The Oscars are coming. This Sunday many people will watch the actors, their designer outfits, and the general spectacle of so many famous and creative people in one place.
Of course there is more to the show than the gathering of these stars; the Academy Awards were created to honor dramatic achievement. Awards for acting and writing were first handed out in ancient Greece, and notably good performances have been considered worthy of attention ever since. The Oscars may be largely about entertainment, but behind the glitter is something fundamental to life.
What is it about drama that has always been so intriguing? For the Greeks who invented theater, it was a religious experience. Drama portrayed the nature and relation of man to divinity. Our ideas of ourselves and God have changed since those masked players of antiquity moved audiences of thousands to laughter and tears on Greek hillsides, but the experience of watching a good performance remains an essentially spiritual one.
The most beautiful, meaningful films tell us about ourselves. They suggest that there's more to life than material elements, more to us than physicality and mortality - that we are part of something profound. When we see an actor give a great performance, we don't think about the actor, or even the pretense of the story. Rather we are touched by something more basic - truths about our identity. When we see love or loyalty, honesty or hope, clearly conceived, we glimpse not only what is best in humanity, but what God is constantly providing to us.
Christian Science provides the perspective that our identity is understood to be a reflection of the Divine - an expression of God. God's attributes, essentially and substantially good, are our birthright. Because God, Spirit, is everywhere and always present, these qualities are also continuously available to us as God's reflection.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Man is more than a material form with a mind inside, which must escape from its environments in order to be immortal. Man reflects infinity, and this reflection is the true idea of God" (page 258).
So much more is possible to us than the "B"-movie version of life that limited, materialistic thinking allows. We have access to more good than meets the eye, and we're able to share and express more good than what the mortal image of life could include.
The more we recognize the presence of these qualities, and acknowledge and act on our access to them, the more opportunities we will find to express them and appreciate them in others. As Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21).
Often, I have sat in a movie theater and felt inspired by what I saw - moved by a story or character to a desire to be more thoughtful or compassionate. These feelings deserve consideration as something more than entertainment. Truly they are a religious impulse - our response to God's constant and consistent wisdom and power impelling us to think more deeply about our values and to express them more consistently.
At the end of a film I saw recently, everyone in the theater stood up and clapped; the people were clearly uplifted by what they'd seen. There was a sense of inspiration behind that applause - a feeling that we had seen something we wanted to reach for and affirm. I kept thinking about that film for quite a while, and I was changed by it in positive and blessed ways.
I most likely will go to see the films that are honored at the Oscars. I'll go, hoping to see the real "magic of the silver screen" - the moments when we see beyond the plot and the characters to those revealing images of human and divine coincidence, pointing us to the possibilities of our being.
Mark the perfect man,
and behold the upright:
for the end of that man