Thursday, May 21, 2009

God has Left the Building

“And I love the idea that the viewer goes through a similar process; because there's something so sexy about treasure, something so alluring and elusive about this fantasy of finding gold. And to some degree, you have to engage in what part of us lives in this fantasy, and what part of us is willing to see the other thing that's occurring; because we all want the fantasy. But there's always something more.” Quote from Darius Marder, directory of the documentary Loot.

The second sentence of this statement really struck me. This documentary is, I gather, about two men who, following war, buried treasures in different parts of the world, and in their old age they meet up with someone who leads them on a journey to recover it. I haven’t seen it yet, and I’m not sure I will like it, but from what I’ve read, the treasure hunt uncovers all sorts of things besides treasure.

What is a fantasy trying to tell us? The things I find alluring are not just about the object themselves. Obviously. I touched on that in my last post, how my fascination with this angel character reflects my own struggles with faith. Dear Husband might say I am rationalizing the fact that I think the actor is super attractive. But why do we latch onto celebrities in the first place? We all know it is more to do with our own desires than the actual person. The actor is beautiful, beautiful in a heart in the throat sort of way. But I’ve seen him all season without giving him a second thought. It wasn’t until Castiel became important that I found him alluring.

I develop short-run obsessions with characters, and in turn with the actors who play them. I obsess because they embody some issue or quality or need. Lie to Me and House: Dr. Lightman and Dr. House see through lies to the truth. They know when you're bullshitting. How desirable and painful at the same time. I wish someone would cut through my lies, and I tell myself plenty, and I tell others plenty. I would never in a million years have thought Tim Roth was attractive if he didn’t play this particular character. It’s all mirrors and glamour, in the old sense of the word glamour.

I’ve had these passionate interludes with fictional characters (and books themselves, too) for as long as I can remember. I’m sure others do, too. At times the experience of reading a really good book, the kind that stays with you through life, is a lot like infatuation. I have read books that made me breathless and tremble with excitement, oblivious to everyone at first, and then mad to tell everyone all about my beloved.

I think first of Brideshead Revisited, which may be indelibly ingrained in my psyche. I was in love with that book. With Sebastian and Oxford and the almost too rich, elegiac prose. There’s a line in the book about being in love with love, which is pretty much what I experienced. But then there is the theme of God drawing us in with an unseen hook and an unseen thread. There was a miniseries, and the actor who played Sebastian embodied the character so perfectly, that I was smitten with him as well.

Other fictional loves:

Sherlock Holmes: The allure of the unavailable.

Nabokov’s Real Life of Sebastian Knight: How much of the pursuit of someone else is a study of ourselves? What kinds of games can you play with reality and with words?

Raskolnikov: What do you do if you do the unforgivable? What is repentance?

Louis in the Ann Rice books: How do you live if you loath your very essence? What do you pin your hopes on?

Sydney Carton: Redemption.

Sometimes I am the character, sometimes the one who loves the character, and sometimes I just roam around among all the words.

So, recently, I’ve wanted to cut away the lies and pretense and admit that I am not ever going to fit where I seem to find myself. And then there is the questioning, the doubt, the sense that God is remote, the CEO of a corporation that churns along with its own rules that have so little to do with His true nature. Or at least I think or hope that is the case. I have never met Him, and I don’t think Castiel has either. In Supernatural, evil is real and present, but God is a cipher. Lucifer shows up, but God does not. Like Castiel, I’ve decided that I am not a good little soldier. If there is a side, I am definitely on the side of the messed up and burned out, the heretics and blasphemers, and the sovereign God, that construct of Calvinists, is in fact no god at all but a bunch of bureaucrats with their own agendas. As the angel Zacherias says in Supernatural, God has left the building.


  1. If God is actually connected to all the more ludicrous and life denying behaviours of the corporation that is the Church, then we are all screwed. But I dare to believe that God is far more present with "the messed up and burned out, the heretics and blasphemers" - because the God I try to follow spent most of his earthly time in just that company, and was well and truly walked on by the system himself.
    This was a really interesting post, beautifully written as made me want to see the series, which I don't think has been screened in the UK at all...but I don't think I would have produced something so thought provoking if I had. Oh, and I too loved the Brideshead series. It screened first when I was at uni, in an ancient city with privileged youth. How could it fail?

  2. "An ancient city with privileged youth" - so well put. And if I'm honest that's part of the appeal of the book: running with the old wealth. Thank you for your kind words.

    PS: The past season, season 4 is the best season of Supernatural. If it ever gets screened there.