Three ways to live

Which is your way?

Potter’s magic prevails?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 10:02 am on Saturday, December 30, 2006

I refer to an article “Potter’s magic prevails “, published in Singapore newspaper “Today” sometime in December 2006.

The argument of the article goes like this. The last installment of Harry Potter (“Goblet of Fire”) has earned twice as much money as the “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” so far. Despite the latter being Christian, it appears that God couldn’t help it earn more money. So that probably means that God doesn’t exist. And the Harry Potter success is based on the appeal to wider demographics, which Narnia failed to do.

I don’t know what made the author conduct such an analysis in the first place, it really looks quite childish. I personally didn’t like the latest Harry Potter (although I liked the previous ones), and I loved the Chronicles. But what does it have to do with God? Does he really believe that the main purpose of God is to make supposedly His movies make money? It requires a lot of faith to reach such a conclusion.

But what struck me the most about the article is the quote that was mentioned, due to a fantasy writer Philip Pullman, an avowed atheist: ”The highest virtue we have, on the authority of the New Testament itself, is love. And yet, you find not a trace of that in the books.” That is an astounding claim. Did Mr. Pullman actually saw the movie? Right in the middle of it is the story of the Lion laying down his life to save Edmund’s life. I always thought that sacrificing your own life for another is the greatest expression of love. Maybe Mr. Pullman was hoping to find some other kinds of love there? Maybe when the Witch wanted to claim Edmund’s life, the Lion should have said: “Oh poor Edmund, I really love you. So sorry you have to go through this. But don’t be afraid, after your death we will love and remember you forever”. Sorry for sarcasm, couldn’t resist.

I am not familiar with Mr. Pullman’s own fantasy writings, often referred to as atheistic and “Anti-Narnian”. To be fair, I actually have deep respect for people who so strongly believe in something that it starts to show up in everything they create. However, bitter criticism of an established (and much more famous) work of art, in order to advance your own, is a sign of insecurity.

"Hallelujah" song

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 10:00 am on Friday, December 29, 2006

I have just recently discovered this song written by Leonard Cohen back in 1984. It has later been popularized by Jeff Buckley and has recently been featured in several movies, including Shrek and OC. It has a really touching tune, but rather impenetrable lyrics. Trying to discover the meaning I went online searching for forum discussions/critiques. I found one rather comprehensive, which presented multiple interpretations.

I don’t want to present my own interpretation here, although I have formed one. But I want to mention what has struck me the most about the interpretations I have found.

Consensus on that forum was that while there could be the real meaning of the song (the one the author himself envisioned), you are free to interpret it for yourself and such an interpretation would be as good as the real one, as long as it is useful to You.

I have yet to understand what makes people believe in that. The idea that something can be true only for yourself, and not universally, is rather odd (and novel). People used to believe that the truth is something that exists outside of Self, and hence should be discovered outside of Self. Instead, nowadays people prefer to think that there are many little truths inside each of us, none of which is particularly better than the others.

I can imagine somebody with a personal interpretation of the “Hallelujah” song meeting Leonard Cohen (LC). A conversation could go like this:

Fan: Hi Leonard, I am very pleased to meet you. Really liked that song of yours, “Hallelujah”
LC: Glad you liked it
Fan: I especially liked the way you dealt with the issue of xxx
LC: What? There was nothing about xxx there
Fan: What do you mean? That part of the song said …
LC: No, that part was about yyy
Fan: That cannot be true! You must have forgotten!
LC: No, I don’t think so
Fan: But…, hmm, I always thought that it meant xxx. It really helped to overcome zzz. I am a completely new person because of this song
LC: I am glad it helped you, but it is not what I meant.
Fan: Ah, doesn’t matter what you meant! As long as it helped me, it must be true for me…

I believe we should all acknowledge that there exists one universal truth, and none of our personal interpretations can compete with it. And only the author has the right to say what the truth is. That is the origin of the word “authority”, by the way. To have the authority over something means to be the author or at least to be nominated by the author to make the decisions, to judge whether something is true or not.

There is a real danger in thinking that the truth can be found inside of Self. It’s a nice comforting thought, I must give it that, but it’s a lie. Like in the first Matrix movie, it was a nice little lie to taste a delicious steak with a good wine, while you were actually strained in a capsule generating electricity for the machines. But all lies will eventually cease, only the truth will remain.