Thanos and the Infinity Stones: A Cautionary Tale for Control Freaks (Like Us)

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Marvel comics supervillain character “Thanos” is certainly a contender (apart from the biblical Lucifer) for the prize of being the ultimate control freak. But he is actually each of us magnified almost infinitely in our desire to control all of reality and God – and thus a cautionary tale. We all are tempted by the uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and suffering of life to “wish” that we could change things in almost ultimate ways, as Thanos hoped to do in complete ultimacy, once he was able to possess all six of the “infinity stones” – mind, soul, space, power, time, and reality. I always wonder whether the multitudes of Americans seeing movies like this realize that a major point is that the desire for “control” is ultimately dangerously destructive to our God-given creaturely self-hood and of the dignity and right to life of others?

Thanos is a good character to portray such self-deception, because he isn’t automatically portrayed as a shallow one-dimensional maniacal egomaniac but rather as a reasonable, courageous, even sacrificial and loving person (by his own estimation). It’s amazing what the unchecked desire for control does to us all, a story as old as the fall of adam & eve, the fall to the desire for control in the garden of God in Genesis, and as real as the terrible consequences that violently rippled out from there and provide the dismal default context of our personal and collective lives.

So, is there any anti-Thanos we can look to for a better way? How about a “forty day fasted” Jesus in the desolate wilderness tempted by Satan to use “infinity stones” to change “everything” but ultimately victorious over him though the conflict continued and culminated in an “anti-garden” of suffering, called Gethsemane? He is the one to consider, along with those who have truly followed his way, though they be few and far  between.

 

Thanks so much for reading!

Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

“Godric” by Frederick Buechner and “4 & 20” by Stephen Stills – Of father’s, sons, and poverties

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A meditation on familial life with selections from “Godric” by Frederick Buechner, and “4 & 20” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.

Godric had some interesting things to say about his father:

“Aedlward the freeman was my father, and Reginald has it that his name means Keeper of Blessedness. If so, he kept it mostly to himself, more’s the pity. I pity Aedlward. If he pitied me, he never said…

…It was fear kept Aedlward from us, and next to God what he feared of all things most was an empty belly. He had good cause. He had seen poor famished folk eat rat and cat and seen grown men suckle their wives for strength enough to ferret nuts to feed them. Bitterer fare than that a man will go to when his belly starts to gnaw itself. So it was his fear we’d starve that made him starve us for that one of all things that we hungered for the most, which was the man himself.” (“Godric,” pp. 9-10)

An interesting song with at least some similarity is the great song called “4 & 20” written by Stephen Stills.

Four and twenty years ago I come into this life
The son of a woman and a man who lived in strife
He was tired of bein’ poor and he wasn’t into sellin’ door to door
And he worked like the devil to be more

A different kind of poverty now upsets me so
Night after sleepless night I walk the floor and want to know
Why am I so alone? Where is my woman? Can I bring her home?
Have I driven her away? Is she gone?

Mornin’ comes the sunrise and I’m driven to my bed
I see that it is empty and there’s devils in my head
I embrace the many colored beast
I grow weary of the torment, can there be no peace?
And I find myself just wishin’ that my life would simply cease

It is extremely difficult to “work like the devil” and provide all that your children need, as Aedlward proved also. The fears of man toward evils such as poverty can bring poverty of soul that results from the starved relationships of father’s and sons (or daughters for that matter). One thing is sure, we all need to seek understanding and have forgiveness for our parents shortcomings that take root in the common struggles of life.

I could not but think of the fact that there was even a similarity in the experience of Jesus the “Son of God” that began in Gethsemane and ended with his crucifixion at Golgotha:

 “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

Though the “rift” in their relationship was for different reasons, not being caused by the “sins of the father” but by the “cup of God’s wrath against the sins of the world” that Jesus willingly endured for our salvation, yet nonetheless there was an unfathomable poverty of soul for Jesus the Son caused by the separation of connection in his relationship to his father.

 “But in the garden of Gethsemane, he turns to the Father and all he can see before him is wrath, the abyss, the chasm, the nothingness of the cup. God is the source of all love, all life, all light, all coherence. Therefore exclusion from God is exclusion from the source of all light, all love, all coherence. Jesus began to experience the spiritual, cosmic, infinite disintegration that would happen when he became separated from his Father on the cross. Jesus began to experience merely a foretaste of that, and staggered.” (“King’s Cross” by Timothy Keller, p. 176)

The separation of Jesus from his own Father, was at least partly for the purpose of reconciliation within the familial relationships of the human families.

Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Excerpts, links, and reblogging may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Now & Then” by Frederick Buechner – On the vulnerability of love

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Yesterday I posted an excerpt from “Godric” which is a semi-fictional work based on a Medieval Saint. “Now and Then” is one of several auto-biographical works by Buechner, and the following excerpt is closely related to yesterday’s excerpt from Godric.

“He who loves has fifty woes…who loves none has no woe,” said the Buddha, and it is true. To love another, as you a child, is to become vulnerable in a whole new way. It is no longer only through what happens to yourself that the world can hurt you but through what happens to the one you love also and greatly more hurtingly…

…What man and woman, if they gave serious thought to what having children inevitably involves, would ever have them? Yet what man and woman, once having had them and loved them, would ever want it otherwise? Because side by side with the Buddha’s truth is the Gospel truth that “he who does not love remains in death.” If by some magic you could eliminate the pain you are caused by the pain of someone you love, I for one cannot imagine working such magic because the pain is so much a part of the love that the love would be vastly diminished, unrecognizable, without it.”

Just prior to this excerpt Buechner had also written the following:

“Buddha sits enthroned beneath the Bo-tree in the lotus position. His lips are faintly parted in the smile of one who has passed beyond every power in earth or heaven to touch him…His eyes are closed

Christ, on the other hand, stands in the garden of Gethsemane, angular, beleagured. His face is lost in shadows so that you can’t even see his lips, and before all the powers in earth or heaven he is powerless. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” he has said. His eyes are also closed.

The difference seems to me this, The suffering that Buddha’s eyes close out is the suffering of the world that Christ’s eyes close in and hallow.” (Now and Then, 53-56)

Comments are always welcomed! Thank you.

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2013

“Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” by Blind Willie Johnson – NASA’s Golden Record’s witness to Jesus in Gethsemane

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It is fitting that NASA’s  interstellar mission of Voyager includes the song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” on the Voyager Gold Record, being Blind Willie Johnson’s musical depiction of Jesus in Gethsemane; The passion of Christ which concerned humankind, the angels and God, the earth and the heavens. Continue reading