Life is Film (by Abraham Bates)

I can’t say enough about Abraham Bates’ writing. I love it. I thoroughly enjoy dialogue with him on a weekly basis. Here’s another article of his from the Genesis Arts Report published at and for Hillcrest Chapel.

Life is Film by Abraham Bates:
We are walking films. We are narratives which piece together the bits and pieces of our families, educations, successes, pains and failures to create a story: a self. This self is the narrative of our lives. What kind of a film are you? Some of us would like to be a perfect Casablanca type person with intrigue, passion, adventure, and romance like Matt Atkins. Others want to be the silent force that holds the whole system together like Jedi Night Frank Talbot and Star Wars, still others desire a Kathy Hill kind of Enchanted April that brings life when it’s most needed. Are you a film-noir like Taxi Driver, Brazil, or Blue Velvet? Are you a film that depcits irony, humor, and wisdom in a single sentance like Wes Anderson’s Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums? There is a reason we need to begin interpreting our lives as film.

Understanding life as film helps break the modern myth of living by instinct. Instinct, defined by C.S. Lewis in the Abolition of Man, is modern man’s urge to live as if the only valid judicator of right action is the instinct of the person in the moment. This modern man begins everyday repeating their mantra, “no rules, no history, no yesterday, no tomorrow, today I act as my rational mid deems necessary.” But the result is a grown person who acts like a child. The hidden agenda of the sporadic newness of instinct is the heretical notion that the personal self is perfected at this one particular-present point in time, culture, and world. Lewis rightly understands the absurdity of this way of life.

Film narrative assumes a deeper level of life than mere instinct. It embodies a series of images and scenes placed together to form a whole story. For instance, the film Momento fantastically constructs a reverse narrative by assuming the viewer understands a traditional one. Even the abstract, existential films of Igmar Bergman and Roberto Fellini assume a congruency of images and words without an overt story line. Individual scenes are absurd without a larger narrative; there is always a method, motive, or value behind their existence. For us, our moment today is one scene in the context of our life; and our life is one scene in the context of the world; and the world is one scene in God’s larger narrative.

St. James understood that we are in the middle of God’s larger narrative when he wrote the words, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” He wrote these words to the universal Jewish/Christian church who were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire because of persecution after the destruction of the temple in 70AD. They had become small sects of monotheistic believers, in Christ, living within larger cosmopolitan community of pluralistic deities. James was encouraging them to understand their situation, as a unified group of people called out by our God, and to live out their narrative no matter how difficult life became.

Christianity in Western Civilization is facing this same tension: our individual narratives don’t seem fit the modern way of life and it makes us feel akward. Our tendency as modern people is to focus so intensely on our life as if we are the only scenes in the narrative that really matters. The result is that we miss the larger picture of God’s movement in the world. But we must remember that our lives have entered the film at mid-scene in plot twist number three called Redemption. We have already seen Creation and Fall play themselves out and now our lives have magnificently been dropped into God’s third act of Redemption as we patiently wait for the fourth: Restoration.

[tags]film, life, god, community, narrative, philosophy, abraham bates, modernity, progressive[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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