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Three Christian Murderers
Hello, my friend
I hope you are coping well with the pandemic's effects - wherever you are. If and while we have time my friend, let us talk about the frustrating complexity of forgiveness.
Movies, no matter how realistic they can strive to be, will always depict an amplified reality - even controlling for realism as much as possible, time will always jump across the life the story being told. Hence it is my view that whatever world that the movie presents - be it, Alain Resnais, Marvel movies or Pixar movies, what matters is what is accomplished in that reality - what has happened within the physics of the improbable worlds of film. And hence we come to the point of the film I want to talk about -- why is it that the ultimate sinner must forgive himself and is forgiven by others? With this film — In Bruges, we get to witness a person who has committed a grave mistake, a mistake that weighs too much on him.
But with the question I have posed, it is already presumed that the sinner must be forgiven — it is as if that was self-evident - that the task is to figure out the path towards it, not to question the destination itself. My friend, truthfully, I do not know for sure why a mistake must be forgiven - certainly, a person’s mistake that would affect me would elicit nothing near the realm of what I am talking about, but from the outside looking in, it seems like a sinner must be forgiven.
I say this phrase - from the outside looking in - because that is precisely what the movie offers us - it places us outside the sinner looking into his mind and heart. While the deed is not readily made clear to us, it is clear that the hero, Ray, is weighed heavily to the point of spontaneous breakdown in composure, which was not perfectly healthy, to begin with. His friend/handler, Ken is with him in Bruges, on the instruction of their boss - Harry Waters - a rather blunt man. They are in Bruges to get away from the consequences of the act that Ray had committed. Ray and Ken are professional murderers - hitmen. Therefore, one can at least guess the nature of the deed if not the specifics. My friend, I want you to see it. Therefore, I will not talk specifics. But one can safely say it has the weight of the worst act of crime. The movie then is for Ray to figure out if and how to live with this weight.
I'll stop with the film and delve deeper into what was reflected in me that is in turn reflected in the world at large. As always, the endeavour is to strive to delve deep enough into the personal so that it is actually universal and that whatever I write here is nothing new.
Most of us will never make a mistake so grave, but, as mentioned, a film depicts a heightened and contracted time. A film is dense in the way life rarely is. Therefore, the are mistakes that you cannot forgive yourself for, unlike in the movie, are not mistakes that are an act, but maybe a series of acts - habits - even a misguided viewpoint that one holds which acts as a seed for many mistakes. The point here is that the mistakes we make are not immediately shocking as what Ray does. And hence the guilt and its manifestation is also quite subtle -- like slow poison -- it eats away at the quality of everyday life which deadens the soul and traps the personality.
The New Family
An improvised and rather simplistic example - imagine a man that works 15 hour days and seems to never stop despite all the wreckage it costs him - his relationships and his health. It is not a drive to perfection that motivates this man. Motivated is hardly the word to use to describe this man's workday. What would be closer is that he works because he is compulsive. He will always be working at something, with or without a purpose to it. Purpose never was really part of the equation. He works to get away from a part of himself that shows up if he doesn't work. He is a little boy now, and he has failed mathematics. A subject that he should, by all accounts, should be excelling at - after all, his mother had taught him and the mother is a physics professor at a college. The letter 'F' mocks her, and in front of her was a boy and they both can engage in the exercise of not having to deal with the fact that one of these things is true - that she is a bad teacher or the boy cannot learn easy - at least not like the other kids. So she breaks off into the other direction - she had suspected it was coming - the boy never did get good grades but she never suspected failure. All semblance of age is discarded and a curse is laid upon the boy - the mother berates him and suggests, with much hyperbole, that he would be destined to fail at so many more things since this test should just be so easy. The mother has had a bad day - the head of the department had offhandedly said something quite insulting to her, confirming her suspicions that she was not valued there. The report card was the straw that broke the back. So her curses of eternal failure were directed at her son - but the world through her son. Maybe this had gone on for some time. Maybe this pattern has occurred too many times. So the son carries out his failure - carrying the pure shame of a child that the adult seemingly cannot be fully aware of, but will always a large driver of the man.
Born. Borne with Being
To be born in sin is not an injunction against the human race but a part of it. That oft-repeated phrase of the Christian is not damnation; I think it could at least be framed as a call to awareness. While being a person may or may not carry a great life in itself, it indubitably carries with it the sins of a person's defects. So you see, my friend, that forgiveness should be tied into the human condition - it is consciousness against nature's tyranny. One might wonder that there was no objective wrongdoing committed by the boy, and while that is true, it is also true that the adult acts as if it was his fault. One cannot say exactly why one person is lazy or uninterested or overwrought and the other is not - there is no definite line that can be drawn with regards to any unit of analysis. Some people just are the way they are and some people cannot bear who they are and some people run away from who they are.
On the flip side of the coin lies the accusation that a person who forgives himself too easily lives without guilt and without abandon. I at least have seen a difference who needs forgiveness versus those who ask for it like they're paying for a traffic fine. Wrenching guilt and shame have a way of shining through the body.
Reflecting on this, the movie and other things, I can say that there has been a pattern - that I tend to blame myself for who I am, but I never forgave myself for who I am and what I do because of who I am. I hope that, if this reflects in you somehow, that you see it too