Genesis, to underscore his point.
“Leontius, son of Aglaion, when he was ascending along the outside wall of the north from the river Piraeus, saw some corpses lying at the feet of the executioner. For a while he struggled with himself and covered his face, but eventually his appetite overwhelmed him. , opened his eyes wide and rushed to the corpse, saying, “Look for yourself, evil misery, enjoy the beautiful scenery…”
– Plato, Republic
“And when they brought them out, one said, ‘Flee for your life. Don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Flee to the hills, lest you be swept away.’ When Lot’s wife, who was behind her, looked back, she turned into a pillar of salt. “
– Genesis 19:17, 26.
“On the surface, I loved Nope as an alien invasion thriller. It’s a genre that’s close and dear to my heart,” said James. “But as a film about our desire to turn everything into entertainment, whether it’s the domestication of animals that probably shouldn’t be domesticated, or the turning of tragedies into memes and skits. A morbid curiosity and desire for entertainment can sacrifice our respect for the dead and our understanding of our own limitations.”
Like Leonitos (one of the world’s first rubberneckers) and Lot’s wife, we are all interested in things we shouldn’t see. Who hasn’t slowed down to see the shipwreck?
James’ words reminded me of what Edmund Burke wrote in his book A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of Sublime and Beautiful.
In it, Burke writes that beauty creates affection and tenderness in humans, which softens our appreciation and understanding. But of the sublime he writes:
“Anything that is suitable for stimulating the idea of pain or danger, that is, anything that is terrifying of any kind, that is familiar with terrifying things, or that functions in a manner analogous to fear, is a source of fear. majestic; that is, it produces the strongest emotions the heart can feel.”
When it concerns society, Burke argues that a society unbound by the disposition of beauty brings no order to our passions, only to the sublime, leading to an anarchic culture incapable of appreciating beauty. I warned him that he would be fascinated.
This is what Herman Melville alluded to near the beginning of his masterpiece Moby Dick.
Shortly after introducing himself with one of the most iconic first three words in all of literature (Call me Ishmael), Melville’s character reflects why people often flock to shores.
“But look! More crowds here seem to be wading straight into the water, heading for a dive. Weird! There’s nothing to satisfy them but the extremes of the land. Over there.” Hanging out in the shade of a warehouse isn’t enough. No,” he wrote. “They have to get as close to the water as they can without falling over. … Tell me, does the magnetic force of the compass needles on all those ships attract them to and fro?”
The sea is dangerous, but Moby Dick answers the call. What is it about human nature that draws us to a sublime world that is a very dangerous yet very attractive line on the precipice between danger and beauty?
I’ll leave my answer to that in a future column, “The Will of the Lord.”
However, I want to end this with one of my new favorite quotes from a recent TV show episode. Amazon has just released the first two episodes of his Rings of Power series based on Tolkien’s work. The visuals are stunning and the dialogue is decidedly Augustinian. In other words, it is true to Tolkien’s view of the moral nature of beauty, which is often overlooked in the empty philosophy found in the modern relativistic notion that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” “
Near the beginning, Galadriel’s brother, Finrod, gives her the metaphor of a ship and a rock. The former are guided by the beautiful, the latter by the sublime.
“Do you know why the ship floats but the stone does not? Because the stone can only see below. The darkness is vast and irresistible. The ship also feels the darkness every moment, taking control of her and trying to drag her down.” But the ship has a secret: unlike the stone, her gaze is up instead of down, fixed on the light that guides her, whispering something grander than the darkness has ever known.
As Burke pointed out, beauty should guide us. Because it creates love in us. When love is properly formed within us, it not only seeks to satisfy our desire to be thrilled, it guides us to help others.
Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce, where he serves as a deacon at a community church (C3). He can be reached at [email protected]