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Grand Canyon

September 19, 2015

GC‘Everything you need to know about life is in the movies.’ Steve martin/Travis

rumor of Angels – the mystic, but any reality of everyday life – a baptismal” presence, – an expression of Paul’s teaching in Romans 2 -What are we to make of Simon, the black tow-truck driver, who risks his life to rescue a white motorist, caught at night in an all-black section of the city? Or what of Claire, who finds an abandoned infant and convinces her husband they should adopt it? Are these righteous actions not also a work of the Spirit in the human spirit? Can we not see in these individuals an example of people who are “patiently doing good” (Rom. 2:7), who “do instinctively what the law requires” (Rom. 2:14)? Are these not persons “who live obediently in accordance with the revelation they have received”?

And what of the Hollywood producer who in Grand Canyon is shot in a random act, only to have a “vision” while in the hospital, suggesting that he stop making films that glorify violence?

Later, when the man is healed, he turns away from this “calling,” again deciding to make violent movies. Is this not an example, thinks Jewett, of one who has “exchanged the glory of the immortal God” (Rom. 1:23) for (other) images? An example of those who “though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened” (Rom. 1:2 1)?

According to Klyne Snodgrass, whom Jewett references, Paul is not speaking in Romans 1 and 2 of a “works righteousness” by which people make a claim upon God, but of a salvation and a damnation that “are a result of one’s actions, taking into consideration the amount of revelation given.” Here, thinks Jewett, is a description of the characters in the film Grand Canyon. The “obedience” which is portrayed in the film and described in Romans 2:7, 14—15, and 29 is a direct result of God activity. Romans 2 speaks of the law written on humankind heart “to which their own conscience their spirits also bears witness” (‘a 15) and of the circumcision of the heart (v. 29). Both are works of the Spirit. In this biblical passage, Paul seems to have in mind those righteous individuals who lived prior to the coming of Jesus. Their salvation is according to their response to the light they were given, the amount of revelation they received. But his argument would apply equally to all who have experiences of God’s Spirit, regardless of time or place, whether they prove salvific or not.

Here is an appeal to the work of the Spirit in our spirits at its most rudimentary, the reach of our spirits that is met by the Spirit. Such is the possibility that books like Phantastes, paintings like Madonna and Child with Singing Angels, and movies such as Grand Canyon offer their readers and viewers. If the Spirit is active in and through the human spirit, then the potential for the sacred is present across our human endeavor. Yet Christian theology continues largely to ignore the mundane, the ordinary experiences of human life. This seems particularly the case among those who define the human in “spiritual” terms. . Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue – R. Johnston pp. 53, 68-69, 152, 155

Dee: You know what your problem is? You never want to be the bad guy. You want everything you do to be right, but it isn’t. If you really didn’t want me to go, you shouldn’t have fucked me.

Mack: This is difficult stuff. Making a left turn in L.A. is one of the harder things you’ll learn in life.

Davis: The point is there’s a gulf in this country; an ever-widening abyss between the people who have stuff, and the people who don’t have shit. It’s like this big hole in the ground, as big as the fucking Grand Canyon, and what’s come pouring out is an eruption of rage, and the rage creates violence, and the violence is real, Mack. Nothing’s gonna make it go away, until someone changes something, which is not going to happen. And you may not like it, even I may not like it, but I can’t pretend it isn’t there because that it is a lie, and when art lies, it becomes worthless. So I gotta keep telling the truth, even if it scares the shit out of me, like it scares the shit out of you. Even if it means some motherfucker can blow a big hole in my leg for a watch, and I’m gonna walk with a fucking limp for the rest of my life and call myself lucky.

Davis: We’re talking about a religious experience here. I might say “doth” or “thou” or a lot of things.

Simon: You ever been to the Grand Canyon? Its pretty, but thats not the thing of it. You can sit on the edge of that big ol’ thing and those rocks… the cliffs and rocks are so old… it took so long for that thing to get like that… and it ain’t done either! It happens right there while your watching it. Its happening right now as we are sitting here in this ugly town. When you sit on the edge of that thing, you realize what a joke we people really are… what big heads we have thinking that what we do is gonna matter all that much… thinking that our time here means didly to those rocks. Just a split second we have been here, the whole lot of us. That’s a piece of time so small to even get a name. Those rocks are laughing at me right now, me and my worries… Yeah, its real humorous, that Grand Canyon. Its laughing at me right now. You know what I felt like? I felt like a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud on the side of the road that you drive by doing 70 mph.

Claire: It’s just an inappropriate response to get a headache in the presence of a miracle. It’s… tasteless!

 Davis: That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.

Mack: He’s kinda lonely, but he seems peaceful about it.
Jane: That would be nice.
Dee: Ya know, it would be great if you could sort of be down about things, but still be alright with it. Like, finally accept that fact that you’re gonna feel bad most of the time and not fight it.
Mack: Of course, it would also be nice not to feel bad most of the time.
Dee: Yeah, but that’s how you get yourself in trouble. By thinking how nice it’d be to be happy more.

Davis: ‘Is my making a violent movie (and by extension our enjoyment of it) causing the violence in society?’

Claire: “What kind of world throws away something as precious as a human life?’

Mack: ‘Is it possible to pass beyond the bounds of race and (an even harder step) finance?

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