Lessons from the movies

MOVIES nowadays frequently pull down rather than lift up. But once in a while there are films so insightful and so true to the dimensions of the human heart that you come out almost a different person from what you were when you went in. Perhaps there is a considerable lesson to be learned from the way an occasional film can awaken and energize and open our thought. We're reminded of how natural it is to us to see things in the largest, most loving terms. Anything less is sheer imposition. You could call it an overlay. I remember a time recently when two relatives who had been barely on speaking terms came out of the theater inspired by an excellent film they'd just seen. Their relationship was mended, and they just naturally began sharing their deepest feelings about the picture.

When the dull habit of self-concern or believing in a flat material sense of things is broken, love and unselfishness spring up. They seem perfectly present and natural again. In fact, we feel that they are us -- our thought, our real selves.

Of course it isn't necessarily a film that brings this about. It could be the perspective supplied by a friend's support or a turn of phrase in a Haydn cello concerto or an aria sung by Bjrling. But the point is that such experiences help us have a larger sense of dimension in regard to what man is -- and, most immediate, in regard to what we already are.

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The Bible teaches the same lesson but with more depth. For example, the Bible talks about putting on ``the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.''1 And this theme runs through the entire New Testament. We read of how there is a new man, or individuality, that can be found in spite of what the human personality appears to have been or done up to that point.

When Christ Jesus forgave sinners and healed them, they were able to take up and live with something of this new selfhood that the Master saw as perfectly present for them. No matter what image of themselves as sinful, weak, poor in character, they had been accepting, they were freed.

There's a short statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, which gives much food for thought along this line. She writes, ``Man's real ego, or selfhood, is goodness.''2 Even a touch of this, coming through in an inspiring film, can lift us into a very different sense of ourselves.

Christian Science teaches that because man is created in God's image, goodness is our very center, essence, and substance -- the goodness that is the nature of God. When we are willing to walk in this light of God's goodness, we find we are somebody quite different from who we thought we were.

But what if nothing seems to lift the general imposition and someone doesn't find himself or herself? What if people go on dreaming of anger, hate, aggression, selfishness, until it appears to be ``too late''? Does this mean some never find their God-created selfhood?

Well, there's a wonderful scene in an American movie called Places in the Heart. At the end it shows most of the characters in the film sitting in church. Actually, as the camera slowly pans over the pews, we realize that everyone from the story is there.

Each one seems full of light and a pure, luminous love. Even those who have been enemies, those who have harmed and misused each other. And even those who have passed on are all there worshiping God, good, together.

As a Christian Scientist might describe it, something of their true selves is finally being seen in the light of Christ, the spiritual idea. Somehow we believe very deeply this is much more than a scene from a film.

Isn't the wonder of being that, in fact, no one is what he or she might seem to be as a mere mortal? What appears to be our most ingrained character, or lack of it, is only a measure of what we have unnecessarily accepted about ourselves. God's man awaits our discovery. And how clear it is that this real, eternal selfhood is and always has been pure goodness.

No movie can substitute for the tough, practical steps of spiritual regeneration that make the lasting difference in our lives and gradually reveal God as our Life. But once in a while someone shares heartening visions of human experience that coincide with our deepest spiritual intuitions. And then we're moved by the lesson -- wherever we find it.

1Colossians 3:10. 2No and Yes, p. 26.

This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the April 27 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light. Psalms 118:27

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