Monday, July 29, 2013

Swept Away

Written by Layne Petersen, Director of Communications,

I went and saw one of the midnight shows of "The Hobbit" last night. My wife kept referring to it as something to add to her "Murtaugh List," which, for anyone who's seen the "Lethal Weapon" films, knows that that means she was feeling her age at 11:something as we headed to the theater. It was packed (my wife and our friend sat several rows in front of me as I was OK sitting in the single open seat I found), and I wondered how many of the people were there simply for the sheer spectacle of it vs. how many might be there to be transported into a tale larger than themselves. 

Being swept away is why I go to the movies, whether it's through middle earth on a back of an eagle, into several layers of dreamworlds to convince a man to break up a company, or into the insular world of a preteen boy and girl hiding out on their own island from their parents in 1960s New England. 

J.R.R. Tolkien (and by extension through the films, Peter Jackson) had a real gift for placing ordinary folk--his definition of Hobbits at the beginning of the book is the very definition of a small, ordinary creature--into extraordinary circumstances that revealed facets of their character they never realized were there. As Bilbo, Gandalf, and the company of dwarfs looked across the dawn-soaked miles to their destination of the Lonely Mountain, they have some small realization of the adventure they've already been through and that they've been changed already at the end of this first chapter. And I guess that's what I'm looking for in getting swept up into the films' stories. To be taken out of myself and shown new possibilities, even for just a couple of hours. Possibilities in the world, and possibilities in myself, I suppose. 

Honestly, sometimes music can do this same thing for me. Seeing an amazing band like U2 or mewithoutYou or Mumford and Sons will send me out positively vibrating with the possibilities the world has opened up. So I went to bed last night with visions of Middle Earth and defeating armies of goblins dancing through my head. Larger than life, to be sure. 

But then I woke up this morning to the news on Twitter that a disturbed young man had shot and killed 27 people in an elementary school in Connecticut this morning, and that sense of possibility deflated in about three seconds flat. As tears helplessly welled up and out and down my face, I read just the smallest bits of news, knowing that reading too much would absolutely break my heart. I wondered out loud to God why the heck he lets stuff like this happen. You know, the standard question given when we don't understand, as though God owes an explanation other than that people are sinful and the world's a fallen place. Which, I suppose, is why I feel that need to be swept away from time to time. I want God to show me the possibilities in this world, not just in celluloid adventures, but in reality. It's just hard to look past the heartbreak to see that far off view of the Lonely Mountain this afternoon.

Originally posted on the BUMC Blog on Dec. 14, 2012.

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