Friday, December 12, 2008

In Darkest Night (or just hanging with Dark Knights) Pt. 2

I can't stop doing it. I know I shouldn't but I just can't stop myself.

I am watching and re-watching The Dark Knight whenever I get a chance. Late last night on the computer at work - in the early afternoons when I wake early after working all night.

It is rich in metaphor, in philosophy, in the entire spectrum of emotions we Americans have been suffering since 9/11.

One pundit has even admitted that when he sees Batman breaking the rules and doing what needs to be done to keep his city safe, he applauds. When he hears George Bush doing the same thing, he gets angry (read ImaginaryVisionary's blog).



Such is the power of parable and myth. We - and our fears - are removed from the matter to a safe distance where we can watch and judge rightly. Now don't get in a tizzy and start spouting how bad a president Bush was to me. I know where to go to hear that [stuff].

How do you fight terrorists? Men without rules? Truthfully, you have to appeal to a Higher Law that transcends cultures and carefully, oh-so-carefully make sure YOU don't become like your foe.

Consider the fall of Harvey Dent. It has taken me two to three viewings to ditch my "comic book mentality" and accept this more realistic and more heroic portrayal of Gotham's best District Attorney.

When presented, in his grief, twisted versions of the truth and an offering of camaraderie by the Joker, Dent listens too long and ends up accepting the psychopath's reasoning: there are no rules, because nothing in our lives is fair.

But Wayne will not buy into it - even though he himself is "breaking all the rules" by being a vigilante. He has an advantage that Dent does not.

He learned life could be unfair when he was 10. He learned it again when he was 20, when Joe Chill was going to be released for turning state's evidence. He also saw how his own hatred and rage over injustice was destroying his life: being booted out of Harvard, getting slapped by his girlfriend.

So Wayne realized "fairness" cannot be based solely on what happens to you. What's right must be based on a higher principle, above our circumstances.

Dent was lifted up. Wayne was knocked down. Yes, he is rich - but that was simply a fact of birth. Wealth did not save his parents, and Wayne had to grow up with that terrible fact. He also learned in his travels the pain of the poor, which must have made him realize how blessed he was to have his inherited wealth, something he never earned.

Rachel's slap woke him up to his self-pity. And casting his comforts aside, he went out to find the power to fight evil by surrendering his rights as a "prince of Gotham." All his privileges were gone in a flash.

Harvey Dent did not go through that process. An idealist who thought he was stronger than he actually was, he was unprepared to deal with true loss. He was not prepared to pay the cost of being a hero.

"I knew the risks when I took the job, Gordon," he boasts.


No, Harvey. You didn't.

Or maybe you knew the risks, but not the costs.

And that is where I will wrap-up today -a cost must be paid to be a hero, a life-changer. If you are unwilling to pay the cost, don't boast how loyal you will be.

"Simon - I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows you will disown Me three times."

Jesus isn't cursing Simon. He's simply perfectly aware that Simon isn't as strong as he thinks he is - and this will be a terrible opportunity for evil once he fails his own ideals. "Simon, Simon - Satan has asked to sift you like wheat - but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail, and when you turn back, strengthen your brethren."

Jesus understood self-recrimination could destroy Simon Peter, but He won't let it. He won't let Satan use THAT failure to stop Simon's work.

Wayne, unlike Dent, has already paid all the costs - from losing his ego, his social position, losing his family, his friends - to casting away his future with Rachel. He wanted to keep those things, to be sure, but he had to let them go. He is the ONLY person who cannot be bought or seduced in Gotham; he's a billionaire for crying out loud! Unlike a politician who depends on public acceptance and opinion, he can do whatever he feels should be done.

Thus, Wayne was able to keep his heroism and stay true to his mission because unlike Dent, he had already given up everything - wealth, family, friends and lastly, a good name.

That is so Christ-like it is stunning.

[sigh]

Just watch this movie again and again.

It is a masterpiece.

Amen.

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